In another setback for the death penalty trial of the five men accused of aiding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two defense lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed say the U.S. government secretly destroyed relevant evidence.
On May 11, defense lawyers for the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks asked for judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team to be recused from the trial, and for the case to be shut down. Defense lawyers David Nevin and Maj. Derek Poteet say that the U.S. government destroyed evidence related to the case, according to the New York Times. The two men are unable to provide further details because the issue is classified, but Mr. Nevin said the evidence was “favorable” to the defendants.
Major Poteet also told the Times that the defense was first informed in February that Colonel Pohl would provide them with a “summary of a substitute” for the original, classified evidence. The defense requested Colonel Pohl to preserve the evidence for the record and Pohl complied. Or so they thought.
“But they learned in February, they said, that about 20 months earlier, and without their knowledge, prosecutors had obtained from Colonel Pohl a secret order that reversed his previous decision,” the Times writes. “By the time they found out, the government had already destroyed the evidence, giving them no opportunity to challenge the move.”
Major Poteet said the situation created the appearance that Colonel Pohl was “colluding with the government.” The Times reports that the original, now destroyed evidence, may have been related to one of several foreign black site prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Afghanistan, and at a secret site at the Guantánamo base. KSM was tortured for several years at one of these sites before being transferred to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2006.
The accusations are likely to delay upcoming scheduled hearings from May 30 to June 3. If there is a delay it will be latest in a long line of interruptions to this alleged pursuit of justice. Most recently, Col. Pohl canceled two weeks of hearings that were scheduled to begin on Friday, April 1st.
“The whole thing is really odd to me. I thought it was an April Fools’ joke,” said Chicago defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, who was already in Washington to travel to Guantánamo this weekend to represent alleged 9/11 plot deputy Walid bin Attash.
The destruction of evidence is, unfortunately, not the first controversy this trial has faced. Another conflict of interest became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Foreign Policy reported,
the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.
There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:
In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo “kill-switch.”
Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.
In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.
Is this trial really about truth, justice, and upholding law and order? If the military court hopes to find something close to the truth they should open the hearings to the public, end the spying on the defense team, and be transparent about the treatment of the alleged hijackers. Only by allowing the truth to be released will the wounds of 9/11 begin to heal.
Police Nationwide Are Secretly Exploiting Intrusive Technologies With the Feds’ Complicity
Can’t you see the writing on the touchscreen? A techno-utopia is upon us. We’ve gone from smartphones at the turn of the twenty-first century to smart fridges and smart cars. The revolutionary changes to our everyday life will no doubt keep barreling along. By 2018, so predicts Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, more than three million employees will work for “robo-bosses” and soon enough we — or at least the wealthiest among us — will be shopping in fully automated supermarkets and sleeping in robotic hotels.
With all this techno-triumphalism permeating our digitally saturated world, it’s hardly surprising that law enforcement would look to technology — “smart policing,” anyone? — to help reestablish public trust after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the long list of other unarmed black men killed by cops in Anytown, USA. The idea that technology has a decisive role to play in improving policing was, in fact, a central plank of President Obama’s policing reform task force.
In its report, released last May, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing emphasized the crucial role of technology in promoting better law enforcement, highlighting the use of police body cameras in creating greater openness. “Implementing new technologies,” it claimed, “can give police departments an opportunity to fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency, accountability, and privacy.”
Indeed, the report emphasized ways in which the police could engage communities, work collaboratively, and practice transparency in the use of those new technologies. Perhaps it won’t shock you to learn, however, that the on-the-ground reality of twenty-first-century policing looks nothing like what the task force was promoting. Police departments nationwide have been adopting powerful new technologies that are remarkably capable of intruding on people’s privacy, and much of the time these are being deployed in secret, without public notice or discussion, let alone permission.
And while the task force’s report says all the right things, a little digging reveals that the feds not only aren’t putting the brakes on improper police use of technology, but are encouraging it — even subsidizing the misuse of the very technology the task force believes will keep cops honest. To put it bluntly, a techno-utopia isn’t remotely on the horizon, but its flipside may be.
Getting Stung and Not Even Knowing It
Shemar Taylor was charged with robbing a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint. The police got a warrant to search his home and arrested him after learning that the cell phone used to order the pizza was located in his house. How the police tracked down the location of that cell phone is what Taylor’s attorney wanted to know.
The Baltimore police detective called to the stand in Taylor’s trial was evasive. “There’s equipment we would use that I’m not going to discuss,” he said. When Judge Barry Williams ordered him to discuss it, he still refused, insisting that his department had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI.
“You don’t have a nondisclosure agreement with the court,” replied the judge, threatening to hold the detective in contempt if he did not answer. And yet he refused again. In the end, rather than reveal the technology that had located Taylor’s cell phone to the court, prosecutors decided to withdraw the evidence, jeopardizing their case.
And don’t imagine that this courtroom scene was unique or even out of the ordinary these days. In fact, it was just one sign of a striking nationwide attempt to keep an invasive, constitutionally questionable technology from being scrutinized, whether by courts or communities.
The technology at issue is known as a “Stingray,” a brand name for what’s generically called a cell site simulator or IMSI catcher. By mimicking a cell phone tower, this device, developed for overseas battlefields, gets nearby cell phones to connect to it. It operates a bit like the children’s game Marco Polo. “Marco,” the cell-site simulator shouts out and every cell phone on that network in the vicinity replies, “Polo, and here’s my ID!”
Thanks to this call-and-response process, the Stingray knows both what cell phones are in the area and where they are. In other words, it gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well. While the police may indeed use this technology to pinpoint a suspect’s location, by casting such a wide net there is also the potential for many kinds of constitutional abuses — for instance, sweeping up the identities of every person attending a demonstration or a political meeting. Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations. In other words, the Stingray is a technology that potentially opens the door for law enforcement to sweep up information that not so long ago wouldn’t have been available to them.
All of this raises the sorts of constitutional issues that might normally be settled through the courts and public debate… unless, of course, the technology is kept largely secret, which is exactly what’s been happening.
After the use of Stingrays was first reported in 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other activist groups attempted to find out more about how the technology was being used, only to quickly run into heavy resistance from police departments nationwide. Served with “open-records requests” under Freedom of Information Act-like state laws, they almost uniformly resisted disclosing information about the devices and their uses. In doing so, they regularly cited nondisclosure agreements they had signed with the Harris Corporation, maker of the Stingray, and with the FBI, prohibiting them from telling anyone (including other government outfits) about how — or even that — they use the devices.
Sometimes such evasiveness reaches near-comical levels. For example, police in the city of Sunrise, Florida, served with an open-records request, refused to confirm or deny that they had any Stingray records at all. Under cover of a controversial national security court ruling, the CIA and the NSA sometimes resort to just this evasive tactic (known as a “Glomar response“). The Sunrise Police Department, however, is not the CIA, and no provision in Florida law would allow it to take such a tack. When the ACLU pointed out that the department had already posted purchase records for Stingrays on its public website, it generously provided duplicate copies of those very documents and then tried to charge the ACLU $20,000 for additional records.
In a no-less-bizarre incident, the Sarasota Police Department was about to turn some Stingray records over to the ACLU in accordance with Florida’s open-records law, when the U.S. Marshals Service swooped in and seized the records first, claiming ownership because it had deputized one local officer. And excessive efforts at secrecy are not unique to Florida, as those charged with enforcing the law commit themselves to Stingray secrecy in a way that makes them lawbreakers.
And it’s not just the public that’s being denied information about the devices and their uses; so are judges. Often, the police get a judge’s sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray. In fact, officers regularly avoid describing the technology to judges, claiming that they simply can’t violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements.
More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it. Appellate judges in Tallahassee, Florida, for instance, revealed that local police had used the tool more than 200 times without a warrant. In Sacramento, California, police admitted in court that they had, in more than 500 investigations, used Stingrays without telling judges or prosecutors. That was “an estimated guess,” since they had no way of knowing the exact number because they had conveniently deleted records of Stingray use after passing evidence discovered by the devices on to detectives.
Much of this blanket of secrecy, spreading nationwide, has indeed been orchestrated by the FBI, which has required local departments eager for the hottest new technology around to sign those nondisclosure agreements. One agreement, unearthed in Oklahoma, explicitly instructs the local police to find “additional and independent investigative means” to corroborate Stingray evidence. In short, they are to cover up the use of Stingrays by pretending their information was obtained some other way — the sort of dangerous constitutional runaround that is known euphemistically in law enforcement circles as a “parallel construction.” Now that information about the widespread use of this new technology is coming out — as in the Shemar Taylor trial in Baltimore — judges are beginning to rule that Stingray use does indeed require a warrant. They are also insisting that police must accurately inform judges when they intend to use a Stingray and disclose its privacy implications.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
And it’s not just the Stingray that’s taking local police forces into new and unknown realms of constitutionally questionable but deeply seductive technology. Consider the hot new trend of “predictive policing.” Its products couldn’t be high-techier. They go by a variety of names like PredPol (yep, short for predictive policing) and HunchLab (and there’s nothing wrong with a hunch, is there?). What they all promise, however, is the same thing: supposedly bias-free policing built on the latest in computer software and capable of leveraging big data in ways that — so their salesmen will tell you — can coolly determine where crime is most likely to occur next.
Such technology holds out the promise of allowing law enforcement agencies to deploy their resources to areas that need them most without that nasty element of human prejudice getting involved. “Predictive methods allow police to work more proactively with limited resources,” reports the RAND Corporation. But the new software offers something just as potentially alluring as efficient policing — exactly what the president’s task force called for. According to market leader PredPol, its technology “provides officers an opportunity to interact with residents, aiding in relationship building and strengthening community ties.”
How idyllic! In post-Ferguson America, that’s a winning sales pitch for decision-makers in blue. Not so surprisingly, then, PredPol is now used by nearly 60 law enforcement agencies in the United States, and investment capital just keeps pouring into the company. In 2013, SF Weekly reported that over 150 departments across the nation were already using predictive policing software, and those numbers can only have risen as the potential for cashing in on the craze has attracted tech heavy hitters like IBM, Microsoft, and Palantir, the co-creation of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Like the Stingray, the software for predictive policing is yet another spillover from the country’s distant wars. PredPol was, according to SF Weekly, initially designed for “tracking insurgents and forecasting casualties in Iraq,” and was financed by the Pentagon. One of the company’s advisors, Harsh Patel, used to work for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm.
