Rep. Lewis passed over for powerful chairmanship

Republicans passed over  Rep. Jerry Lewis in favor of a veteran Kentucky lawmaker Wednesday to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The party’s steering committee rejected Lewis’s request to waive term limits that bar him from reclaiming the post he held when Republicans last held the majority.

The decision deprives Lewis of a position that would have given him control over the federal government’s purse strings and a heightened ability to direct millions of dollars to his home district, which includes some of the Pass area.

See also: CREW’s Most Corrupt: Rep. Jerry Lewis

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Startups Backed By The CIA

The spy agency has a venture capital arm that is funding an array of companies developing bleeding-edge technologies.

Tiny cameras. Hearing devices for the teeth. Wi-fi for refrigerators. These are some of the products made by companies that have caught the eye of In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Forty years since the Kent State massacre

May 4 marks the 40th anniversary of the shootings of unarmed student protesters at Kent State University in northeast Ohio. The Ohio National Guard killed four students and wounded nine others at a rally against the Nixon administration’s decision to escalate the Vietnam War by invading neighboring Cambodia.

The four students who died were Allison B. Krause and Jeffrey Glenn Miller, who had participated in the antiwar protest, and two bystanders, Sandra Lee Scheuer and William Know Schroeder, who were walking between classes when the troops opened fire. Miller was killed instantly, Scheuer died within minutes, while Krause and Schroeder succumbed to their wounds after several hours.

One of the students wounded, Dean Kahler, 20, was a first-semester freshman who was a curious onlooker to the protest. A bullet cut his spinal column, leaving him in a wheelchair to this day.

At least 67 bullets were fired during the 13-second fusillade, and students were hit over a wide area. The closest of the victims, one of the wounded, was 71 feet from where the troops formed a firing line. The furthest, wounded in the neck, was 750 feet away. The four dead students were between 265 and 345 feet distant. None of the victims was armed or could have posed a physical threat to the guardsmen.

The Kent State Massacre was part of a wave of violent state repression that swept the United States in the aftermath of the April 30 television announcement by President Richard Nixon that US forces had crossed the border from Vietnam and invaded Cambodia.

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Former CIA Official Arrested in Virginia for Rape

A former Central Intelligence Agency official, who is accused of raping two women, was arrested Monday at a motel in Virginia. A warrant was issued for 42-year-old Andrew M. Warren after he failed to show up for a hearing last week.

Warren was the CIA’s Station Chief in Algeria. According to court papers, two Algerian women claim Warren drugged them, then raped them when they were unconscious. A grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted Warren last year on one count of sexual deviance. The charge carries the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

Warren was arrested without incident at the motel in Norfolk. Police say he had a handgun, which was recovered and turned over to federal authorities. It was unclear why Warren skipped the hearing and why he was staying at the motel in his hometown.

“We look forward to the opportunity to speak with Andrew, and we’re just glad he’s safe,” said Billy Martin, one of Warren’s attorneys.

The CIA ordered Warren home in October 2008, a month after the women made their claims.

Memo to America: Stop murdering my people

Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.

For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.

Night raids, air raid “mistakes,” firing on civilian buses and cars at checkpoints — the occupation finds many ways of killing the people of Afghanistan. The excuses and lies for these deaths are like salt in our wounds, and it is no wonder that protests against the U.S. military are growing. The Afghan people have had enough.

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Britain: Details of hundreds of students handed to CIA

The details of up to one thousand Muslim students at University College London (UCL) have been made available to the Central Intelligence Agency jointly by the university and the Students Union. The move represents a grave attack on democratic rights and another step towards tighter controls over academic institutions in the UK.

An article appeared in the Independent on April 1 confirming that the Metropolitan Police Service had, on behalf of the CIA, approached UCL’s Islamic Society for details of its members between 2005 and 2008. The request was in connection with the investigations into the failed Detroit bomb plot on Christmas day last year. After being told by police that the data of the entire membership would be kept on file for at least seven years, the Islamic Society president Mojeed Adams-Mogaji refused to disclose the information.

The police then approached the Students Union, which provided names and email addresses of all members of the Islamic Society at the university between September 2005 and summer 2009. Subsequently after discussions, the university’s registry divulged the home addresses and telephone numbers of these individuals to the police, which were then passed to the CIA.

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Report: US ordered assassination of Yemeni cleric

The United States has ordered the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric, over alleged links to a failed Christmas airline bombing in Detroit, a report says.

Citing unnamed US officials, The Washington Post reported Wednesday that US President Barack Obama’s administration has authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to capture and kill Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki, 38, was born in New Mexico and spent years as an imam in Virginia, before moving to Yemen.

