Archive for April, 2013

CIA Gives Tens of Millions in Cash to Afghan President

Posted March 20th, 2012

The former director of the security firm Blackwater aided the Libyan opposition and was subsequently sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee, according to published Stratfor emails and reported by Al-Akhbar English.

Blackwater’s primary public contract is with the U.S. State Department for protective services in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.

Jamie F. Smith, former director of Blackwater, is currently the chief executive of the security firm SCG International.

In an email sent to Stratfor on February 11, 2011, Smith praised the company’s intelligence gathering and said his “background is CIA and our company is comprised of former DOD [i.e. Department of Defense], CIA and former law enforcement personnel. We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection.”

Smith became a major source for Stratfor by September as he and Stratfor vice president Fred Burton built a rapport. Smith provided intelligence (under the codename LY700) to Burton on developments in Libya— where  SCG International was contracted to protect Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) members and train Libyan rebel fighters after the implementation of the no-fly zone in March 2011.

Smith provided information on missing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and allegedly “took part” in the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the town of Sirte.

Burton was impressed by Smith’s intel and reciprocated praise by writing, “Good skinny. This is what is defined as a credible source. Not some windbag Paki academic belching and passing gas.”

The last emails about Smith came on December 13, days before the Stratfor mail servers were reportedly hacked. In one Burton says:

“**Source and Dr. Walid Phares are getting air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.

** The true mission is how they can help in regime change.

** Source intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.”

Walid Phares is a Lebanese-American citizen who is currently co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group.

In another email from December 13— in which Stratfor is organizing intelligence on the Syrian opposition that Smith had requested— Burton reports that Smith “is meeting w/specific people described as key leaders.”

Burton is a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State’s counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS assists the Department of Defense in following leads and doing forensic analysis of hard drives seized by the U.S. government in ongoing criminal investigations.

Stratfor provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

WikiLeaks has published 925 out of what they say is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.

Army vet who fought alongside Al-Qaeda arrested by FBI

March 29, 2013

The father of U.S. Army veteran Eric Harroun, arrested on Tuesday night by the FBI for fighting alongside an Al-Qaeda group in Syria, says his son was working for the CIA.

As we previously reported, in January Harroun slipped into Syria to link up with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda group that killed U.S. troops in Iraq and is now the leading front line fighting force in Syria, commanding the other rebel groups. Despite being listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department back in December, 29 different US-backed Syrian opposition groups pledged their allegiance to the group.

Harroun was arrested by FBI agents at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on charges of using a rocket propelled grenade launcher on behalf of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria.

Harroun’s father Darryl Harroun told reporters yesterday his son was “very patriotic” and would never join up with Al-Qaeda, a somewhat deluded claim given that Harroun appears in numerous videos with al-Nusra terrorists in which he brags about helping them take down a military helicopter. Harroun also admitted to FBI agents that he had shot at least 10 people.

However, Harroun’s father let slip what probably represents the key to the entire story when he said, “I know he was doing some work for the CIA over there,” adding, “I know for a fact that he was passing information onto the CIA.”

The CIA’s involvement in aiding, training and equipping rebel insurgents in Syria is no secret. Last week, the New York Times reported how the CIA had worked with Turkey and other Arab governments in the region to oversee a, “secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.”

Harroun’s CIA connection and his role in fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra further confirms the fact that the agency is supporting and even steering the actions of radical terrorists in Syria who have carried out suicide bombings and other attacks targeting schools, universities, as well as engaging in numerous other atrocities such as chemical weapons attacks, torture and gruesome beheadings.

Rebels have also ransacked Christian churches, tortured Christians as part of sectarian reprisals, and have been caught on tape burning US flags, chanting anti-American slogans and singing the praises of Osama Bin Laden while glorifying the 9/11 attacks.

The fact that Harroun was arrested by FBI agents despite apparently working for the CIA most likely reflects on the inter-agency rivalry between the two organizations. Before 9/11, an FBI investigation into the Bin Laden family and other terrorists that if seen through may have prevented the attacks was stymied by the CIA itself.

Another American who fought alongside Al-Qaeda terrorists in both Libya and Syria, Matthew VanDyke, recently returned to the United States and gave lectures in Washington DC earlier this month. VanDyke admitted that he originally wanted to join the CIA but later became a self-described “freedom fighter”.