Civil libertarians and civil rights activists, however, are less than impressed with what’s being hailed as breakthrough police technology. We tend to view it instead as a set of potential new ways for the police to continue a long history of profiling and pre-convicting poor and minority youth. We also question whether the technology even performs as advertised. As we see it, the old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is likely to best describe how the new software will operate, or as the RAND Corporation puts it, “predictions are only as good as the underlying data used to make them.”
If, for instance, the software depends on historical crime data from a racially biased police force, then it’s just going to send a flood of officers into the very same neighborhoods they’ve always over-policed. And if that happens, of course, more personnel will find more crime — and presto, you have the potential for a perfect feedback loop of prejudice, arrests, and high-tech “success.” To understand what that means, keep in mind that, without a computer in sight, nearly four times as many blacks as whites are arrested for marijuana possession, even though usage among the two groups is about the same.
If you leave aside issues of bias, there’s still a fundamental question to answer about the new technology: Does the software actually work or, for that matter, reduce crime? Of course, the companies peddling such products insist that it does, but no independent analyses or reviews had yet verified its effectiveness until last year — or so it seemed at first.
In December 2015, the Journal of the American Statistical Association published a study that brought joy to the predictive crime-fighting industry. The study’s researchers concluded that a predictive policing algorithm outperformed human analysts in indicating where crime would occur, which in turn led to real crime reductions after officers were dispatched to the flagged areas. Only one problem: five of the seven authors held PredPol stock, and two were co-founders of the company. On its website, PredPol identifies the research as a “UCLA study,” but only because PredPol co-founder Jeffery Brantingham is an anthropology professor there.
Predictive policing is a brand new area where question marks abound. Transparency should be vital in assessing this technology, but the companies generally won’t allow communities targeted by it to examine the code behind it. “We wanted a greater explanation for how this all worked, and we were told it was all proprietary,” Kim Harris, a spokeswoman for Bellingham, Washington’s Racial Justice Coalition, told the Marshall Project after the city purchased such software last August. “We haven’t been comforted by the process.”
The Bellingham Police Department, which bought predictive software made by Bair Analytics with a $21,200 Justice Department grant, didn’t need to go to the city council for approval and didn’t hold community meetings to discuss the development or explain how the software worked. Because the code is proprietary, the public is unable to independently verify that it doesn’t have serious problems.
Even if the data underlying most predictive policing software accurately anticipates where crime will indeed occur — and that’s a gigantic if — questions of fundamental fairness still arise. Innocent people living in or passing through identified high crime areas will have to deal with an increased police presence, which, given recent history, will likely mean more questioning or stopping and frisking — and arrests for things like marijuana possession for which more affluent citizens are rarely brought in. Moreover, the potential inequality of all this may only worsen as police departments bring online other new technologies like facial recognition.
We’re on the verge of “big data policing,” suggests law professor Andrew Ferguson, which will “turn any unknown suspect into a known suspect,” allowing an officer to “search for information that might justify reasonable suspicion” and lead to stop-and-frisk incidents and aggressive questioning. Just imagine having a decades-old criminal record and facing police armed with such powerful, invasive technology.
This could lead to “the tyranny of the algorithm” and a Faustian bargain in which the public increasingly forfeits its freedoms in certain areas out of fears for its safety. “The Soviet Union had remarkably little street crime when they were at their worst of their totalitarian, authoritarian controls,” MIT sociologist Gary Marx observed. “But, my god, at what price?”
To Record and Serve… Those in Blue
On a June night in 2013, Augustin Reynoso discovered that his bicycle had been stolen from a CVS in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena. A store security guard called the police while Reynoso’s brother Ricardo Diaz Zeferino and two friends tried to find the missing bike in the neighborhood. When the police arrived, they promptly ordered his two friends to put their hands up. Zeferino ran over, protesting that the police had the wrong men. At that point, they told him to raise his hands, too. He then lowered and raised his hands as the police yelled at him. When he removed his baseball hat, lowered his hands, and began to raise them again, he was shot to death.
The police insisted that Zeferino’s actions were “threatening” and so their shooting justified. They had two videos of it taken by police car cameras — but refused to release them.
Although police departments nationwide have been fighting any spirit of new openness, car and body cameras have at least offered the promise of bringing new transparency to the actions of officers on the beat. That’s why the ACLU and many civil rights groups, as well as President Obama, have spoken out in favor of the technology’s potential to improve police-community relations — but only, of course, if the police are obliged to release videos in situations involving allegations of abuse. And many departments are fighting that fiercely.
In Chicago, for instance, the police notoriously opposed the release of dashcam video in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, citing the supposed imperative of an “ongoing investigation.” After more than a year of such resistance, a judge finally ordered the video made public. Only then did the scandal of seeing Officer Jason Van Dyke unnecessarily pump 16 bullets into the 17-year-old’s body explode into national consciousness.
In Zeferino’s case, the police settled a lawsuit with his family for $4.7 million and yet continued to refuse to release the videos. It took two years before a judge finally ordered their release, allowing the public to see the shooting for itself.
Despite this, in April 2015 the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners approved a body-camera policy that failed to ensure future transparency, while protecting and serving the needs of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). In doing so, it ignored the sort of best practices advocated by the White House, the president’s task force on policing, and even the Police Executive Research Forum, one of the profession’s most respected think tanks.
On the possibility of releasing videos of alleged police misconduct and abuse, the new policy remained silent, but LAPD officials, including Chief Charlie Beck, didn’t. They made it clear that such videos would generally be exempt from California’s public records law and wouldn’t be released without a judge’s orders. Essentially, the police reserved the right to release video when and how they saw fit. This self-serving policy comes from the most lethal large police department in the country, whose officers shot and killed 21 people last year.
Other departments around the country have made similar moves to ensure control over body camera videos. Texas and South Carolina, among other states, have even changed their open-records laws to give the police power over when such footage should (or should not) be released. In other words, when a heroic cop saves a drowning child, you’ll see the video; when that same cop guns down a fleeing suspect, don’t count on it.
Curiously, given the stated positions of the president and his task force, the federal government seems to have no fundamental problem with that. In May 2015, for example, the Justice Department announced competitive grants for the purchase of police body cameras, officially tying funding to good body-cam-use policies. The LAPD applied. Despite letters from groups like the ACLU pointing out just how poor its version of body-cam policy was, the Justice Department awarded it $1 million to purchase approximately 700 cameras — accountability and transparency be damned.
To receive public money for a tool theoretically meant for transparency and accountability and turn it into one of secrecy and impunity, with the feds’ complicity and financial backing, sends an unmistakable message on how new technology is likely to affect America’s future policing practices. Think of it as a door slowly opening onto a potential policing dystopia.
Hello Darkness, Power’s Old Friend
Keep in mind that this article barely scratches the surface when it comes to the increasing numbers of ways in which the police’s use of technology has infiltrated our everyday lives.
In states and cities across America, some public bus and train systems have begun to add to video surveillance, the surreptitious recording of the conversations of passengers, a potential body blow to the concept of a private conversation in public space. And whether or not the earliest versions of predictive policing actually work, the law enforcement community is already moving to technology that will try to predict who will commit crimes in the future. In Chicago, the police are using social networking analysis and prediction technology to draw up “heat lists” of those who might perpetuate violent crimes someday and pay them visits now. You won’t be shocked to learn which side of the tracks such future perpetrators live on. The rationale behind all this, as always, is “public safety.”
Nor can anyone begin to predict how law enforcement will avail itself of science-fiction-like technology in the decade to come, much less decades from now, though cops on patrol may very soon know a lot about you and your past. They will be able to cull such information from a multitude of databases at their fingertips, while you will know little or nothing about them — a striking power imbalance in a situation in which one person can deprive the other of liberty or even life itself.
With little public debate, often in almost total secrecy, increasing numbers of police departments are wielding technology to empower themselves rather than the communities they protect and serve. At a time when trust in law enforcement is dangerously low, police departments should be embracing technology’s democratizing potential rather than its ability to give them almost superhuman powers at the expense of the public trust.
Unfortunately, power loves the dark.
Matthew Harwood is senior writer/editor with the American Civil Liberties Union. His work has appeared at Al Jazeera America, the American Conservative, the Guardian, Guernica, Salon, War is Boring, and the Washington Monthly.
Jay Stanley is senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberty Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. He is the editor of the ACLU’s Free Future blog and has authored and co-authored a variety of ACLU reports on privacy and technology topics.
Copyright 2016 Matthew Harwood and Jay Stanley
World powers’ decisions to provide weapons to Libya’s unity government may lead to negative consequences as the arms will likely be used not only against ISIS but against all other sides, says Marko Gasic, an international affairs commentator.
World powers are ready to lift an arms embargo and to arm Libya’s internationally-recognized unity government to combat Islamic State terrorists.
The decision was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday as members of the UN Security Council signed an official communique at talks in Vienna.
RT discussed the issue with experts.
RT: Libya is far from stable at the moment. Is this the right time to arm the country?
Diana Johnstone, political writer: There isn’t any right time. This would be comic if it wasn’t so tragic. We talk about the internationally recognized government. This is an internationally imposed government that was imposed by the supposed UN which has become really an instrument of US policy in this case. This government is called the government of national accord – but there is no national accord, this is a government of international accord that allows the US to bring in 20 countries to fight ISIS. Of course, ISIS is there because of the US bombing. So this is a perfectly circular situation: the US creates the chaos and then sends in soldiers…
RT: Is Libya ready to be armed? Or will this add more fuel to the fire?
Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of Pan-African News Wire: We have to look at who caused the crisis in Libya. It was, in fact, the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO that armed Islamist extremist organizations five years ago. NATO and the Pentagon [dropped] 10,000 bombs on the country over a period of seven months. It is they who created the crisis. This is just another method of justifying a ground intervention in Libya by saying they are willing to lift the arms embargo. The arms embargo was imposed by the Pentagon and NATO during the period of the bombing in 2011. They were the ones who prevented arms and other goods from reaching Libya.
RT: Is it a practical way to try and counter ISIS in Libya?