The report claims he has moved from the category of being militant preacher to becoming an operational figure in al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Al-Awlaki is charged with ties to an alleged failed attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

The Chemist’s War

The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat.

Before hospital staff realized how sick he was—the alcohol-induced hallucination was just a symptom—the man died. So did another holiday partygoer. And another. As dusk fell on Christmas, the hospital staff tallied up more than 60 people made desperately ill by alcohol and eight dead from it. Within the next two days, yet another 23 people died in the city from celebrating the season.

Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

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United Nations report blasts US over human rights abuses

A United Nations report says the US has been violating basic human rights by kidnapping and holding terrorism suspects in secret detention centers during the past nine years.

The US is among dozens of countries that have kidnapped suspects, four independent UN rights investigators said in a year-long study based on flight data and interviews with 30 former detainees.

“On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,” they wrote in the 226-page report which is expected to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

“Secret detention as such may constitute torture or ill-treatment for the direct victims as well as their families,” the report said.

Victims and their families deserve compensation and those responsible should be prosecuted, said the four independent investigators.

The UN report explained that the purpose of the secret detentions was to cover up torture and inhuman treatment of the detainees in an effort to obtain information or silent the subjects.

The rights investigators said running facilities such as those used by the Nazis, the Soviet gulag system and Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and ’80s, was banned under the internationally recognized laws laid out in the Geneva Conventions.

They also said establishment of secret detention could not be justified under any circumstances, including during states of emergency or armed conflict.
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Mystery surrounds arrest of renegade CIA agent in Indonesia

In January of 2008, a man with an American accent appeared at a passport office in the popular West Java tourist resort of Bogor, Indonesia, and applied for an Indonesian passport. But his inability to speak Bahasa Indonesia triggered the suspicion of passport officials, who subsequently discovered that his Indonesian birth certificate was faked.

He was arrested on the spot, but it took nearly a year for Indonesian authorities to ascertain the man’s real identity: he was Bob Marshall, a 61-year-old American-born former Central Intelligence Agency agent who allegedly went renegade on the Agency in 1974.

For the past 35 years, Marshall has reportedly been cited in dozens of countries, operating a worldwide arms smuggling and check-fraud network. There are rumors at Interpol that Marshall has made use of no fewer than 40 passports during this time, some of which he acquired while working for the CIA. Marshall’s arrest is a subject of intense speculation in Indonesia –a longtime hub of CIA activity– but has barely made news in the US.

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White House memo sides with CIA in inter-agency turf war

For several months now, I have been keeping tabs on a bitter inter-agency turf war between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Now a Los Angeles Times article by Greg Miller confirms what intelNews reported on November 18, namely that the White House has come down in favor of the CIA position in the dispute.

The turf war began last July, when DNI Dennis Cutler Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office, and not the CIA, as has been the case for over 60 years, should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. But the White House refused to validate Blair’s request. So, in November, the Office of the DNI hit back by announcing it would be evaluating all “sensitive CIA operations overseas” including all of the CIA’s active paramilitary and espionage operations abroad.

It now appears that the White House has decided to put out the fire by issuing a sharply worded internal memo, which, according to Miller, “deflects [the] power move by Blair” and “asserts the [CIA’s] direct authority” over US paramilitary and espionage operations abroad. Some sources indicate that the memo also prompts the CIA to cooperate with DNI Blair, whose office is technically superior to that of CIA director Leon Edward Panetta. But most insiders suggest that CIA officials were “very pleased with the outcome of the White House directive” and that “[o]n all the key points, the CIA’s equities were protected”. In any case, Blair appears determined to retort before too long.

The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons

The intelligence reports fitted the suspicions of the time: al-Qaida sleeper agents were scattered across the US awaiting orders that were broadcast in secret codes over the al-Jazeera television network.

Flights from Britain and France were cancelled. Officials warned of a looming “spectacular attack” to rival 9/11. In 2003 President George W. Bush‘s homeland security tsar, Thomas Joseph Ridge, spoke of a “credible source” whose information had US military bracing for a new terrorist onslaught.

Then suddenly no more was said.

Six years later, Playboy magazine has revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America.

Dennis Montgomery, 56, the co-owner of a software gaming company in Nevada, who has since been arrested for bouncing $1m worth of cheques, claims his program read messages hidden in barcodes listing international flights to the US, their positions and airports to be targeted.

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John Brennan Controversy

A veteran Central Intelligence Agency official appointed to review the US government’s defective terrorism watch-list system, was actually involved in designing it, and later helped sustain it through a lucrative private-sector contract. John O. Brennan was appointed by President Barack Obama on Sunday to head a “comprehensive interagency review” of travel security measures, after it was revealed that the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect, had notified the CIA about his son’s activities.

