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A School for Spooks: The London University Department Churning Out NATO Spies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 6:45am in

LONDON — Last week, MintPress exposed how the supposedly independent investigative collective Bellingcat is, in fact, funded by a CIA cutout organization and filled with former spies and state intelligence operatives. However, one part of the story that has remained untold until now is Bellingcat’s close ties to the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, an institution with deep links to the British security state and one that trains a large number of British, American and European agents and defense analysts.

 

A school for spooks

A prestigious university located in the heart of London, King’s College has, in its own words, “a number of contracts and agreements with various departments within government, including the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence.” Some of those contracts are up to 10 years long. The university has so far refused to elaborate on the agreements, telling investigative news outlet Declassified UK that doing so could undermine U.K. security services.

A 2009 study published by the CIA spoke approvingly of how beneficial it can be to “use universities as a means of intelligence training,” noting that, “exposure to an academic environment, such as the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, can add several elements that may be harder to provide within the government system.” The paper, written by two King’s College staffers, is essentially a request to the agency to send more of its recruits there, and boasts about how the department’s staff have “extensive and well-rounded intelligence experience” and how their programs “offer a containing space in which analysts from every part of the community can explore with each other the interplay of ideas about their profession.”

In 2013, former CIA Director Leon Panetta took time out of his schedule as then-secretary of defense to visit the Department of War Studies, where he expressed his profound gratitude to the unit. “I deeply appreciate the work that you do to train and to educate our future national security leaders, many of whom are in this audience,” he said, before adding that it was those young leaders who must ensure that NATO had the creativity, innovation and the commitment to develop and share capabilities in order to meet future security threats, citing the need to expand into tech, surveillance and cyberwarfare.

CIA Kings College

Former CIA head Leon Panetta exits King’s College after giving a speech in 2013. Photo | DVIDS

It was this department that Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins joined in 2018 as visiting research associate, with Bellingcat maintaining a close relationship with it to this day.

After studying their writers’ backgrounds, MintPress can confirm that no fewer than six Bellingcat employees or contributors — including Cameron Colquhoun, Jacob Beeders, Lincoln Pigman, Aliaume Leroy, Christiaan Triebert and senior investigator Nick Waters — all pursued postgraduate studies within the department, the most popular being the “Conflict, Security and Development” degree overseen by Professor Mats Berdal.

For 13 years, Professor Berdal was employed by the Norwegian Defence University College, Norway’s version of West Point. Berdal is one of a host of King’s College War Studies academics who previously taught there, including one who continues to be an officer in the Norwegian Armed Forces, serving in multiple NATO conflicts in the Middle East.

While many in the West picture Norway as a peaceful, enlightened nation, the country is actually a key driving force within NATO; former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is the organization’s current secretary general. Sending troops and other assistance, it was the U.S.’ partner in attacks on Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Norway has among the highest per capita military spending in Europe and is one of the minority of NATO members to exceed the defense spending benchmark of 2% of GDP.

 

A network of pro-war think tanks

Before joining King’s College, Professor Berdal was Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), one of the world’s most influential think tanks. Also situated in central London, the organization is directly funded by NATO and its member states, as well as by major weapons manufacturers such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Raytheon. In 2016, the IISS was the subject of a major scandal after it was found to have secretly accepted £25 million — around $34 million — from the government of Bahrain.

Founded in 1958, the IISS provided much of the intellectual basis behind the Cold War scaremongering around Soviet military capacity, thereby pushing NATO members to spend more on arms. On its advisory board are a former NATO secretary general, the former chief of defense intelligence for the Israeli Defense Forces, and, until recently, the CEO of Lockheed Martin. Today, the think tank is a major driver in the increasing hostility towards China, Russia and North Korea. A number of other current Department of War Studies academics have held positions at the IISS as well. Indeed, King’s College boasts that one of the “key benefits” of studying there is its “established links” with the IISS.

A second pro-war think tank with which King’s College prides itself on working closely is the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). RUSI’s funding comes from many of the same sources as the IISS’s. Its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus and its chairman is Lord Hague, Britain’s secretary of state from 2010 to 2015.

A host of King’s College academics — including Jack Spence, Benedict Wilkinson, Brian Holden-Reid, Walter Ladwig, Thomas Maguire and Neil Melvin — have also held positions at RUSI. Perhaps the most notable King’s College-RUSI crossover is Professor Sir David Omand, who was formerly the think tank’s vice president, as well as the head of GCHQ, Britain’s version of the NSA.


Source | RUSI

Bellingcat writer Dan Kaszeta is an associate fellow at the organization. Bellingcat, RUSI and King’s College often cite each other in papers and reports, providing something of a united front on controversial issues of statecraft.

One man who links the IISS and RUSI together is Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, a key member of the Department of War Studies who went on to become King College’s vice principal. A powerful figure in British politics, Freedman contributed to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 1999 speech in which he established the Blair Doctrine, a maxim that NATO could and should militarily intervene anywhere in the world to stop human rights violations.

 

A rogues’ gallery

For an institution that prides itself on cultivating independent thought, there exists a remarkable overlap between the staff of the Department of War Studies and the innermost halls of power of the British state. Professor John Gearson, for example, was principal defence policy adviser to the Defense Select Committee at the House of Commons, a senior adviser to the Ministry of Defense, and taught terrorism and asymetric warfare to military officers at the U.K. Defense Academy.

Another professor, Michael Goodman, is a current British Army reservist and formerly the Official Historian of the Joint Intelligence Committee (a body that oversees Britain’s intelligence organizations).

Visiting professors include Paul Rimmer, who was deputy chief of defence intelligence until last year; Lord Robertson, who was secretary general of NATO at the time of the Afghanistan invasion; and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former minister of defense. The longtime cabinet member was the creator of the Rifkind Doctrine — the controversial British policy on nuclear weapons. Rifkind rejected the idea that the country should use atomic missiles only as a last resort after being attacked, insisting that he could also use them simply to “deliver an unmistakable message of Britain’s willingness to defend her vital interests.”

Vera Michlin-Shapir

King’s College visiting fellow Vera Michlin-Shapir moderates a panel in Tel Aviv on the future of post-war Syria. Photo | INSS

It is not just British officials who teach King’s College students, however. Christopher Kolenda, for instance, was commander of an 800-man strong U.S. task force in Afghanistan, where he “pioneered innovative approaches to counterinsurgency” according to his bio at the hawkish think tank the Center for New American Security (CNAS), where he is a senior fellow. CNAS recently released a report calling for more “innovative” use of what it called “coercive economic statecraft,” (i.e., sanctions) and continues to saber rattle against China and Russia.

Between 2009 and 2010, Kolenda was a strategic advisor to COMISAF, the Commander of International Security Assistance Force. In plain English, he provided some of the brains behind the occupation of Afghanistan. Before pursuing a role in academia, he was also a senior advisor to Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and three 4-star generals. Flournoy was President Joe Biden’s first choice to run the Pentagon.

The department also contains a number of Israeli academics, including Vera Michlin-Shapir, a former official in her country’s National Security Council who worked in the prime minister’s office. Meanwhile Ofer Fridman served as an officer in the IDF between 1999 and 2011, during which time it was carrying out some of its worst war crimes against Palestine and Lebanon. After leaving the IDF, Fridman became an arms dealer, becoming the head of non-lethal weapons at LHB Ltd., which describes itself as “the leading company in Israel for security and defense advanced solutions.” In 2016, King’s College also hosted a lecture by the former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police force.

The department has links to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well, with one senior research fellow, Nawaf Obaid, a former special advisor to the Saudi Ambassador in the U.K. and Ireland and a consultant at the Royal Court in Riyadh.

 

Weapons spending good, Russia bad.

While the department’s staff are concerning enough, much of King’s College academic output is even more troubling, and appears to be completely in line with that of NATO and weapons contractors. One study named “A benefit, not a burden: The security, economic and strategic value of Britain’s defence industry,” for instance, reads like a press release from Raytheon, extolling how many people the industry employs. The report claimed that remaining one of the world’s top arms manufacturers was crucial in “build[ing] a secure and resilient U.K. and to help shape a stable world.” “Without a vibrant and thriving domestic defence industrial base,” it warned, “there is a risk that the U.K. will jeopardise its freedom to act in an unstable, fast-changing world,” concluding that the government should protect or “ideally expand” its defense spending budget.

A report from last August also lobbied the government to invest in making the United Kingdom a “leading nation for space.” “Investment in space surveillance capacity is key to seizing the commercial and diplomatic opportunities offered by space while defending U.K. economic and security interests,” it concludes. Surprisingly, the report insists that it would take only a “modest investment” from the government to turn Great Britain into a leading force in a rapidly expanding market.

King’s College also published a study, titled “The future strategic direction of NATO,” advising that the organization “urgently needs a coherent policy on China” and that it must re-up its commitment to countering Russia. It recommends that the majority of member states increase their military budgets and that they must “share the burden of responsibility on nuclear weapons” by allowing the U.S. to store missiles inside their territories.

Meanwhile, their 2018 report “Weaponizing news: RT, Sputnik and targeted disinformation” analyzes Russian state-backed media outlets and accuses them of carrying out a campaign of “information-psychological warfare” over its coverage of contentious events such as the alleged Skripal poisoning and the wars in Ukraine and Syria. The report claims Russian media is turning news into a weapon by projecting an image of strength and stability while highlighting flaws in Western democracies. While praising the work of Bellingcat and disinfo outlet “Prop or Not,” it concludes by advising that the West must “use technical means to prevent propaganda.”