AA: I don’t think it is a method to bring stability to Libya. It was the US who created the conditions for the growth of ISIS in Iraq and later in Syria. Because of the intervention of Russia, of Hezbollah, of Lebanon and assistance from the Islamic Republic of Iran many of them have now been forced to flee to Libya, where there is a political vacuum in existence. I think that the US has to be honest about its overall intentions in Libya. They have destroyed the country. They turned it into one of the major sources of human trafficking across North Africa, the Mediterranean into southern, eastern and central Europe. They created the worst humanitarian crisis since the conclusion of World War Two with some 60 million refugees and internally displaced persons. No, I don’t think they can create a solution for the problem that they in fact are responsible for bringing into existence.
RT: How do you see this decision to arm the recognized government – decisive or destructive?
Marko Gasic, an international affairs commentator: I don’t know what there is to recognize here because what we have to recognize first of all, is that there is a degree of chaos in Libya. There are alliances which are shifting, which are in a state of flux, which you can’t predict probably more than couple of months ahead. It makes no sense to be pouring arms onto troubled Libyan waters because all that we are going to do effectively is give one side an encouragement to attack the other side, to create more refugees and problems for Libya and the wider region.
The problem is of course that ISIS will not be the only side that will be attacked. Because when a side has weapons it of course will use these weapons against all its enemies as convenient. It is not going to have a glass ceiling between one of the enemies and the other. It will simply act in a pragmatic way to achieve its self-interests. So, there is absolutely no guarantee that these weapons would purely be used against ISIS. And they are far more likely to be used against all other sides as well with negative consequences to the stability of Libya and also for the chance of creating an inclusive solution for the peoples of Libya because with an increasing killing, an upscale of killing we are not going to have less polarization – we are going to get more.
Why did the US government destroy evidence in the Guantanamo Bay trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Mastermind of 9/11?
The so-called “mastermind of 9/11” is appearing before the kangaroo court at the US Torture Chamber and Concentration Camp in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The main defendant appearing before the secretive military proceedings is a person the US government says is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, aka KSM.
In 2003 the Asia Times highlighted the controversy over the actually status of the entity said to be KSM. A person by this same name was earlier reported to have been killed by Pakistani authorities in Karachi. Sayed Saleem Shahzad reported for AT, “Clearly, no one has the final word on whether Khalid is dead, was captured earlier, or is still free.”
In 2003 and 2004 the US government depended heavily on the real or concocted personae of KSM as a major source of “evidence” in the Philip Zelikow-authored fable known as the 9/11 Commission Report. An expert in the engineering of public mythology to secure popular consent for so-called pre-emptive warfare, Professor Zelikow was one of the key point persons responsible for pinning the false flag terror extravaganza of 9/11 on CIA asset Osama bin Laden.
Interestingly bin Laden’s homies in al-Qaeda have reverted back to a role similar to that assigned them by the US government during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Along with its offshoot, al-Nusra, al Qaeda is part of the so-called “moderate rebels” engaged in Syria in something of a repeat of the US-backed operation in Afghanistan in the 1980s. As in Afghanistan and now in the Syrian theatre of superpower confrontation, al-Qaeda is part of a US proxy army put together by the CIA to bring about violent regime change. The current target is the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad.
Once cast in the role of #3 jihadist in the staged drama associated with al-Qaeda, KSM was assigned an important part in Zelikow’s fictionalized narrative of 9/11. KSM was alleged to be the primary source of “evidence” that pinned the 9/11 debacle on Islamic jihadists rather than on a closely knit group of Zio-American Israel Firsters including Zelikow himself. A growing body of evidence has exposed this neocon clique, many of whom are dual Israeli and US citizens, as the primary group that led the planning, execution and attempted cover up of the 9/11 crimes.
Much to the eventual chagrin of even the figure heads set up to be co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, the concocted evidence on which Philip Zelikow drew was obtained in torture sessions at secret CIA dark sites where the entity know as KSM was supposedly locked away until he was delivered to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. Even by the government’s own accounting of this torturing of KSM included 183 waterboardings over the period of a single month.
Like a New Pearl Harbor
George W. Bush’s war-cabinet-in-waiting signaled its plans for the global coup d’é·tat a year prior to the 9/11 false flag terror event. In a report of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the Israel Firsters laid out a plan whose real aim was to transform the Jewish state’s dispossessed regional enemies into one part of a worldwide Islamic enemy said to be posed against the so-called “West.” In order to build up the military muscle of the US Armed Services so it could act as an enforcer of the interests of a “Greater Israel,” public consent for this agenda would have to be engineered through the manufacturing of a surprise attack “like New Pearl Harbor.”
On 9/11 the United States was delivered its new Pearl Harbour. In 2004 the Zelikow Report, also known as The 9/11 Commission Report, formalized officialdom’s adoption of the Israeli Firsters’ cover story of what transpired on September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission helped reify as supposed fact an engineered fable purposely saturated with evocative religious symbolism. This religious fable attributed the strikes on the major architectural icons of US military and commercial might to a globalized Islamic fighting force said to be acting with self-directed independence.
Within the flash of a single news cycle the military-industrial complex and its attending national security apparatus were supplied with precisely the kind of malleable global enemy required to maintain and grow the business of aggressive warfare abroad, police state intervention at home. Obsolete Cold Warriors like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney immediately walked into new and prestigious roles as czars of an open-ended War on Terror.
The vast military and intelligence establishment formerly built up as an instrument of US-directed anti-communism was thereby turned to the task of anti-terrorism. Old elites and pyramids of power were thereby preserved. Many of those at the heights of these structures of privilege were further empowered, entitled and entrenched, all in the name of a specious Global War on Terror.
In the course of this process the entity said to be KSM became an important prize and asset for those engaged in cashing in on the lucrative privatized growth of the national security business. Through the intervention of White House operative Philip Zelikow, KSM’s supposed testimony was transferred from a torture chamber in Eurasia to serve the interests of insiders buzzing in and around the Washington Beltway. One of the patsies had to be singled out to incriminate the other patsies and the entity know as KSM was inducted to serve that strategic function.
The shape of things to come was foreshadowed on the morning of 9/11 with the BBC’s extension to Ehud Barak, a former Prime Minister of Israel, of full license to finger on world television the targets for post-9/11 revenge. Without any formal investigation at all, the former Israeli General and intelligence officer named as probable culprits Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat, Iraq, Iran and Libya. Barak provided this list only minutes after an aircraft was pictured not even slowing down as it cut into the South Tower like a hot knife slicing through butter.
Some of the most basic laws of physics were apparently defied by the televised spectacle of an aluminum plane smashing seemingly unobstructed through thick steel beams; of massive skyscrapers plunging symmetrically down to earth through the course of maximum resistance at near free fall speeds. What was the exotic technology that transformed three massive steel-frame WTC Towers into huge plumes of vapor and toxic dust clouds? Such a dramatic change in the composition of gargantuan masses of matter could not have been realized without the igniting of energy sources far more explosively powerful than some combination of jet fuel fires, melted metal and the pancaking effects of gravity.
The demise of a third structure, sometimes known as Lucky Larry Silverstein’s World Trade Center 7, poses its own unique set of questions. It is completely impossible that an office fire caused this 47-story steel-frame structure not hit by any airplane to instantly collapse late in the afternoon of 9/11. The only credible explanation is that of the late Danny Jowenko, Europe’s leading expert in controlled demolition before he died under mysterious circumstances in 2011. In his filmed response to a 9/11 researcher Jowenko insisted that only a group of pros would be in a position to wire the Building 7 in a way that would make it plunge to the ground as it did on 9/11.
9/11 and the US Government’s Destruction of Damning Evidence
It was the 9/11 Commission Report that bestowed on the real or constructed personae of KSM his title as “the mastermind of 9/11.” Gradually even the figure heads that co-chaired the 9/11 Commission have tried to distance themselves from their own study, one that they have asserted was “set up to fail.” And fail it did in very consequential ways. As Benjamin DeMott explained in his review in Harper’s Magazine of The 9/11 Commission Report, it’s a “whitewash” and a “fraud” that “dangerously reenergizes a national relish for fantasy.”
As they came to understand the deceptiveness to which they had been subjected, the co-chairs became especially chagrined that they were not permitted to question KSM and the other “witnesses” whose supposed damning evidence was derived from illegal torture. The resort of key US officials to criminal acts of internationally outlawed torture became the subject of a major report of the US Senate Committee that presented in 2014 a very damning account of Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
Chaired by Diane Feinstein, the Senate investigation came in response to news that CIA officials had destroyed about 100 videos recording the intelligence agency’s ghastly extremes in extracting supposed information from those it so violently abused. Among the destroyed tapes were some on which the 9/11 Commission based some of its key conclusions.
The massive and systematic destruction of state evidence has itself become something of a smoking gun exposing the fraud and deception integral to the Global War on Terror that originated in the false flag events of 9/11. An early example of the rush to destroy evidence was marked by the actions at Ground Zero of the Federal Emergency Measures Agency, FEMA. The FEMA agents’ priority was to cart away the remnants of the three steel frame structures mostly pulverized into dust clouds on 9/11. The physical evidence of the high-tech takedown of the three WTC structures was whisked out of Manhattan and then out of the USA to be sold at discount prices to Chinese firms.
Now the US government’s already highly problematic prosecution of KSM for the crimes of 9/11 is running into telling revelations that key evidence in the case has been destroyed without so much as a notice to KSM’s lawyers, David Nevin and Marine Corp Major Derek Poteet. The result is that these jurists are asking the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, and the prosecutor, Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, to withdraw themselves from the proceedings. “There’s at least the appearance of collusion between the prosecution and the judge,” Poteet said.
As reported in The Guardian, “Nevin and Poteet said that they were ultimately seeking the end of Mohammed’s military commission, even if Pohl recuses himself in favor of a different available military judge and a new prosecution is appointed. ‘The effect is there would be no further prosecution,’ Nevin said.”