It turns out, however, that not only was Brennan part of the US National Counterterrorism Center team that designed the terrorism watch-list system, but he also helped sustain it while heading the Analysis Corporation, a scandal-prone private contractor charged with overseeing the watch-list system.

Politico’s Carol Lee and Laura Rozen are among the very few reporters who have connected the dots on Brennan. They report that the same individual who “helped design the current watch-list system and served as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, whose role is under review” has been tasked with assessing the very system helped set up.

Late on Thursday, White House attorneys apparently “determined that the benefit to the public interest of having Mr. Brennan conduct the review far outweighed any potential conflict of interest”. But the controversy remains: Lee and Rozen quote an anonymous “former senior intelligence official” who describes Brennan’s latest appointment as “unsavory”.

Langley-Eustis merger on track for Jan. 31


HAMPTON, Va. — Two Virginia military bases will merge next month, but officials say little will change in the short term.

Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis will become Joint Base Langley-Eustis starting Jan. 31.

Military officials say the process of combining operations is expected to last through October.

Col. Kevin Altman, commander of the 1st Mission Support Group at Langley, says the merger is not designed to reduce the number of military personnel or civilian workers at the bases. Instead, he says it’s a way to become more efficient and save money in the long term.

About 16,000 soldiers and airmen are currently stationed at the bases.

Are America’s Mercenary Armies Really Drug Cartels?

News out of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India reports massive corruption at the highest levels of government, corruption that could only be financed with drug money. In Afghanistan, the president’s brother is known to be one of the biggest drug runners in the world.

In Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari is found with 60 million in a Swiss Bank and his Interior Minister is suspected of ties to American groups involved in paramilitary operations, totally illegal that could involve nothing but drugs, there is no other possibility.

Testimony in the US that our government has used “rendition” flights to transport massive amounts of narcotics to Western Europe and the United States has been taken in sworn deposition.

American mercenaries in Pakistan are hundreds of miles away from areas believed to be hiding terrorists, involved in “operations” that can’t have anything whatsoever to do with any Central Intelligence Agency contract. These mercenaries aren’t in Quetta, Waziristan or Federally Administered Tribal Areas supporting our troops, they are in Karachi and Islamabad playing with police and government officials and living the life of the fatted calf.

The accusations made are that Americans in partnership with corrupt officials, perhaps in all 3 countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are involved in assassinations, “unknown” criminal activities and are functioning like criminal gangs.

There is no oil. There is nothing to draw people into the area other than one product, one that nobody is talking about. Drugs.

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Dutch MP: Curaçao is US spy base

Mr. Harry an Bommel has asked Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen whether he is aware that a Boeing RC-135 aircraft has been making regular reconnaissance flights from the Caribbean island’s Hato International Airport airport over the past few weeks.

War on drugs
The flights were the cause of angry reactions by Venezuelan president Hugo Rafael Chávez, who accused the Netherlands of colluding with the United States. The Hague government is contributing to rising tensions between Venezuela and Colombia, according to the Venezuelan authorities.

The opposition MP said it is up to the Netherlands to help de-escalate these tensions. He is asking for a ban on American military flights over Colombia from the Antilles. Ostensibly such flights are part of the US “war on drugs” but Mr. Van Bommel claims they are also used in a “war on guerrillas”. The MP wants to scrap the US-Netherlands Forwards Operations Location Treaty enabling the Americans to use airfields in Curaçao and the Antilles for anti-drugs flights.

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US to stop funding scandal-prone Colombian spy agency

The US Congress has voted to stop subsidizing Colombia’s soon-to-be dismantled Administrative Department of Security (DAS – Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) intelligence agency.

The Colombian government recently decided to disband DAS, after it was found to have illegally wiretapped the phones of several public figures, including the chief of the Colombian National Police (Policía Nacional de Colombia), the Minister of National Defense, as well as those of former Presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders and human rights campaigners.

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Lista de agencias en el mundo que trabajan con la CIA

Caracas, dic. 2009, Tribuna Popular TP.- A continuación publicamos el listado de más de 500 agencias, fundaciones y empresas que son parte de la Central Intelligence Agency  (CIA) y trabajan con ella en el área de la información y acción contra los pueblos y sus organizaciones políticas y sociales.


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UK army ‘waterboarded’ prisoners in 1970s

Evidence has emerged that the British Army used waterboarding to interrogate Northern Ireland prisoners during troubled times back in the 1970s.