Harroun’s story underscores the hypocrisy of US foreign policy in Syria. While America and numerous other NATO countries are openly supporting Al-Qaeda extremists in Syria as part of an effort to impose regime change, as soon as those militants return home they are arrested as terrorists. Britain has also arrested numerous citizens on their return to the UK from Syria despite simultaneously pushing to arm some of the very same terrorists in Syria.

16 Maps Of Drug Flow Into The United States

Despite growing momentum for drug policy reform in Latin America, continual carnage in Mexico and a U.S. government-sponsoredstudy that rips U.S. drug policy, America’s 40-year war on drugs is still raging. 

This week retired Colombian police Gen. Mauricio Santoyo turned himself in to the DEA on charges that he helped drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries smuggle cocaine to Mexico and the U.S. while he was the head of security for the president of Colombia.

We’ve covered how cocaine gets from the fields in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia to the world’s largest drug market.

The U.N.’s World Drug Report 2012 showed us how the U.S. has high demand formarijuanacocaine and painkillers. Ironically, the more America spends on the drug war, the cheaper drugs become.

All this got us thinking about how drugs make it from Latin America to American cities, so we put together a series of maps to get a better idea.

Most of the drugs that enter the U.S. come from Central and South America

Mexico is the transit zone between the biggest source of drugs and the biggest consumer

95 percent of American cocaine imports are brought by Mexican cartels through Mexico and Central America

The drugs are shipped in a variety of ways

The drugs are shipped in a variety of ways

STRATFOR

And flow through a variety of cartels

And flow through a variety of cartels

STRATFOR

Despite wars between cartels, most shipments make it through Mexico to the U.S. border

Despite wars between cartels, most shipments make it through Mexico to the U.S. border

STRATFOR

Here’s a look at which cartels tends to handle which drugs (though the dominant Zetas are conspicuously missing on this map)

Here's a look at which cartels tends to handle which drugs (though the dominant Zetas are conspicuously missing on this map)

STRATFOR

The battle to control the border claims the most lives

As a comparison, here’s how heroin makes it to its largest markets

Demand is geographically skewed in the U.S. as the West prefers methamphetamine (red) and the east prefers cocaine (blue)

The supply routes for meth follow the demand

The same goes for coke so sellers can reap the biggest possible profit

Marijuana distribution, like preference for it, is more balanced

And the same goes for heroin

Here are the aggregate answers from local law enforcement agencies when asked: “What drug poses the greatest threat to your area?”

All things considered, the drug superhighway is running smoothly as cocaine is causing more trouble than ever in its largest markets (U.S. and Europe)

What’

Posted July. 24, 2012

A Mexican state government spokesman told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces “don’t fight drug traffickers” as much as “try to manage the drug trade,” Chris Arsenault reports.

“It’s like pest control companies, they only control,” Chihuahua spokesman Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva told Al Jazeera. “If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs.”

Chihuahua, one of Mexico’s most violent states, borders on Texas.

Arsenault quickly notes that Villanueva is not a high ranking official and that the mayor of Juarez, Chihuahua, dismissed the accusations as “baloney.”

Nevertheless, a government official going on the record with such claims is rare.

And a mid-level official with the Secretariat Gobernacion in Juarez (i.e. Mexico’s equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) told Al Jazeera the allegations were true based on discussions he’s had with U.S. officials working in Juarez.

Arsenault highlights that the defense attorneys for Jesús Zambada Niebla – a leading trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel currently awaiting trial in Chicago – stated, as part of his defense, that “United States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Other high-level members of the Sinaloa cartel – Mexico’s oldest trafficking organization – have made similar claims that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel leader and one of the world’s most wanted men, works closely with U.S. authorities.

Upwards of 55,000 people have died from drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.

Leaked emails from the private U.S. security firm Stratfor cite a Mexican diplomat who says the U.S. government works with Mexican cartels to traffic drugs into the United States and has sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.

Many people have doubted the quality of Stratfor’s intelligence, but the information from MX1—a Mexican foreign service officer who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor—seems to corroborate recent claims about U.S. involvement in the drug war in Mexico.

Most notably, the reports from MX1 line up with assertions by a Sinaloa cartel insider that cartel boss Joaquin Guzman is a U.S. informant, the Sinaloa cartel was “given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago,” and Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information used to take down rival cartels.