We Need Trials of the Real Culprits, Not the Patsies
The withholding of the much-publicized 28 pages from the Joint Congressional Report on the events of September 11, 2001 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the destruction and secreting away of evidence about what really happened on 9/11. Before the Twin Towers were pulverized, Ehud Barak floated the fiction that Osama bin Laden was the chief culprit. Then it was made to seem that the main imperative flowing from the events of 9/11 was for the US Armed Forces to invade and overthrow the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
The disinformation that Saddam’s government possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction is just one piece of a vast complex of lies involving 9/11 and its aftermath. The growing awareness of millions of citizens the world over of the extent of these lies and subsequent cover up has long been eroding the credibility of many major institutions starting with the US government and the mainstream media outlets that regularly report on its operations.
After the administration of Barack Obama decided to take over the neocon lies and deceptions first disseminated on the very day of 9/11, the focus of public attention was shifted onto Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It seemed for a time that the Obama administration would conduct in New York a public criminal trial of KSM as its way of commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
That concept, however, was shelved in favor of concocting a fake hunting down of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. This way of shutting down the contemporary life of a fabricated myth from the Bush era was meant as a way for President Obama to begin engineering his own specious justifications for the Democratic Party’s extension of 9/11 Wars.
There have been many reports that KSM is a very unstable individual wanting to take credit for dozens and dozens of terror attacks. Some reports claim he has a martyr complex and covets the possibility of being executed by the US government. Among the violent actions he claims as his own is the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Bernard-Henry Levy, the neocon propagandist who is France’s leading Israel First advocate, put great emphasis on KSM in advancing his favored political agenda in his volume, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?
The breakdown of due process even in the rigged system of military-style jurisprudence at the Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp helps illuminate the latest chapter in the task of trying to keep the 9/11 scam alive. Fortunately there is now a large and growing body of genuine scholarship subjecting the lies and crimes of 9/11, including those contained in fraudulent 9/11 Commission report, to skeptical scrutiny.
Surely the US government’s destruction of yet more evidence in the prelude to the long-delayed trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or whoever it is that is currently cast in the part, is yet another indication that there is much for authorities to hide when it comes to 9/11. What will it take to force some genuine reckoning with the role of 9/11 and the long series of false flag terror events that will continue to accelerate in frequency unless and until the corrupt core of this vile psychological operation is exposed? When will the real culprits rather than the patsies of 9/11 be brought to justice?
Professor Tony Hal is Editor In Chief, AHT and Co-Host of False Flag Weekly News
How do you spell chutzpah? I submit an alternate spelling: O-B-A-M-A D-O-J.
How the Obama administration interprets the phrase “government transparency,” in three acts.
Act One: Secret Law
The Obama administration is trying to keep secret a 2003 Office of Legal Counsel memo outlining how federal intelligence agencies interpret “commercial services agreements” between telecoms and their customers. The memo, which the ACLU seeks in a FOIA lawsuit, likely outlines the government’s legal position on how intelligence agencies can access information held by telecommunications companies. Senator Ron Wyden, who from his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee has routinely warned Americans of unconstitutional intelligence activities, has said the government’s “opinion is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law, and should be withdrawn.”
Wyden has also publicly stated that the DOJ misled a federal court during its legal fight to keep the memo secret. In a March 2016 letter, Wyden wrote that a DOJ memorandum of law filed in the case contains a “key assertion” that is false. “This assertion appears to be central to the DOJ’s legal arguments,” Wyden wrote.
Now the DOJ has fired back at Wyden, asserting in a brief in the ACLU lawsuit that the Senator’s claims about this “key assertion” were “wholly erroneous” and “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.” The Justice Department claims the administration can keep the legal memo secret because it is not “working law,” but rather confidential legal advice. According to the DOJ, even though an agency may rely on an Office of Legal Counsel memo “by acting in a manner that is consistent with the advice,” the memo doesn’t necessarily “establish agency policy,” meaning it’s not “working law”—which is subject to public disclosure—but instead confidential legal advice.
(As Wyden noted, the DOJ “isn’t denying that this opinion is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law”; instead, it’s arguing that the legal memo at issue doesn’t constitute law.)
To repeat: The government is arguing that even if agencies “rely” on an OLC memo and act “in a manner consistent” with its advice, it isn’t law. Instead, it’s private legal advice, which just so happens to be something the government can keep secret from the public.
Act Two: Limitless Surveillance
In April 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released parts of a November 2015 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinion about how the FBI, NSA, and CIA use information collected pursuant to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. (The FISA Amendments Act, signed into law in 2008, put congress’ stamp of approval on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.) Section 702 of that statute allows the intelligence agencies to warrantlessly wiretap Americans’ international communications, as long as Americans or people within the United States are not “targeted.” Part of that statute requires that the Attorney General and ODNI prepare annual reports, called “certifications,” to be reviewed by FISC judges. These certifications include information about how, why, and under what circumstances intelligence agencies “minimize” information about non-targets or US persons caught up in its dragnets.
The recently released November 2015 FISC opinion describes some of these minimization procedures in detail. Among them are procedures related to the capture, dissemination, and use of attorney-client privileged communications. The opinion reveals that the FBI can disseminate attorney-client privileged communications as long as the FBI’s lawyers approve it. The rules require the FBI to “advise recipients that the dissemination contains information subject to attorney-client privilege, that the information is being disseminated ‘solely for intelligence or lead purposes,’ and that it may not be further disseminated or used in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding without the approval of the AG or the Assistant AG for National Security.”
In other words: The US government allows itself to warrantlessly wiretap our international communications and even use our attorney-client privileged communications for intelligence purposes, as long as it doesn’t disclose to criminal defendants or courts that it has done so.
Act Three: Upside Down World
The US government refuses to disclose a legal memo that likely describes how intelligence agencies spy on our communications, claiming that the memo isn’t “working law” but instead constitutes “private” legal advice. Secret law is thereby justified by attorney-client privilege. In this case, the attorney and the client are one in the same: the executive branch.
At the same time, the government gives itself the power to warrantlessly wiretap, retain, disseminate, and use for intelligence purposes our attorney-client privileged communications—so long as the fact of agencies doing so never becomes public. Surveillance of attorney-client privileged communications is justified, as long as it remains secret.
Secret law, secret surveillance. Attorney-client privilege for government lawyers advising government agencies about government policy. No attorney-client privilege for ordinary people, who will likely never learn that the FBI or NSA has warrantlessly obtained their confidential communications.
Only in an upside down world could this administration choose this path, having called itself the “most transparent administration” in history.
Britain’s drone ‘kill list’ could leave politicians, pilots and intelligence personnel facing murder charges unless rules of engagement are quickly clarified, a parliamentary report has warned.
The joint committee on human rights warned on Tuesday that killing with drones outside warzones could lead to “criminal prosecution for murder or complicity in murder.”
The report also warned that the widely-used term “targeted killing” sounded “uncomfortably close to assassination“ and took the view that the UK pursues an active policy “to use lethal force abroad outside armed conflict” under the banner of “counter-terrorism.”
The committee acknowledged the likelihood of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) pursuing a case is slim, but said authorities in other countries may if their citizens are killed.
Chaired by Labour‘s Harriet Harman, the committee also said the UK owed it “to all those involved in the chain of command for such uses of lethal force to provide them with absolute clarity about the circumstances in which they will have a defense against any possible future criminal prosecution.”
The investigation began in August 2014 after it was announced a UK targeted drone strike had killed British Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighter Reyaad Khan in Syria.
The killing took place prior to December’s parliamentary vote on military action in the country. The US had developed a pattern of carrying out drone strikes in regions which are not official warzones such as Yemen and Pakistan, a trend which critics find worrying.
Harman’s panel said it is “vital that the legal line between counter-terrorism law enforcement and the waging of war by military means does not become blurred, leading to the use of lethal force in circumstances not permitted by law.”
Human rights NGO Reprieve warned on Tuesday the report highlighted some of the risks involved in an assassination policy.
Reprieve staff attorney Jennifer Gibson said “this is a wakeup call.”
She warned there is a “very real danger that the UK is following the US down the slippery slope of kill lists and targeted killings.”
“This is alarming, given the CIA’s secret drone war has killed hundreds of civilians and been described as a ‘failed strategy’ by [US President Barack] Obama’s own former head of defense intelligence,” she added.
While UK Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged at the time that the Khan killing was a “new departure,” the government maintains it only uses such methods in cases where there is an “immediate” or “imminent” threat to the UK.
With the war in Syria raging in its fifth year, and the Islamic State wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear that the entire region has been made into one large theater of conflict. But the battlefield must not be understood solely as a physical place located on a map; it is equally a social and cultural space where the forces of the US-UK-NATO Empire employ a variety of tactics to influence the course of events and create an outcome amenable to their agenda. And none to greater effect than propaganda.
Indeed, if the ongoing war in Syria, and the conflicts of the post-Arab Spring period generally, have taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda and public relations to shape narratives which in turn impact political events. Given the awesome power of information in the postmodern political landscape, it should come as no surprise that both the US and UK have become world leaders in government-sponsored propaganda masquerading as legitimate, grassroots political and social expression.
London, Washington, and the Power of Manipulation
The Guardian recently revealed how the UK Government’s Research, Information, and Communications Unit (RICU) is involved in surveillance, information dissemination, and promotion of individuals and groups as part of what it describes as an attempt at “attitudinal and behavioral change” among its Muslim youth population. This sort of counter-messaging is nothing new, and has been much discussed for years. However, the Guardian piece actually exposed the much deeper connections between RICU and various grassroots organizations, online campaigns, and social media penetration.
The article outlined the relationship between the UK Government’s RICU and a London-based communications company called Breakthrough Media Network which “has produced dozens of websites, leaflets, videos, films, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and online radio content, with titles such as The Truth about Isis and Help for Syria.” Considering the nature of social media, and the manner in which information (or disinformation) is spread online, it should come as no surprise that a number of the viral videos, popular twitter feeds, and other materials that seemingly align with the anti-Assad line of London and Washington are, in fact, the direct products of a government-sponsored propaganda campaign.
In fact, as the authors of the story noted:
One Ricu initiative, which advertises itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has had face-to-face conversations with thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any students realising they were engaging with a government programme. That campaign, called Help for Syria, has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.
It’s not hard to see what the British Government is trying to do with such efforts; they are an attempt to control the messaging of the war on Syria, and to redirect grassroots anti-war activism to channels deemed acceptable to the political establishment. Imagine for a moment the impact on an 18-year-old college freshman just stepping into the political arena, and immediately encountering seasoned veteran activists who influence his/her thinking on the nature of the war, who the good guys and bad guys are, and what should be done. Now multiply that by thousands and thousands of students. The impact of such efforts is profound.
