Archive for January, 2010

Mossad Tied to Underwear Bomber

Mossad Tied to Underwear Bomber

Victor Thorn – American Free Press January 18, 2010

“His explosives couldn’t have blown up his own seat. Even if full power, it wouldn’t have worked.” These were the words relayed to me during a Jan. 2 interview with military analyst and counterinsurgency specialist Gordon Duff in regard to the attempt of Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab [sometimes referred to as Abdulmutallab] to ignite 80 grams of the explosive PETN on a flight destined for America. He also explained how the patsy’s country of origin, Nigeria, is clandestinely controlled by the Israeli army and Mossad.

These entities train the military, sell weapons, run the airports, and wield power over DICON (Defense Industries Corporation). Furthermore, Mutallab’s father is a Mossad partner and Israel’s No. 1 contact in Nigeria. As the former CEO of his country’s most influential bank and the man who ran their national arms industry, Mr. Mutallab also harbors extremely close relationships with the U.S. ambassador and CIA chief in Nigeria.

On Nov. 19, 2009, Mutallab supposedly felt so alarmed about his errant son’s behavior that he met with the CIA’s station chief in Nigeria. Duff describes the father in a Dec. 31 article for Veterans Today as “one of the richest people in the world, head of a major bank, head of the national armaments industry, and close associate of the U.S. ambassador,” as well as being a Mossad asset. Yet we’re to believe that nobody prevented his Yemeni-influenced “terrorist” son from boarding a plane ultimately bound for Detroit?

Another significant detail is being neglected by mainstream media sources. The firm in charge of security at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is the Israeli-owned International Consultants on Targeted Security (ICTS).They’re also the same outfit responsible for all three airports used by “Muslim hijackers” on 9-11. ICTS also handled security for London’s bus system during their 7-7 “Muslim bombing,” while doing the same at Charles de Gaulle Airport when “shoe bomber” Richard Reid boarded a plane in Paris on Dec. 22, 2001.

When a Michigan passenger, attorney Kurt Haskell, reported that a “well-dressed” Indian man arranged for Umar Mutallab to perform a “walkaround” without a passport in Amsterdam, ICTS was one of only a few entities that could have permitted this security breach to take place.

Despite tighter screening processes since 9-11, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 experienced no delays in takeoff. According to the Mathaba News Agency on Jan. 2, “It is evident that clearing the terrorist with higher-ups took a matter of a minute or so—the ‘Indian’ obviously had a high-level pass (CIA, Mossad or high-level security clout).”

Then, during the flight, onlookers noted that another passenger spent a great deal of time filming 23-year-old Mutallab with his camcorder. Even stranger, once the suspect tried to ignite his “crotch bomb,” Mathaba reported, “Throughout the incident, the man continued recording the terrorist, calmly and without interruption.”

Next, after the plane landed, another Indian man was led away in handcuffs after bomb-sniffing dogs smelled explosives in his luggage. Now, more than a week later, officials have refused to release Schiphol CCTV airport footage from Amsterdam, the air-bound “video passenger” film, or identify the man arrested in Detroit.

This Indian link doesn’t surprise Duff. “Israel and India are very close business partners, especially via their military contracts. Also, the Indian intelligence agency (Research and Analysis Wing) works hand-in-hand with Israel. Essentially, the two governments are one.”

But the Mossad’s reach extends even further, directly into the country where Mutallab purportedly trained. On Oct. 7, 2008, BBC News reported, “Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said that security forces have arrested a group of alleged Islamist militants linked to Israeli intelligence.”

The ties go even deeper, straight to Mutallab’s home country. In a Sept. 5, 2008 article by Tashikalmah Hallah and Francis Okeke entitled “Nigeria: Lawmakers Divided Over Mossad,” Sen. Nuhu Aliyu voiced his support for their pact with Israel. “They (Mossad) are professionals, and they are here to help train our own intelligence agents. I don’t see any way by which their presence in the country poses a threat to our national security.”

One final element of the equation needs to be addressed; specifically, the “terrorist cell” that ostensibly trained Mutallab prior to his Christmas Day terror attempt.

However, Duff paints an entirely different picture. “There is no al-Qaeda in Yemen. George Bush released a couple of phony operatives from Guantanamo, and after traveling to the Middle East, they hooked up with the Mossad. The only reason Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez released them is because they’re assets.”

Of course, the American public is being misled again into believing that this “lone nut” terrorist sneaked through the system (no-fly lists, airport scrutiny etc) due to mere incompetence, similar to what occurred on 9-11.

Yet Israeli intelligence provided security at the Amsterdam Airport, where Mutallab boarded a plane with no passport; the NSA is equipped to electronically eavesdrop anywhere around the world; the Mossad is tied to Yemen, Nigeria and India; while the suspect’s father opened up banking and arms contacts in the Middle East while harboring an extremely close relationship with American and Israeli intelligence.

What we’re being fed is another propagandized cover story that is intended to keep ratcheting up Orwellian-style trauma and fear, all the while further spreading our global “terror war” to Yemen and the African continent.

Drone surge: Today, tomorrow and 2047

Drone surge: Today, tomorrow and 2047

Nick Turse – Asia Times January 26, 2010

One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above. The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people. Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the North Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan, killing three.