The torture technique was allegedly used in at least one interrogation of a prisoner who was accused of killing a British soldier in 1973, a Tuesday report published in the Guardian said.

The prisoner named Liam Holden was later convicted of murder, largely based on an unsigned confession.

At the time the jury ignored his claim that the confession was forced under severe duress by British soldiers who had held him down, placed a towel over his face and poured water over his nose and mouth.

After 17 years in jail, the Criminal Cases Review Commission is now reviewing Holden’s case because of doubts about the “admissibility and reliability” of his confession.

Waterboarding, which simulates drowning, is considered torture by agencies worldwide.

Central Intelligence Agency agents are known to have used it in interrogating the so-called ‘war on terror‘ suspects.

Mumbai terror suspect David Headley was ‘rogue US secret agent’

A key terror suspect who allegedly helped to plan last year’s attacks in Mumbai and plotted to strike Europe was an American secret agent who went rogue, Indian officials believe.

David Coleman Headley (aka Daood Sayed Gilani), 49, who was born in Washington to a Pakistan diplomat father and an American mother, was arrested in Chicago in October. He is accused of reconnoitering targets in India and Europe for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistan-based terror group behind the Mumbai attacks and of having links to al-Qaeda. He has denied the charges.

He came to the attention of the US security services in 1997 when he was arrested in New York for heroin smuggling. He earned a reduced sentence by working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) infiltrating Pakistan-linked narcotics gangs.

Indian investigators, who have been denied access to Mr. Headley, suspect that he remained on the payroll of the US security services — possibly working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — but switched his allegiance to LeT.

“India is looking into whether Headley worked as a double agent,” an Indian Ministry of Home Affairs official said yesterday.

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Lithuania ‘hosted at least two secret CIA prisons’

A Lithuanian inquiry has found that the US Central Intelligence Agency set up and used secret prisons on its soil following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the US.

Lithuania‘s intelligence agency assisted the CIA-run secret prisons, which were used to hold at least eight al-Qaeda suspects, the parliamentary panel in charge of the probe said in a report on Tuesday.

The National Security Committee report records instances in 2005 and 2006 when chartered planes were allowed to land in Lithuania, adding that all the Lithuanian officials, including President Dalia Grybauskaitė, were kept in the dark about the aircraft’s passengers.

The report, which is based on testimony of top politicians and intelligence officials, also sought to close the door on any charges of human rights violations on the grounds that no official was ever aware of exactly what was happening in the US-run prisons.

It said Lithuania’s State Security Department (Valstybės saugumo departamento) provided two facilities to the CIA.

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Spy agencies closely monitoring climate change talks

I have written before about the increasing involvement of intelligence agencies in ongoing climate change negotiations between the world’s governments.

In October, the Central Intelligence Agency announced the establishment of its Center on Climate Change and National Security, despite fierce opposition by Republican lawmakers.

Earlier this month, it was alleged that the hackers who stole and leaked onto the Internet hundreds of University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit emails were operating via a Russian military and security network, a claim that has been disputed by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB – Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii).

However, a recent article in Australian daily The Canberra Times provides the first mainstream indication that a Western intelligence agency is “giving top priority” to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference currently taking place in Denmark. The paper cites “intelligence and diplomatic sources” in claiming that the government of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd is relying on the country’s intelligence apparatus to gain “a critical negotiating advantage” over other countries participating in the talks.

Spearheading the Australian effort appears to be the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), the Australian military’s communications interception organization, guided by directives from the country’s federal National Intelligence Collection Committee, a coordinating body founded in 2008. It is worth noting that much of the intelligence collection on climate change is not from open sources, but rather from “secret intelligence, especially signals intelligence”, which provides Australian decision-makers with “insights into what foreign governments are really thinking”, according to the article.

Intelligence Improperly Collected on U.S. Citizens

WASHINGTON — In February, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence official wrote a “threat assessment” for the police in Wisconsin about a demonstration involving local pro- and anti-abortion rights groups.

That report soon drew internal criticism because the groups “posed no threat to homeland security,” according to a department memorandum released on Wednesday in connection with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The agency destroyed all its copies of the report and gave the author remedial training.

That was just one of several cases in the last several years in which the department’s intelligence office improperly collected information about American citizens or lawful United States residents, the documents show.

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Lithuanian leader ‘impeached’ for refusing CIA

Lithuania‘s former president says he was impeached because of his refusal to let the Central Intelligence Agency set up secret prisons in the country.

Rolandas Paksas made the remark during a parliamentary hearing into claims that at least eight al-Qaeda terror suspects were held by the US Central Intelligence Agency at a facility just outside the Lithuanian capital Vilnius between 2004 and 2005.

