Archive for January, 2013

This film presents an account of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) activities that had previously been covert, including actions in Iran, Vietnam, Laos, the Congo, Cuba, and Guatemala. The film includes interviews with CIA director Allen Dulles and Dick Bissel.

About the CIA:
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, with responsibility for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers. Intelligence-gathering is performed by non-military commissioned civilian intelligence agents, many of whom are trained to avoid tactical situations. The CIA also oversees and sometimes engages in tactical and covert activities at the request of the President of the United States. Often, when such field operations are organized, the U.S. military or other warfare tacticians carry these tactical operations out on behalf of the agency while the CIA oversees them. Although intelligence-gathering is the agency’s main agenda, tactical divisions were established in the agency to carry out emergency field operations that require immediate suppression or dismantling of a threat or weapon.

The CIA succeeded the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), formed during World War II to coordinate espionage activities against the Axis Powers for the branches of the United States Armed Forces. The National Security Act of 1947 established the CIA, affording it “no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad”. Through interagency cooperation, the CIA has Cooperative Security Locations at its disposal. These locations are called “lily pads” by the Air Force. The primary function of the CIA is to collect information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to advise public policymakers, but it does conduct emergency tactical operations and carries out covert operations, and exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division. The CIA and its responsibilities changed markedly in 2004. Before December 2004, the CIA was the main intelligence organization of the U.S. government; it was responsible for coordinating the activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) as a whole. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 created the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which took over management and leadership of the IC.

Sometimes, the CIA is referred to euphemistically in government and military parlance as Other Government Agency (OGA), particularly when its operations in a particular area are an open secret. Other terms include The Company, Langley, and The Agency.

CIA in the early Cold War-era (1953–1966):

Allen Dulles, who had been a key OSS operations officer in Switzerland during World War II, took over from Smith, at a time where U.S. policy was dominated by intense anticommunism. Various sources existed, the most visible being the investigations and abuses of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the more quiet but systematic containment doctrine developed by George Kennan, the Berlin Blockade and the Korean War. Dulles enjoyed a high degree of flexibility, as his brother, John Foster Dulles, was simultaneously Secretary of State.

During this period, there were numerous covert actions against left-wing movements perceived as communist. The CIA overthrew a foreign government for the first time during the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, at the request of Winston Churchill. Some of the largest operations were aimed at Cuba after the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, including assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. There have been suggestions that the Soviet attempt to put missiles into Cuba came, indirectly, when they realized how badly they had been compromised by a U.S.-UK defector in place, Oleg Penkovsky. One of the biggest operations ever undertaken by the CIA was directed at Zaire in support of Mobutu Sese Seko. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Intelligence_Agency

Is the Pentagon behind the operations in Mali?

 

A Bahraini Shiite protester is detained by riot police during a demonstration in September 2012. The U.S. has long sold military equipment to the small Mideast nation’s government. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/GettyImages)

Jan. 15, 2013

Despite Bahrain’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the U.S. has continued to provide weapons and maintenance to the small Mideast nation.

Defense Department documents released to ProPublica give the fullest picture yet of the arms sales: The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system. (Read the documents.)

The documents, which were provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and cover a yearlong period ending in February 2012, still leave many questions unanswered. It’s not clear whether in each case the arms listed have been delivered. And some entries that only cite the names of weapons may in fact refer to maintenance or spare parts.

Defense Department spokesman Paul Ebner declined to offer any more detail. “We won’t get into specifics in any of these because of the security of Bahrain,” said Ebner.

While the U.S. has maintained it is selling Bahrain arms only for external defense, human rights advocates say the documents raise questions about items that could be used against civilian protesters.

“The U.S. government should not be providing additional military equipment that could make matters worse,” said Sunjeev Bery, Middle East advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

There have been reports that Bahrain used American-made helicopters to fire on protesters in the most intense period of the crackdown. Time magazine reported in mid-March 2011 that Cobra helicopters had conducted “live ammunition air strikes” on protesters.

The new Defense Department list of arms sales has two entries related to “AH-1F Cobra Helicopters” in March and April 2011. Neither the exact equipment or services being sold nor the delivery timetable are specified.