Thomas Rid King's College

King’s College professor Thomas Rid testifies before a Senate committee on Russian meddling. Photo | CSPAN

These technical solutions, we now know, have largely entailed NATO indirectly taking control of social media. In 2018, Facebook announced that NATO’s cutout organization, the Atlantic Council, was becoming its “eyes and ears,” giving it significant control over curating its news feed, supposedly in an attempt to limit disinformation. Yet many of the most lurid stories around RussiaGate were started by the Council itself, which pumped out report after report accusing virtually every political movement in Europe outside the establishment beltway as being the “Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.”

King’s College staff have also been crucial in propagating the idea of Russian interference in American politics, with Professor Thomas Rid testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the “dark art” of Russian meddling, and condemning WikiLeaks and alternative media journalists as unwitting agents of disinformation. Rid previously described 2016 as the “biggest election hack in U.S. history.”

Earlier this year, Facebook also hired former NATO press officer and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Ben Nimmo as head of its intelligence team. Meanwhile Reddit appointed former Atlantic Council Deputy Director of Middle Eastern Strategy Jessica Ashooh as its head of policy. And Eliot Higgins, of course, was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council as well. In recent years, social media giants like Facebook and Google have radically altered their algorithms, demoting content from adversarial nations, but also attacking alternative media that challenge the power of NATO and the national security state.

Today, the Department of War Studies hosted an online seminar with two senior NATO officials who discussed what they saw as Russia and China’s increasingly aggressive actions, as well as new ways in which NATO can secure its control over the internet.

 

A military-academic-journalistic nexus

What is being described is a network of military, think-tank and media units all working towards furthering the goals of the national security state. Bellingcat regularly holds seminars and courses at King’s College, teaching the next generation of state officials how to use big-data and surveillance tools.

While King’s College provides an academic veneer for the national security state, Bellingcat provides a journalistic one. This cluster of think tanks, academic reports, and newsy investigative articles all cite one another as credible, independent sources when, in reality, they are all part of the same network furthering an agenda. It should be noted that this was an investigation into just one department in one school in one college of the University of London. The links to the highest levels of power were so profound and so manifold that it often seemed harder to find someone in the department who was not linked to military or intelligence communities. Thus, one could be forgiven for mistaking the Department of War Studies for a department of war mongers.

Feature photo | Photo by King’s College. Editing by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post A School for Spooks: The London University Department Churning Out NATO Spies appeared first on MintPress News.

The CIA Used To Infiltrate The Media. Now The CIA Is The Media.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 10:13pm in

Back in the good old days, when things were more innocent and simple, the psychopathic Central Intelligence Agency had to covertly infiltrate the news media to manipulate the information Americans were consuming about their nation and the world. Nowadays, there is no meaningful separation between the news media and the CIA at all.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald just highlighted an interesting point about the reporting by The New York Times on the so-called “Bountygate” story the outlet broke in June of last year about the Russian government trying to pay Taliban-linked fighters to attack US soldiers in Afghanistan.

“One of the NYT reporters who originally broke the Russia bounty story (originally attributed to unnamed ‘intelligence officials’) say today that it was a CIA claim,” Greenwald tweeted. “So media outlets — again — repeated CIA stories with no questioning: congrats to all.”

Indeed, NYT’s original story made no mention of CIA involvement in the narrative, citing only “officials,” yet this latest article speaks as though it had been informing its readers of the story’s roots in the lying, torturing, drug-running, warmongering Central Intelligence Agency from the very beginning. The author even writes “The New York Times first reported last summer the existence of the C.I.A.’s assessment,” with the hyperlink leading to the initial article which made no mention of the CIA. It wasn’t until later that The New York Times began reporting that the CIA was looking into the Russian bounties allegations at all.

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This would be the same “Russian bounties” narrative which was discredited all the way back in September when the top US military official in Afghanistan said no satisfactory evidence had surfaced for the allegations, which was further discredited today with a new article by The Daily Beast titled “U.S. Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops”.

The Daily Beast, which has itself uncritically published many articles promoting the CIA “Bountygate” narrative, reports the following:

It was a blockbuster story about Russia’s return to the imperial “Great Game” in Afghanistan. The Kremlin had spread money around the longtime central Asian battlefield for militants to kill remaining U.S. forces. It sparked a massive outcry from Democrats and their #resistance amplifiers about the treasonous Russian puppet in the White House whose admiration for Vladimir Putin had endangered American troops.

But on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had “low to moderate” confidence in the story after all. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven — and possibly untrue.

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So the mass media aggressively promoted a CIA narrative that none of them ever saw proof of, because there was no proof, because it was an entirely unfounded claim from the very beginning. They quite literally ran a CIA press release and disguised it as a news story.

This allowed the CIA to throw shade and inertia on Trump’s proposed troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Germany, and to continue ramping up anti-Russia sentiments on the world stage, and may well have contributed to the fact that the agency will officially be among those who are exempt from Biden’s performative Afghanistan “withdrawal”.

In totalitarian dictatorships, the government spy agency tells the news media what stories to run, and the news media unquestioningly publish it. In free democracies, the government spy agency says “Hoo buddy, have I got a scoop for you!” and the news media unquestioningly publish it.

In 1977 Carl Bernstein published an article titled “The CIA and the Media” reporting that the CIA had covertly infiltrated America’s most influential news outlets and had over 400 reporters who it considered assets in a program known as Operation Mockingbird. It was a major scandal, and rightly so. The news media is meant to report truthfully about what happens in the world, not manipulate public perception to suit the agendas of spooks and warmongers.

Nowadays the CIA collaboration happens right out in the open, and people are too propagandized to even recognize this as scandalous. Immensely influential outlets like The New York Times uncritically pass on CIA disinfo which is then spun as fact by cable news pundits. The sole owner of The Washington Post is a CIA contractor, and WaPo has never once disclosed this conflict of interest when reporting on US intelligence agencies per standard journalistic protocol. Mass media outlets now openly employ intelligence agency veterans like John Brennan, James Clapper, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Hayden, Frank Figliuzzi, Fran Townsend, Stephen Hall, Samantha Vinograd, Andrew McCabe, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, James Gagliano, Jeremy Bash, Susan Hennessey, Ned Price and Rick Francona, as are known CIA assets like NBC’s Ken Dilanian, as are CIA interns like Anderson Cooper and CIA applicants like Tucker Carlson.

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This isn’t Operation Mockingbird. It’s so much worse. Operation Mockingbird was the CIA doing something to the media. What we are seeing now is the CIA openly acting as the media. Any separation between the CIA and the news media, indeed even any pretence of separation, has been dropped.

This is bad. This is very, very bad. Democracy has no meaningful existence if people’s votes aren’t being cast with a clear understanding of what’s happening in their nation and their world, and if their understanding is being shaped to suit the agendas of the very government they’re meant to be influencing with their votes, what you have is the most powerful military and economic force in the history of civilization with no accountability to the electorate whatsoever. It’s just an immense globe-spanning power structure, doing whatever it wants to whoever it wants. A totalitarian dictatorship in disguise.

And the CIA is the very worst institution that could possibly be spearheading the movements of that dictatorship. A little research into the many, many horrific things the CIA has done over the years will quickly show you that this is true; hell, just a glance at what the CIA was up to with the Phoenix Program in Vietnam will.

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There’s a common delusion in our society that depraved government agencies who are known to have done evil things in the past have simply stopped doing evil things for some reason. This belief is backed by zero evidence, and is contradicted by mountains of evidence to the contrary. It’s believed because it is comfortable, and for literally no other reason.

The CIA should not exist at all, let alone control the news media, much less the movements of the US empire. May we one day know a humanity that is entirely free from the rule of psychopaths, from our total planetary behavior as a collective, all the way down to the thoughts we think in our own heads.

May we extract their horrible fingers from every aspect of our being.

____________________

New book: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix.

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CIA Pressured Yemen to Release al-Qaeda Leader From Prison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 2:03am in

WASHINGTON (Substack // Alex Rubinstein) — Explosive new recordings released by the Houthi government of Yemen pile more earth atop mountains of existing evidence of the U.S. government’s support for the very same terrorists it has claimed to be waging war against for nearly two decades.

The Moral Guidance Department, a branch of the Yemeni Armed Forces of the revolutionary Houthi government of Yemen published last week a number of secret documents and phone calls from the former regime of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Two phone calls between former president Saleh and the former director of the CIA George Tenet were released. A Yemeni government official has confirmed to me that the calls took place in 2001.

In the calls, the former CIA director can be heard pressuring Saleh to release a detained individual involved in the bombing attacks on USS Cole in October of 2000, which left 17 dead and 37 injured.

In the call, Tenet is asked by Saleh’s translator about the name of the individual in question.

“I don’t want to give his name over the phone,” Tenet tells him.

Saleh notes that the FBI team tasked with the USS Cole investigation had already arrived in Sana’a, and asks Tenet if the FBI personnel could meet with him to discuss the matter. Tenet refuses, saying “this is my person, this is my problem, this is my issue… The man must be released.”

“I’ve talked to everybody in my government; I told them that I was going to make this call,” Tenet says.

As Saleh’s translator is delivering Tenet’s message to the president, the CIA director cuts him off and says that the man in question “must be released within 48 hours.”

“After 50 days, this must stop,” he says.

Major General Abdul Qadir al-Shami, the deputy-head of the Yemeni Security and Intelligence Service, confirmed to Houthi media that the person in question was dual American-Yemeni citizen imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, a top leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in Yemen in 2011 by a CIA drone strike.