“When I was a president, I knew that there were people who wanted to bring terror suspects to Lithuania. I think that my principal disagreement to do this led to the subsequent anti-presidential campaign and impeachment,” said Paksas.

Paksas explained that in spring 2003, the then-head of Lithuania’s State Security Department (Valstybės saugumo departamento), Mečys Laurinkus, asked him if it were possible to allow the CIA to transfer some terror suspects to the country unofficially.

According to the former president, Laurinkus hinted that a positive answer would please foreign partners. Paksas said, however, that he had refused to take that option.

Laurinkus has confirmed that he held such a conversation with Paksas.
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Republic of Lithuania’s spy chief quits after leak of CIA prison in Lithuania

The Republic of Lithuania‘s intelligence chief has resigned after news leaked out that the Central Intelligence Agency operated a secret prison in the country between 2004 and 2005.

Povilas Malakauskas, director of the Lithuanian State Security Department (Valstybės saugumo departamento), quit his job after two years in the position “partly” because of government efforts to investigate the details surrounding the CIA facility, a lawmaker told local media.

Arvydas Anušauskas, who heads a parliamentary committee investigating the prison, said much of the government probe could have been avoided if Malakauskas had simply told the truth about his department’s involvement in the CIA program.

According to Anušauskas, the resignation was first brought up in September, when the intelligence chief refused to provide information to investigators.

Malakauskas was forced to resign nearly a month after ABC News first revealed the location of the secret prison run by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

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Cold War Museum to Open in Virginia

The Cold War Museum, founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr. and John C. Welch, has found a physical home and will open to the public in 2010. The museum will lease a modest two-story building and storage facility at Vint Hill, located in Fauquier County, Va., less than 30 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport. The lease was signed with the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority, the owner of the 695-acre former U.S. Army communications base.

Powers is the son of Francis Gary Powers, a Central Intelligence Agency pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in May 1960. The senior Powers was held in Soviet custody until 1962, when he was traded for “Rudolph Abel” (Vilyam (Willie) Genrikhovich (August) Fisher), a Soviet Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (KGB) agent who had been captured by the United States.

According to Francis Gary Powers, Jr., “We have been seeking a location for the museum for several years in which to display our unique collections of international Cold War-related artifacts.”

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Brussels gives CIA the power to search UK bank records

THE Central Intelligence Agency is to be given broad access to the bank records of millions of Britons under a European Union plan to fight terrorism.

The Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months’ time, requires the 27 EU member states to grant requests for banking information made by the United States under its terrorist finance tracking program.

In a little noticed information note released last week, the EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted.

Critics say the system is “lopsided” because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens in America.

They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe.

In Britain and most of Europe a judge must authorize a specific search after receiving a sworn statement from a police officer.

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Lawsuit demands info on government’s use of social media sites

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing five different government agencies for refusing to disclose their policies on investigations using social networking websites.

The lawsuit was filed Monday after the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of the Treasury, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests that sought all records and guidelines outlining the collection of personal information from social media.

The initial FOIA requests were made after recent news reports indicate that government investigations have been increasingly relying on social networking sites — in October, for example, the Federal Bureau of Ivestigation used Twitter to catch a man accused of bank fraud.

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Analysis: Is an obscure US military unit replacing the CIA?

An obscure US military unit established in 1980 is gaining prominence in America’s “war on terrorism” and may be slowly replacing the Central Intelligence Agency’s functions, according to a well-researched piece in The Atlantic magazine.  The US Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was created soon after the fiasco of the attempted rescue of the hostages held at the US embassy in Tehran.

Since 9/11, the unit has emerged from its relative obscurity to join the forefront of America’s so-called “global war on terrorism”. Gathering evidence from a variety of sources investigating the use of paramilitary operations in America’s post-9/11 wars, Max Fisher argues that, even under the Obama Administration, JSOC may in fact be “taking on greater responsibility, especially in areas traditionally covered by the CIA”

He quotes Spencer Ackerman, who argues that JSOC’s current leadership is “playing a large [...] role in shaping the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy”.

Apparently nobody is quite sure who JSOC currently reports to, and there are rumors that the unit operates on a more-or-less “carte blanche” basis (“[if] you need to do it, do it”). Perhaps more importantly, there are reports that, unlike most CIA operations, JSOC activities are not subjected to Congressional oversight.

Soviet and Warsaw Pact Military Journals

A collection of sensitive Soviet and Warsaw Pact military journals from 1961 to 1984 providing a view into Warsaw Pact military strategy.

Click here.

