VaticanJULY 2, 2013

Three men, including a senior Vatican official and a police officer with ties to the Italian Secret Service, have been arrested on charges of plotting to smuggle millions of euros out of Switzerland. Among the men arrested by Italian police on Friday is Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a senior accountant at the Holy See’s Institute for the Works of Religion, which is the Vatican’s highest financial institution. Along with Father Scarano, Italian authorities arrested Giovanni Maria Zito, an officer in the Arma dei carabinieri, Italy’s national military police force, who was previously detailed to the country’s domestic intelligence service, the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Interna (AISI). The third accused co-conspirator is Giovanni Carenzio, a successful securities broker based primarily in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. All three have been charged with corruption, for plotting to smuggle nearly €20 million ($26 million) in cash, from Switzerland into Italy. According to Nello Rossi, chief prosecutor in the corruption investigation, evidence collected from targeted communications interceptions seems to indicate that the smuggled funds belonged to the d’Amico family of shipping magnates, owners of d’Amico International Shipping, which is based in Salerno, Italy. The plan, allegedly hatched last summer by the three men, was to hire a private airplane and use it to carry the €20 million in cash from Locarno, Switzerland, to Italy. The currency was to be carried in suitcases by Zito. As an intelligence officer with diplomatic credentials, Zito was not subject to searches at international borders, and thus would be able to evade financial regulations. However, Italian prosecutors said the plan fell through when the three plotters “lost their nerve [and] began bickering” amongst each other. Financial corruption scandals are regular occurrences at the Vatican, whose banking institutions are notorious as secretive money-laundering centers frequently used by the Mafia and other crime syndicates. In a statement last week, the Holy See’s spokesman, Monsignor Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was eager to “confirm its willingness for full collaboration” with Italian authorities and InterPol, and that it would “take the appropriate measures” to assist in any investigation into the matter.

June 25, 2013

A friend of Michael Hastings told Fox News today that the Rolling Stone journalist was working on the “the biggest story yet” about the CIA before his suspicious death and that Hastings drove “like a grandma,” making it extremely out of character for him to be speeding in the early hours of the morning.

Sgt. Joe Biggs told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that “something didn’t feel right” after Hastings sent a panicked email saying the authorities were on his tail, adding that the story of him driving at high speed in the early hours of the morning was completely out of character.

“His friends and family that know him, everyone says he drives like a grandma, so that right there doesn’t seem like something he’d be doing, there’s no way that he’d be acting erratic like that and driving out of control,” said Biggs, adding that “things don’t add up, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Biggs said he had contacted Mercedes asking them if it was normal for their cars to “blow up to that extent” and for the engine to fly out 100 feet from the site of the crash.

Biggs also confirmed that Hastings was working on a story about the CIA and that it was “going to be the biggest story yet.”

As we reported yesterday, questions surrounding the death of Hastings are not only the domain of conspiracy theorists. Former counter-terror czar under two different presidents Richard Clarke told the Huffington Post that the fatal crash of Hastings’ Mercedes C250 Coupe was “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

“So if there were a cyber attack on the car — and I’m not saying there was,” he said, adding “I think whoever did it would probably get away with it,” and that “intelligence agencies for major powers” have such capabilities.

Clarke’s speculation that Hastings’ vehicle could have been remotely hijacked is echoed by Salon.com’s Andrew Leonard, who cites two studies by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, “Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Vehicle,” and “Comprehensive Experimental Analyses of Automotive Attack Surfaces.”

The studies detail how “it is a relatively trivial exercise to access the computer systems of a modern car and take control away from the driver.”

Questions about the circumstances behind Hastings’ death have persisted because he made a number of enemies in positions of power.

After Wikileaks reported that Hastings had contacted them in the hours before his death complaining about being under investigation by the FBI, the federal agency denied the claim.

According to Hastings’ colleague Cenk Uygur, the writer was, “incredibly tense and very worried, and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” and also a “nervous wreck” in response to the surveillance of journalists revealed by the AP phone tapping scandal and the NSA PRISM scandal.

BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith added that Hastings had told friends and family “he was concerned that he was under investigation.”

Another close friend who wishes to remain anonymous said that Hastings was “very paranoid that he was being watched by the FBI.”