But it is much more than simply interactions with prospective activists and the creation of propaganda materials; it is also about surveillance and social media penetration. According to the article, “One of Ricu’s primary tasks is to monitor online conversations among what it describes as vulnerable communities. After products are released, Ricu staff monitor ‘key forums’ for online conversations to ‘track shifting narratives,’ one of the documents [obtained by The Guardian ] shows.” It is clear that such efforts are really about online penetration, especially via social media.
By monitoring and manipulating in this way, the British Government is able to influence, in a precise and highly targeted way, the narrative about the war on Syria, ISIS, and a host of issues relevant to both its domestic politics and the geopolitical and strategic interests of the British state. Herein lies the nexus between surveillance, propaganda, and politics.
But of course the UK is not alone in this effort, as the US has a similar program with its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) which describes its mission as being:
…[to] coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism… CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali.
Notice that the CSCC is, in effect, an intelligence hub acting to coordinate propaganda for CIA, DIA, DHS, and NSA, among others. This mission, of course, is shrouded in terminology like “integrated analysis” and “plans and operations” – terms used to designate the various components of the overall CSCC mission. Like RICU, the CSCC is focused on shaping narratives online under the pretext of counter-radicalization.
It should be noted too that CSCC becomes a propaganda clearinghouse of sorts not just for the US Government, but also for its key foreign allies (think Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain), as well as perhaps favored NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF). As the New York Times noted:
[The CSCC will] harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies. The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State.
But taking this information one step further, it calls into question yet again the veracity of much of the dominant narrative about Syria, Libya, ISIS, and related topics. With social media and “citizen journalism” having become so influential in how ordinary people think about these issues, one is yet again forced to consider the degree of manipulation of these phenomena.
Manufacturing Social Media Narratives
It is by now well documented the myriad ways in which Western governments have been investing heavily in tools for manipulating social media in order to shape narratives. In fact, the US CIA alone has invested millions in literally dozens of social media-related startups via its investment arm known as In-Q-Tel. The CIA is spending the tens of millions of dollars providing seed money to these companies in order to have the ability to do everything from data mining to real-time surveillance.
The truth is that we’ve known about the government’s desire to manipulate social media for years. Back in February 2011, just as the wars on Libya and Syria were beginning, an interesting story was published by PC World under the title Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda which explained in very mundane language that:
… the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn’t like. It could then potentially have their “fake” people run smear campaigns against those “real” people.
Close observers of the US-NATO war on Libya will recall just how many twitter accounts miraculously surfaced, with tens of thousands of followers each, to “report” on the “atrocities” carried out by Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces, and call for a No Fly Zone and regime change. Certainly one is left to wonder now, as many of us did at the time, whether those accounts weren’t simply fakes created by either a Pentagon computer program, or by paid trolls.
A recent example of the sort of social media disinformation that has been (and will continue to be) employed in the war on Syria/ISIS came in December 2014 when a prominent “ISIS twitter propagandist” known as Shami Witness (@ShamiWitness) was exposed as a man named “Mehdi,” (later confirmed as Mehdi Biswas) described as “an advertising executive” based in Bangalore, India. @ShamiWitness had been cited as an authoritative source – a veritable “wealth of information” – about ISIS and Syria by corporate media outfits, as well as ostensibly “reliable and independent” bloggers such as the ubiquitous Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses) who cited Shami repeatedly. This former “expert” on ISIS has now been charged in India with crimes including “supporting a terrorist organisation, waging war against the State, unlawful activities, conspiracy, sedition and promoting enmity.”
In another example of online media manipulation, in early 2011, as the war on Syria was just beginning, a blogger then known only as the “Gay Girl in Damascus” rose to prominence as a key source of information and analysis about the situation in Syria. The Guardian, among other media outlets, lauded her as “an unlikely hero of revolt” who “is capturing the imagination of the Syrian opposition with a blog that has shot to prominence as the protest movement struggles in the face of a brutal government crackdown.” However, by June of 2011, the “brutally honest Gay Girl” was exposed as a hoax, a complete fabrication concocted by one Tom MacMaster. Naturally, the same outlets that had been touting the “Gay Girl” as a legitimate source of information on Syria immediately backtracked and disavowed the blog. However, the one-sided narrative of brutal and criminal repression of peace-loving activists in Syria stuck. While the source was discredited, the narrative remained entrenched.
And this last point is perhaps the key: online manipulation is designed to control narratives. While the war may be fought on the battlefield, it is equally fought for the hearts and minds of activists, news consumers, and ordinary citizens in the West. The UK and US both have extensive information war capabilities, and they’re not afraid to use them. And so, we should not be afraid to expose them.
“Some people think they can lie and get away with it,” said former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with feigned outrage. And, of course, he has never been held accountable for his lies, proving his dictum true.
The question today is: Will former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Teflon coat be as impermeable to deep scratches as Rumsfeld’s has proven to be?
With the “mainstream media” by and large giving Hillary Clinton a pass on her past, few Americans realize how many Pinocchio faces need to be tacked onto many of her statements. Clinton is said to be “unquestionably” the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, essentially the presumptive nominee. That is unquestionably true – but only because she has not been questioned with much rigor at all. And on those few occasions when she has been asked hard questions, she has often ducked them.
For example, at the March 9 debate in Miami, Jorge Ramos, the longtime anchor for Noticiero Univision, asked Secretary Clinton whether she would quit the presidential race if she were indicted for putting classified information on her private email server.
She replied: “Oh, for goodness sake, it’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Hillary Clinton Above the Law?”]
Not so fast, Madame Secretary. It is looking more and more as if you will, after all, have to answer that question.
Those “Damn Emails” Again
On Wednesday in Washington, DC, a federal judge issued an order that may eventually require Clinton to testify under oath in a lawsuit related to the private email server she used while Secretary of State.
The judge gave Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, permission to take sworn testimony from close Clinton aide Huma Abedin and others over the next eight weeks. It is possible that Clinton herself will have to testify under oath on the serious email issue before arriving at the Democratic convention in July.
One key issue in question is whether all relevant documents have been provided to Judicial Watch. My guess is that – given lawyers’ propensity, and often their incentive, to secure delay after delay in such proceedings – there may not be much likelihood of all this happening that quickly.
More precarious for Secretary Clinton, in my view, is the possibility that FBI Director James Comey will be allowed to perform a serious investigation and pursue Clinton on sworn testimony she has already given; for example, on whether she was aware of an operation run out of Benghazi to deliver Libyan weapons to rebels in Syria.
During her marathon testimony on Oct. 22, 2015, to the House Select Committee on Benghazi chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, was very specific in his questioning, leaving Clinton little wiggle-room:
Pompeo: Were you aware or are you aware of any U.S. efforts by the U.S. government in Libya to provide any weapons, directly or indirectly, or through a cutout, to any Syrian rebels or militias or opposition to Syrian forces?
Pompeo: Were you aware or are you aware of any efforts by the U.S. government in Libya to facilitate or support the provision of weapons to any opposition of Gadhafi’s forces, Libyan rebels or militias through a third party or country?
Did Secretary Clinton think we were “born yesterday,” as Harry Truman used to say? From what is already known about the activities of the U.S. “mission” and “annex” in Benghazi and the role played by the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens there, it seems quite likely that Clinton perjured herself in answering No.
And I believe this will become quite clear, if the FBI is allowed to pursue an unfettered investigation – and even clearer if the National Security Agency shares the take from its dragnet surveillance.
But those are big IFs. If I read President Barack Obama correctly, he will be more inclined to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch to call off the FBI, just as he told former Attorney General Eric Holder to let retired General (and CIA Director) David Petraeus off with a slap on the wrist for giving his mistress intelligence of the highest classification and then lying about it to the FBI.
As for Clinton, perjury is not the kind of rap that she would welcome as she pursues the presidency. Trouble is, not only FBI investigators but also NSA collect-it-all snoopers almost certainly have the goods on whatever the truth is, with their easy access to the content of emails both classified and unclassified. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hillary Clinton’s Damning Emails.”]
Sadly, Comey and his counterparts at NSA are likely to cave in if the President tells them to cease and desist. Indeed, like legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, they may relish the prospect of being able to hold their knowledge of Hillary Clinton’s possible perjury and other misdeeds like a sword of Damocles over her head if she becomes president.
Thus, unless another patriot with the courage of an Edward Snowden or a Daniel Ellsberg recognizes that his primary duty is to honor his/her oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” and acts accordingly, the country could end up with a compromised President beholden to Hoover’s successors and the NSA sleuths who “collect everything,” including the emails of the Secretary of State – and those of the President.
Those at the FBI and NSA with the courage to consider whistleblowing need to be aware of the proud tradition they would be joining. The first recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence (2002) was Coleen Rowley of the FBI, and in 2004 the award was given to FBI analyst and translator Sibel Edmonds.
As for signals intelligence, no fewer than four Sam Adams whistleblower awardees have come from NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ: the UK’s Katharine Gun (2003), and three from NSA itself – Thomas Drake (2011), Edward Snowden (2013), and William Binney (2015).
More distinguished company among people of integrity would be difficult – if not impossible – to find. In a few months, we will be considering nominations for the award to be given in 2017.
CIA torture victims are a big step closer to accountability.
A federal judge has ruled against two CIA contract psychologists, James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, in their effort to dismiss a case brought against them on behalf of three victims of the torture program they designed and implemented for the agency.
Senior Judge Justin Quackenbush announced his decision rejecting the psychologists’ motion to dismiss during an argument last Friday in Spokane, Washington. Yesterday, the federal court issued its written opinion.
The ruling is an historic first. Those responsible for the CIA’s torture program never previously had to answer for their actions because no victim’s case has ever proceeded beyond a motion to dismiss. Thanks to this order, we now enter into the pretrial discovery phase of the litigation, an essential step before any trial of Mitchell and Jessen for their key role in the torture of our clients. During discovery our clients will be able to obtain evidence from Mitchell and Jessen to help prove their case at trial — although the Senate torture report already makes public many of Mitchell and Jessen’s actions in the CIA torture program.