Houthi media says al-Shami “pointed out that the Americans used to train their individuals in Yemen and send them abroad to carry out operations for them, and then affix the accusation to Yemen as an excuse to come under the cover of fighting those individuals.”

Another document from the State Department dated 1998 highly suggests US interests in establishing a military presence in Yemen around the sea of Aden.

CIA Yemen

Saudi-born Ali al-Ahmed of the Gulf Institute, a leading expert on Saudi politics and terrorism, told me that he is not at all surprised by the phone call between George Tenet and Yemen’s former president.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time,” al-Ahmed told me. “People that think that these organizations; al-Qaeda, ISIS, are organic, non-state-backed organizations are either lying or are completely stupid. The fact that ISIS had all these American weapons, they didn’t come from thin air. This was part of a plan. The same thing with al-Qaeda; the fact that this organization which has been attacked all over the world continues to survive 20 years on, and spread, it’s not by accident. It’s done by security and intelligence organizations in Washington, D.C. and in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and by Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

“This recording,” he said, “fits the bill; that Anwar al-Awlaki and others, they were sometimes knowingly or unknown being used as a tool.”

 

The Tenets of Tenet

George Tenet is the second-longest serving director of the CIA. Originally brought in to the post by Bill Clinton, he oversaw the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attacks.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after Tenet asked for the Saudi’s help with Osama bin Laden prior to the attacks, the Saudi’s response was so encouraging that Clinton made Tenet “his informal personal representative to work with the Saudis on terrorism,” which included at least two trips to Riyadh.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Tenet authorized the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other torture methods.

Tenet told 9/11 investigators that he had not met with President Bush in the month prior to the attacks, but was later corrected by a CIA spokesman that same evening, who said he did.

A CIA Inspector General inquiry accused Tenet of failing to do enough to prevent the attacks, saying “by virtue of his position, [Tenet] bears ultimate responsibility for the fact that no such strategic plan was ever created” despite the CIA knowing of the dangers presented by al-Qaeda.

George Tenet Feature photo

President Bush receives an update on the status Iraq war, March 20, 2003, George Tenet is pictured second from left. Eric Draper | AP

“Many of the difficulties that were listed in that report today – the inability to share information, the lack of people to support and run operations against Osama bin Laden – those were problems that were brought to Mr. Tenet’s attention as early as 1996 and he never did anything about them,” Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, told the BBC.

Tenet was “too busy schmoozing with foreign leaders… that he forgot that his job was to manage the intelligence community,” former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has said.

According to journalist Bob Woodward, who interviewed George Bush himself for his book “Plan of Attack,” Tenet and his deputy presented the president with satellite footage purported to show weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Unimpressed, Bush asked whether “this is the best we’ve got?” Tenet then leapt from the couch, raised his arms, and told the president it was a “slam dunk!”

When Bush challenged him again, Tenet repeated “The case, it’s a slam dunk.”

According to Woodward: “I asked the president about this and he said it was very important to have the CIA director – ‘Slam-dunk is as I interpreted is a sure thing, guaranteed. No possibility it won’t go through the hoop.’ Others present; Cheney, very impressed.”

 

Hijinks with the Hijackers

Anwar al-Awlaki has been perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the so-called War on Terror; even after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, al-Awlaki enjoyed free travel between Western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom and Yemen. He was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011, a likely-illegal targeted killing of an American citizen with little to no precedent.

Al-Awlaki’s name has appeared in connection with a plethora of terrorist attacks against Western targets and, in addition to the now apparent ties to US intelligence, had held relationships with suspected Saudi intelligence officers.

Anwar al-Awlaki would, according to a fellow student at Colorado State, spend his off time in the summer training with the US-funded and equipped Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the precursor of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. The Afghan militants were funnelled $20 billion by the CIA in Operation Cyclone, with Osama Bin Laden being a main benefactor, in order to fight off the Soviets defending the then-socialist government.

By 1996, al-Awlaki was recruiting Muslims in the United States to take up arms in foreign lands as he encouraged a young Saudi student to “to travel to Chechnya to join the jihad against the Russians.” He did, and was killed in fighting in 1999.

Though the record holds many discrepancies, al-Awlaki’s place of birth is said to be in New Mexico. Conservative journalist Paul Sperry writes in his book, “federal law enforcement records I have obtained indicate that he was born in Aden, Yemen, on April 21, 1971, and first came to the U.S. as a Yemeni citizen on a J-1 research-scholar visa on June 5, 1990.” Meanwhile, “a search of state vital records in New Mexico turns up no birth certificate.”

Al-Awlaki’s now-revealed status as a CIA asset may help explain this discrepancy and how — if it’s true that al-Awlaki was not born in the U.S. — he wound up with citizenship.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen circa 2008. Muhammad ud-Deen | AP

Nasser al-Awlaki, Anwar’s father, was a Fulbright Scholar who studied in New Mexico and later worked for the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Anwar Al-Awlaki moved from Denver to San Diego and became the Imam at the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque. There, he held court with Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Hani Hanjour, all three of whom would go on to hijack the planes that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

According to the 9/11 Commission report, Hanjour’s older brother claimed Hani had gone to Afghanistan “in the late 1980’s, as a teenager, to participate in the jihad and, because the Soviets had already withdrawn, worked for a relief agency there.”

Even Ali al-Ahmed, a leading critic of Saudi Arabia, says the propaganda campaign promoting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan deluded him when he was very young. “It was part of a plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hazmi and Mihdhar had joined up with the Bosnian Mujahideen following the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia, a conflict which saw the Clinton administration and the Pentagon oversee clandestine foreign arms shipments Islamists fighting in the dirty war. Hazmi and Mihdhar were even granted Bosnian citizenship to fight there. Al-Qaeda operative and “principle architect of the 9/11 attacks” according to the 9/11 Comission Report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had “also spent time fighting alongside the mujahideen in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations.”

As I have previously reported, the Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center, “a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden” was used by the CIA in Operation Cyclone to send young American Muslims to fight in Afghanistan, and continued to be used by the Clinton administration to recruit young fighters to the war in Bosnia.

“The Bosnian War drew extremists of all types from all over the world. The El Mujahid, the unit of foreign mujahideen fighters in Bosnia, videotaped themselves committing war crimes against Serbs including beheadings and torture,” Lily Lynch, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine, told me. “There are also reports that the mujahideen terrorized the local Bosniak population by making aid contingent upon radical conversion.”

“Unfortunately, much of the discussion of the crimes committed by El Mujahid in Bosnia has been led by Islamophobes with a wider political agenda, usually anti-immigration,” she continued. “This has prevented an honest and complete coming to terms with the crimes of the past, including those very real and documented crimes committed by the mujahideen.”

Al-Awlaki was under investigation by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 after they learned he “may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Osama Bin Laden,” according to the 9/11 Comission Report. Additionally, al-Awlaki had “been visited by Ziyad Khaleel, an al-Qaeda operative who purchased a battery for Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, as well as by an associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called blind Shaykh.”

Around this period of time, al-Awlaki was the vice-president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a money-funneling front for al-Qaeda.

One contact of al-Awlaki’s in San Diego was Omar al-Bayoumi, who introduced al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to him. Al-Bayoumi was presented in the 9/11 Commission Report as a “good Samaritan,” according to mainstream media reports, who wanted to help fellow Saudis al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, who had previously been surveilled by three governments at the request of the CIA before showing up in San Diego.

However, the “28 pages” of the congressional “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11” that had long been withheld from the U.S. public until they were declassified 13 years later following lobbying by victims of the terrorist attacks, strongly indicate that al-Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence officer. Additionally, former US intelligence official Richard Clarke has speculated that he was also a CIA asset. The 28 pages note that the “FBI discovered that al-Bayoumi has ties to terrorist elements as well.”

Al-Bayoumi, who was on the payroll of the Saudi monarchy via a third party company, set up al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi with an apartment. That very same day, four phone calls took place between al-Bayoumi and al-Awlaki.

Another “close associate” of al-Bayoumi and yet another suspected Saudi intelligence officer — and friend of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi — Osama Basnan, had been investigated by the FBI in 1993 for his support for Osama Bin Laden, contacts with the Bin Laden family, and holding a party in 1992 for the Blind Shaykh, another Afghan Mujahideen figure who worked with the CIA and Osama Bin Laden. The Blind Shaykh died in prison in 2017 for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Money sent to Basnan from members of the Saudi Royal Family had made its way into al-Bayoumi’s pockets. The two had called each other “roughly 700 times” over the period of one year. Basnan would later brag that he did more to help the 9/11 hijackers than al-Bayoumi to an FBI asset.

News reports from 2003 note how “FBI officials continue to downplay any possible culpability on the part of Omar al-Bayoumi, Anwar Al-Awlaki or Osama Basnan.” Al-Bayoumi and Basnan’s extremism wasn’t acknowledged by US authorities until the long-withheld 28 pages were released in 2016.

During al-Awlaki’s time in San Diego, when he wasn’t getting busted for trying to pick up prostitutes or starting failed business ventures, he held frequent, closed-door meetings with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar until he went on what he told reporters was a “sabbatical” through “several countries” in 2000, the year that the USS Cole was bombed.

Some time the following year, al-Awlaki resettled just outside Falls Church, Virginia, and became the imam at a local mosque. He was followed by the three hijackers: Hanjour, al-Hazmi, and al-Mihdhar, and an associate of his set them up with an apartment in Alexandria. Additionally, one accused key planner of the 9/11 attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the so-called “20th hijacker” currently held in Guantanamo Bay, had al-Awlaki’s phone number in his personal contact list when his apartment was raided in the days following the attacks.