It subsequently emerged that Hastings had written a panicked email shortly before his death telling his friends and colleagues that he was going into hiding to escape the attention of the authorities.

“Hey — the feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates,” the message said. “Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the [radar] for a bit.”

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Foxnews.com

On the eve of an infamous presentation Anwar al-Awlaki gave at the Pentagon in 2002, the Al Qaeda operative was busy preparing — with a prostitute he paid $400 for at a Washington hotel.

It was one of more than a half-dozen liaisons Awlaki had with prostitutes between late 2001 and early 2002, while he was under FBI surveillance, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and reviewed exclusively by Fox News.

The documents shed new light on the double life the American-born Awlaki was leading, while living in the Washington area and working as an imam at a mosque in Falls Church, Va.

In the years before he became publicly associated with Al Qaeda and was targeted for death by the U.S. government, Awlaki was by turns welcomed and investigated by different arms of the government — not just over his radical ties, but his predilection for prostitutes.

Yet there is no indication he was ever brought up on charges, leading Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton to question why the cleric seemed to have a “protected status.”

One document obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, was a June 2002 memo from FBI Assistant Director Pasquale D’Amuro detailing Awlaki’s encounters with prostitutes in the D.C. area. The memo appeared to propose charges against him, claiming he spent $2,320 on seven different occasions between Nov. 5, 2001, and Feb. 4, 2002.

It described in detail an interview with the “escort” who saw him on Feb. 4, the day before he was scheduled to have lunch at the Pentagon as an invited guest.

She claimed she had a 5 p.m. appointment with him that day, and when he arrived at her room, “she looked through the ‘peep’ hole … and thought to herself that he looked like Osama bin Laden.”

She later identified him as Awlaki.

He paid $400 for sex, the memo said. He was described by the escort as “very polite.” Awlaki, who has a record with prostitutes — he was booked in San Diego on charges of soliciting prostitutes in the late ’90s — also told the escort that he likes to use escort services when he travels to Florida, according to the memo.

The memo described in graphic detail the services rendered for Awlaki during that period. One prostitute described a December 2001 encounter where Awlaki paid $300, in order to watch “as she engaged in erotic behavior and stimulated herself.”

They met again, for the same activities, in mid-January 2002, according to the document.

Fox News was first to report in 2010 that Awlaki was invited to the Pentagon within months of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as part of an outreach effort with supposedly moderate Muslims.

Awlaki would later emerge as a major mouthpiece for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, being linked to recent attacks including the Fort Hood shooting as well as the attempted Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound flight.

He was the first American known to be included on the government’s kill-or-capture list. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.

One document obtained by Judicial Watch also depicted what was described by the group as a “computer database record” retrieved in February 2002, before his Pentagon lunch. It listed Awlaki’s name and included the warning to “approach with caution,” listing him under the heading of “terrorist organization member.”

Fitton said the new documents raise questions about the relationship between Awlaki and the U.S. government.

“One can fairly conclude that the al-Qaeda mastermind had some type of ‘protected status’ with our government — despite his terrorist and criminal activities,” Fitton said. “We knew from days after the attacks on the World Trade Centers that (Awlaki) was a dangerous character, so why did it take the government ten years to bring him to justice?”

Fox News asked the FBI for comment, specifically on why Awlaki apparently was not prosecuted and whether the information on his alleged liaisons was shared with the Pentagon. The FBI has not yet commented on the documents.

Read Full Article 

CNN just a couple of months ago confirmed that contractors hired by the Pentagon were in fact training the terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.

And now we have a statement by a United Nations Independent Commission, which has confirmed unequivocally — and it was revealed on the same day — that the terrorists who are backed by the United States and its allies, they are in possession of deadly sarin nerve gas, which they are using against the civilian population.”

Pentagon Contractors trained Syrian Terrorists to use Chemical Weapons http://real-agenda.com/2013/05/09/pen…

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michael Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, Montreal about the statement made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Syria is able to face Israel. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/05/…

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra – The well-resourced organisation, which is linked to al-Qaida, is luring many anti-Assad fighters awayhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/…

It’s Dishonest to Talk about Benghazi Without Talking About the Syrian War http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/0…

U.S. ex-soldier charged with using RPG for al Qaeda grouphttp://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/28/jus…

June 15th, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.(Reuters / Yuri Gripas)U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.(Reuters / Yuri Gripas)

 

The use of chemical weapons by Damascus and Hezbollah involvement in Syria risks derailing a political settlement to the conflict, John Kerry warned. His comments follow reports the CIA is preparing to funnel arms to rebel forces via Jordan and Turkey.