The U.S. is also playing a training role: In April 2012, for example, the Army News Service reported that an American team specializing in training foreign militaries to use equipment purchased from the U.S. was in Bahrain to help with Blackhawk helicopters.

Bahrain’s ambassador to the U.S., Houda Nonoo, said the country’s military has not targeted protestors. Bahrain’s military “exists to combat external threats,” Nonoo told ProPublica. “[T]he potential for U.S. foreign arms sales to be used against protestors in the future is remote.”

The Obama administration has stood by Bahrain’s ruling family, who are Sunni, during nearly two years of protests by the country’s majority Shia population. Bahrain is a longtime ally and the home to a large American naval base, which is considered particularly important amid the current tensions with nearby Iran.

The itemized arms sales list does not include dollar values but a separate document says military equipment worth $51 million was delivered to Bahrain in the year starting in October 2010. (That period includes several months before the protests began.)

The U.S. has long sold weapons to Bahrain, totaling $1.4 billion since 2000, according to the State Department. The sales didn’t come under scrutiny until security forces killed at least 19 people in the early months of the crackdown in 2011. (Dozens have died since then.)

The administration put a hold on one proposed sale of Humvees and missiles in Fall 2011 following congressional criticism. But Foreign Policy reported that other unspecified equipment was still being sold without any public notification.

The new documents offer more details on what was sold during that period — including entries related to a “Blackhawk helicopter armament” in November 2011 and a missile system in January 2012.

In May 2012, the administration announced it was releasing some unspecified items to Bahrain’s military that “are not used for crowd control” while maintaining a hold on the Humvees and TOW missiles.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay told ProPublica, “We continue to withhold the export of lethal and crowd-control items intended predominately for internal security purposes, and have resumed on a case-by-case basis items related exclusively to external defense, counter-terrorism, and the protection of U.S. forces.”

The U.S. has also sold Bahrain a helicopter fit for the royal family.

In September, Missouri-based aviation services firm Sabreliner reported that, as part of an official government arms sale, it delivered to Bahrain a fully customized UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter for “a variety of missions including transporting heads of state.” The aircraft was outfitted with a “clam shell door” for ease of entry, a “new VIP interior,” and a “custom Royal Bahraini” paintjob.

In other recent developments in Bahrain, the country’s highest court this month upheldlengthy prison sentences for 13 high-profile activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

In a rare occurrence in November, a series of homemade bombs were set off in the capital of Manama, killing two and leading some observers to argue that the opposition is growing more militant. Also in November, an Amnesty International report found that despite government promises, “the reform process has been shelved and repression unleashed.”

A crime scene in Monterrey, Mexico, last week. Drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people since late 2006, Mexican officials say.

Published: December 3, 2011

WASHINGTON — Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.

Agency officials declined to publicly discuss details of their work, citing concerns about compromising their investigations. But Michael S. Vigil, a former senior agency official who is currently working for a private contracting company called Mission Essential Personnel, said, “We tried to make sure there was always close supervision of these operations so that we were accomplishing our objectives, and agents weren’t laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”

Another former agency official, who asked not to be identified speaking publicly about delicate operations, said, “My rule was that if we are going to launder money, we better show results. Otherwise, the D.E.A. could wind up being the largest money launderer in the business, and that money results in violence and deaths.”

Those are precisely the kinds of concerns members of Congress have raised about a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed people suspected of being low-level smugglers to buy and transport guns across the border in the hope that they would lead to higher-level operatives working for Mexican cartels. After the agency lost track of hundreds of weapons, some later turned up in Mexico; two were found on the United States side of the border where an American Border Patrol agent had been shot to death.

Former D.E.A. officials rejected comparisons between letting guns and money walk away. Money, they said, poses far less of a threat to public safety. And unlike guns, it can lead more directly to the top ranks of criminal organizations.

“These are not the people whose faces are known on the street,” said Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent and the author of a book about his years as an undercover agent inside the Medellín cartel in Colombia. “They are super-insulated. And the only way to get to them is to follow their money.”

Another former drug agency official offered this explanation for the laundering operations: “Building up the evidence to connect the cash to drugs, and connect the first cash pickup to a cartel’s command and control, is a very time consuming process. These people aren’t running a drugstore in downtown L.A. that we can go and lock the doors and place a seizure sticker on the window. These are sophisticated, international operations that practice very tight security. And as far as the Mexican cartels go, they operate in a corrupt country, from cities that the cops can’t even go into.”