Freedom of Information Act requests have furnished the public with under-reported documents showing when the FBI investigated al-Awlaki’s Visa transactions, an entry for “Atta, Mohammed — American West Airlines, 08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami” turned up. Mohammed Atta is widely described as the “ringleader” of the September 11 attacks.

Atta flight log

The flight referenced was one of Atta’s so-called “surveillance flights.” Logs for flights of two more hijackers — one of the al-Shehri brothers and Satam al-Squami, also appear in the disclosed Visa investigation documents. The FBI has denied having evidence of al-Awlaki purchasing plane tickets for the hijackers.

By this time, al-Awlaki was becoming a somewhat prominent figure, with up to 3,000 people regularly showing up for his Friday services, and with CD box set lectures becoming popular. He went back briefly to San Diego in August 2001 and reportedly told a neighbor “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me… Later on you’ll find out why.”

One frequent attendee at al-Awlaki’s lectures was Gordon Snow, then-FBI Director of Counterintelligence for the Middle East. Snow had recently been “assigned to assessment, protection, and investigative support missions after the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.” Al-Awlaki was also around this time serving as the Muslim chaplain at D.C.’s George Washington University.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “al-Awlaki was one of Washington DC’s go-to Muslim sources, considered a moderate Islamic voice with positive views of the United States and the West who did not shy away from publicly condemning Islamist terrorism and the 9/11 attacks” according to a research paper published by the Homeland Security Digital Library.  In highly-public remarks, he was condemning the attacks, but just days after he was giving comments to Islamic websites blaming Israel and claiming the FBI had placed the blame on any passenger on those flights with Muslim-sounding names.

Though it was then not known that al-Awlaki was the “spiritual leader” of some of the hijackers, the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the Washington Post among others, went to him as their default Muslim voice.

“I think that in general, Islam is presented in a negative way. I mean there’s always this association of Islam and terrorism when that is not true at all, I mean, Islam is a religion of peace” he told the Washington Post as they recorded him from the passenger seat of his car in November 2001. In a subsequent video, al-Awlaki downplays the crimes of the Taliban, saying “the US is kind of demonizing the Taliban, and it’s true, the Taliban have made a lot of mistakes in the past, but the Northern Alliance isn’t really any better.”

Al-Awlaki

A screenshot from a Washington Post interview Al-Awlaki

Around this time, al-Awlaki would become the first imam in history to conduct a prayer service in the U.S. Capitol. Between September 15, 2001 and September 19th, 2001, the FBI interviewed al-Awlaki four times according to FBI documents.

“The FBI told the 9/11 Commission and Congress that it did not have reason to detain Awlaki,” according to a later article by the Washington Post.

Within months of the attacks and following a vetting process, al-Awlaki was invited to a luncheon with military brass at the Pentagon as a “moderate Muslim” to hold dialogue with as part of move to reach out to Muslim community members.

Despite his support in high places, al-Awlaki left the United States in 2002 with the Falls Church mosque citing a “climate of fear and intimidation.”

He would spend the next years in the United Kingdom before returning to Yemen. But he made a stop back in the U.S. in 2002, flying in on a Saudi Arabia Airlines flight with a Saudi agent accompanying him at the connecting airport on his way to JFK, according to law enforcement documents obtained by Paul Sperry.

With an arrest warrant out on him for passport fraud, federal agents detained al-Awlaki upon his return. But a federal judge had rescinded the arrest warrant that very same day, allowing al-Awlaki to walk free.

He’d go back to northern Virginia and meet with Ali al-Timimi, a radical cleric who was later arrested for recruiting 11 Muslims to join the Taliban, to talk to him about getting young Muslims to take up jihad.

Even al-Timimi thought something was suspect, reportedly wondering “if Mr. Awlaki might be trying to entrap him at the FBI’s instigation,” according to his friends. Al-Awlaki left again on a Saudi flight without incident, however, Sperry claims, citing law enforcement documents, that he had another warrant out for his arrest based on an investigation against terrorism financing by the U.S. Treasury Department. That claim has been corroborated by government documents which reveal that FBI agent Wade Ammerman ordered that the warrant be bypassed.

By the time 9/11 Commission Investigators tried to interview al-Awlaki in 2003, they were unable to locate him, according to the report.

And yet, documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act reveal that al-Awlaki was exchanging emails and voice messages with an FBI agent that year. One document has an FBI agent writing to another “Holy crap, [redacted] isn’t this your guy? The [imam] with the prostitutes.”

Another document has an FBI agent complaining of the 9/11 Commission’s “numerous and unrelenting” attempts to access al-Awlaki. Another memo dated within days of al-Awlaki’s return to the U.S. to meet with al-Timimi has al-Awlaki’s name in the subject line in addition to “Synopsis: Asset reporting.”

 

The Candide of Jihad

When al-Awlaki started preaching in London, his rhetoric took a decidedly more extremist turn with frequent denunciations of non-Muslims and calls for martyrdom. He would relocate to Yemen where he would lecture at a university in Sana’a run by Sheik Abd-al-Majid al-Zindini, who was later designated a terrorist by the U.S. and fought with Osama bin Laden, with U.S. support during Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan.

In 2006, al-Awlaki was arrested again in Yemen for participating in a al-Qaeda plot to kidnap a U.S. military attaché and a Shia teenager. FBI agents would interview him in prison about the 9/11 attacks. After a while, some U.S. officials were “disturbed at the imprisonment without charge of a United States citizen” and “signaled that they no longer insisted on Mr Awlaki’s incarceration, and he was released,” according to the New York Times.

Following his release in Yemen, al-Awlaki started his own website and his far-reaching online rhetoric became even more extremist and supportive of attacks against the United States. He also started being featured in videos published by al-Qaeda itself and has been dubbed the “bin Laden of the internet.”


“The bin Laden of the internet”

His name would begin to increasingly surface in connection to high-profile terrorist attacks on Western targets: Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the perpetrator of a drive-by shooting on a US military recruiting office in Arkansas, claimed to be dispatched by AQAP and carried al-Awlaki’s literature; Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and injured 30 at Fort Hood, had attended al-Awlaki’s lectures at the Falls Church mosque and exchanged up to 20 emails with him leading up to his attack (al-Awlaki later described Hasan as a “hero”); Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed “underwear bomber,” is believed to have met with him weeks prior in Yemen; a New Jersey man by the name of Sharif Mobley who killed a Yemeni hospital guard after he was captured in a raid against al-Qaeda had made contact with al-Awlaki and went to Yemen to seek him out; and the 2010 attempted Times Square bomber had contact with him.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Anwar al-Awlaki pictured with the so-called “underwear bomber”

A full list of all the people arrested for trying to support al-Qaeda who had contact with al-Awlaki, or those who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks who were inspired by al-Awlaki, would be too long for this article. “Al-Awlaki’s sermons and recordings have been found on the computers of at least a dozen of [sic] terror suspects in the U.S. and Britain,” CNN reported in 2010. Al-Awlaki is considered to have helped inspire the Boston Marathon bombing, the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, and the shooting at the Orlando Pulse Nightclub.

In 2010, al-Awlaki was placed on the U.S. kill list, he then made his way onto the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, and then the United Nation Security Council’s list of individuals associated with al-Qaeda.

The following year, the CIA finally liquidated its own former asset with a drone strike.

“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to Al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate. He took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans,” President Obama said at the time.

Two weeks after the killing of al-Awlaki, another drone strike ordered by Obama killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s American-born 16-year-old son. Six years later, President Trump ordered a raid that killed Nawar al-Awlaki, the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar.

Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaqi

Eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaki bled to death over two hours

 

Best Frenemies Forever

Yemen has suffered six years of devastating war since revolutionary Houthi forces took over the capital in September of 2014 from then-President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the former vice president of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is widely considered to be a puppet of Saudi Arabia. The war was exacerbated by the introduction of foreign forces and foreign air power to the conflict, most notably by the Saudi-led coalition’s entry on March 25th, 2015.

Six years on, the war has produced what experts have been calling the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world, with the United Nations estimating that 80 percent of the Yemeni population in severe need of humanitarian assistance including 12 million children.

While the U.S. has repeatedly pounded AQAP in Yemen with bombs, they are not entirely enemies. The Saudi coalition, which the U.S. is a part of, is at war with the revolutionary Houthi government, and therefore shares a purpose in the country with al-Qaeda: expelling the Houthis from power.

“The coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaeda fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash,” the Associated Press reported in 2018. “Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.”

“Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes,” according to AP. In fact, the coalition actively recruits them because they are considered formidable on the battlefield, the outlet says before continuing to detail al-Qaeda figures playing key roles in major militias backed by the United Arab Emirates, another coalition partner.

And since the U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to the coalition to fight the Houthis, it should come as little shock that al-Qaeda militias are parading around Yemeni city streets in U.S.-made MRAP armored vehicles.


Screenshot of CNN-obtained footage of the Abu Abbas brigade using U.S. MRAPS. The AQAP-linked militia was incorporated into the coalition despite its leader being a U.S.-designated terrorist

Saudi expert Ali Al-Ahmed told me that the U.S. can justify its presence in Yemen by supporting al-Qaeda and then saying that AQAP is a great threat to America.

He said the “idea that Muslims are our enemies, we need to bring them down, take their wealth and keep them fighting each other” was started by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, the architect of Operation Cyclone, but was mainly supported in the beginning by Qatar.

He added: “they even had to overthrow the government of Pakistan to get this policy through. They made Pakistan into this arm to carry out this thing with Brzezinski.”

