Archive for July, 2013

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.

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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.

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