The case was brought by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ben Soud, two survivors of the CIA program, and the family of Gul Rahman, who died as a result of his torture. All three men were subjected to torture techniques and methods that Mitchell and Jessen designed and helped implement for the CIA. To this day, Salim and Ben Soud suffer psychologically and physically from the effects of their torture. Gul Rahman’s family has never been officially notified of his death, and his body never returned to them.
In their effort to evade accountability, lawyers for the two psychologists had argued that the decision to torture the three men was a political one and therefore not appropriate for determination by a judge. They also argued that they are entitled to the same legal immunity as government officials because they were government contractors.
As the court recognized, however, our judiciary is well equipped to handle claims of torture, and it does not turn a blind eye to prisoner abuse even in wartime. The court pointed out that years of case law “demonstrate the present fallacy of Defendants’ argument that the court must decline jurisdiction because the case falls within the realm of war and foreign policy.”
The court also explained that contractors do not qualify for immunity unless they “merely acted at the direction of the Government” in carrying out lawful government contracts. Mitchell and Jessen went far beyond carrying out orders. They designed, sold, and implemented an unlawful torture program (and earned tens of millions of dollars in the process).
After over a decade of trying, it looks like CIA torture survivors will finally have their day in court.
Now that the Indonesian government has officially opened a probe into what the CIA called “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” it’s time for the U.S. government to come clean about its own involvement in the orchestrated killing of hundreds of thousands of Communists, ethnic Chinese, intellectuals, union activists and other victims during the mid-1960s.
President Joko Widodo this week instructed one of his senior ministers to begin investigating mass graves that could shed light on the slaughter of more than half a million innocents by soldiers, paramilitary forces and anti-Communist gangs.
That orgy of violence followed the killing of six generals on Sept. 30, 1965, which the Indonesian military blamed on an attempted coup by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). It marked the beginning of several decades of military dictatorship and further mass murders in East Timor and West Papua.
The PKI, which had some three million members, and millions more sympathizers, was by the early 1960s the strongest political force in the country aside from the military and the revered father of Indonesia’s independence, President Sukarno.
As one CIA adviser warned in 1963, “If the PKI is able to maintain its legal existence . . . Indonesia may be the first Southeast Asia country to be taken over by a popularly based, legally elected communist government.” Two years later, the military-led bloodbath put an end to that threat.
Indonesia’s government, whose leaders include military veterans of that era, still refuses to open criminal investigations into the mass murder, as called for in 2012 by Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights.
But some survivors nonetheless welcome the chance to expose truths that have been vigorously suppressed over the years by mass political arrests, press censorship, and pervasive indoctrination programs in the country’s schools.
To help tell the whole story, Indonesia’s human rights commission and major international human rights organizations have called on the Obama administration to declassify U.S. government documents related to the massacres, as it did recently with respect to Argentina’s “dirty war” from 1976-83.
But President Obama, like his predecessors, has so far been reluctant to shed light on tragic events in Indonesia more than half a century ago.
“The extent of America’s role remains hidden behind a wall of secrecy,” complained Joshua Oppenheimer, maker of two acclaimed documentaries about the massacres: “The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence.”
“C.I.A. documents and U.S. defense attaché papers remain classified. Numerous Freedom of Information Act requests for these documents have been denied,” he observed. “If the U.S. government recognizes the genocide publicly, acknowledges its role in the crimes, and releases all documents pertaining to the issue, it will encourage the Indonesian government to do the same.”
It’s easy to guess why Washington is so reluctant to bare the truth. The limited number of documents that have been released suggest that U.S. officials goaded Indonesia’s military into seizing power in 1965 and then liquidating PKI supporters throughout the archipelago. The full record could look even uglier.
Indonesia became a focus of U.S. strategic concerns as far back as 1940, when Imperial Japan threatened its immensely valuable rubber plantations, tin mines, and oil wells. President Franklin Roosevelt’s showdown with Tokyo, which culminated in the Pearl Harbor attack, stemmed from his determination to resist the loss of the islands’ strategic resources. Years later, Richard Nixon would call Indonesia “by far the greatest prize in the South-East Asian area.”
Prompted by its appreciation of Indonesia’s value, the Eisenhower administration financed a full-scale but unsuccessful military rebellion in 1958 against the neutralist Sukarno government. The Kennedy administration tried to patch up relations, but President Lyndon Johnson — angered at the regime’s threat to U.S. rubber and oil companies as well as Sukarno’s friendly relations with the PKI — cut off economic aid while continuing training and assistance to the anti-Communist military.
As one senior State Department official testified in executive session before Congress just a few months before the 1965 coup, explaining the administration’s proposal to increase military aid, “When Sukarno leaves the scene, the military will probably take over. We want to keep the door open.”
Prompting the Slaughter
To prompt the army to act against Sukarno, U.S., British, and Australian intelligence operatives planted phony stories about PKI plots to assassinate army leaders and import weapons from Communist China to launch a revolt — elements of a “strategy of tension” that would later be used in Chile.
According to former CIA officer Ralph McGehee, the CIA “was extremely proud” of its campaign and “recommended it as a model for future operations.”
Months after the bloodbath began, the well-connected associate editor of the New York Times, James Reston, would write, “Washington is being careful not to claim any credit” for the coup “but this does not mean that Washington had nothing to do with it.”
The events that triggered the military takeover remain murky even today, thanks to the regime’s systematic suppression of evidence. What seems clear, however, is that the PKI was largely caught unprepared when a group of junior officers — acting either on their own or as part of a “false flag” operation mounted by the anti-Communist General Suharto — killed six generals in the name of stopping a right-wing coup against Sukarno.
Suharto and his colleagues quickly arrested the killers, blamed the PKI for the atrocity, and aroused popular outrage by spreading false stories that the murdered generals had been sexually mutilated.
They also charged that Indonesia’s Communists were targeting Islamic leaders. In response, the country’s largest Muslim organization issued an order to “eliminate all Communists.”
On Oct. 5, 1965, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Marshall Green informed Washington that Muslin groups were “lined up behind” the army, which “now has opportunity to move against PKI if it acts quickly. . . Momentum is now at peak with discovery of bodies of murdered army leaders. In short, it’s now or never.”
Green was hopeful: “Much remains in doubt, but it seems almost certain that agony of ridding Indonesia of effects of Sukarno . . . has begun.” To help make sure that came to pass, Green advised telling coup leaders of “our desire to be of assistance where we can,” while remaining in the shadows.
Green proposed fanning the flames of popular anger through covert propaganda: “Spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps most-needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort).”
To that end, he later instructed to U.S. Information Agency to use all its resources to “link this horror and tragedy with Peking and its brand of communism; associate diabolical murder and mutilation of the generals with similar methods used against village headmen in Vietnam.”
By mid-October, Green reported that the embassy had discussed strategy with Army and Muslim contacts for a “step-by-step campaign not only against PKI but against whole communist/Sukarno clique.”
Soon he was reporting the good news: the army had executed hundreds of Communists and arrested thousands of PKI cadre, with help from Muslim death squads.
“I, for one, have increasing respect for [the army’s] determination and organization in carrying out this crucial assignment,” he wrote.
To help the army succeed, Green endorsed Washington’s decision to bankroll the military’s clean-up operations against the PKI, adding that “the chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support . . . are as minimal as any black bag operation can be.”
In addition, by December 1965 the U.S. embassy began sending the Indonesian military lists of PKI leaders — facilitating their liquidation.
“It really was a big help to the army,” said Robert J. Martens, a former member of the U.S. Embassy’s political section. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.”
In a December 1965 story, Time magazine offered the first significant account in the American media of the scope of the killing:
“Communists, red sympathizers and their families are being massacred by the thousands. Backlands army units are reported to have executed thousands of Communists after interrogation in remote jails. Armed with wide-bladed knives called ‘parangs,’ Moslem bands crept at night into the homes of Communists, killing entire families and burying the bodies in shallow graves.
“The murder campaign became so brazen in parts of rural East Java, that Moslem bands placed the heads of victims on poles and paraded them through villages. The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh.
“Travelers from these areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies. River transportation has at places been seriously impeded.”
By February 1996, the U.S. embassy was estimating that at least 400,000 people had already been killed across the country — more than died from the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
C.L. Sulzberger of The New York Times remarked in April that “the killing attained a volume impressive even in violent Asia, where life is cheap.”
Speaking for official Washington, in a column titled “A Gleam of Light in Asia,” the New York Times’ James Reston called this bloodbath one of “the more hopeful political developments” in Asia, one that could not have “been sustained without the clandestine aid it has received indirectly from here.”
The full extent of that clandestine aid remains a contested question, but historian Bradley Simpson, in a 2008 study of U.S. relations with Indonesia in the 1960s, observed that “declassification of just a fraction of the CIA’s records demonstrates that the agency’s covert operations in Indonesia were more widespread and insidious than previous acknowledged. These records also reveal that the Johnson administration was a direct and willing accomplice to one of the great bloodbaths of twentieth-century history.”
New Mexico’s Tom Udall declared last year as he introduced a Senate resolution to promote reconciliation on the 50th anniversary of the Indonesian massacres, “the United States and Indonesia must work to close this terrible chapter by declassifying information and officially recognizing the atrocities that occurred. . .
“The United States should stand in favor of continued democratic progress for our vital ally Indonesia and allow these historical documents to be disclosed. Only by recognizing the past can we continue to work to improve human rights across the globe.”
The world is still waiting on President Obama to heed that call.
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).
Since the re-election on the 20th of March of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso for a controversial third term, the government of the Republic of Congo has been criticised by the international community for its alleged bombing of ‘civilian neighborhoods’, following post-election terrorist attacks in the country’s capital, Brazzaville. In reality, however, the West African nation is currently fighting the early stages of a US/French or NATO-backed insurgency – an attempt by NATO to destabilize a country moving closer to the BRICS sphere of influence. In this report, I examine the geopolitical and historical background of a West African political crisis of global significance.
In the aftermath of presidential elections on the 20th of March, which saw the controversial re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso with over 60 percent of the vote, there has been increasing instability in the Republic of Congo. Opposition candidates have vociferously contested the election results. This contestation has been encouraged by the French Government, the European Union, and the United States, who have all backed opposition candidates, in particular, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who came in second during the elections with 15% of the vote.