The US State Department issued a statement on Saturday condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its lack of commitment to a negotiated settlement after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with his Iraqi counterpart the previous day.

“The secretary reaffirmed that the United States continues to work aggressively for a political solution with the goal of a second Geneva meeting, but that the use of chemical weapons and increasing involvement of Hezbollah demonstrates the regime’s lack of commitment to negotiations and threatens to put a political settlement out of reach,” the department said.

The statement further noted it’s appreciation for Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who issued a June 11 statement “discouraging Iraqis from joining the fight in Syria.”

Kerry, who expressed concern over the “increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict on both sides,”asked Zebari to take “every possible measure to help end the military resupply of the Assad regime and thereby increase the pressure that will be necessary to advance a political solution.”

On Thursday, the Obama Administration said it would reverse US policy of not providing lethal aid to rebel fighters after claiming the Syrian government had crossed a red line by allegedly deploying chemical weapons against opposition forces on four separate occasions.

Syrian rebels take position in a house during clashes with regime froces in the old city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)Syrian rebels take position in a house during clashes with regime froces in the old city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov characterized the evidence provided by the United States regarding the use of chemical weapons by Damascus as “unconvincing.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also warned the US against sending rebel factions in Syria the“wrong signals” with promises of increased military aid, a move which would shift their focus on“escalating the fight instead of starting a dialogue.”

However, the US said the arms shipments would begin within a matter of weeks, with the CIA acting as the middleman between Washington and the opposition’s Supreme Military Council.

CIA to arm rebels via Jordan, Turkey?

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that clandestine bases in Jordan and Turkey would serve as conduits for arms being delivered to the rebel fighters amidst fears American armaments would fall into the hands of Syria’s many Islamist factions.

Despite concerns expressed by US intelligence officials last year, Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on Friday the US is capable of delivering arms “not only into the country,”Rhodes said, but “into the right hands.”

“The Syrian puzzle has come into sharper focus in the past year, especially the makeup of various anti-regime groups,” one US official familiar with CIA assessments of the conflict told the Post on condition of anonymity. “And while the opposition remains far from monolithic, its military structures and coordination processes have improved.”

Such reassurances have had little impact on the Obama administrations reticence towards providing antitank or antiaircraft weapons to rebel groups, as the initial deliveries will include light arms and other munitions.

Syrian rebels of the Suqur Ali bin Aba Talib brigade prepare to launch a rocket from the roof of a building during ongoing clashes with regime forces.(AFP Photo / Zac Baillie) Syrian rebels of the Suqur Ali bin Aba Talib brigade prepare to launch a rocket from the roof of a building during ongoing clashes with regime forces.(AFP Photo / Zac Baillie)

US military leaders have previously stated that tracking heavy weaponry delivered to rebel groups such as MANPADs — man-portable air-defense systems – remained unreliable.

Obama’s decision to approve CIA weapons shipments could also signal green light to regional allies like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to provide such heavy weaponry despite concerns such armaments could be used against civilian aviation targets by terrorist groups.

US diplomats have also intonated that Washington might impose a no-fly zone “to help Assad’s opponents.”

No-fly zone looming?

The Pentagon on Saturday confirmed suspicions that F-16 fighter jets and Patriot anti-missile systems which were deployed to Jordan as part of the joint 12-day Eager Lion exercise would remain in the country once the annual training event concluded.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “has approved a request from the Kingdom of Jordan for a detachment of F-16s and Patriot Missiles to remain in Jordan following the conclusion of the Eager Lion Exercise next week,” Reuters cites Pentagon spokesman George Little as saying in a statement.

“All other US personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise,”
 the statement continued.

Two patriot missile batteries.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez) Two patriot missile batteries.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

Lavrov said that any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using the F-16s and missile batteries would be in clear violation of international law.