No laughing matter for CIA

The top lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency, General Counsel Stephen Preston, recently introduced himself during an American Bar Association conference on national security as “the chief legal officer of a well-understood and enormously popular agency, the object of universal praise and appreciation.” He was greeted with laughter, reports The Washington Post.

We imagine that as Mr. Preston went on to describe some of the issues on his plate, the grins faded. The multitude of problems faced by the national security agency are no laughing matter. They include:

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CIA’s Lost Magic Manual Resurfaces

At the height of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency paid $3,000 to renowned magician John Mulholland to write a manual on misdirection, concealment, and stagecraft. All known copies of the document — and a related paper, on conveying hidden signals — were believed to be destroyed in 1973. But recently, the manuals resurfaced, and have now been published as “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.” Topics include working a clandestine partner, slipping a pill into the drink of the unsuspecting, and “surreptitious removal of objects by women.”

This wasn’t the first time a magician worked for a western government. Harry Houdini snooped on the German and the Russian militaries for Scotland Yard. English illusionist Jasper Maskelyne is reported to created dummy submarines and fake tanks to distract Rommel’s army during World War II. Some reports even credit him with employing flashing lights to “hide” the Suez Canal.

But Mulholland’s contributions were far different, because they were part of a larger CIA effort, called MK-ULTRA, to control people’s minds. Which lead to the Agency’s infatuation with LSD, (lysergic acid diethylamide) as David Hambling recounted here a few weeks ago:

In the infamous Operation Midnight Climax, unwitting clients at CIA brothels in New York and San Francisco were slipped LSD and then monitored through one-way mirrors to see how they reacted. They even killed an elephant with LSD. Colleagues were also considered fair game for secret testing, to the point where a memo was issued instructing that the punch bowls at office Christmas parties were not to be spiked.

The Boston Globe has put together a great visual summary of some of Mulholland’s best tricks for the CIA: the shoelace pattern that means “follow me”; the hidden compartment to smuggle in an agent; the best ways to appear dumb and non-threatening. Because there’s no better misdirection than appearing to be a fool.

CIA Lithuanian torture site located

The Strength of the Pack: The People, Politics and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA

Through interviews with former narcotics agents, politicians, and bureaucrats, this exposé documents previously unknown aspects of the history of federal drug law enforcement from the formation of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) up until the present day. Written in an easily accessible style, the narrative examines how successive administrations expanded federal drug law enforcement operations at home and abroad; investigates how the Central Intelligence Agency comprised the war on drugs; analyzes the Regan, Bush, and Clinton administrations’ failed attempts to alter the DEA’s course; and traces the agency’s evolution into its final and current stage of “narco-terrorism.”

is a former private investigator and consultant and the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, The Strength of the Wolf, and TDY. He lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

Visit the author’s site for more info, and the author’s blog.

Occupiers involved in drug trade: Afghan minister

The Afghan minister of counter narcotics says foreign troops are earning money from drug production in Afghanistan.

General Khodaidad Khodaidad said the majority of drugs are stockpiled in two provinces controlled by troops from the US, the UK, and Canada, Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Saturday.

He went on to say that North Atlantic Treaty Organizaton forces are taxing the production of opium in the regions under their control.

Afghanistan is the world’s biggest supplier of opium.

Drug production in the Central Asian country has increased dramatically since the US-led invasion eight years ago.

A recent report by the United Nations states that Afghan opium is having a devastating impact on the world, killing thousands in consumer countries.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, is involved in the opium trade, meets with Taliban leaders, and is also a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

The opium trade is the major source of Taliban financing.

UN says US drone strikes may violate international law

US unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the United Nations top investigator of such crimes said.

“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

“My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he said.

US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.

“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.

Alston said he presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.

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Karzai’s brother ‘on CIA payroll’

US involvement in Afghanistan has come into new question with the claim that President Hamid Karzai‘s brother has for years been on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency – even though he is suspected of being a major figure in the illicit opium trade that Washington and its allies are pledged to do everything to stamp out. The allegations against Ahmed Wali Karzai, set out yesterday in The New York Times and attributed to current and former US…

How Washington Learned to Love Nonviolence

Nonviolence can be a major force for democratic social change, but not when it becomes a tool for covert intervention.

A close-cropped, no-nonsense infantry officer, Col. Robert Helvey was studying at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs on an Army fellowship. One day in 1987, he happened upon a seminar led by Gene Sharp, a draft resister imprisoned for refusing to serve in Korea and a systematic scholar of the kind of strategic non-violence that activists of my generation had helped to develop in the free speech, civil rights, and anti-war movements of the 1960s.