“Al-Qaeda and ISIS would not survive without state support, including the U.S., and they do it because it serves their interests. Not the interests of the U.S., but of those in power and the companies that make money off this,” he said.

Al-Ahmed describes al-Qaeda as a useful tool for U.S. intelligence and other actors to achieve their geopolitical goals. He tells me a story of a Jordanian carpenter who was pressured and bribed to join al-Qaeda in their effort in Syria against the government of Bashar Assad, with American, British, and Jordanian intelligence officers offering him whatever he wanted to go.

He didn’t want to go, and so they threatened him. Eventually, al-Ahmed describes, he went, came back and was quickly “taken out” upon his return.

“Al-Qaeda is like a whore, and everybody is sleeping with that whore,” al-Ahmed said.

Rune Agerhus, co-founder of the Yemen Solidarity Council, contributed to this report.

Feature photo | Alex Rubinstein

Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here, and if you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal here or sustain his reporting through Patreon here.

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Recruited, Arrested, On Trial: Yemeni Spies Tell of Their Reluctant Work for CIA, MI6

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 4:37am in

SANA’A, YEMEN — There is little dispute that the United States and the United Kingdom have been major benefactors to the Saudi Kingdom in its six-year-long attempt to use military might to bring Yemen to heel. Both countries have provided billions in hi-tech weapons, intelligence information, and training to what is arguably the Middle East’s most repressive monarchy. But according to the confessions of six men arrested last month amid the ongoing battle over Yemen’s strategic Marib province, Western support for the Saudi-led Coalition goes much farther than conventional military support.

 

Arrested Yemeni spies speak to MintPress

The CIA and MI6, its British counterpart, have recruited hundreds of Yemenis to work as mercenaries and spies gathering intelligence and coordinates of Yemeni military positions in Marib, al-Mahrah, Sana’a and Sadaa, and providing that information to their handlers, according to confessions given to the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service (YSIS) by at least six Yemeni nationals currently on trial in Sana’a for violating Article 130 of Yemen’s Penal Code.

The six men, who are being held in a detention facility in Sana’a, agreed to speak to MintPress about their experiences. They insist that abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war drove them to participate in the operation, which they said came with the promise of a $300 payout.

According to the men, the operation was carried out primarily at the Ghaydah Airport in eastern al-Mahrah. There, they joined dozens of young Yemenis recruited by the CIA for training by  American and British officers on how to properly identify and describe; the use of cameras, sophisticated software programs and devices used to share coordinates; information gathering; and how to find and identify military leaders and headquarters, workshops, factories, laboratories, warehouses, checkpoints and launching sites for missiles and drones. Even the locations of the personal homes and vehicles of Ansar Allah members and other vocal opponents of the Saudi intervention were sought, according to the men.

 

A careful recruitment process

Their recruitment process was long and delicate, beginning when the men were approached by Yemeni officers working for the Aden-based National Security Agency. After agreeing to travel to al-Mahrah to learn more, the men were housed in hotels before being brought to special cottages at the Ghaydah Airport where they were interviewed by American and British intelligence officers. Muhammad Har, one of the six charged, told MintPress that he was initially approached by Fayez Muhammad Ismail Al-Muntaser, a former officer of the National Security Agency and commander of the Saudi-led Coalition’s Special Missions Battalion.

“When it was my turn, I entered the [unintelligible] and was surprised that members of the committee were Americans. One was asking the questions, the second was writing data, the third was taking fingerprints, while the fourth black-skinned one was translating,” Ali Mohammed Abdullah al-Jomani, a 34-year-old detainee from Haddah recalled. Al-Jomani, who says he used to earn the equivalent of about $10 per day, was put up in the Taj Al-Arab Hotel for three months during the initiation process. “When we went back to conduct the second interview, we did not find the Americans, but rather British officers. They repeated the previous questions about our ability to use maps, drive cars, and use computers.” This tracks with allegations by the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service that the CIA was recruiting young Yemenis and handing them over to British officers for training and further handling.

According to the men, there were two separate camps at the airport, one American and the other Saudi. “After we were accepted, we were trained on how to describe people, cars, and homes and how to share data and photos through WhatsApp,” recalled Basem Ali Ahmed al-Kharouga, a 29-year-old detainee from Sana’a. “The training included field exercises inside and outside of the airport.” Al-Kharouga had long dreamed of traveling abroad and thought that he had finally found his way to flee the violence when he was promised a foreign passport in exchange for the work.

 

Few options for young Yemenis

In addition to poverty and unemployment, there are other reasons that Yemen’s youth would risk life and freedom to work with foreign intelligence services, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country for business, pleasure and to seek medical care. Now — with seaports and airports, especially the once-bustling Sana’a International Airport, effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel abroad, leaving many desperate young Yemenis with few options.

Hospitals, schools, office buildings, and infrastructure like water wells and sewage networks have been destroyed in the wake of Saudi bombing campaigns, which are often carried out with U.S. and British targeting information gleaned from their network of recruited spies. Funerals, weddings, homes, and other civilian facilities have been targeted, leading to the death and wounding of thousands of civilians and making American and British intelligence services complicit, at best, in the wanton violence.

“We were sent to Marib, me and another guy who went by the name of ‘Akram Amer,’ on one mission that lasted for four days. We were assigned by [a man named] ‘George’ to spy on the home of Ali Salem al-Huraizy near al-Rawda Park,” Aymen Mujahid Qaid Muhammad Harish, one of the six detainees, told MintPress. Among Harish’s tasks was to monitor sites in the city of Arhab, north of Sana’a, where the Saudi Coalition would later target a home where a funeral was taking place. The double-tap airstrike left a child and nine women dead and, according to Harish, his Western handlers, who were responsible for providing the Saudis with targeting data, are to blame for the attack.

Feature photo | Men are silhouetted against a large representation of the Yemeni flag as they attend a ceremony in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Recruited, Arrested, On Trial: Yemeni Spies Tell of Their Reluctant Work for CIA, MI6 appeared first on MintPress News.

Media Completely Ignore American Secret Agent’s Trial for Terrorism in Venezuela

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 4:30am in

CARACAS — Unless you read the local Venezuelan press, you are unlikely to know that an American secret agent is currently standing trial in Venezuela on charges of terrorism and weapons trafficking.

Matthew John Heath was arrested in September outside Amuay and Cardon oil refineries in possession of a submachine gun, a grenade launcher, C4 explosives, a satellite phone and bricks of $20 bills. The Venezuelan government also alleges that he was found carrying a small coin or badge that CIA employees use to prove their identity to one another without raising suspicions. On Wednesday, Heath pled not guilty to all charges.

Situated in Falcon state in the west of the country, the Amuay and Cardon facilities are the largest refineries in the oil-rich nation, considered an enemy of the United States since it elected socialist president Hugo Chavez in 1998. The facilities have been the site of controversy before: in 2012, a fire at the plants killed 55 people; after conducting hundreds of interviews with experts and witnesses and carrying out over 200 inspections and technical tests, the Venezuelan government claimed that the evidence of sabotage was “overwhelming.”

 

A spy falls

A former marine, Heath is also widely reported to have been a CIA agent, serving the agency as a communications operator between 2006 and 2016, at which time he took a job at security firm MVM (for obvious reasons, the CIA does not confirm or deny the identity of its staff). Although MVM is technically a private company, it was founded by three former Secret Service agents and continues to work closely with Washington. According to business directory Dun & Bradstreet, the firm “provides security staffing and consulting services, primarily to U.S. government entities.” Indeed, the only clients listed on its website are American government agencies. “Need a secret agent?” begins its description of the company.

There is not a hint of this, however, on MVM’s public-facing website, which describes the organization as merely “providing extensive domain expertise in the areas of counter-narcotics, criminal and civil investigations, public safety, and national security.” MVM’s 800 employees, it states, are here to offer “professional and administrative services, … informational technology services, … and mission solutions.”

This follows a broader trend of the U.S. government outsourcing clandestine operations to private contractors — a process that ensures there is less accountability and public scrutiny, as well as one that keeps its more controversial actions at arm’s length. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” said Allen Weinstein, cofounder of the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization that funds pro-American groups worldwide.

 

Radio silence

One might think that a supposedly innocent American citizen on trial for terrorism inside a hostile enemy country, facing decades behind bars in Venezuela’s notorious prisons, would spark a nationwide media furor — especially as Heath claims that he was tortured while incarcerated. But far from it. In fact, there has been zero mention of the case in national U.S. media this week, including nothing in The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, The Washington Post, Fox News, or USA Today. This is striking, as the news was published on the largest newswire service, Reuters, meaning that virtually every outlet in the West must have seen it and could freely republish it themselves or use its material for a story.

Virtually the only Western media outlets touching the story were local news stations in Tennessee, Heath’s home state. Yet none of those outlets mentioned Heath’s alleged background as a secret agent, nor the incriminating items in possession of which he was arrested, rather presenting him as a completely innocent victim of an authoritarian regime. Few even offered an explanation as to why, amid a raging pandemic, he would leave the U.S. and go to Venezuela of all places. NBC affiliate WBIR Channel 10 was the only exception, claiming he had traveled there to gain “more boating experience,” a defense that is unlikely to convince many Venezuelan prosecutors.

The State Department, which rarely misses an opportunity to denounce Venezuela’s Maduro government for human rights transgressions, has also been largely silent over the case. Its entire comment on the situation amounts to one tweet from spokesman Ned Price, in which he tepidly asks Venezuela for a “fair trial.”