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the George W Bush years have become commonplace under the Barack Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30 suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a Central Intelligence Agency forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the AfPak war zone at a record pace.

In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes – which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike – have led to more fear, anger and outrage in the tribal areas, as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with help from the United States Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.

In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Today’s surge


Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review – a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats – is already known to reflect this focus. As the Washington Post recently reported, “The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.”



The MQ-9 Reaper

The MQ-1 Predator – first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s – and its newer, larger and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace. In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 US drone attacks as part of the CIA’s covert war in Pakistan. In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes. In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the US Air Force has instituted a much-publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy. At the same time, however, air UAS attacks have increased to record levels.

The air force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well). Evidence of this can be found at high-tech US bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them.

These sites include a converted medical warehouse at al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the air force secretly oversees its ongoing drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad air fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada’s Creech air base, where the air force’s “pilots” fly drones by remote control from thousands of kilometers away; and – perhaps most importantly – at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile (32 square kilometers) facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903. This is where the bills for the current drone surge – as well as limited numbers of strikes in Yemen and Somalia – come due and are, quite literally, paid.

In the waning days of December 2009, in fact, the Pentagon cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper would continue full speed ahead in 2010. The 703rd Aeronautical Systems Squadron based at Wright-Patterson signed a $38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones. At the same time, the squadron inked a deal worth $266 million with mega-defense contractor General Atomics, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones, to provide management services, logistics support, repairs, software maintenance and other functions for both drone programs. Both deals essentially ensure that, in the years ahead, the stunning increase in drone operations will continue.

These contracts, however, are only initial down payments on an enduring drone surge designed to carry US unmanned aerial operations forward, ultimately for decades.

Drone surge: The longer view


In 2004, the air force could put a total of only five drone combat air patrols (CAPs) – each consisting of four air vehicles – in the skies over American war zones at any one time. By 2009, that number was 38, a 660% increase according to the air force. Similarly, between 2001 and 2008, hours of surveillance coverage for US Central Command, encompassing both the Iraqi and Afghan war zones, as well as Pakistan and Yemen, showed a massive spike of 1,431%.

In the meantime, flight hours have gone through the roof. In 2004, for example, Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to air force documents. In 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours. This year, the air force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones – Predators, Reapers and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks – will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all air force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.

More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing. According to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the Washington-based think-tank the New America Foundation, in the George W Bush years, from 2006 into 2009, there were 41 drone strikes in Pakistan which killed 454 militants and civilians. Last year, under the Barack Obama administration, there were 42 strikes that left 453 people dead. A recent report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based independent research organization that tracks security issues, claimed an even larger number, 667 people – most of them civilians – were killed by US drone strikes last year.

While assisting the CIA’s drone operations in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the air force has been increasing its own unmanned aerial hunter-killer missions. In 2007 and 2008, for example, air force Predators and Reapers fired missiles during 244 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, while all the US armed services have pursued unmanned aerial warfare, the air force has outpaced each of them.

From 2001, when armed drone operations began, until the spring of 2009, the air force had fired 703 Hellfire missiles and dropped 132 GBU-12s (250-kilogram laser-guided bombs) in combat operations. The army, by comparison, launched just two Hellfire missiles and two smaller GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions in the same time period. The disparity should only grow, since the army’s drones remain predominantly small surveillance aircraft, while in 2009 the air force shifted all outstanding orders for the medium-sized Predator to the even more formidable Reaper, which is not only twice as fast but has 600% more payload capacity, meaning more space for bombs and missiles.

In addition, the more heavily-armed Reapers, which can now loiter over an area for 10 to 14 hours without refueling, will be able to spot and track ever more targets via an increasingly sophisticated video monitoring system. According to air force Lieutenant General David Deptula, deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, the first three “Gorgon Stare pods” – new wide-area sensors that provide surveillance capabilities over large swathes of territory – will be installed on Reapers operating in Afghanistan this spring.

A technology not available for the older Predator, Gorgon Stare will allow 10 operators to view 10 video feeds from a single drone at the same time. Back at a distant base, a “pilot” will stare at a tiled screen with a composite picture of the streaming battlefield video, even as field commanders analyze a portion of the digital picture, panning, zooming and tilting the image to meet their needs.

A more advanced set of “pods”, scheduled to be deployed for the first time this autumn, will allow 30 operators to view 30 video images simultaneously. In other words, via video feeds from a single Reaper drone, operators could theoretically track 30 different people heading in 30 directions from a single Afghan compound. The generation of sensors expected to come online in late 2011 promises 65 such feeds, according to air force documents, a more than 6,000% increase in effectiveness over the Predator’s video system. The air force is, however, already overwhelmed just by drone video currently being sent back from the war zones and, in the years ahead, risks “drowning in data”, according to Deptula.

The 40-year plan


When it comes to the drone surge, the years 2011-2013 are just the near horizon. While, like the army, the navy is working on its own future drone warfare capacity – in the air as well as on and even under the water – the air force is involved in striking levels of futuristic planning for robotic war. It envisions a future previously imagined only in science-fiction movies like the Terminator series.