On the nights of the 4th and the 5th of April, terrorists attacked the country’s capital city Brazzaville killing seventeen people. Six police stations, two customs control stations, and the city hall were burned down. The terrorists were members of the Ninja Nsiloulhou organisation which is headed by Pastor Ntoumi, an old enemy of the president, and supporter of the losing opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas.
Brutal crackdown on civilians?
On the 5th of April immediately after the attacks, the Congolese military conducted an anti-terrorist operation in the region of Pool, in the South of the country – a stronghold of the Ninja Nsilouhou terrorists and their political representatives. The terrorists had fought against Sassou-Nguesso’s forces during the civil war of 1998 to 2002. The Ninja Nsilouhou militia are composed of sectarian adventurists and mercenaries with connections to American and French intelligence.
Pastor Ntoumi, who is from the majority Congo ethnic group, has formed a new and surprisingly well-equipped army the Forces armées républicaines pour l’alternance au Congo (FARLC), the Republican Armed Forces for Regime Change in Congo. Ntumi’s forces have no economic programme for change. They are, rather, more concerned with ousting the Northern Mbochi from power, the president’s ethnic group, a minority in the country.
Western imperial domination of Africa has traditionally relied on empowering minority ethnicities and tribes. However, over time, many of those regimes have overcome tribal divisions; thus depriving imperialism of the advantages of keeping subject nations divided. Although the Mbochi only constitute 12 percent of the country’s population, they occupy over 40 percent of government posts – a source of ethnic tension currently being instrumentalised by imperialism.
Amnesty International’s history of lies and war propaganda
Given the hostility of Western governments to the reelection of Sassou Nguesso, it should not be surprising to find that the first reaction of the French establishment media to the Congolese government’s crackdown on the Ninja terrorists came in the form of a condemnatory report by Amnesty International. The human rights organisation strongly condemned what it described as the bombing of civilian targets by the Congolese military. However, Amnesty International’s report admits that the organization did not have access to the area in question and that they have not been able to confirm any of the accusations made by their anonymous sources in the Pool region.
The government of the Republic of Congo has issued a firm condemnation of Amnesty International’s report, stating that the dossier is not based on any evidence. Furthermore, Amnesty’s accusations have been contradicted by the Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas – who have also visited Pool and have not documented any military targeting of civilians. One of the lies told by Amnesty International about the Congolese military operation in Pool has already been exposed.
The human rights organisation claimed that a primary school in Soumouna was bombed. However, photographs dated from the 18th of April prove that the school was not bombed. One of the key ‘sources’ for Amnesty’s report is Monsignor Louis Portella, a close confidante of Pastor Ntumi, the aforementioned terrorist tracked by the Congolese military.
Amnesty’s report has provided ammunition for the opposition’s anti-Nguesso rhetoric , who are referring to the anti-terrorist operation in Pool as “genocide.” Although widely considered to be a reliable, objective and respectable organisation, Amnesty International has a long history of legitimising war propaganda on behalf of the United States and its allies.
The human rights group was instrumental in the assassination of Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkumra when he was being targeted by the CIA. Amnesty International have been accused of complicity in Nkumra’s assassination; they have also been accused of complicity in the death of Patrice Lumumba, first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (former U.S National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter) was among the former board members of Amnesty International; this was at a time when the human rights organisation was publishing reports condemning the democratic government of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the CIA-backed Mujahadeen, part of Brzezinski’s ‘Arc of Crisis’ strategy, massacred the Afghan population with little or no criticism from Amnesty International.
Amnesty International’s record in exposing the crimes of Zionism is no better; the organisation helped cover up Israeli massacres in Shabra, Shatila, and Jenin in 1982.
In 1986, the human rights organisation published a damning report against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua which was used by the Reagan administration to justify more aid to the contra terrorists who would eventually destroy that country.
In the run-up to the Gulf War in 1991, Amnesty International colluded with the US military in orchestrating a fake story about Iraqi soldiers taking 312 newborn babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and throwing them on the floor. The story, which shocked the world, provided the propaganda the US government needed to bomb Iraq – a bombing followed by crippling sanctions that murdered over 500,000 babies; it was the beginning of the destruction of the Middle East’s wealthiest and most advanced countries. The story was entirely fabricated by the US military. Amnesty International was the key agency behind the fraud – a dirty lie created to justify war and genocide.
Amnesty International colluded in the demonisation of Hugo Chavez by US-backed Putschists in the run-up to the 2002 coup in Venezuela. During years of brutal Apartheid rule in South Africa, Amnesty never condemned the brutal racist system.
In 2011, Amnesty International validated fake reports of ‘African mercenaries’ in Libya who were said to be committing massacres. The reports, entirely fabricated, were used to justify war against Africa’s richest and most democratic nations, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and an ongoing refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Since the outbreak of NATO’s war against Syria, Amnesty International has produced nothing but lies and calumny against the democratic institutions of the Syrian Arab Republic. With a record like that, it is hardly surprising to find Amnesty International publishing another damning report against an African government Western imperialism is attempting to overthrow by force. (Read more here)
Why must Sassou Nguesso go?
Although nominally independent from France since 1958, the republic of Congo did not embark upon a true path of independence until the accession to power of Marien Ngouabi in 1968. For 9 years until his assassination in 1977, Ngouabi laid the basis for Africa’s first socialist state. The charismatic communist leader managed to align the People’s Republic of Congo with both the USSR and China, in spite of the ideological split between the Soviet revisionists and Maoist China.
Ngouabi also formed close links with Cuba. The communist revolutionary, who had an advanced degree in physics, was passionate about education and was arguably the greatest leader of African national liberation; but the dream came to a tragic and abrupt end in 1977 when he was murdered by a group of army officers most likely led by Joachim Yhombi-Obango; the assassination had the blessing of French and American intelligence. Both countries resumed diplomatic relations with Congo-Brazzaville immediately after Ngouabi’s murder.
Opango was deposed in 1978 by Denis Sassou-Nguesso; the new leader collaborated to a large extent with French neocolonial interests – a policy euphemistically referred to as ‘la Françafrique.’ Rumours about Nguesso’s role in the murder of Ngouabi have proliferated over the years, but there is still no conclusive evidence linking him to the communist leader’s death.
With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the French government forced the Congolese state to open up to multi-party-ism – a disastrous policy which led to the highly corrupt reign of French puppet Pascal Lissouba until Denis Sassou-Nguesso resumed power again in 2002 after a four-year civil war. Over the last decade, President Nguesso has brought the country closer to China, Russia, Brazil, and Cuba – old cold war allies (Brazil excepted) in anti-colonialist struggle.
Building blocks of independence
Although Denis Sassou-Nguesso is certainly no angel and his regime may be guilty of serious crimes over the years, he does have some notable achievements under his belt; he has managed to restore peace to a war-torn country. His government has also overseen a period of steady economic growth. President Sassou Nguesso has initiated major economic projects designed to build up the country’s industrial base. In the next few months, an oil pipeline between Point Noire, Brazzaville and Oyo will be built by the Russian government. Moscow will also help construct two major hydroelectric dams in Sounda and Cholet. The Sounda region in the isolated north of the country is now connected with a new highway.
The Sassou-Nguesso administration has overseen significant advances in transport provision. Brazzaville’s state-of-the-art Maya Maya airport hosts a largely state-owned airline EC AIR, providing new direct transport routes to major world commercial destinations such as Dubai. The Maya Maya airport is set to become the biggest and busiest airport in Central Africa. The upgrading of the airport was carried out by Chinese company Weihei International, Economic and Technical Cooperative Co.Ltd.
In Pointe Noir, the country’s second principal city, the Augustino Neto airport is currently under construction. On the 22nd of February 2016, the Congolese government signed a contract with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), for the construction of a new deep sea port in Pointe Noire. The port is expected to lead to significant economic development in the country. At the contract signing, the Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Congo reiterated his country’s commitment to the industrialization of the Congolese economy.
New road networks are under construction throughout the country. A monumental road and rail bridge is will connect Brazzaville and Kinshasa, as part of the Trans-African Highway Network. The Chinese are reportedly planning the construction of a new railway line from Brazzaville in the South to Ouesso in the North and from Djambala in the centre of the country to Pointe Noire on the coast; the project promises to be a major boost to trade and industrial development.
Many new public administration buildings are under construction in the country’s capital as part of the government’s drive to strengthen the efficiency of state institutions, improving public services and affirming national sovereignty. Sassou-Nguesso’s administration also intends to construct a 4 km bridge across the Congo River connecting Brazzaville to Kinshasa, capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congolese government plans to reduce dependence on oil export revenues by developing its agricultural industry. Meetings between the Congolese minister of agriculture and his Brazilian counterpart took place in both Brazil and the Republic of Congo in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Japan has also significantly increased investment in the Congolese Republic agribusiness.
As part of its preparations for hosting the Panafrican Music Festival, new cultural centres, theatres and cinemas are scheduled to be built. The new Sports Complex currently under construction in Kintélé will enable the country to host events of international stature, increasing investment revenue and promoting job creation.
Although modest, the Congolese government has shown some commitment to reducing poverty by building over 10,000 new social units. The country, which currently has only one university named after Marien Ngouabi, is soon to have another when the Denis Sassou Nguesso university is completed in Kintele.
Sassou-Nguesso’s administration has initiated an ambitious project to provide free potable water to the country’s population. The project named ‘Water for All’ is being implemented in conjunction with Brazilian company Asperbras – one of the world’s leading specialists in the provision of public service infrastructure and heavy industry equipment. Asperbras is also constructing fourteen top-class hospitals throughout the country as part of the government’s project ‘Health for All‘.
Since the visit by Brazilian president Lula Ignacio da Silva to Brazzaville in 2007 (he opened Brazil’s first embassy in the country) Brazzaville and Brasilia have strengthened ties. There have been several visits by Congolese ministers to Brazil and the presidents of the two countries have met twice since 2012.
Nguesso’s government has benefited from significant Chinese investment in the oil industry. The Chinese have also invested in the construction of major industrial projects such as the business center in Mpila, and impressive viaducts in Brazzaville and Talangai.