The laundering operations that the United States conducts elsewhere — about 50 so-called Attorney General Exempt Operations are under way around the world — had been forbidden in Mexico after American customs agents conducted a cross-border sting without notifying Mexican authorities in 1998, which was how most American undercover work was conducted there up to that point.

But that changed in recent years after President Felipe Calderóndeclared war against the country’s drug cartels and enlisted the United States to play a leading role in fighting them because of concerns that his security forces had little experience and long histories of corruption.

Today, in operations supervised by the Justice Department and orchestrated to get around sovereignty restrictions, the United States is running numerous undercover laundering investigations against Mexico’s most powerful cartels. One D.E.A. official said it was not unusual for American agents to pick up two or three loads of Mexican drug money each week. A second official said that as Mexican cartels extended their operations from Latin America to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the reach of the operations had grown as well. When asked how much money had been laundered as a part of the operations, the official would only say, “A lot.”

“If you’re going to get into the business of laundering money,” the official added, “then you have to be able to launder money.”

Former counternarcotics officials, who also would speak only on the condition of anonymity about clandestine operations, offered a clearer glimpse of their scale and how they worked. In some cases, the officials said, Mexican agents, posing as smugglers and accompanied by American authorities, pick up traffickers’ cash in Mexico. American agents transport the cash on government flights to the United States, where it is deposited into traffickers’ accounts, and then wired to companies that provide goods and services to the cartel.

In other cases, D.E.A. agents, posing as launderers, pick up drug proceeds in the United States, deposit them in banks in this country and then wire them to the traffickers in Mexico.

The former officials said that the drug agency tried to seize as much money as it laundered — partly in the fees the operatives charged traffickers for their services and another part in carefully choreographed arrests at pickup points identified by their undercover operatives.

And the former officials said that federal law enforcement agencies had to seek Justice Department approval to launder amounts greater than $10 million in any single operation. But they said that the cap was treated more as a guideline than a rule, and that it had been waived on many occasions to attract the interest of high-value targets.

“They tell you they’re bringing you $250,000, and they bring you a million,” one former agent said of the traffickers. “What’s the agent supposed to do then, tell them no, he can’t do it? They’ll kill him.”

It is not clear whether such operations are worth the risks. So far there are few signs that following the money has disrupted the cartels’ operations, and little evidence that Mexican drug traffickers are feeling any serious financial pain. Last year, the D.E.A. seized about $1 billion in cash and drug assets, while Mexico seized an estimated $26 million in money laundering investigations, a tiny fraction of the estimated $18 billion to $39 billion in drug money that flows between the countries each year.

Mexico has tightened restrictions on large cash purchases and on bank deposits in dollars in the past five years. But a proposed overhaul of the Mexican attorney general’s office has stalled, its architects said, as have proposed laws that would crack down on money laundered through big corporations and retail chains.

“Mexico still thinks the best way to seize dirty money is to arrest a trafficker, then turn him upside down to see how much change falls out of his pockets,” said Sergio Ferragut, a professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and the author of a book on money laundering, which he said was “still a sensitive subject for Mexican authorities.”

Mr. Calderón boasts that his government’s efforts — deploying the military across the country — have fractured many of the country’s powerful cartels and led to the arrests of about two dozen high-level and midlevel traffickers.

But there has been no significant dip in the volume of drugs moving across the country. Reports of human rights violations by police officers and soldiers have soared. And drug-related violence has left more than 40,000 people dead since Mr. Calderón took office in December 2006.

The death toll is greater than in any period since Mexico’s revolution a century ago, and the policy of close cooperation with Washington may not survive.

“We need to concentrate all our efforts on combating violence and crime that affects people, instead of concentrating on the drug issue,” said a former foreign minister, Jorge G. Castañeda, at a conference hosted last month by the Cato Institute in Washington. “It makes absolutely no sense for us to put up 50,000 body bags to stop drugs from entering the United States.”