An email with the subject “Re: From MX1 — 2” sent Monday, April 19, 2010, to Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton says:

I think the US sent a signal that could be construed as follows:

“To the [Juárez] and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the Juárez cartel]. Also note that [Ciudad Juárez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either [the Juárez cartel] gets in line or we will mess you up.”

In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner, and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis.

Bill Conroy of Narco News reports that MX1’s description matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo — a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico and served at the Mexican Consulates in El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix.

In a June 13, 2010, email with the subject “Re: Get follow up from mx1? Thx,” MX1 states that U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sent their “signal” by discretely brokering a deal with cartels in Tijuana, just south of San Diego, Calif., which reduced the violence in the area considerably.

It is not so much a message for the Mexican government as it is for the Sinaloa cartel and[the Juárez cartel] themselves. Basically, the message they want to send out is that Sinaloa is winning and that the violence is unacceptable. They want the CARTELS to negotiate with EACH OTHER. The idea is that if they can do this, violence will drop and the governments will allow controlled drug trades.

The email went on to say that “the major routes and methods for bulk shipping into the US” from Ciudad Juárez, right across the border from El Paso, Texas, “have already been negotiated with US authorities” and that large shipments of drugs from the Sinaloa cartel “are OK with the Americans.”

In July a Mexican state government spokesman told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces “don’t fight drug traffickers” as much as “try to manage the drug trade.” A mid-level Mexican official told Al Jazeera that based on discussions he’s had with U.S. officials working in Ciudad Juárez, the allegations were true.

WikiLeaks has published 2,878 out of what it says is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.

The rise of SOCOM – to train proxy forces in all the places where US projects its power – is alarming.

The recent news of a possible shift in the operation of drones from the CIA to the Department of Defense was by and large received with a shrug. Given that the programme would likely be operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and under conditions of strictest secrecy, and probably launched from inaccessible “floating bases” on especially configured naval vessels, the shift is not an indicator of a change in the US’ assassination policy. And to the putative victims of the drone strikes, it is largely an irrelevant organisational change.

The reason, however, that the shift is of relevance more broadly is that it signals the irresistible rise of the special operations community in the post-counterinsurgency era.  More than a year ago, in January 2012, President Obama inaugurated the US Defense Strategic Guidance. The document was strategically significant because it announced the “pivot to Asia” alongside continued commitments to the oil sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.

Militarily, it clearly signalled the end of large-scale invasion and occupation of troublesome or intransigent countries in favour of the kind of operations in which the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and its counterterrorism component, the JSOC, excel. This ascendancy is confirmed by the planned expansion of the SOCOM by around 7.5 percent by 2015, from 66,100 civilian and military personnel in 2011 to 71,100 by 2015.

This expansion of the force, at a time when most US government departments – including the Pentagon itself – are contemplating possible sequestrations, speaks to the increasing importance of a force which can act in the shadows, leaving a “light footprint”.

A recent report by the Center for a New American Security describes the light footprints as a “minimalist” and “non-intrusive” approach to asymmetric warfare combining “air power, special operators, intelligence agents, indigenous armed groups and contractors, often leveraging relationships with allies and enabling partner militaries to take more active roles”. US Special Operations Command is perfectly suited for such tasks and is increasingly consolidating its hold over the broad spectrum of military tactics it entails.

‘Minimalist and non-intrusive’ approach

Established in 1980 and 1987 respectively, JSOC and SOCOM both have their origins in the US military’s failed hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1980.

The most prominent operations in which the SOCOM has participated or had leading roles have included the invasion of Grenada (1983), rescue operations during the Achille Lauro hijacking (1985), the invasion of Panama and the kidnapping of Manuel Noriega (1989), the Mideast during the Gulf War (1991), the operation to arrest Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Somalia (1993), re-installation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti (1994), classified missions in Bosnia and Kosovo (1996-2002), and of course Afghanistan (2001-present) and Iraq (2003-present).

The USSOCOM draws from the special operators of the various branches of the US military, including the US Navy SEALs, the Army’s Green Berets and the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Regiment, and the Air Force’s special operators.

The JSOC, the wholly classified sub-unit of the SOCOM, includes even smaller and more elite groups of the Delta Force and the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group (or DEVGRU) which was responsible for the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But while such operations capture the attention of mainstream media and Hollywood producers, other functions of the SOCOM are less commented upon but just as important.

In both the aforementioned CNAS report and the 2011 Congressional testimony of Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM chief, such visible direct operations are said best complemented by indirect approaches.

