2010-01-11

President Obama's Secret: Only 100 al Qaeda Now in Afghanistan

By Richard Esposito, Matthew Cole, Brian Ross

As he justified sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year, President Barack Obama's description Tuesday of the al Qaeda "cancer" in that country left out one key fact: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABCNews.com the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations.

President Obama made only a vague reference to the size of the al Qaeda presence in his speech at West Point, when he said, "al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same number as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border."

A spokesperson at the White House's National Security Council, Chris Hensman, said he could not comment on intelligence matters.

2010-01-10

Israeli firm blasted for letting would-be plane bomber slip through

By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israeli firm ICTS International (not to be confused with ICTS Europe, which is a different company), and two of its subsidiaries are at the crux of an international investigation in recent days, as experts try to pinpoint the reasons for the security failure that enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board Northwest flight 253 and attempt to set alight explosives hidden in his underwear.

...

The failure was a twin flop: An intelligence failure, which U.S. President Barack Obama has already stated, in the poor handling of information that arrived at the State Department and probably also the CIA from both the father of the would-be bomber and the British security service; and a failure within the security system, including that of the Israeli firm ICTS.

The ICTS daughter company, I-SEC, has another daughter company - called PI (Pro-Check International). The firms provide security services to airports: consultation, instruction, training, inspection and supervision.

Two decades ago, ICTS adopted the system used in Israel, namely of profiling and assessing the degree to which a passenger is a potential threat on the basis of a number indicators (including age, name, origin and behavior during questioning). At the same time, a decade ago, the company developed a technological system called APS (Advanced Passenger Screening).

This system is based on a computerized algorithm, and is fed passenger information from the airline company. The system was offered to the Israel Airports Authority and the Shin Bet in the past, but rejected. According to the company's Web site, most of the large airlines in the United States use the system.

However - in real time - the system of ICTS failed. Even if U.S. intelligence failed and the name of the Nigerian passenger was not pinpointed as a suspect for the airline, he should have stirred the suspicion of the security officers. His age, name, illogical travel route, high-priced ticket purchased at the last minute, his boarding without luggage (only a carry on) and many other signs should have been sufficient to alert the security officers and warrant further examination of the suspect.

However, the security supervisor representing I-SEC and PI allowed him to get on the flight.

2010-01-08

Norway Time Hole “Leak” Plunges Northern Hemisphere Into Chaos

By Pakistan Daily

Russian scientists are reporting to Prime Minister Putin today that the high-energy beam fired into the upper heavens from the United States High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) radar facility in Ramfjordmoen, Norway this past month has resulted in a “catastrophic puncturing” of our Plant’s thermosphere thus allowing into the troposphere an “unimpeded thermal inversion” of the exosphere, which is the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

To the West’s firing of this ‘quantum’ high-energy beam we had previously reported on in our December 10, 2009 report titled “Attack On Gods ‘Heaven’ Lights Up Norwegian Sky”.

To how catastrophic for our Planet this massive thermal inversion has been Anthony Nunan, an assistant general manager for risk management at Mitsubishi Corporation in Tokyo, is reporting today that the entire Northern Hemisphere is in winter chaos, with the greatest danger from this unprecedented Global event being the destruction of billions of dollars worth of crops in a World already nearing the end of its ability to feed its self.

...

To the long-term consequences of this thermal inversion caused by the West, these reports further warn that by the puncturing of our atmosphere by the HHARP radars our Planet has, also, been “needlessly exposed” to the growing threat posed to us by the giant mysterious object currently approaching us (named by NASA as G1.9) which we had previously reported on in our January 3rd report titled “Russia Prepares For Asteroid Strike As New Comet Nears Sun”, and which has been blamed for the rapid shifting of our Earth’s North Pole that was first documented in 2005.

2010-01-07

The Real Top 10 News Stories of the Past Decade

By Robert Freeman

The media are awash with talking heads bloviating about the top stories of the last decade. The wired-in society. The growth of organic food. The new frugality. This is the ritual that reveals their true function in the culture: pacification. It's their way of signaling the masses that Bigger Thinkers are looking after things, so go back to your Wii or Survivor or Facebook reveries.

The amazing thing is how little is ever mentioned about the stories that really mattered, those that affected the very nature of our society, its institutions, and the relation of the people to their state and society. Those stories paint a picture of danger, of a people who have lost control of their government and the corporations that own it. But you'll hear nary a word about such difficult truths from any storyteller in the conventional media.