As a start, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit, is already looking into radically improving on Gorgon Stare with an “Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) System”. In the obtuse language of military research and development, it will, according to DARPA, provide a “real-time, high-resolution, wide-area video persistent surveillance capability that allows joint forces to keep critical areas of interest under constant surveillance with a high degree of target location accuracy” via as many as 130 ‘Predator-like’ steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking and monitoring and enhanced situational awareness during evening hours”.

In translation, that means the air force will quite literally be flooded with video information from future battlefields; and every “advance” of this sort means bulking up the global network of facilities, systems and personnel capable of receiving, monitoring and interpreting the data streaming in from distant digital eyes. All of it is specifically geared toward “target location”, that is, pin-pointing people on one side of the world so that Americans on the other side can watch, track and, in many cases, kill them.

In addition to enhanced sensors and systems like ARGUS-IR, the air force has a long-term vision for drone warfare that is barely beginning to be realized. Predators and Reapers have already been joined in Afghanistan by a newer, formerly secret drone, a “low observable unmanned aircraft system” first spotted in 2007 and dubbed the “Beast of Kandahar” before observers were sure what it actually was. It is now known to be a Lockheed Martin-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicle, the RQ-170 – a drone which the air force blandly notes was designed to “directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets”. According to military sources, the sleek, stealthy surveillance craft has been designated to replace the antique Lockheed U-2 spy plane, which has been in use since the 1950s.

In the coming years, the RQ-170 is slated to be joined in the skies of America’s “next wars” by a fleet of drones with ever newer, more sophisticated capabilities and destructive powers. Looking into the post-2011 future, Deptula sees the most essential need, according to an Aviation Week report, as “long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike” – that is, more eyes in far off skies and more lethality. He added, “We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has.”

This means bigger, badder, faster drones – armed to the teeth – with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions. It’s a future built on advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings – remote-controlled assassinations – ever more effortless.

Over the horizon and deep into what was, until recently, only a silver-screen fantasy, the air force envisions a wide array of unmanned aircraft, from tiny insect-like robots to enormous “tanker size” pilotless planes. Each will be slated to take over specific war-making functions (or so air force dreamers imagine). Those nano-sized drones, for instance, are set to specialize in indoor reconnaissance – they’re small enough to fly through windows or down ventilation shafts – and carry out lethal attacks, undertake computer-disabling cyber-attacks, and swarm, as would a group of angry bees, of their own volition. Slightly larger micro-sized Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) are supposed to act as “transformers” – altering their form to allow for flying, crawling and non-visual sensing capabilities. They might fill sentry, counter-drone, surveillance and lethal attack roles.

Additionally, the air force envisions small and medium “fighter-sized” drones with lethal combat capabilities that would put the current UAS air fleet to shame. Today’s medium-sized Reapers are set to be replaced by next generation MQ-Ma drones that will be “networked, capable of partial autonomy, all-weather and modular with capabilities supporting electronic warfare [EW], CAS [close air support], strike and multi-INT [multiple intelligence] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] missions’ platforms”.

The language may not be elegant, much less comprehensible, but if these future fighter aircraft actually come online they will not only send today’s remaining Top Gun pilots to the showers, but may even sideline tomorrow’s drone human operators, who, if all goes as planned, will have ever fewer duties. Unlike today’s drones, which must take off and land with human guidance, the MQ-Mas will be automated and drone operators will simply be there to monitor the aircraft.

Next up will be the MQ-Mb, theoretically capable of taking over even more roles once assigned to traditional fighter-bombers and spy planes, including the suppression of enemy air defenses, bombing and strafing of ground targets and surveillance missions. These will also be designed to fly more autonomously and be better linked in to other drone “platforms” for cooperative missions involving many aircraft under the command of a single “pilot”. Imagine, for instance, one operator overseeing a single command drone that holds sway over a small squadron of autonomous drones carrying out a coordinated air attack on clusters of people in some far off land, incinerating them in small groups across a village, town or city.

Finally, perhaps 30 to 40 years from now, the MQ-Mc drone would incorporate all of the advances of the MQ-M line, while being capable of everything from dog-fighting to missile defense. With such new technology will come new policies and new doctrines. In the years ahead, the air force intends to make drone-related policy decisions on everything from treaty obligations to automatic target engagement – robotic killing without a human in the loop. The latter extremely controversial development is already envisioned as a possible post-2025 reality.

2047: What’s old is new again


The year 2047 is the target date for the air force’s Holy Grail, the capstone for its long-term plan to turn the skies over to war-fighting drones. In 2047, the air force intends to rule the skies with MQ-Mc drones and “special” super-fast, hypersonic drones for which neither viable technology nor any enemies with any comparable programs or capabilities yet exist. Despite this, the air force is intent on making these super-fast hunter-killer systems a reality by 2047. “Propulsion technology and materials that can withstand the extreme heat will likely take 20 years to develop. This technology will be the next generation air game-changer. Therefore the prioritization of the funding for the specific technology development should not wait until the emergence of a critical COCOM [combatant command] need,” says the air force’s 2009-2047 UAS “Flight Plan”.