“I had an image of nonviolence as being a bunch of long-haired hippies,” Col. Helvey recalled. But Dr. Sharp had come a long way from his Gandhism roots, and Helvey quickly realized that the older man’s approach had “nothing to do with pacifism.” Sharp was talking “about seizing political power or denying it to others,” and doing it without having to break things or kill people.

The idea fascinated Col. Helvey. He invited Sharp to lunch, spent time at the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI), which Sharp had created in Cambridge in 1983, and came to see his new mentor as “the Clausewitz of the nonviolence movement.” An energetic disciple, Col. Helvey would in time become president of AEI and a forceful champion of nonviolent conflict as a weapon of American intervention in other countries.

Were these interventions good or bad? In my opinion, they had elements of both, at least at the start. But they have become a major danger to democracy, not least our own, and an increasing threat to the lives of those that the United States and its allies encourage to make nonviolent revolutions.
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CIA documents on Agent Posada Carriles released

The Washington, DC-based investigative nonprofit National Security Archive released several documents on Oct. 6 written by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1965 and 1966 about its Cuban-born longtime “asset” Luis Posada Carriles, who currently lives in Miami under indictment after entering the US illegally in 2005. The Archive’s Peter Kornbluh obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The documents show that in the middle 1960s Posada was reporting to the CIA about the activities of other right-wing Cubans, including the late Jorge Mas Canosa, who founded the influential Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) in the 1980s. In July 1965 Posada reported that he had completed two 10-pound Limpet mines for a Mas Canosa operation against Soviet and Cuban ships in the port of Veracruz, Mexico, using eight pounds of Pentolite explosives and a pencil detonator. Current CANF president Francisco Hernandez told the Associated Press that he found the story difficult to believe. “The fact of the matter is that Jorge was never a man who believed in terrorism,” Hernandez said.

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CIA Opens Climate Change and National Security Center

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently announced the creation of The Center on Climate Change and National Security. This new unit, comprised of specialists from the CIA Directorates of Intelligence and Science and Technology, is aimed at supporting American policymakers on issues related to the national security implications of climate change as they “negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues.” According to the release, the new Center will “[coordinate] with Intelligence Community partners on the review and declassification of imagery and other data that could be of use to scientists in their own climate-related research.”

For media coverage of the new CIA center, see articles here and here.

Interested in learning more about the role of climate change in national security? Check out these On the Homefront entries on the topic from the last six months:
Climate Security Threats Featured in New Report
Strategic Studies Institute Paper on Climate Change and Security
Arctic Climate Change/Security Policy Conference Report
New Report on Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.
New Report Looks at Effects of Climate Change on Middle East Stability
CBO Report on Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.
Hellenic Foundation Report on Climate Change and Human Security

Attorney: Oklahoma City bomb tapes appear edited

OKLAHOMA CITY  — Long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited, an attorney who obtained the recordings said Sunday.

“The real story is what’s missing,” said Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney who obtained the recordings through the federal Freedom of Information Act as part of an unofficial inquiry he is conducting into the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

Trentadue gave copies of the tapes to The Oklahoman newspaper, which posted them online and provided copies to The Associated Press.

The tapes turned over by the FBI came from security cameras various companies had mounted outside office buildings near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. They are blank at points before 9:02 a.m., when a truck bomb carrying a 4,000 pound fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb detonated in front of the building, Trentadue said.

“Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995. There ain’t no such thing as a coincidence,” Trentadue said.

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Scientists: Obama’s election may reduce terrorism

Will Barack Obama’s election make terrorists less eager to strike? A data analysis released Thursday suggests it could make a difference.

In the Science magazine study, researchers Alan Bennett Krueger of Princeton University and Jitka Maleèková of the Economics Institute of the Czech Academy of Science in Prague looked at terrorist attacks in nine countries, including the U.S., and their relation to public opinion in India, Middle Eastern and North African nations. “We found a greater incidence of international terrorism when people of one country disapprove of the leadership of another country,” concludes the study.

The study relied on National Counter Terrorism Center data and Gallup World Poll results.  “The United States and United Kingdom had the highest average disapproval rating across all countries (71% for both countries), whereas Japan had the lowest rating (41%),” says the study. Study statistics reveal a 20% jump in disapproval rates was linked to a 93% increase in terrorist attacks from 2004 to 2008. While the results can’t explain individual terrorist motivations, say the authors, “public opinion appears to provide a useful indicator of terrorist activity.”