“There have been leaks from Western media regarding the serious consideration to create a no-fly zone over Syria through the deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 jets in Jordan,”
 Lavrov said.

“You don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law,” Russia’s top diplomat continued.

Washington’s willingness for more direct engagement in the Syrian conflict comes ahead of the
Geneva II peace conference set for July.

From December 4th, 2012

The war on drugs has claimed the lives of thousands on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Although many critics blame America’s policies for fueling the fire, they aren’t too far off. Of the arms seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, over 70 percent of of them have originated from the US. Matthew Feeney, associate editor for Reason.com, gives his take on the war south of the border on how the US can help end the violence.

The top-secret ‘Q Group’ has been chasing Edward Snowden since he disappeared in May. Eli Lake on the intel community’s internal police—and why the agency is in ‘complete freakout mode.’

Even before last week’s revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency.

NSA
Edward Snowden’s (inset) disappearance in May was immediately noticed by the NSA. (Patrick Semansky/AP; inset: Getty)

On Sunday, The Guardian revealed its sourcea 29-year-old former U.S. Army soldier and CIA employee named Edward Snowden. Snowden—who worked as a contract employee at an NSA station in Hawaii—said he agreed to have his identity revealed because he feared that the NSA would put pressure on his family and his friends for information about his whereabouts. From a hotel in Hong Kong, he toldThe Guardian he expected he would never be allowed to return home and that he could end up imprisoned or murdered because of his decision to leak.

The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as “the Q Group,” is continuing to track Snowden now that he’s outed himself as The Guardian’s source, according to the intelligence officers. Snowden began final preparations for his departure three weeks ago, The Guardian reports, copying the final documents he intended to share, telling his supervisor that he would need time off for medical treatment, and his girlfriend simply that he would be away. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world,” he told the paper in his interview from Hong Kong.

The security and counterintelligence directorate serves as the NSA’s internal police force, in effect watching the agency’s watchers for behavior that could pose an intelligence risk. It has the authority to interview an NSA contractor or employee’s known associates, and even to activate a digital dragnet capable of finding out where a target travels, what the target has purchased, and the target’s online activity.

“We have seen the latest report from The Guardian that identifies an individual claiming to have disclosed information about highly classified intelligence programs in recent days,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence spokesperson Shawn Turner said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Intelligence Community is currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures. Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.”

The directorate serves as the NSA’s internal police force, in effect watching the agency’s watchers.

“It informs our adversaries. It puts American companies at risk internationally for simply complying with our laws,” said Mike Hayden, a former director of the NSA and a former director of the CIA. “It teaches practically everyone in the world—sources, liaison services—that America can’t keep secrets.”

The impact of the leak inside the NSA has been enormous. “There is complete freakout mode at the agency right now,” one former intelligence officer tells The Daily Beast. “There has never been anything like this in terms of the speed of referral of a crime report to the Justice Department. Normally this kind of thing takes weeks and weeks.”

Snowden’s disappearance in May was immediately noticed by the directorate, and when The Guardian published the first court order and then documents associated with a program called PRISM, Snowden immediately became the leading suspect in the leak, the intelligence sources said, adding that the FBI was now investigating the leak as well.

In Congress, some members have already called for the United States to pursue Snowden’s extradition and prosecute him for his unauthorized disclosures. “If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,” Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, said in a statement Sunday.

Hayden dismissed the criticism that terrorists already knew the NSA was collecting vast amounts of telephone metadata before Snowden’s leak.

“Let me get this right: I got a religious fanatic in the cave in the Hindu Kush, yet this is a front-page, above-the-fold story and he already knew this?” he asked rhetorically. “That does not make sense. It will teach guys to be far more cautious in the future.”

The former U.S. intelligence officers, however, said the case is already being treated as a potential defection. “I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom,” Snowden told The Guardian. “Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech.”

The former U.S. intelligence officers, though, compared Snowden with William Hamilton Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell, two NSA cryptologists who defected to the Soviet Union on June 25, 1960. Both held a press conference at the time where they disclosed U.S. spying programs from Moscow. An NSA assessment of that defection a few years later called it the worst intelligence breach in the history of the NSA—a mark that may have just been passed.

Press officers for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment for this story.