If anything close to the air force’s dreams comes to fruition, the “game” will indeed be radically changed. By 2047, there’s no telling how many drones will be circling over how many heads in how many places across the planet. There’s no telling how many millions or billions of flight hours will have been flown, or how many people, in how many countries, will have been killed by remote-controlled, bomb-dropping, missile-firing, judge-jury-and-executioner drone systems.

There’s only one given. If the US still exists in its present form, is still solvent and still has a functioning Pentagon of the present sort, a new plan will already be well underway to create the war-making technologies of 2087. By then, in ever more places, people will be living with the sort of drone war that now worries only those in places like Degan village. Ever more people will know that unmanned aerial systems packed with missiles and bombs are loitering in their skies. By then, there undoubtedly won’t even be that lawnmower-engine sound indicating that a missile may soon plow into your neighbor’s home.

For the air force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it’s a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives(Metropolitan Books). His website is NickTurse.com.

Robert Fisk: Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers?

Robert Fisk: Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers?
Most of the West Bank is under rule which amounts to apartheid by paper

“Palestine” is no more. Call it a “peace process” or a “road map”; blame it on Barack Obama’s weakness, his pathetic, childish admission – like an optimistic doctor returning a sick child to its parents without hope of recovery – that a Middle East peace was “more difficult” to reach than he imagined.
But the dream of a “two-state” Israeli-Palestinian solution, a security-drenched but noble settlement to decades of warfare between Israelis and Palestinians is as good as dead.

Both the United States and Europe now stand idly by while the Israeli government effectively destroys any hope of a Palestinian state; even as you read these words, Israel’s bulldozers and demolition orders are destroying the last chance of peace; not only in the symbolic centre of Jerusalem itself but – strategically, far more important – in 60 per cent of the vast, biblical lands of the occupied West Bank, in that largest sector in which Jews now outnumber Muslims two to one.

This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement’s sinister sobriquet as “Area C” – has already fallen under an Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements, which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why 300,000 Israelis now live – in 220 settlements which are all internationally illegal – in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands.

When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he was sending “a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building.” These two huge settlements, along with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an “indisputable part of Israel forever.”

It was Netanyahu’s victory celebration over the upstart American President who had dared to challenge Israel’s power not only in the Middle East but in America itself. And while the world this week listened to Netanyahu in the Holocaust memorial commemoration for the genocide of six million Jews, abusing Iran as the new Nazi Germany – Iran’s loony president supposedly as evil as Hitler – the hopes of a future “Palestine” continued to dribble away. President Ahmadinejad of Iran is no more Adolf Hitler than the Israelis are Nazis. But the “threat” of Iran is distracting the world. So is Tony Blair yesterday, trying to wriggle out of his bloody responsibility for the Iraq disaster. The real catastrophe, however, continues just outside Jerusalem, amid the fields, stony hills and ancient caves of most of the West Bank.

Secret Banking Cabal Emerges From AIG Shadows: David Reilly [Bloomberg.com]

Secret Banking Cabal Emerges From AIG Shadows: David Reilly [Bloomberg.com]

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) — The idea of secret banking cabals
that control the country and global economy are a given among
conspiracy theorists who stockpile ammo, bottled water and
peanut butter. After this week’s congressional hearing into the
bailout of American International Group Inc., you have to wonder
if those folks are crazy after all.

Wednesday’s hearing described a secretive group deploying
billions of dollars to favored banks, operating with little
oversight by the public or elected officials.

We’re talking about the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,
whose role as the most influential part of the federal-reserve
system — apart from the matter of AIG’s bailout — deserves
further congressional scrutiny.

The New York Fed is in the hot seat for its decision in
November 2008 to buy out, for about $30 billion, insurance
contracts AIG sold on toxic debt securities to banks, including
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Societe Generale
and Deutsche Bank AG, among others. That decision, critics say,
amounted to a back-door bailout for the banks, which received
100 cents on the dollar for contracts that would have been worth
far less had AIG been allowed to fail.

That move came a few weeks after the Federal Reserve and
Treasury Department propped up AIG in the wake of Lehman
Brothers Holdings Inc.
’s own mid-September bankruptcy filing.

Saving the System

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was head of the New
York Fed at the time of the AIG moves. He maintained during
Wednesday’s hearing that the New York bank had to buy the
insurance contracts, known as credit default swaps, to keep AIG
from failing, which would have threatened the financial system.

The hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform also focused on what many in Congress believe
was the New York Fed’s subsequent attempt to cover up buyout
details and who benefited.

By pursuing this line of inquiry, the hearing revealed some
of the inner workings of the New York Fed and the outsized role
it plays in banking. This insight is especially valuable given
that the New York Fed is a quasi-governmental institution that
isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of
information requests, unlike the Federal Reserve.

This impenetrability comes in handy since the bank is the
preferred vehicle for many of the Fed’s bailout programs. It’s
as though the New York Fed was a black-ops outfit for the
nation’s central bank.


Geithner’s Bosses

The New York Fed is one of 12 Federal Reserve Banks that
operate under the supervision of the Federal Reserve’s board of
governors, chaired by Ben Bernanke. Member-bank presidents are
appointed by nine-member boards, who themselves are appointed
largely by other bankers.