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CIA OIG Report on Detention and Interrogation Activities Available

CIA OIG Report on Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities (September 2001-October 2003)

As widely reported in the press yesterday, the CIA Office of Inspector General has just released material on past detention practices in the ‘War on Terrorism’. The release of this material came about following a FOIA request by the American Civil Liberties Union, and a copy of the OIG report (along with supplemental documents) is currently available on their website. It is assumed that a copy of this report will be available at the CIA’s FOIA Reading Room in the near future. CIA Director Leon Panetta did release a Statement today to CIA employees regarding the matter. Also, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder commented that he intends to open a legal review into whether these interrogation practices violated federal laws.

CIA Furious Over New Secret Site Expose

Already wrestling with a renewed controversy over contract killers, the CIA reacted angrily Thursday to a news organization’s revelation of yet another secret interrogation center.ABC News reported that the CIA had a secret site in Lithuania where interrogators grilled terrorist suspects,  “one of eight facilities the CIA set-up after 9/11 to detain and interrogate top al Qaeda operatives captured around the world.”

“Former CIA officials directly involved or briefed on the highly classified program (said) that Lithuanian officials provided the CIA with a building on the outskirts of Vilnius, the country’s capital, where as many as eight suspects were held for more than a year, until late 2005 when they were moved because of public disclosures about the program,” wrote ABC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole.

“Flight logs viewed by ABC News confirm that CIA planes made repeated flights into Lithuania during that period,” Cole reported.

“Former CIA officials tell ABC News that the prison in Lithuania was one of eight facilities the CIA set-up after 9/11 to detain and interrogate top al Qaeda operatives captured around the world. Thailand, Romania, Poland, Morocco, and Afghanistan have previously been identified as countries that housed secret prisons for the CIA,” Cole added.

CIA spokesman George Little called the ABC report “irresponsible.”

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C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

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Senate Bill Would Disclose Intel Budget Request

The Senate version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization bill (pdf) would require the President to disclose the aggregate amount requested for intelligence each year when the coming year’s budget request is submitted to Congress.  Currently, only the total appropriation for the National Intelligence Program is disclosed — not the request — and not before the end of the fiscal year in question.

Disclosure of the budget request would enable Congress to appropriate a stand-alone intelligence budget that would no longer need to be concealed misleadingly in other non-intelligence budget accounts.

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Threat Level Privacy, Crime and Security Online Hacker ‘Dark Tangent’ Joins DHS Advisory Council

Forget the new cyber security czar position that President Barack Obama announced last week.

The real sign that the White House might be finally taking cyber security seriously came in an announcement on Friday that Jeff Moss, aka “Dark Tangent” and the former hacker behind the annual DefCon hacker confab in Las Vegas, has been appointed to the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council (HSAC).

He was among 16 people (.pdf) sworn in to the council by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Former CIA Director WIlliam Webster and former FBI Director Louis Freeh are also on the council, which provides advice and recommendations to the secretary. Webster is the council chair.

Moss, who lives in Seattle, says he was really surprised when he got a call about three weeks ago inviting him to join.

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Michael V. Hayden today

Less than three months after stepping down as CIA director, retired general Michael V. Hayden has taken several jobs in the private sector. He has just joined the board of the National Interest Security Company (NISC), a holding company that manages all the assets of the DC Capital Partners equity fund in the intelligence field. Another CIA veteran, Henry Crumpton, also sits on NISC’s board (see our graph in IOL 580). Hayden is also associated with the Chertoff Group that was founded by former Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff.

Journo Deemed A U.S Terror Threat

Apparently, the pen is so mighty, that we can’t even risk certain foreign journalists flying in our airspace.

According to reports over the weekend, an Air France flight to Mexico was diverted because of one passenger, Franco-Colombian writer Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for the Le Monde Diplomatique, a left-wing French-based newspaper. Apparently, Ospina has written extensive critiques of the current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the U.S-fed drug war in Latin America. According to his publisher, he was on his way to Nicaragua, to research his current project, a book about the Central Intelligence Agency.

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EU nations eye prosecution of Bush officials

European officials and lawyers seek to criminalize former US officials over torture charges amid the reluctance of President Barack Obama.

A number of European authorities and human rights groups have expressed dissatisfaction with Obama’s failure to press charges against ex-CIA authorities who sanctioned or administered the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ to terror suspects, saying that they will make an effort to delve into the torture case under a “universal jurisdiction” code.

Civil rights campaigners say the legal code adopted by some EU countries, authorizes lawyers across the globe to file lawsuits against war criminals, perpetrators of genocides and other human rights offenses, regardless of their country of residence.

In Spain and Germany, lawyers and social liberties activists have brought charges in domestic courts against former US authorities including the ex-defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

The European pursuit of charges against previous US administration officials for deliberately undermining the United Nations Convention Against Torture has sparked concerns in the US.

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