The US Senate is considering President Obama’s picks to lead the Pentagon and the CIA. The candidate for the post of Spy Chief, presidential counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, is a strong advocate of aggressive CIA tactics, and has secured a controversial drone programme as one of the agency’s main tools. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury thinks if Brennan is confirmed as the CIA head, the agency will further expand its powers.

January 6th, 2013

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said the CIA may try to kill him prior to upcoming elections. Citing reports of a plot to “destabilize the region,” Correa said the threats were “credible,” given the history of US involvement in Latin America.

Correa alluded to reports by Chilean journalist Patricio Mery Bell, who allegedly passed on information to the Ecuadorian government that President Correa’s life was “under threat” by a CIA plot.

“There are many cases of [the CIA] interfering” in Latin American affairs, Correa said during a campaign tour in the coastal province of Guayas. “These are credible [reports] because this has happened before in Latin America.”

The head of the US diplomatic mission in Quito, Adam Nann, responded to Bell’s claims by saying that Washington “would never get involved” in Ecuador’s electoral process.

Although Correa conceded that he believed the statements of the US ambassador, he warned that agencies such as the CIA often follow their own agenda and maintain links with organizations representing the extreme right in the countries in which they operate.

Bell first voiced his concerns for the safety of President Correa three months ago when he released a report claiming the CIA sought to “destabilize” Ecuador. He said that the threat to Correa’s life would be at its height from January 15 and onwards, as Correa applies to run for another presidential term.

“We will have to be three times more vigilant with President Correa,” Bell said in an interview with publication El Ciudadano. Bell maintained that although he was not a staunch supporter of Correa, it was his duty as a Latin American citizen to warn of the alleged $88-million CIA plot to destabilize the Ecuadorian government.

The journalist believes that this money will be divided amongst extremist anarchist, leftist and hardline conservative groups, in the hopes of discrediting Correas.

Bell claimed in his report that the main motives behind the CIA plot were the closing of the US Manta military base,  hailed as a victory for Ecuadorian national sovereignty, and the granting of asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

President Correa is often described as echoing the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, especially in anti-US rhetoric. The 49-year-old economist has reduced poverty and increased stability and the overall standard of living in Ecuador during his presidency, winning popularity amongst the country’s poorest as well as the educated middle class.

Correa will run for reelection against six other candidates when campaigning begins on January 15. Ecuadorians will vote for the next president and vice president on Sunday, February 17.

Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR / Ahmed Jadallah)

Published: 07 March, 2012

A security operation in Homs reveals Mossad, CIA and Blackwater are involved in the military violence in this part of Syria, as over 700 Arab and Western gunmen and Israeli, American and European-made weapons were detained in Baba Amr district.

­Syrian security forces got yet further proof of Western powers’ military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, reports Al-Manar, a news agency, affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group and political party.

Around 700 gunmen were recently arrested in the former rebel stronghold of Babar Amr.

“The captured gunmen held Arab nationalities, including Gulf, Iraqi, and Lebanese. Among them were also Qatari intelligence agents and non-Arab fighters from Afghanistan, Turkey, and some European countries like France,” the agency quotes Syrian expert in strategic affairs Salim Harba as saying.

Harba also confirmed to the agency that “a coordination office was established in Qatar under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf – specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia – intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”

The Syrian expert also added the security forces have also seized Israeli-, European- and American-made weapons.

“The Syrian army also uncovered tunnels and equipments there,” he told to the agency, “advanced Israeli, European, and American arms that have not yet been tested in the countries of manufacture, in addition to Israeli grenades, night binoculars, and communication systems were confiscated by the security forces.”

Salim Harba however said the Syrian authorities are not planning to reveal all the obtained information now, but assured all the evidence is of high value.

“The Syrian security forces have documents and confessions that could harm everyone who conspired against Syria, and could make a security and political change, not just on the internal Syrian level, but also on the regional level,” he said.

The recent Stratfor leak and hacked email of the company’s director of analysis also suggest undercover NATO troops are already on the ground in Syria.

There have been previous allegations of a Western presence on the side of the rebels as 13 French officers were reportedly captured by the loyalist forces earlier in March.

President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly claimed his regime is fighting not with peaceful protesters as claimed by the West, but with the military gangs supported by the West.

Western powers however have categorically denied any military involvement in Syrian internal conflict.