As Representative Marcy Kaptur told Geithner at the
hearing: “A lot of people think that the president of the New
York Fed works for the U.S. government. But in fact you work for
the private banks that elected you.”

And yet the New York Fed played an integral role in the
government’s bailout of banks, often receiving surprisingly free
rein to act as it saw fit.

Consider AIG. Let’s take Geithner at his word that a
failure to resolve the insurer’s default swaps would have led to
financial Armageddon. Given the stakes, you might think Geithner
would have coordinated actions with then-Treasury Secretary
Henry Paulson. Yet Paulson testified that he wasn’t in the loop.

“I had no involvement at all, in the payment to the
counterparties, no involvement whatsoever,” Paulson said.

Bernanke’s Denials

Fed Chairman Bernanke also wasn’t involved. In a written
response to questions from Representative Darrell Issa, Bernanke
said he “was not directly involved in the negotiations” with
AIG’s counterparty banks.

You have to wonder then who really was in charge of our
nation’s financial future if AIG posed as grave a threat as
Geithner claimed.

Questions about the New York Fed’s accountability grew
after Geithner on Nov. 24, 2008, was named by then-President-
elect Barack Obama to be Treasury Secretary. Geither said he
recused himself from the bank’s day-to-day activities, even
though he never actually signed a formal letter of recusal.

That left issues related to disclosures about the deal in
the hands of the bank’s lawyers and staff, rather than a top
executive. Those staffers didn’t want details of the swaps
purchase to become public.

New York Fed staff and outside lawyers from Davis Polk &
Wardell
edited AIG communications to investors and intervened
with the Securities and Exchange Commission to shield details
about the buyout transactions, according to a report by Issa.

That the New York Fed, a quasi-governmental body, was able
to push around the SEC, an executive-branch agency, deserves a
congressional hearing all by itself.

Later, when it became clear information would be disclosed,
New York Fed legal group staffer James Bergin e-mailed
colleagues saying: “I have to think this train is probably
going to leave the station soon and we need to focus our efforts
on explaining the story as best we can. There were too many
people involved in the deals — too many counterparties, too
many lawyers and advisors, too many people from AIG — to keep a
determined Congress from the information.”

Think of the enormity of that statement. A staffer at a
body with little public accountability and that exists to serve
bankers is lamenting the inability to keep Congress in the dark.

This belies the culture of secrecy obviously pervasive
within the New York Fed. Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns noted
during the hearing that the bank initially refused to disclose
even the names of other banks that benefited from its actions,
arguing this information would somehow harm AIG.

‘Penchant for Secrecy’

“In fact, when the information was finally released, under
pressure from Congress, nothing happened,” Towns said. “It had
absolutely no effect on AIG’s business or financial condition.
But it did have an effect on the credibility of the Federal
Reserve, and it called into question the Fed’s penchant for
secrecy.”

Now, I’m not saying Congress should be meddling in
interest-rate decisions, or micro-managing bank regulation. Nor
do I think we should all don tin-foil hats and start ranting
about the Trilateral Commission.

Yet when unelected and unaccountable agencies pick banking
winners while trying to end-run Congress, even as taxpayers are
forced to lend, spend and guarantee about $8 trillion to prop up
the financial system, our collective blood should boil.


Troops fire on starving crowds in Haiti

Troops fire on starving crowds in Haiti
Patrick Martin – WSWS.org January 28, 2010

Troops under United Nations command have opened fire on crowds of hungry Haitians seeking food, an ominous sign of impending confrontation between the people of the earthquake-wracked country and the armed forces dispatched there under the auspices of the imperialist powers.

On Monday, Uruguayan troops, part of the UN peacekeeping force deployed here since 2004, fired rubber bullets at people who crowded around food trucks, eventually pulling out and leaving sacks of rice to be fought over.

The next day, Brazilian troops proceeded more aggressively, using pepper spray and tear gas to hold off a crowd seeking food at a tent camp on the grounds of the devastated presidential palace. People ran from the spray coughing and with their eyes streaming.

Two tanks were brought up to menace the crowds when they began to reform, although Fernando Soares, a Brazilian army colonel, told the press: “They’re not violent, just desperate. They just want to eat.”

One soldier loaded a shotgun as the crowd watched, but did not fire. “They treat us like animals, they beat us, but we are hungry people,” one Haitian, Muller Bellegarde, told an American reporter.

The World Food Program (WFP) was delivering 107 cubic tons of rice, oil and beans to the palace camp, enough to feed 20,000 people for two weeks. As the trucks rolled up, thousands came out of their tents and began lining up, but the queues soon became disorderly as it became clear that there was not enough food for all who needed it. Another man told Reuters, “We are too many. Two trucks are not enough for us. They will fight, and the soldiers will shoot and fire gas.”

Violence also broke out in the seaside town of Jacmel, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, after initially peaceful protests over the scarcity of tents for earthquake survivors.

Force was used as well by Haitian police at a food-distribution site in Cite Soleil, the largest and most impoverished section of the capital city. Police swung sticks and clubs to drive back the crowd.