 

Limited hangout

The deafening silence from Washington and from corporate media suggests that Heath was indeed in Venezuela on official business and that the government has made a conscious decision to cut ties to him, leaving him to his fate so as to not draw more attention to its own actions. Kicking up a storm of protest would entail inviting far more scrutiny upon itself and potentially losing any plausible deniability that it is not engaged in a campaign of international terrorism against the South American nation.

The United States has been carrying out a decades-long push for regime change against the Venezuelan government, supporting coup attempts, funding and training political movements, and propping up self-declared president Juan Guaidó as the country’s rightful ruler. In January, the U.S. lost its most powerful ally in the cause, as the European Union chose to stop recognizing Guaidó after he lost his seat in the Venezuelan National Assembly in recent elections.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. was similarly caught with its hand in the cookie jar, after two former Green Berets led an amphibious invasion on Venezuela with the goal of shooting their way to the presidential palace and installing Guaidó as dictator. The attempt failed spectacularly, and few of the heavily armed fighters managed to even make it to land, the event quickly being dubbed Donald Trump’s “Bay of Piglets.” Trying to defend themselves, the American mercenaries implicated a number of key figures, including Trump himself, as well as former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. The coup plotters even claim they met at the Trump Doral resort in Miami. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put out a half-hearted denial, claiming only that “there was no U.S. government direct involvement” in the botched coup attempt.

Heath’s case is the latest in a series of U.S. cloak and dagger moves against the Caribbean nation. Whether he is found guilty or not, it appears that he will be receiving no help from the U.S. government. When things go wrong in espionage, you are apparently on your own.

Feature photo | Items found on Heath at the time of his arrest according to Venezuelan authorities. Photo | Venezuelan Foreign Ministry

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Media Completely Ignore American Secret Agent’s Trial for Terrorism in Venezuela appeared first on MintPress News.

Conspiracy Theories Are Caused By Government Secrecy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/02/2021 - 2:39pm in

Tags 

Syria, Government, News, CIA

The DC Circuit has ruled that the CIA is under no obligation to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests pertaining to its involvement with insurgent militias in Syria, overturning a lower court’s previous ruling in favor of a Buzzfeed News reporter seeking such documents.

As Sputnik’s Morgan Artyukhina clearly outlines, this ruling comes despite the fact that mainstream news outlets have been reporting on the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities in Syria for years, and despite a US president having openly tweeted about those activities.

“In other words, the CIA will not be required to admit to actions it is widely reported as having done, much less divulge documents about them to the press for even greater scrutiny,” Artyukhina writes, calling to mind the Julian Assange quote “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”

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The CIA’s brazen collaboration with dangerous extremist factions seeking to topple Damascus, and its equally brazen refusal to provide the public with any information about the extent of its involvement in Syria from the earliest stages of the violence in that nation onwards, will necessarily provide fodder for conspiracy theories.

It is public knowledge that the CIA was involved in the Syrian war to some extent, it is public knowledge that the CIA has a well-documented history of doing extremely evil things, and it is public knowledge that the US government has long sought control over Syria. Due to the agency’s refusal to be transparent about the exact nature of its involvement in that nation, people are left to fill in the knowledge gaps with their own speculation.

Of course they will do this. Why wouldn’t they? Why would anyone give the lying, torturing, propagandizing, drug trafficking, coup-staging, warmongering, psychopathic Central Intelligence Agency the benefit of the doubt and assume their actions in Syria have been benevolent just because the hard facts have been hidden behind a wall of government secrecy?

Yet they will be expected to. Anyone with a sufficient degree of influence who comes right out and says the CIA knowingly armed violent jihadists with the goal of orchestrating regime change in Syria will be attacked as a crazy conspiracy theorist by the narrative managers of the establishment media. If their words are really disruptive to establishment narratives, there will be calls to deplatform, unemploy, and ban them from social media.

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And really such is the case with all the melodramatic garment rending about the dangers of conspiracy theories today. All the fixation on the way unregulated speech on the internet has contributed to the circulation of conspiracy theories conveniently ignores the real cause of those theories: government secrecy.

If the most powerful government in the world were not hiding a massive amount of its behavior behind increasingly opaque walls of secrecy, people would not need to fill in the gaps with theories about what’s happening, because there would be no gaps; they would simply see what’s happening.

“But Caitlin!” one might object. “How could America engage in all its military operations around the world if it didn’t keep information about its behaviors a secret?”

Exactly, my smooth-brained friend. Exactly.

Government secrecy is indeed necessary for winning wars. Government secrecy is also necessary for starting those wars in the first place. US government agencies have an extensive history of using false pretenses to initiate military conflicts; if they could not hide the facts behind a veil of government opacity, the public would never engage in them. The American people would never have allowed their sons to go to Vietnam if they’d known the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie. They’d never have sent their sons and daughters to invade Iraq if they’d known weapons of mass destruction were a lie. They would lose the support of the public, and the international community would refuse to back them.

Protecting the lives of foreign military and intelligence personnel is the primary argument against government transparency in the United States, a premise which takes it for granted that there need to be foreign military and intelligence personnel at all. The only reason the lives of troops and intelligence officers would be endangered without massive walls of government secrecy is because those personnel are out there facilitating imperialist acts of mass murder and tyranny. The argument is essentially “Well we can’t tell you the truth about what’s happening in our government, because it would mean we’d have to stop doing extremely evil things.”

The argument that the internet needs strict censorship to eliminate dangerous conspiracy theories takes it as a given that simply eliminating government secrecy is impossible, which in turn takes it as a given that the US government cannot simply stop inflicting grave evils around the world. Our ability to share information with each other online is therefore ultimately being increasingly choked off by monopolistic Silicon Valley megacorporations because no one in charge can fathom the idea of the United States government ceasing to butcher human beings around the world.

That is the real underlying argument over internet censorship today. Should people have free access to information about what their own government is doing, or should their government be permitted to do evil things in secret while people who form theories about what they’re doing are shoved further and further away from audibility? That’s the real debate here.

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The powerful should not be permitted to keep secrets from the public. They should not be permitted to jail journalists who try to reveal those secrets to the public, and they should not be permitted to collaborate with monopolistic corporations to censor people who form theories about those secrets. The amount of secrecy you are entitled to should be directly inverse to the amount of power that you have.

The US government has powerful agencies whose literal job is to conspire. The fact that people are punished and condemned for forming theories about how that conspiring might take place, even while those agencies are completely lacking in transparency, is abusive.

If the government was not doing evil things in secret, then it wouldn’t need secrecy. If the government didn’t have secrecy, there would be no conspiracy theories. Stop pointing your attacks at powerless people who are just trying to figure out what’s going on in the world amidst a sea of government secrecy and propaganda, and point your attacks instead at the power structures that are actually responsible for the existence of conspiracy theories in the first place.

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Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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JFK and the Strategy of Peace 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 3:31am in

John F Kennedy (JFK) was inaugurated as president of the United States nearly sixty years ago today. In the less than three years before he was assassinated in November of 1963, he managed to initiate major changes in America’s foreign policy.

Those changes are documented in books such as “JFK and the Unspeakable” and “Betting on the Africans” and most recently, in an article by one of the foremost scholars on JFK, James Di Eugenio, who just published, “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’Etat over Foreign Policy?.”  Despite the literature, many in the West do not realize the extent to which JFK was an exception when it came to U.S. foreign policy.

 

A departure

While he was a staunch advocate for capitalism and the “free world” in competition with the Soviet Union and communism, he promoted acceptance of non-aligned countries and supported nationalist movements in Africa, the Middle East, and Third World generally. In the summer before he was killed, he reached out to the Soviet Union and proposed sweeping changes to promote peace and prevent war, a sweeping change from the previous Eisenhower administration which was hostile to post WW2 nationalist movements in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

In 1953, the CIA supervised the overthrow of Iran’s elected government. They supported the Saudi monarch and undermined popular Egyptian nationalist Gamel Abdul Nasser. In contrast, Kennedy was sympathetic to the “winds of change” in Africa and beyond. He criticized France’s repression of the Algerian independence movement and was sympathetic to Patrice Lumumba leading the Congo’s independence from Belgium. Kennedy worked with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to preserve Congo’s independence and try to restore Lumumba to power. Still, the CIA managed to have Lumumba executed three days before Kennedy’s inauguration.

Under Kennedy, the United States started voting against the European colonial powers in Africa and Kennedy even provided tangible aid to Nasser in Egypt. After his death, the U.S. policy returned to support for European powers and CIA intervention and supported NATO ally Portugal in its wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau. It supported secessionist and tribal forces in the Congo, Angola, Somalia, and many other countries with hugely damaging results and backed apartheid South Africa until the very end. The U.S. government even went so far as to support the sectarian Muslim Brotherhood against the secularist Nasser.

 

Israel’s bomb

This was also a critical time for Israel and Palestine. JFK was more objective and balanced than most U.S. politicians. Just 22 years old in 1939, Kennedy visited Palestine and wrote his observations in a four-page letter to his father. In it, he is thoughtful and recognizes the Palestinian perspective. He speaks of the “unfortunately arrogant, uncompromising attitude” of some Jewish leaders.

Download the PDF file .

In May 2019, more documents were released from the National Security Archives. They show that JFK, as president, was intent on stopping Israel from surreptitiously building a nuclear weapon. In a letter to the new Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol, Kennedy gives a diplomatic ultimatum that U.S. support of Israel will be “seriously jeopardized” if Israel did not comply with inspection visits to Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona.

After his death, the Johnson administration was submissive to Israel and pro-Israel supporters. It showed the ultimate political subservience by preventing the rescue and hiding the Israeli treachery regarding the USS Liberty. That Israeli attack killed 34 and injured 172 U.S. sailors. Would Israel have had the arrogance and chutzpah to do this if Kennedy had been in the White House? Unlikely.