So here, in no particular order, are my Top Ten Stories of the Naughties, the ones that really matter.
  1. Iraq was all premised on lies, yet we're still there. Saddam Hussein wasn't pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction. He wasn't involved in 9/11. He wasn't engaged with Al Qaeda. We know all these things. And we know they were false at the time they were proffered. Yet, there we are, with no intent to leave, our very presence spitting in the face of International Law and the international community we so unctuously pretend to respect. [To read a newspaper editorial showing the blatant lies of top US leaders used to promote war in Iraq, click here]
  2. The fact that 2/3 of all economic growth went to top 1%. John Kennedy's social contract had a rising tide lifting all boats. But over the last decade 2/3 of all economic growth has gone to the top 1% of income earners. Meanwhile the middle class has suffered a $13 trillion writedown in wealth as a result of the housing collapse. The banking bailout and the health care "reform" debate showed as never before the extent to which corporations have captured government and use it to redirect national wealth to themselves and their owners. [For revealing media reports on startling income inequality, click here]
  3. The Global War on Terror [GWOT]. Or more specifically, the ease with which the "GWOT" has replaced the Cold War as the justification for the ever-increasing militarization of society. What happened to the post-Cold War "Peace Dividend"? The U.S. continues to spend more on the military than all the rest of the world combined. It continues to maintain over 700 military bases around the world. And it continues to manufacture excuses for foreign interventions whenever weapons makers and military logistics companies need more profits — which is forever. [For a top U.S. general's highly revealing two-page essay exposing the roots of war, click here]
  4. Bush knew of 9/11 long before it actually happened. Three years before Bush took office, the neo-cons' Project For a New American Century called for a "new Pearl Harbor" to galvanize the nation into a war to seize Middle East oil. And even before the event itself, Bush-as-president was warned dozens of times of the imminent attack, the most notorious being the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Amazingly nothing was done to prevent the attack. But even less is it advertised that Bush knew. [For more powerful information on this, click here to read the two-page summary of major media reports with links raising serious questions about 9/11]
  5. The surrender of civil liberties. Despite the Fourth Amendment supposedly protecting us against unreasonable searches and seizures, the government can now read your email and listen to your phone calls without any probable cause. The Obama administration has gone to court to prevent the re-institution of Habeas Corpus, suspended during the Bush administration. We are much less free, much less protected from brutalization by our own government than we were just ten years ago. [For key major media articles revealing major erosion of privacy, click here]
  6. The Supreme Court hijacking the 2000 presidential election. This isn't even a historical controversy anymore. Al Gore won the national popular vote by 570,000. And we now know he would have won the Florida vote as well if the vote counting had not been stopped by the Supreme Court. This was literally a right wing judicial coup d' etat, so it's understandable that it's never mentioned in the "right" kind of circles. [For more critical information on this, read a BBC reporter's story available here]
  7. The Neo-Feudalization of the American economy. The top 1% of wealth holders own 41% of all the assets in the country while the bottom 40% own absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, workers are saddled with $12 trillion of national debt, an effective indentured servitude that will bind them to their corporate masters for the rest of their lives. This is the working definition of feudalism, where the rich own everything and everybody else has nothing but their proffered labor and their obligations to their masters. The Hapsburgs, the Tudors, and the Bourbons would be jealous. [For intriguing major media articles on powerful secret societies intent on keeping the rich in power, click here]
  8. The failure of "the free market" to sustain prosperity. The "free market" has long been an ideological dodge used to resist real government regulation of the economy. Still, the ideal was supposed to deliver prosperity in a stable, sustainable matter. Now we have the greatest global economic collapse since the Great Depression, with the government transferring $11 trillion to the banks to cover their sociopathically greedy bets that went bust. All in the name of deregulation, with future regulation vigorously resisted. Is this a deranged country or what? [For amazing media articles showing blatant greed, secrecy, and manipulation by top banks and bankers, click here]
  9. The collapse of the media. We once imagined it would guard the hen house. Yet that was an anomaly, a freak event around Vietnam and Watergate when it slipped its leash. Since then, sixty independent media outlets have consolidated into five, all retailing the ideology of the powerful, the perpetrators, laundering their lies, covering up the truth, and harassing the truth tellers. In every story mentioned above, the mainstream media have worked to ensure that the people didn't know the truth about the forfeiture of their government, their wealth, their security, and their rights. [For concise summaries of 20 award-winning journalists revealing how vitally important news stories are shut down by corporate media ownership, click here]
  10. The meaninglessness of elections. This is the most embittering revelation of all. Despite the greatest electoral majority since Johnson crushed Goldwater in ོ, Barrack Obama has betrayed everything he ran on. In nearly every case where he had the opportunity to confront power — in financial bailouts, financial regulation, health care, wars and military spending, utilities and global warming, national surveillance — Obama has sided with the rich and powerful against the interests of the American people. He has probably engendered more cynicism, more disaffection with government than any president since Richard Nixon. It will deal a staggering blow to the hopes of mobilizing masses of people again for a real takeback of government. And he's not even one year into it. [To understand why this has happened and what you can do to make a difference, click here]
History paints decades with broad brushes – the Roaring Twenties, The Depression, World War II. Historians will look back on the Naughts as the time when Americans Lost Their Country. It was the decade when all the institutions that they believed would protect them – the media, the courts, Congress, the market, a messianic new president – in fact betrayed them. It will forever more be a different country.