While Haitians seeking food and scavenging in the rubble have been portrayed as “looters” by the media, and targeted for repression by both foreign troops and Haitian police, it was so-called looters who found a man buried in the rubble of a building on Rue de Miracle in downtown Port-au-Prince Tuesday. They brought US soldiers with the necessary equipment to pull the man, Rico Dibrivell, 35, out alive. He had a broken leg and severe dehydration, but said he had been trapped for 12 days rather than 14, falling victim to an aftershock rather than the original 7.0 quake.

On Wednesday, a teenage girl was pulled alive and apparently unhurt, though severely dehydrated, from beneath another smashed building. Coming 15 days after the main tremor, this marks the longest known survival of an earthquake victim in modern history. US and other rescue efforts were called off at the weekend.

The total number of American military personnel in Haiti, including those on ships just offshore, rose to 15,400 by Tuesday. One third of these are soldiers on the ground in and around Port-au-Prince, with the bulk of them from the 82nd Airborne Division, an elite unit that specializes in combat, not logistical support.

The heavy-handed US military presence has generated considerable criticism. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia boycotted a donors’ conference in Montreal to protest the US occupation of the country.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro wrote in Granma, the country’s official newspaper, that the focus on US military deployment had blocked entry of doctors and medical supplies. “Send doctors, not soldiers,” he wrote. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared, “The U.S. government is taking advantage of a humanitarian tragedy to militarily take over Haiti.”

These sentiments were expressed, not just by regimes long at odds with Washington, but by officials of longtime US allies France and Italy. A French cabinet official, Alain Joyandet, said in a radio interview January 19 that the role of the U.S. in Haiti should be clarified. “It’s about helping Haiti, not occupying Haiti.”

The top Italian official dispatched to Haiti, Guido Bertolaso, the civil protection minister, said Monday that the US intervention had been “pathetic…. It’s a truly powerful show of force, but it’s completely out of touch with reality. They don’t have close rapport with the territory and they certainly don’t have a rapport with international organizations and aid groups.”

Clearly referring to the photo-op appearance by former US President Bill Clinton, who passed through the island and briefly unloaded water bottles at the airport, he said, “Unfortunately there’s this need to make a bella figura in front of the television cameras rather than focusing on underneath the debris…. Some individuals were putting on a vanity show for the television cameras instead of rolling up their sleeves.”

Such comments clearly stung, as shown by the comments by Clinton’s wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Speaking to a group of State Department employees, she declared, “I deeply resent those who attack our country, the generosity of our people and the leadership of our president in trying to respond to historically disastrous conditions after the earthquake. Some of the international press either misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued what was a civilian and military response, both of them necessary in order to be able to deliver aid to the Haitians who desperately needed it.”

Haitian President Réné Preval, who has been virtually invisible to the people of his country for the past two weeks, emerged to denounce suggestions that the occupation of his country by foreign troops was a threat to its sovereignty. At a press conference with Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, he rebuffed a question about the occupation, saying, “We are talking about people suffering and you are talking about ideology.”

A French reporter asked why US troops were controlling flights into the Port-au-Prince airport. Preval replied: “You need to run the airport, you need technical help and they offered it to us. I really can’t understand why the need for that is so difficult to accept.”

Preval also announced that Haitian legislative elections, previously scheduled for February 28, would be postponed indefinitely.

The major initiative of Preval’s government is a program to relocate 500,000 people from Port-au-Prince to villages outside the capital region, but there have been few takers among those living in the rubble. A reporter for the French news agency AFP visited Croix des Bouquets, one of the relocation sites, and described it as “a vast, gravel wasteland with just a few people hanging about hoping for work.”

Meanwhile an extraordinary denunciation of the Obama administration’s conduct in Haiti was published in the Wall Street Journal, issued by three New York City doctors, Soumitra R. Eachempati, incoming president of the New York State Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, and Dean Lorich and David Helfet, orthopedic surgeons and colleagues of Dr. Eachempati at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

Their statement appeared under the headline, “Haiti: Obama’s Katrina, Many post-quake deaths could have been prevented.” The three doctors, who were among the first to reach Haiti after the quake, wrote that the delays imposed by the US military on relief groups entering the county “proved tragic. Upon our arrival at the Haiti Community Hospital we found scores of patients with pus dripping out of open fractures and crush injuries. Some wounds were already infested with maggots. Approximately one-third of the victims were children. Most of the patients already had life-threatening infections, and all were dehydrated. Many had been waiting in the hospital compound for days without water, antibiotics or even pain medicine. The hospital smelled of infected, rotting limbs.”

They continued: “The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment. Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of the US government, including the State Department. As we ran out of various supplies we had no means to acquire more…. Later, as we were leaving Haiti, we were appalled to see warehouse-size quantities of unused medicines, food and other supplies at the airport, surrounded by hundreds of US and international soldiers standing around aimlessly.”

Why do the western media ignore Egyptian dissent?

