Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

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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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.

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.

RT talks to Mark Mazzetti – author of “The Way of The Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and A War at the Ends of the Earth”.

May 29, 2013

A team of academics have launched the world’s largest interactive database detailing suspected CIA rendition flights, many of which may have transported detainees to Guantanamo Bay.

Scotland is the only country so far which has raised any questions on the alleged rendition activity on home soil.

The Rendition Project is a product of a collaborative research between Dr. Ruth Blakely from the University of Kent and Dr. Sam Raphael from Kingston University, London.

Now anyone with an internet connection can understand, view, and track over 11,000 CIA flights detainees may have been aboard between 2001 and 2006 under the US rendition program, a murky operation of secret detention and torture.

“Our purpose is to shed as much light as possible on this system,” Blakely told RT.

Blakely’s team has compiled a unique database sourced from freedom of information requests, testimonies from detainees, Red Cross reports, courtroom evidence, flight records, and invoices.

The data is categorized into four subcategories- flights which definitely had a detainee on board, those which are suspected of having suspected terrorists on board, and ‘dummy’ or test flights, and other circuit flights, all on 122 different US-registered civilian aircraft.

“Our main aim was to try and map the global rendition system to try and provide a comprehensive a picture as possible how rendition took place, which countries were involved,” Blakely told RT.

Most information was already in the public domain, but Blakely hopes by making it web-accessible, the project will assist human rights investigators and lawyers to defend the rights of detainees who have been victims to unfair torture or questionable tactics.

The site will help reveal “how the CIA managed to hide individuals in this system as it transported them around the world to hold them in prisons where they could be tortured and interrogated,” said Blakely.

Abu Zubaydah. (Image from wikipedia.org)

Abu Zubaydah. (Image from wikipedia.org)

High profile detainee

Among those profiled on the website is Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi Arabian currently being held in custody at Guantanamo Bay, without any official legal charge brought against him. Zubaydah was first captured during the Bush administration, and in 2006 was transferred to Guantanamo.

The Rendition Project believes he was first caught in Bangkok, and may been on board eight different rendition flights, as he was transported around the globe to different CIA black spots.

A suspected terrorist, Zubaydah claims he was water boarded 83 times during August 2002 while he was held at a US detention site in Thailand.

A screenshot from the new database which lets users track flights by data, detainee, and location. Image from therenditionproject.org.uk

A screenshot from the new database which lets users track flights by data, detainee, and location. Image from therenditionproject.org.uk

‘Conclusive’ new proof

Blakely and her team believe they have found ‘conclusive’ new proof that CIA planes regularly landed at three Scottish airports under the rendition program.

Aberdeen, Inverness, and Wick were all allegedly used to carry out secret US missions, according to the website.

Blakely’s study shows evident that five flights landed at Wick, five at Inverness and three at Aberdeen, all allegedly part of the US missions.

During a question and answer session in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill acknowledged the allegation that his government took part in the rendition program.

In an almost empty chamber, Scottish Parliament member Patrick Harvey, a Scottish Green party co-convener, questioned Justice Secretary MacAskill about the alleged touch-downs.

A flight check-in area is pictured at Aberdeen Airport in Scotland, where 3 CIA Rendition flights allegedly landed. (AFP Photo / Scott Campbell)

A flight check-in area is pictured at Aberdeen Airport in Scotland, where 3 CIA Rendition flights allegedly landed. (AFP Photo / Scott Campbell)

“The Scottish government strongly opposes illegal rendition flights. No representations have been received by the Scottish government regarding these flights,” MacAskill answered.

Until there is hard and concrete evidence, according to MacAskill, Scotland will not make any formal accusations against the US or any other involved parties in the flights.

Blakely’s investigative team shows a flight which landed at Wick in 2004 was “flying to a secret prison and torture destinations.”

The CIA’s black sites in over 54 countries have been allegedly used to detain and torture suspected terrorists, and to hold them in custody before being transported to the prison at Guantanamo Bay and other torture and detention centers worldwide.

The EU parliament has previously called upon Poland, Lithuania, and Romania to reveal any ‘black sites’, or airports used to aid the CIA’s secret rendition program.

From April 27, 2011

The “logistical coordinator” for a top Mexican drug-trafficking gang that was responsible for purchasing the CIA torture jet that crashed with four tons on cocaine on board back in 2007 has told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago that he has been working as a U.S. government asset for years.

Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the top kingpins of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization. Niebla was arrested in Mexico in March 2009 and extradited to the United States to stand trial last February.

“The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the U.S. “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, and automobiles,” writes Narcosphere’s Bill Conroy.

In a two page court pleading filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, Niebla claims that he was working on behalf and with the authority of, “The U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”); and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”),” since January 1, 2004.

Niebla is also connected to the Gulfstream II jet that wrecked with four tons of cocaine on board on September 24, 2007. European investigators linked the plane’s tail number, N987SA, to past CIA “rendition” operations. The bill of sale for the Gulfstream jet, sold weeks before it crashed, listed the name of Greg Smith, a pilot who had previously worked for the FBI, DEA and CIA.

The plane was purchased by Niebla’s Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization through a syndicate of Colombian drug-traffickers that included a CIA asset named Nelson Urrego, according to another undercover CIA operative, Baruch Vega, who was involved in the deal.

“The Gulfstream II jet, according to Mexican authorities, was among a number of aircraft acquired by the Sinaloa drug organization via an elaborate money laundering scheme involving a chain of Mexican casa de cambios (currency exchange houses) overseen by alleged Sinaloa organization operative Pedro Alfonso Alatorre Damy, according to Mexican government andU.S. media reports,” writes Conroy.

Sinaloa bought the jet by wiring money through the U.S. banking giant Wachovia, now a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. “In total, nearly $13 million dollars went through correspondent bank accounts at Wachovia for the purchase of aircraft to be used in the illegal narcotics trade. From these aircraft, more than 20,000 kilograms of cocaine were seized,” states Wachovia’s deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Wachovia was forced to pay a penalty of around $160 million dollars for allowing the money to be laundered through its correspondent bank accounts.

“So, the criminal cases pending against alleged Colombian narco-trafficker Urrego, accused money-launderer Damy and Sinaloa organization logistics chief Zambada Niebla all appear to connect through the Gulfstream II cocaine jet at some level,” summarizes Conroy.

Another private aircraft that was full of cocaine crashed in New Mexico on Sunday morning, but the plane has yet to be identified.

In addition to smuggling narcotics into the United States, Niebla is also accused of obtaining weapons from the U.S. with the intent to use them to cause violence in Mexico City, leading to the murders of several innocent people. Despite the fact that the Obama administration has cited the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico as an excuse with which to attack the second amendment rights of Americans, it was recently revealed that the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed guns to be smuggled from the U.S. into the hands of Mexican drug lords under “Operation Fast and Furious”. President Obama later denied that he had any knowledge of the program.

Niebla’s assertion that he smuggled drugs from Mexico into the United States while working for the U.S. government adds further weight to the already voluminous body of evidence that confirms the CIA and U.S. banking giants are the top players in a global drug trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, information made public by the likes of Gary Webb, who it was claimed committed suicide in 2004 despite the fact that he was found with two gunshot wounds to the head and after Webb himself had complained of death threats and “government people” stalking his home.

For more background information on the story, be sure to read Bill Conroy’s excellent article over at Narco News entitled Mexican Narco-Trafficker’s Revelation Exposes Drug War’s Duplicity.