 

A strategy of peace

The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs took place just three months after Kennedy took office. The CIA and the military’s top brass expected Kennedy to provide air support for the anti-Castro attackers. Kennedy said no and resolved to get rid of the long-standing CIA Director who had managed the operation. Allen Dulles and two Deputy Directors were forced to resign by the end of the year. The Pentagon, CIA, and anti-Castro Cubans were furious at JFK. When the Soviet Union sent nuclear-capable missiles to Cuba, the hawks demanded that the U.S. attack. Kennedy opposed the move and negotiated an agreement whereby the United States removed its nuclear missiles in Turkey as Soviet nuclear missiles were removed from Cuba.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country with vast natural resources and strategic location. President Sukarno led the country to independence and was a leader in the global Non-Aligned Movement seeking a middle ground between the poles of the United States and the Soviet Union. The Eisenhower-Dulles administration tried to overthrow Sukarno. In contrast, JFK changed the policy from hostility to friendship. Sukarno invited JFK to visit the country and the invitation was accepted. Following his assassination, U.S. policy returned to hostility, and just two years later, in 1965, a U.S.-engineered coup led to the murders of about half a million Indonesian citizens suspected of being communist.

In 1951, JFK visited Vietnam as French colonial powers were trying to assert control. He saw the situation as 400,000 French soldiers were losing to the Vietnamese nationalist movement. Thus, when he became president, he was skeptical of the prospects and authorized an increase in U.S. military advisers, but never sent combat troops. As the situation deteriorated, JFK finally decided that policy was wrong, and in October 1963, he issued National Security Action Memorandum 263 directing U.S. withdrawal to begin in December and to be completed by the end of 1965. After his death, President Johnson reversed course and began sending massive numbers of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam. Twelve years later, after 58,000 American and about two million Vietnamese deaths, the U.S. military departed without a victory.

 

From confrontation to mutual acceptance

The Soviet Union was the largest communist bloc and the primary challenger to the United States and to the capitalist system. The Cold War included mutual recriminations and a huge amount of military spending as both sides designed and produced ever more hydrogen bombs, air, and sea delivery systems. During the Cuba crisis, Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khruschev both realized how dangerous the situation was with a nuclear war well within the realm of possibility.

In June of 1963, JFK delivered the commencement address at American University. It was probably his most important speech yet is little known. In it, he called for a dramatic change in U.S. posture, from confrontation to mutual acceptance.

MintPress News · JFK Calls for re-examination of US attitudes toward peace, the Soviet Union and the Cold War

He called for a re-examination of American attitudes toward peace, the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and peace and freedom within the United States itself. He called for a special line of communication between Washington and Moscow to allow direct communications between their leaders. And then Kennedy declared that the United States would end nuclear testing as a first step toward general and complete disarmament.

In the last months before his death, JFK opened secret communications with Soviet Premier Khruschev and used a journalist to communicate directly with Fidel Castro. He proposed face-to-face talks aimed at reconciliation with Cuba.

His initiatives toward reconciliation and peace were opposed by the CIA and militarist elements in the government. As reported by the New York Times, Kennedy privately told one of his highest officials he “wanted to splinter the CIA in thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”. Before that could happen, JFK was assassinated, and his policy changes reversed.

From Moscow to Cairo to Jakarta, Kennedy’s death was met with shock and mourning. Leaders in those countries sensed what the assassination meant.

The day after JFK’s funeral, President Johnson supplanted Kennedy’s planned withdrawal from Vietnam with National Security Action Memorandum 273. This resulted in 12 years of aggression and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. Coups were carried out in the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. The U.S. resumed support for South African apartheid and Portuguese colonial wars. Assassination attempts on Fidel Castro escalated while military coups took place in numerous Latin American countries. In the Middle East, the U.S. solidified support for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Jim Douglas, the author of “JFK and the Unspeakable,” writes “President Kennedy’s courageous turn from global war to a strategy of peace provides the “why” of his assassination. “Because he turned toward peace with our enemies, the Communists, he found himself at odds with his own national security state.”

Feature photo | President Kennedy delivers the commencement address at American University, Monday, June 10, 1963. Photo | Public Domain

Rick Sterling is a journalist based in the San Fransico Bay area. He can be reached at rsterling1@protonmail.com

The post JFK and the Strategy of Peace  appeared first on MintPress News.

Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 3:09am in

Tags 

News, CIA, Torture

Even before President-elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Barack Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included repeated waterboarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice-cold water, and rectal rehydration.

For these reasons, among others, the activist groups CODEPINK, Progressive Democrats of America, World Beyond War, and Roots Action have launched a campaign calling on the Senate to reject her confirmation.

These same groups ran successful campaigns to dissuade Biden from choosing two other warmongering candidates for critical foreign policy positions: China-hawk Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense and torture apologist Mike Morell for CIA Director. By hosting calling parties to Senators, launching petitions and publishing Open Letters from DNC delegates, feminists—including Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem—and Guantanamo torture survivors, activists helped derail candidates who were once considered shoo-ins for Biden’s cabinet.

Now activists are challenging Avril Haines.

In 2015, when Haines was CIA Deputy Director, CIA agents illegally hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart the Committee’s investigation into the spy agency’s detention and interrogation program. Haines overruled the CIA’s own Inspector General in failing to discipline the CIA agents who violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. According to former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, she not only shielded the hackers from accountability but even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal.

And there’s more. When the exhaustive 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture was finally complete, after five years of investigation and research, Haines took charge of redacting it to deny the public’s right to know its full details, reducing the document to a 500-page, black-ink-smeared summary.

Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture

Page 45 of the redacted Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture

This censorship went beyond merely “protecting sources and methods”; it avoided CIA embarrassment while ensuring her own career advancement.

Moreover, Haines supported torture apologist Gina Haspel as Trump’s CIA Director. Haspel ran a secret black site prison in Thailand where torture was regularly inflicted. Haspel also drafted the memo ordering the destruction of almost 100 videotapes documenting CIA torture.

As David Segal of Demand Progress told CNN, “Haines has an unfortunate record of repeatedly covering up for torture and torturers. Her push for maximalist redactions of the torture report, her refusal to discipline the CIA personnel who hacked the Senate, and her vociferous support for Gina Haspel — which was even touted by the Trump White House as Democrats stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the then-nominee to lead the CIA — should be interrogated during the confirmation process.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Udall, a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee when it finished the torture report. “If our country is going to turn the page on the dark chapter of our history that was the CIA’s torture program, we need to stop nominating and confirming individuals who led this terrible program and helped cover it up.”

Another reason Haines’s nomination should be rejected is her support for the proliferation of killer drones. There has been a concerted effort by former Obama colleagues to paint Haines as a voice of restraint that tried to pro­tect­ civil­ians. But according to former CIA whistleblower Kiarikou, Haines regularly approved the drone bombings that killed not only suspected terrorists but entire families, including children, who died as collateral damage.” It was Avril that decided whether it was legal to incinerate someone from the sky,” said Kiriakou.

When human rights groups denounced Obama’s rash use of extrajudicial killings, including the assumption that all military-age males in the strike zone were “enemy combatants” and therefore legitimate targets, Haines was enlisted to co-author a new “pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy guid­ance” to tighten the regulations. But this new “guidance,” issued on May 22, 2013, continued to blur the line between civilians and combatants, nor­mal­izing tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions and effectively repudiating the “presumption of innocence” that has been the bedrock principle of civilian law for over 800 years.

The drone playbook, “PROCEDURES FOR APPROVING DIRECT ACTION AGAINST TERRORIST TARGETS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES AND AREAS OF ACTIVE HOSTILITIES,” says on page 1 that any “direct action must be conducted lawfully and taken against lawful targets,” yet the guidelines never reference international or domestic laws that define when extrajudicial killings outside of an active war zone are permitted.

On page 4, the guidelines for drone strikes allow for lethal action against those who are not “high-value targets,” without explaining the criteria the CIA would use to identify someone as an imminent threat to the security of the United States. On page 12, the co-authors, Haines among them, redacted the minimum profile requirements for an individual “nominated” for lethal action. The very term “nominated” suggests an effort to sugarcoat targeted assassination, as though the bombing target is recommended for a U.S. presidential cabinet position. [NOTE: You might (somewhat sarcastically) want to put “[sic]” after the first use of the word “nominated”]

Page 12 of Haines’s guidelines for extrajudicial killings.

Page 12 of Haines’s guidelines for extrajudicial killings. Required generic profile entries for individuals “nominated” for lethal action are redacted

Moreover, the guidelines themselves were often totally disregarded. The policy states, for example, that the U.S. “prioritizes, as a matter of policy, the capture of terrorist suspects as a preferred option over lethal action” and that lethal action should be taken “only when capture of an individual is not feasible.” But the Obama administration did nothing of the sort. Under George Bush, at least 780 terrorist suspects were captured and thrown into the U.S.-run gulag in Guantanamo. Haines’s guidelines prohibit transfer to Guantanamo so, instead, suspects were simply incinerated.

The guidelines required “near certainty that non-combatants will not be killed or injured,” but this requirement was routinely violated, as documented by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Haines’s policy guidance also states that the U.S. would respect other states’ sovereignty, only undertaking lethal action when other governments “cannot or will not” address a threat to the U.S. This, too, became simply empty words on paper. The U.S. barely even consulted with the governments in whose territory it was dropping bombs and, in the case of Pakistan, openly defied the government. In December 2013, the National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously approved a resolution against U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, calling them a violation of “the charter of the United Nations, international laws and humanitarian norms” and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated: “The use of drones is not only a continual violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country.” But the U.S. ignored the pleas of Pakistan’s elected government.