Why do the western media ignore Egyptian dissent?
Posted by Jack Shenker – 25 January 2010 13:14

Pro-democracy protests in Iran top the news agenda, but similar tensions in Egypt pass unreported


Egyptian plain-clothes policemen detain a demonstrator in Mahala, April 2008. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images


Here’s a thought experiment: pick a random Middle Eastern country led by an unpopular autocrat whose legitimacy is being challenged by a growing wave of public dissent. Add in widespread allegations of electoral fraud, and increasingly violent confrontations on the street between protesters and security services — clashes that have left many civilians dead. Now imagine this politically volatile state is a major player in the area, and that change at the top could have an explosive effect on the geopolitical dynamics of the entire region. How much press coverage do you think it would receive in the west?

For the sake of convenience, let’s keep things manageable by narrowing that down a bit. How many news articles do you think such a country would generate in the British broadsheets over the years 2008 and 2009? If you guessed at 7,098, well done: you’re spot-on. Pub quiz aficionados may also wish to jot down the figure of 3,305 — an equally correct answer.

Confused? So are many Egyptians, who have seen their intense and sometimes deadly struggle against the repressive regime that rules them almost completely sidelined by the international media. Not only has their country attracted less than half the volume of newsprint lavished on Iran in the past two years, but the vast majority of Egypt-focused articles tend to concentrate on matters relating to tourism or archaeology, whereas nearly all the Iranian coverage is political in nature.

 
Cool disinterest

When you boil the figures down to hard news, the chasm between the media’s fetishising of Iran and their cool disinterest in Egypt yawns even wider. In June 2009 — the month when disputed Iranian elections brought thousands of anti-government protesters into conflict with riot police and left blood running through the streets — Iran was featured in 742 articles. In April 2008 — the month when an attempted Egyptian general strike brought thousands of anti-government protesters into conflict with riot police and left blood running through the streets — Egypt made an appearance in 28 pieces, almost none of which mentioned Mahalla (the town at the heart of the unrest).

Of course, this sort of content analysis is highly subjective and open to interpretation. Moreover, the circumstances in Iran and Egypt are by no means identical, and could hardly be expected to inspire a perfectly matching number of column inches. Yet popular feeling against the Mubarak oligarchy here is just as real as anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment in Iran, and the potential for monumental political upheaval just as substantial.

There is no space in this forum to detail all the ways in which the unelected political elite of the Arab world’s biggest country consistently reject democratic freedoms, subvert the rule of law to protect their hegemony, and encroach on the human rights of that country’s citizens day in, day out. A brief perusal of this week’s country report on Egypt by Human Rights Watch would provide a taste, however — the organisation helpfully points out that despite the media frenzy over the number of post-election arbitrary detentions in Iran, Egypt’s estimated tally of detentions without charge is 150 per cent higher.

Nor is there room to describe the full breadth and strength of the grass-roots reaction these injustices have triggered in Egypt, from the spread of a strike wave so large it has been labelled “the largest social movement the Middle East has seen in half a century” to the astonishing trend of local communities not only facing down the bullets and tear gas of riot police, but doing so with such vigour that fleeing security officers have been forced to bunker down in their own headquarters to protect themselves from the masses.

 
Expensive lobbying

I would urge anyone who rejects the premise that Egypt is as unstable as Iran to take a look at the spine-tingling photos and videos of demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak in Mahalla back in April 2008, including the iconic image of hundreds of angry Egyptians bearing down with their feet on a flattened poster of the president. They are eerily reminiscent of the scenes accompanying the fall of dozens of 20th-century dictators, from Saddam Hussein to rulers of the former Soviet-bloc countries. And yet they have barely been seen outside Egypt, in common with the face of Mohamed ElBaradei — the Nobel laureate who is spearheading the opposition movement against Mubarak, yet whose unexpected leadership challenge has also been largely ignored in the west.

Whichever way you splice the figures, the disparity in media attention between Cairo and Tehran is inescapable. You can draw only one conclusion: western media outlets apply vastly different editorial judgements to these two countries and, as a result, readers at home are consuming a heavily skewed diet of Middle Eastern news. The issue is not, as some have suggested, why Egyptians remain so placid in the face of oppression from their political masters. They don’t. The question is why nobody cares.

The short answer is that Mubarak and his acolytes are grossly misunderstood in the west, partly as a result of highly effective lobbying by professional outfits in London, Washington and the other corridors of power. The Egyptian government is listed as a client by two top K Street lobbying firms, the Podesta and Livingston Groups.

Although the exact cost of their services is confidential, the fact that Podesta charged up to $13m over ten years to help the Turkish government persuade movers and shakers on Capitol Hill that there was no such thing as an Armenian genocide suggests the Egyptian regime is shelling out an awful lot on polishing its image. Meanwhile, one-third of Egyptian children are suffering from malnutrition.

The deeper answer, though, is that Mubarak’s PR people are able to do such a good job because the vision they project of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) ticks all the boxes when it comes to western policymaker wish-lists. Mubarak, they insist, is a force for stability in a tempestuous neighbourhood. Without him, the Muslim Brotherhood would sweep to power and light the fuse of Islamist revolution across the region. He is also praised for being a financial reformer, a gutsy friend of the free market who has dragged Egypt kicking and screaming into the global economy and has dazzling growth rates to show for it.