The direct special operations approach usually includes the drone-led assassination programme, and secret special operations forays into a variety of official, unofficial and unannounced battlegrounds in countries around the world. At last count, these countries numbered 71, up from around 60 during the Bush administration.

Although these operations get the press, and certainly seem to have a kind of pop culture glamour – with Hollywood clamouring to make films about special operators – the CNAS report helpfully tells us that:

“Drones and commando raids are the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Surgical strikes [sic] are only the most visible (and extreme) part of a deeper, longer-term strategy that takes many years to develop, cannot be grown after a crisis and relies heavily on human intelligence networks, the training of indigenous forces and close collaboration with civilian diplomats and development workers.”

The latter few items of the series above count as the kind of indirect operations that both McRaven and CNAS consider crucially important. The indirect tasks primarily include training and advising foreign security forces in a broad range of countries and operating alongside them. Altogether, by March 2012, according to Admiral McRaven, the US Special Operations Forces were present in some 100 countries.

In all accounts extolling the use of the “foreign internal defence” programmes, the special operators and their supporters like to use the training of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and participation in Plan Colombia as their exemplary cases.

In the Philippines, the special operators continue a long tradition of intervention in the country which began with the effective colonisation of the Philippines Islands between 1898 and 1946 and continued with counterinsurgency activities in the 1950s. Through this long period, the US forces have fought the Moros of southern Philippines in a variety of guises, both directly and indirectly.

The most recent incarnation of the fight has entailed the SOCOM training of the Philippines Special Operations Forces, and fighting alongside them against the Abu Sayyaf Islamists in southern Philippines.

The training began with the initial insertion of 1,200 Special Operations Forces into the country for advising, training and eventually engaging in military operations. Although the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines is still active in the Philippines, they now maintain a much lower profile.

Indirect approach and training programmes

Plan Colombia brought together the US State Department, USAID and more importantly, the US special operators, the DEA, the CIA and military contractors to train the Colombian military and the police to both fight the FARC guerrillas and assist the US in the interdiction of cocaine in Colombia (although the extent to which the intelligence agencies have been involved in interdicting drugs has been laid open to question when a plane previously used for rendition – presumably by the CIA – crashed in Mexico carrying Colombia cocaine).

The connections built in Colombia are particularly close and the US special operations activities there are so crucial that CNAS fellow and influential pundit Robert Kaplan has claimed that:

“The future of military conflict [is] better gauged in Colombia than in Iraq… In Colombia I was introduced to the tactics that the US would employ to manage an unruly world.”

Other regions of the world will follow the model established in Colombia and the Philippines in the first decade of the 21st century.

The US Special Operations Forces are now operating in Uganda, Libya, Mali, Yemen, and out of the US bases in and near hotspots throughout the world. Where they engage in training or special operations, their fields of activity become useful laboratories for development of special operations tactics and honing of special skills.

But the indirect approach and training programmes also establish long-term connections between military officers of various countries and their counterparts in the USSOCOM.  The CNAS report on “light footprints” hopefully offers, “as American advisers maintain relationships with their foreign counterparts over the years, lieutenants become captains, then colonels, then generals, and they begin to influence the partner nation’s military from within”.

Another cheerleader for the use of indirect approach by special operators, journalist Linda Robinson, tell us that:

“Colombian special operators act as valuable force multipliers since they speak the language and understand the culture of these places in ways that US forces might not. These Colombians are part of an expanding network of US-trained Special Operators that also includes forces from Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries and whose members are now participating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere alongside traditional US partners from Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.”

In the same article, she recognises that the local forces trained and supported by the US can be corrupt, “incompetent or abusive”, but she argues that the use of these proxy forces is the “only realistic course for US security policy” short of expensive and unpopular large-scale military intervention.

The rise of US Special Operations Forces engaging in kinetic operations and direct action or in using their extensive military, psychological operations and war-fighting skills to train proxy forces in all the places where the US projects its power is alarming.

The ascendance of an elite clique of ultra-warriors protected by the cloak of secrecy and pushing off responsibility for acts of violence to their proxies and allies, means that the tip of the imperial spear can tear through the social fabric of many a country without associated costs in blood and treasure and hidden from the view of the press and the public.

And because such special operations do not require the sacrifices of an expansive force, the special operators can largely act without public outrage or demand for accountability.  The old/new military philosophy of a light footprint is useful precisely because it allows for the war in the shadows to continue unabated and with impunity.