Although the ruling Party of Labour abandoned their adherence to Soviet revisionist Marxism-Leninism in 1992, embracing official social-democracy and multi-party politics, Nguesso has continued to maintain strong ties with left-leaning countries such as Cuba, Brazil, China, and Russia.
The Western media portray Nguesso as a corrupt, power-hungry dictator siphoning off the country’s resources for his own clan or tribe, and some of these accusations may, in fact, be true. But the infrastructural projects mentioned above show that the country is building the basis of national independence through Chinese, Russian, and Brazilian investment in heavy industry. Such investment threatens Western neocolonial interests; those interests require the maintenance of Africa in a state of constant underdevelopment and dependence so that its natural resources can be pillaged by Western corporations.
Nguesso’s ties with Cuba go back to the Cold War era when the Caribbean nation played a key role in African liberation struggles – a fact acknowledged by Nelson Mandela. Cuba’s socially-oriented economy has been subject to incessant demonisation for over half a century by the international corporate press, but not even they can deny the extraordinary achievements of the Cuban government in the provision of free education and health care of the highest standard.
The Republic of Congo’s Party of Labour has shown some fidelity to Ngouabi’s Marxist principles by sending 280 students to Havana to train as doctors. Cuban educators have been invited to the Congo to bring pedagogical methodologies with a view to improving the country’s education system.
The Empire’s strategic horizon: war
In April 2012, the French Ministry of Defense published a report ‘Horizons stratégiques’ that described the future of French interests in Africa. The report stated that competing powers such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, coupled with the rise of Pan-Africanist nationalism, pose the greatest threat to French interests on the continent.
The report indicates that problems such as ethnic conflict and religious terrorism will require the continued military presence of French troops in Africa and that those troops will liaise, not with sovereign states, but local private contractors. In other words, the future of French neocolonial interests in Africa depends on the fomentation of civil wars and the total privatisation of African nation-states.
Over the past 5 years, I have maintained that Western imperialism in this era is proceeding on the basis of leftist symbology. The CIA-backed Arab Spring people-power coups of 2011 testify to that fact. But the Arab Spring was only the beginning. Mathieu Pigasse the director of the Lazard Bank, confidante of President Hollande, and proprietor of the newspaper Le Monde, stated in 2012 that he wanted to see the Arab Spring ideology spread all over Africa. French companies, he argued, would in future only deal with ”civil society” organisations, rather than ”corrupt” African governments. What that ultimately means is that the oligarch Pigasse wants to see all African nation-states erupt in chaos so that their resources can be privatised by Western banks and corporations in the name of freedom, democracy, and the oligarchy’s newest slogan ‘popular revolution’.
The pseudo-leftist opposition media in France have been at the forefront of disinformation about the Republic of Congo. They frequently express outrage at the French government for supporting such a ‘genocidal’ regime in Africa, when in fact the French and U.S. governments are supporting its opponents.
We have already mentioned the lies validated by Amnesty International about Colonel Gaddafi’s recruitment of ‘African mercenaries’ who were reported to have massacred ‘peaceful demonstrators’ during the 2011 insurgency in Libya.
Similar stories have recently been concocted by powerful French interests. But some of those lies have backfired. The former director of the French giant oil company ELF Loïc Le Floch-Prigent and his lawyer Norbert Tricaud have been brought before a French court for defamation after they claimed French mercenary Patrick Klein had been recruited by the Congolese government to massacre political opponents. Klein has denied the accusations and taken Le Floch-Prigent to court for defamation.
It is interesting to note that attorney Norbert Tricaud has managed to recruit the granddaughter of Marien Ngouabi in his campaign to accuse President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of her grandfather’s assassination; yet in his interviews,Tricaud completely ignores the role of the CIA and French intelligence in Ngouabi’s murder. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Ngouabi’s French wife, the grandmother of Tricaud’s client, was in fact a French spy! No French or American officials have ever been prosecuted for the assassination of African leaders, in spite of the fact that the secret agencies of the United States and France were behind the murder of dozens of African revolutionaries and heads of state.
Tricaud claims, in one of his interviews, to be a lawyer engaged in the struggle against slavery and indigenous rights. He refers repeatedly to the government of Sassou-Nguesso as a ‘dictatorship’ notwithstanding the fact that Sassou-Nguesso’s administration was the first in Africa to pass laws giving rights to indigenous pygmy peoples, who for centuries have been enslaved by Bantou colonial settlers. It is important to study the deceptive methodology used by people like Tricaud. He appears to be critical of Western foreign policy of propping up of dictators in Africa, while simultaneously promoting imperial military intervention in the guise of humanitarianism.
On his Facebook page Norbert Tricaud (the man determined to find out who killed the communist revolution Marien Ngouabi) boasts of lobbying on behalf of the ultra-right wing General Mokoko with an advisor of US Secretary of State John Kerry, and various ‘NGOS’. Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko attempted a coup d’Etat against the government of the Republic of Congo earlier this year and claimed to have the French government on his side.
A video posted on line shows Mokoko in the offices of Sylvain Maier planning a coup d’etat against Sassou-Nguesso with DGSE (French secret service) agent. In the film, the French secret service agent warns Mokoko” if you betray me, I’ll kill you” The DGSE agent hands over flight tickets and an envelope of cash to Mokoko. The DGSE agent explains how French intelligence will orchestrate the media coverage of the coup d’etat so as to convince Congolese citizens that Mokoko is a democrat. He also explains how French intelligence will organise the post-coup state of emergency and military curfew, joking that ”most African’s are cowards” and will turn to the Putschists for protection.
The video was shot in the offices French lawyer Sylvain Maier, who has been prosecuted for money laundering.
Radio France Internationale, French state media, were able to confirm the authenticity of the video and did their best to distract from the disgraceful proof of the French neo-colonial conspiracy by claiming that the document was being used by the dictator to discredit a ‘serious’ opponent.
Also on his Facebook page, Tricaud calls for a ‘humanitarian corridor’ in Pool, to ‘protect civilians’. The phrase ‘humanitarian corridor’ was coined by Dr. Bernard Kouchner in 1968, when France was attempting to create a client state in Biafra, Nigeria. Kouchner, who had set up ‘Doctors without Borders’ called for such a corridor to be established in the country so as to help the civilians allegedly bombed by the Nigerian government. Ultimately thousands of weapons were smuggled in ambulances to the French-backed insurgents.
Norbert Tricaud recently joined a delegation of 19 Congolese politicians to lobby the US congress and the National Endowment for Democracy, a think tank closely linked to the CIA and a chief sponsor of ‘civil society’ led ‘popular uprisings’. These meetings prove that US/French-backed regime change in Brazzaville is now at an advanced stage of planning. Denis Sassou-Nguesso will indubitably become the next African leader to face mass media demonization and information warfare as a proxy war of aggression waged by mercenaries in the pay of France and the United States looks increasingly likely.
Sassou-Nguesso’s emphasis on heavy industry, public infrastructure, strengthening the authority and role of the state, while attracting more investment from emerging global powers, are the factors that have made him an enemy of the Empire. In his inauguration speech, Denis Sassou Nguesso pledged to combat corruption and nepotism. He said this term would be the beginning of a major rupture with the past. The Congolese president may have been referring to the fact that the balance of power in the world is shifting in favour of China, Russia, and the BRICS world order, and that such a seismic shift in the distribution of imperial power is good news for Africa.
Although, French government representative Jean-Luc Borloo unctuously described the president’s speech as a ”monument of vision,” it is clear that the French government and media establishment are backing the pseudo-opposition and their terrorist militia in a desperate attempt to save the old, crumpling, and utterly rotten colonial order.
The current concrete choice facing the people of Congo Brazzaville is relative peace and economic progress under Sassou Nguesso or chaos, war and death under his Western-backed opponents.
Congolese citizens would be well advised to ignore the Western-backed conspiracy theories surrounding Marien Ngouabi’s death and follow instead the path of Sassou Nguesso, who, despite his many shortcomings and alleged crimes, is doing more to revive the spirit of Marien Ngouabi than any of his opponents. The question now is not who killed Ngouabi but who among the country’s youth will fulfill his legacy.
A former CIA officer, now residing in Portugal, faces extradition to Italy after her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, in Milan 13 years ago, The Washington Post reported.
An Italian court convicted Sabrina De Sousa, 60, in absentia along with 26 other Americans, sentencing her to four years in prison. In 2009, De Sousa avoided potential imprisonment by leaving Italy before the trial started.
However, extradition talks began after De Sousa moved to Portugal last spring to be closer to her relatives.
Local police detained the former CIA agent on a European arrest warrant at the Lisbon airport in October.
A key development in the case happened this week, when Portugal’s highest court upheld the lower courts’ ruling that local authorities did not violate the constitution when detaining De Sousa. She is now scheduled to be extradited to Italy on May 4.
One of the conditions of the ruling is that De Sousa be given another trial and a chance to appeal her sentence in Italy since she was sentenced in absentia.
However, De Sousa is not sure that Italian authorities will grant her a new trial, and fears that she will simply be sent straight to jail to start serving her four-year sentence.
“It’s kind of a surreal situation,” De Sousa told The Washington Post. “I’ve spent years wanting to counter the charges against me. Right now, I want to know what happens, step by step, in Italy.”
Former CIA chief historian Benjamin Fischer described De Sousa’s case as “unprecedented,” according to the Post.
De Sousa holds dual Portuguese and American citizenship. She admitted that flying to Europe did leave her more vulnerable to arrest.
“If I was a natural-born US citizen and my entire family lived in Kansas, for example, then maybe I wouldn’t need to worry about going to Europe again,” De Sousa said.
Terror suspect Egyptian cleric Nasr was kidnapped from a Milan street in 2003. He was transported to Egypt by the CIA as part of their extraordinary rendition program, where he was allegedly tortured for seven months and eventually released.
It was only in 2005 when reports of Italian government investigating CIA agents involved in the kidnapping came to light.
Evidence discovered by Italian law enforcement reportedly embarrassed the CIA’s spy craft skills.
Meanwhile, De Sousa was unable to persuade her employer to grant her immunity and ended up resigning from the CIA in 2009.
De Sousa asserts she played only a minor role in the abduction of the cleric, translating for CIA officers in Italy in early 2002 before the kidnapping took place.
“But at that point, rendition was just a concept,” she said, adding that Nasr’s name was not even mentioned during the talks.