All this is false. As has been argued time and again by independent analysts, think tanks and some better-informed journalists, the Muslim Brotherhood is a vastly complex and diffuse organisation that forms only one part of a wide-ranging Egyptian opposition movement. There is no reason to think it would command majority support in the event of genuinely fair elections. Meanwhile the presumed existence of this Islamist Sword of Damocles gives Mubarak carte blanche in the international arena to arrest and torture his opponents and render dissidents invisible.

When it comes to the economy, despite more money than ever flowing into Egypt, no less than 90 per cent of the population has become poorer in real terms on Mubarak’s watch. And the number of Egyptians living below the poverty line has doubled.

Unstinting western support for the despotic, corrupt cabal of Mubarak’s cronies, against the will of the people, is not a force for stability; it is a recipe for disaster. Yet western backing for the NDP and the relentless promotion of Mubarak as a “moderate” continue, to the tune of $2bn a year from Washington — more money than any other recipient of US aid bar Israel.

 
Colour stories

So much for the western policy framework. What is scary is the extent to which the stance of the western media mirrors the values of our political masters, following blindly when they should be thinking sceptically, leaving battles shrouded in darkness where they should be shining a light.

Against a backdrop of immense turmoil, what topics has the international press chosen to write about in Egypt over the past couple of years? Artificial hymens, Beyoncé concerts and the pyramids have all figured high on the list, alongside a multitude of other cultural “colour” stories, designed to put a smile on your face over breakfast.

The slightest hint of opposition activity in Iran is guaranteed acres of coverage, whereas the equivalent in Egypt is permitted a mention only if it fits the preconceived notion of Egypt as a relatively tranquil space, disrupted only by the strange and often comedic fallout from an ongoing war between secular and religiously conservative values. Hence debates over the niqab and the slaughtering of pigs make the grade, whereas policemen shooting unarmed civilians dead, or hundreds of thousands of workers going on strike over the impact of government-backed neoliberal reform projects, are left buried in obscurity.

What is so disheartening is not that foreign editors have to use filters, both consciously and subconsciously, to sift through all the news coming out of a country and decide what is fit to print. Rather, it is that the filters they use, even in the supposedly liberal media, seem to provide cover for and chime so closely with the policy stance of western politicians — which is in turn aligned with Mubarak’s propaganda. Allowing dictators to set news values when it comes to coverage of their countries isn’t just a disservice to readers; just as the media take their cue from politicians, so politicians let their priorities be shaped by the media.

This helps create an endlessly reverberating media/politics echo chamber, sounding skewed descriptions of the state of affairs in Egypt that are constantly affirmed by politicians and journalists alike. All this feeds back into the very problem that fuels it. Were the British public to be more conscious of political realities in a destination that more than a million of them visit on holiday each year, the British government might be a bit more wary of showering Mubarak with public praise. As it is, journalists, diplomats and politicians treat him with kid gloves. This is “churnalism” at its most destructive.

Conspiracy theorists can look away now. As a journalist who reports for British newspapers from Cairo, I am only too aware how difficult it is to assess the news value of stories from far-flung places, and how inevitable it is that the tone of coverage gets coloured by the political landscape at home. But it is precisely because of this, because it is so much smoother to follow the herd, that it is imperative for the media to question their governments’ perspective on what matters. Because, by working in Egypt, I have also been made aware how often dramatic events here are sidelined by the press while equivalent developments in Iran provoke banner headlines — simply because western governments have thrown in their lot with one totalitarian leader and pitted themselves against another.

The end result is fact-distortion and myth-making. As Bertrand Russell put it:

    If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinise it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.

It may be easier to let the timbre and beat of international journalism follow the well-worn groove of political consensus, but that doesn’t make it right. Those reading and watching at home deserve better. So do those who have died in pursuit of justice and freedom, wherever they may be.

Brown accused of cover-up: PM under fire as key papers on Iraq war are kept confidential

Brown accused of cover-up: PM under fire as key papers on Iraq war are kept confidential
British Daily Mail.

Gordon Brown was accused of ‘gagging’ the Iraq inquiry last night as it emerged the Government is blocking the release of secret documents about the war.

Senior MPs from all three main parties said the decision bore all the hallmarks of an official ‘cover-up’ and made a mockery of the Prime Minister’s pledge of a fully open investigation.

Frustration boiled over as Labour’s former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who
gave the green light for the 2003 invasion after changing his mind and declaring it legal, gave evidence.

Lord Goldsmith himself condemned the Government’s refusal to declassify key papers, meaning
they cannot be made public or even quoted from by the inquiry panel during questioning.

‘I didn’t agree with the decision that has apparently been made that certain documents are not to be declassified, but I will give the evidence that the inquiry seeks,’ he said.

The inquiry’s mild-mannered chairman, Sir John Chilcot, told him: ‘We share your frustration.’

Another member of the inquiry team, former diplomat Sir Roderick Lyne, referred sarcastically to ‘this bountiful Government’ having agreed to the release of one document.

A spokesman for the inquiry said the panel could ‘talk around’ declassified documents in ‘general terms’, but was unable to quote from them or ask witnesses to discuss them in detail.