The proliferation of drone killings under Obama, from Yemen to Somalia, also violated U.S. law, which gives Congress the sole authority to authorize military conflict. But Obama’s legal team, which included Haines, circumvented the law by insisting that these military interventions fell under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the law Congress passed to target Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This specious argument provided fodder for the out-of-control misuse of that 2001 AUMF which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has been relied on to justify U.S. military action at least 41 times in 19 countries.

In addition, the guidelines don’t even require the CIA and other agencies participating in the drone program to notify the President, the Commander-in-Chief, as to who is to be killed in a drone strike, except when a targeted individual is a U.S. citizen or when the agencies in charge cannot agree on the target.

There are many other reasons to reject Haines. She advocates intensifying crippling economic sanctions on North Korea that undermine a negotiated peace, and “regime change”–hypothetically engineered by a U.S. ally–that could leave a collapsed North Korea vulnerable to terrorist theft of its nuclear material; she was a consultant at WestExec Advisors, a firm that exploits insider government connections to help companies secure plum Pentagon contracts; and she was a consultant with Palantir, a data-mining company that facilitated Trump’s mass deportations of immigrants.

But Haines’s record on torture and drones, alone, should be enough for  Senators to reject her nomination. The unassuming spy—who got her start at the White House as a legal adviser in the Bush State Department in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq—might look and sound more like your favorite college professor than someone who enabled murder by remote control or wielded a thick black pen to cover-up CIA torture, but a clear examination of her past should convince the Senate that Haines is unfit for high office in an administration that promises to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for international law.

Tell your Senator: Vote NO on Haines.

Feature photo | Avril Haines speaks during a session on “The Rise of Techno Nationalism” at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2019. Ciaran McCrickard | WEC | CC

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. In 2013 she directly confronted President Obama about his drone killings.

Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America served as a 2020 DNC Delegate for Bernie Sanders and co-founded the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Coordinator of CODEPINKCONGRESS, Marcy spearheads Capitol Hill calling parties to mobilize co-sponsors and votes for progressive foreign policy legislation.

The post Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence appeared first on MintPress News.

No, Joe, Don’t Roll out the Red Carpet for Torture Enablers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 2:08am in

It was painful enough to live through the U.S invasion of Iraq that caused untold devastation and human misery for no justifiable reason.

Now we are again reminded of the grim Bush legacy with President-elect Biden’s nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines, who has an inside-the-beltway reputation for being nice and soft spoken, was a little too nice to CIA agents who hacked the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee investigators looking into the CIA use of torture–waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, rectal feeding, whippings, sexual humiliation–at prisons in Guatanamo and Afghanistan during the Bush War on Terror.

As Deputy Director of the CIA in the Obama administration, Haines chose not to discipline those CIA hackers who violated the separation of powers, crossing the boundary line and beaching the firewall between the executive and legislative branches. To add insult to injury, Haines led the team that redacted an exhaustive 5-year, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture until it was reduced to a censored, 500-page summary smeared with black ink to cover up the screaming horrors and shield those responsible.

That’s why torture survivors and their advocates have just released a damning Open Letter urging Senators to vote NO on Haines when her nomination lands in their laps in mid-January or February after the cyber pomp and circumstance of a virtual Presidential inauguration. The letter, signed by several decade-long detainee/survivors of torture at Guantanamo, also objects to the possible nomination of Mike Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush, for CIA Director.

“Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA’s standing and give the world’s dictators succor and comfort,” said.

Djamel Ameziane, a Guantanamo detainee from Algeria who was tortured and held without charge from 2002-2013, until he was finally released from prison.

Morell’s traction may be on the wane with the Biden administration, however, after progressives launched a campaign against Morell, the former Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, and Senator Ron Wyden—a powerful Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee—called him a “torture apologist” and said his appointment to head the CIA was a “non starter.”

Objections to Morell include his defense of the Agency’s “enhanced interrogation” practices: mock drownings, “walling” — repeatedly slamming prisoners against a wall, whipping detainees with electrical cords, dumping freezing cold water on detainees naked except for diapers.

Morell refused to call these practices torture. “I don’t like calling it torture for one simple reason: to call it torture says my guys were torturers,” Morell admitted to Vice reporters in 2015. “I’m gonna defend my guys till my last breath,” said Morell, who put his CIA buddies above truth, the law and basic decency.

Morell doesn’t call it torture, but Guantanamo survivor Moazzam Begg knows exactly what torture is. Begg, who signed a false confession while tortured, is Outreach Director for CAGE, a UK-based organization serving communities hard hit by the War on Terror. Begg recollects his days in US custody. “They tied me up with my hands behind my back to my legs, kicked me in the head, kicked me in the back, threatened to take me to Egypt to be tortured, to be raped, to be electrocuted. They had a woman screaming in the next room whom I believed at that time was my wife. They bought pictures of my children and told me I would never see them again.”

Contrary to the Senate report and the CIA’s own internal review, Morell justified the torture by insisting that it was effective in thwarting future plots against Americans. Senate staffers said Morell got names, dates and facts all mixed up, and was dead wrong on the effectiveness of torture.

Torture Survivor and award-winning writer Mansoor Adayfi, sold to US forces in Afghanistan for bounty money and imprisoned without charge at Guantanamo for 14 years, knows firsthand that torture doesn’t work. “In Guantanamo, when they put you under very bad circumstances—like 72 hours under very cold air conditioning, and you are tied to the ground and someone comes and pours cold water on you—you are going to tell them whatever they want you to say. I will sign anything, I will admit anything!”

In addition to soft-pedaling the use of torture, Morell helped shield the abusers from accountability by defending the CIA’s 2005 destruction of nearly 90 videotapes of the brutal interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees in CIA black sites.

Progressives should know soon whether Morell’s cozy relationship with Bush-era CIA agents buries his nomination for good.

Biden is expected to nominate his candidate for CIA director any day now. For Jeffrey Kaye, author of Cover-Up at Guantanamo and a signatory to the Open Letter, the President-Elect must pass on Morell and the Senate must reject Haines. “Morell and Haines have put loyalty to CIA torturers above adherence to US treaties and domestic law, as well as basic morality. To allow them to serve in government would send a message to all that accountability for torture is passé, and that war crimes will always be dismissed with a wink from those in high office.”

Other signatories to the letter objecting to Morell and Haines include:

  • Mohamedou Ould Salahi, Guantanamo prisoner held without charge for 14 years; beaten, force fed, deprived of sleep; released in 2016, author, Guantánamo Diary;
  • Major Todd Pierce (U.S. Army, Retired), Judge Advocate General attorney on the defense teams for Guantánamo military commissions defendants;
  • Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US missionary, teacher of Mayan children, who was tortured by members of the CIA-funded Guatemalan army;
  • Carlos Mauricio, College professor kidnapped and tortured by US-backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador; Executive Director: Stop Impunity Project;
  • Roy Bourgeois, Roman Catholic priest who founded School of the Americas Watch to protest US training Latin American military officers in torture techniques;
  • Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Whistleblower and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell;
  • John Kiriakou, former CIA officer imprisoned after exposing classified information about CIA waterboarding;
  • Roger Waters, musician formerly with Pink Floyd, whose song “Each Small Candle” is a tribute to a torture victim.

Progressives have been lobbying against the inclusion of torture apologists in the Biden administration since the August Democratic National Convention, when 450 delegates delivered a letter to Biden urging him to hire new foreign policy advisors and reject Haines. CODEPINK later launched a petition signed by over 4,000, and organized Capitol Hill calling parties with Muslim Delegates and Allies to leave “No on Haines, No on Morell,” messages at the offices of Senate Intelligence Committee members slated to question Haines during confirmation hearings.

For months, Morell was considered the frontrunner for CIA director, but opposition to his disgraceful defense of torture has cast a pall on his nomination. Now anti-war activists say they want to make sure his nomination is off the table, and that Biden and the Senate also understand Avril Haines must be rejected for her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture.

There’s more, too.

Both Morell and Haines supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to CIA Director — a nomination that then-Senator Kamala Harris, other prominent Democrats, and Senator John McCain vigorously opposed. Haspel supervised a black site prison in Thailand and drafted the memo authorizing the destruction of CIA videotapes documenting torture.

In the words of Colonel Wilkerson, Chief of Staff for Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell , “Kidnapping, torture and assassination have no place in a democracy and turn the CIA into a secret police … Abuses of the kind documented in the Senate’s report could happen again.”

And they could–if Biden and the Senate elevate torture apologists and whitewashers to the White House.

We need intelligence leaders who acknowledge that torture is illegal under international law; that is inhumane; that it is ineffective; that it puts at risk U.S. military personnel captured by adversaries. The American people must send a clear message to President-elect Biden that we will not accept torture enablers in his administration.

Feature photo | President-elect Joe Biden’s Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines removes her face mask to speak at The Queen Theater, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Carolyn Kaster | AP

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. She has participated in anti-torture protests outside the Guantanamo Prison in Cuba, at the White House and in Congressional hearings.

Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America served as a 2020 DNC Delegate for Bernie Sanders and co-founded the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Coordinator of CODEPINKCONGRESS, Marcy spearheads Capitol Hill calling parties to mobilize co-sponsors and votes for peace and foreign policy legislation.

The post No, Joe, Don’t Roll out the Red Carpet for Torture Enablers appeared first on MintPress News.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

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