Robert Freeman writes on history, economics, and education. Email to: robertfreeman10@yahoo.com.

2010-01-05

White House Investigating Rogue US Intel Group in Domestic Terror Attack

By Gordon Duff

Officials in the Obama White House are considering the possibility that the Christmas day attempt by Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Mutallab to blow up an airliner about to land in Detroit was deliberately and intentionally facilitated by unnamed networks inside the US intelligence community. This was the gist of a report by Richard Wolf delivered in this evening’s edition of cable network MSNBC’s Countdown program, hosted by Keith Olbermann. This report comes on the eve of a special White House interagency conference convoked by Obama to deal with the massive systemic failure of US intelligence in allowing the Yemen alumnus Mutallab to board the Amsterdam to Detroit flight while allegedly carrying a PETN explosive device on his person.

Wolf attributed his account to top officials in the Obama White House. The intentional sabotage of US antiterrorist screening procedures would explain why Mutallab had been able to use his US visa, escape interrogation and special searches, and board his flight, even though he was festooned with every red flag in the annals of airport security. If Wolf’s report is accurate, these Obama officials may be pulling on a thread which could begin to unravel the entire secret structure of illegitimate power which has afflicted this country — in this case, the apparatus which manufactures terrorist incidents for political purposes of mass manipulation, dictatorship, and war.

Wolf offered two possible explanations cited by his White House sources for the intentional sabotage of security procedures, resulting in yet another egregious failure to connect the dots. The first was a "turf war" inside the intelligence community, with one agency seeking to hoard information and deny it to others. The second was the desire to "embarrass" some leading figures, presumably referring to partisan animus or other resentments against Obama and his top appointees.

But Obama and his advisors should be urged to consider a third explanation far more plausible than either of these. This third explanation would include the desire of a rogue network inside the US government to unleash a new wave of Islamophobic hysteria to rehabilitate the discredited "global war on terror" strategy in a new and more sophisticated form, while imposing a new round of outrageous and degrading search procedures at airports (such as the full body scanners peddled by the venal Michael Chertoff) to soften up the American people for heightened totalitarian control and political repression. All of this, moreover, in ways that will be politically harmful to Obama.

The foreign policy rationale of Mutallab’s spectacular near miss in the skies over at Detroit would include the current US campaign of ginning up the three-cornered Yemen civil war so as to threaten and weaken both Saudi Arabia and Iran, each of whom is backing a faction in that civil war. Another benefit is to enhance the US presence in Yemen , a country which controls the exit from the Red Sea and thus all traffic coming out of the Suez Canal , one of the great naval chokepoints of the world and vital for the commerce of China , a leading US rival.

...

As a result of Mutallab’s handiwork, Obama has now declared a new Axis of Evil composed of Afghanistan-Pakistan , Somalia , and Yemen. Yemen in particular has been catapulted to the center of international attention by an Anglo-American propaganda blitzkrieg of monumental proportions.

...

If Wolf’s report is correct, these unnamed officials in the Obama White House might well be on the trail of the rogue network or secret government which has deliberately and cynically manufactured the majority of the large-scale terrorism incidents of recent decades.

...

Mutallab had been denied a visa to enter the United Kingdom , despite the fact that his family owned a luxury apartment in London ’s West End . His name had been placed on the UK watch list. Mutallab’s father, a prominent Nigerian banker, personally denounced him to the CIA and the State Department as a possible extremist who was then in Yemen , most probably at a training camp. Nevertheless, Mutallab’s visa was not revoked. Mutallab had met the infamous Anwar Awlaki, who had just received a wave of publicity for his relations with Major Hasan the Fort Hood patsy.

Chatter from the Yemen patsy milieu monitored by the US contained references to "the Nigerian" meaning Mutallab. Mutallab paid cash for his ticket in Ghana, checked no luggage, and entered Nigeria illegally, but was nevertheless permitted to embark on the first leg of his mission. In London , Mutallab was assisted by a "well-dressed Indian," who told the gate agent that Mutallab was a Sudanese who did not have a passport. Nevertheless, Mutallab was allowed to board. ... Only the active complicity of treasonous moles can explain Mutallab’s miraculous immunity to all surveillance and screening despite all these factors of suspicion.

2009-12-27

The More Things Change

By David Swanson

This dark fantasy of a third Bush term is also an accurate portrait of Obama's first term to date. In following Bush, Obama was given the opportunity either to restore the rule of law and the balance of powers or to firmly establish in place what were otherwise aberrant abuses of power. Thus far, President Obama has, in all the areas mentioned above, chosen the latter course. Everything described, from the continuation of crimes to the efforts to hide them away, from the corruption of corporate power to the assertion of the executive power to legislate, is Obama's presidency in its first seven months.

Which doesn't mean there aren't differences in the two moments. For one thing, Democrats have now joined Republicans in approving expanded presidential powers and even

in the case of wars, military strikes, lawless detention and rendition, warrantless spying, and the obstruction of justice

presidential crimes. In addition, in the new Democratic era of goodwill, peace and justice movements have been strikingly defunded and, in some cases, even shut down. Many progressive groups now, in fact, take their signals from the president and his team, rather than bringing the public's demands to his doorstep.

If we really were in Bush's third term, people would be far more active and outraged. There would already be a major push to really end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan. Undoubtedly, the Democrats still wouldn't impeach Bush, especially since they'd be able to vote him out before his fourth term, and surely four more years of him wouldn't make all that much difference.

2009-12-16

It Seems Like Washington Wants Another Financial Disaster

By Paul Krugman

America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system. The regulations worked: the nation was spared major financial crises for almost four decades after World War II. But as the memory of the Depression faded, bankers began to chafe at the restrictions they faced. And politicians, increasingly under the influence of free-market ideology, showed a growing willingness to give bankers what they wanted.

The first big wave of deregulation took place under Ronald Reagan — and quickly led to disaster, in the form of the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s. Taxpayers ended up paying more than 2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of around $300 billion today, to clean up the mess.

But the proponents of deregulation were undaunted, and in the decade leading up to the current crisis politicians in both parties bought into the notion that New Deal-era restrictions on bankers were nothing but pointless red tape.

...

And the bankers — liberated both by legislation that removed traditional restrictions and by the hands-off attitude of regulators who didn’t believe in regulation — responded by dramatically loosening lending standards. The result was a credit boom and a monstrous real estate bubble, followed by the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Ironically, the effort to contain the crisis required government intervention on a much larger scale than would have been needed to prevent the crisis in the first place: government rescues of troubled institutions, large-scale lending by the Federal Reserve to the private sector, and so on.

...

Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarro universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It’s a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It’s a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.

Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don’t fit the narrative.

2009-12-14

The America Where They Do Prosecute Torture

By Sam Ferguson

Last week, 15 men entered a courthouse facing, amongst other crimes, 181 counts of torture. Their story, tragically, is familiar: in a fight against terrorism, the men allegedly kidnapped and held detainees in unknown black sites. They subjected the prisoners to brutal forms of interrogation, such as waterboarding, sensory deprivation and simulated executions. They denied the detainees all legal recourse, and they defended their secret practices as essential to combating an elusive enemy who refused to play by the rules.

But the courtroom is not in the United States, and the defendants are not members of the Bush administration. The defendants - retired officials from Argentina's last dictatorship - are on trial in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

...

It has been more than three months since Attorney General Eric Holder announced his probe into torture under the Bush administration, an investigation which seems to quickly be going nowhere. ... He may be inspired, however, by how some Latin countries have proceeded in the face of similar concerns.

One common argument against prosecution is that torture is effective, and we should not prosecute those who helped protect America.

This, however, was the same logic used by Latin America's military governments: they had to wage a "dirty war" on their enemy's terms. No doubt, the danger there was real, as it is in the United States. Leftist groups had killed hundreds before the wave of coups claimed the lives of thousands. But in retrospect, the dirty wars did more damage to the legal order than had the enemy it was fighting. Our southern neighbors have rejected the argument that one may break the law to save the law. They have restored the law by prosecuting those who broke it.

Another argument against prosecution is the supposed impossibility of figuring out who is responsible. Are those at the top, such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or White House counsel John Yoo, responsible? Or should blame fall only on those who carried out the offensive practices?

In Latin America, the answer is both. Argentina's Supreme Court, in the 2005 Simon decision, held that torture is manifestly illegal and that no excuse justifies either giving or following orders to torture. Commander and commanded are equally responsible.

...

Finally, some excuse the Bush administration by saying what they did was not torture. Waterboarding is simply an "enhanced interrogation technique," as former Vice President Dick Cheney described it this August while defending the practice.

But this is a lexical sleight of hand. The debate is a nonstarter in Latin America. Though waterboarding is known by another name - the "submarino" - it is decidedly considered torture. Courts have repeatedly convicted defendants for subjecting prisoners to this "method," citing domestic and international prohibitions on the use of the practice. Ironically, our own government, lead by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, sanctioned Argentina in the late 1970s for using this very practice (amongst other concerns).

...

For centuries, the democracies of Latin America have looked north for inspiration: how to write their constitutions, how to design their government buildings, how to structure their economies. Perhaps it is time for us to look south.