Sunday, March 30, 2008

Telecom Immunity: Playing the "9/11 Card" ... Again

The Bush administration, never known for its veracity on any issue, once again is playing the "9/11 card" in an desperate attempt to continue violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a darling of Senate Democrats prior to his confirmation as Bush's top lawyer, said in speech on Thursday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, that the September 11, 2001 attacks could have been prevented "if the government had been able to monitor an overseas phone call to the United States," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mukasey went on to claim that "we knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went. You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."

Correctly calling Mukasey on his mendacious pronouncements, Chronicle reporter Bob Egelko writes,

Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred. He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn't sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn't monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.

A congressional investigation found in 2003 that the National Security Agency had intercepted messages between one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and an al Qaeda safe house in the Middle East as early as 1999, but had not shared the information with other agencies. (Bob Egelko, "Mukasey Backs Bush Efforts on Wiretapping," San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, March 28, 2008, Page B-1)

That we are supposedly to believe that the National Security Agency, the largest and most secretive outfit in the U.S. intelligence "toolbox," was somehow "blinded" by "unreasonable" civil liberties concerns, and were "following the letter of the law" regarding warrantless wiretapping of foreign terrorist organizations, beggars belief.

In fact, prior to, and even after 9/11, the United States and their favorite clique of murderous intelligence assets, the Afghan-Arab database known as al-Qaeda, were preoccupied with a series of destabilization operations that stretched from Central Asia to the Balkans.

From Chechnya to Kosovo, al-Qaeda operatives and their BND-CIA-MI6 handlers were subverting Russian and Yugoslavian national sovereignty and fomenting rebellion alongside dodgy Saudi and Gulf "charities" that served as a cats-paw for Western imperialist interests.

As with all strategic intelligence operations undertaken by the United States and their "friends," the Saudis were playing a double-game: seemingly advancing the regional interests of their U.S. partners in crime, al-Qaeda-linked Saudi "charities" were simultaneously wedded to a game plan they hoped would lead to the creation of a reactionary, far-right Islamist beachhead in the heart of Central Europe. That they did so with U.S.-NATO collusion is beyond question.

According to Balkan analyst, Christopher Deliso,

After 9/11, the Saudi charity organizations not only became more secretive: they became more hostile, at times showing classic signs of organized intelligence activity. ...

However, despite these abundant reasons for concern, UNMIK signed a memorandum of understanding on February 5, 2002, with the Al Haramain Foundation, which was allegedly supporting refugees from Macedonia...

Less than a month after the agreement was signed, on March 11, 2002, the U.S. Treasury officially blocked the accounts of Al Haramain's Somalia and Bosnia and Herzegovina branches. Yet the Kosovo branch was left untouched. Al Haramain, back in 1999, ran something called the Kosovo Relief Fund out of its Ashland, Oregon, headquarters, back in the days when NATO and the Islamists were fighting for the same goal--expulsion of the Serbs from Kosovo. At that time, the known terrorist and al-Qadi's "business partner," Abdul Latif Saleh, who was later mysteriously removed from Albania, questioned, and released by the CIA, was serving as charge de affaires at the Saudi embassy in Tirana. (The Coming Balkan Caliphate, Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007, p. 61)

That the United States and their NATO partners continued their brazen, if underhanded support of al-Qaeda after 9/11, had disastrous consequences that reverberated far-beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. On March 11, 2004 multiple train bombs ripped through Madrid's public transportation system, killing 191 and wounding 1,755 mostly working-class Spaniards. The two chief organizers of the Madrid attacks, Saud al-Otaibi and Abdel Karim al Meyati, "had both fought for the Izetbegovic government in Bosnia during the 1990s," according to Deliso.

Three years later, when suicide bombers struck the London public transportation system, killing 52 and wounding 700 individuals, an MI6/al-Qaeda operative, Haroon Rashid Aswat, was fingered as the mastermind of the attacks.

According to analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, during a 2001 interview with the London-based Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Aswat, al-Qaeda/al-Muhajiroun leader Omar Bakri, described the relationship between British intelligence and the operations in Kosovo and al-Muhajiroun; Aswat had joined the operation in 1995:

Bakri boasted that al-Muhajiroun sent Muslim youths on jihad training courses in Virginia, Michigan and Missouri...where they learned various techniques for guerrilla warfare, for making explosives and using shoulder-mounted missiles. ... The training was organised by a British security firm that is managed by a Muhajiroun member.

In other words, Bakri and his al-Muhajiroun organisation have not merely been tolerated by British authorities despite involvement in al-Qaeda recruitment, terrorist training, and incitement to violence, murder and terrorism; they were actively protected by British security services in the late 1990s, operating as recruiting agents for British covert operations in the Balkans, especially in Kosovo. (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, London: Duckworth, 2006, p. 153)

Undeterred by seemingly insignificant things such as facts, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page heartily endorsed the AG's "reasoning" at the Commonwealth Club. Mukasey claimed that telecom liability from lawsuits for their "cooperation" with the Bush regime's illegal surveillance of American citizens caught in NSA electronic driftnets was "vital,"

"Forget the liability" the phone companies face, Mr. Mukasey said. "We face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they did, which is to say the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets." Al Qaeda would love that. The cynics will call this "fear-mongering," but most Americans will want to make sure we don't miss the next terror call. ("One Missed Call," The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2008, Page A8)

This finely crafted piece of dissimulation by Bush's AG is a craven pack of lies worthy of Bill O'Reilly, Fox News or, indeed, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

But what about those phone calls that NSA was presumably unable to monitor and that USAG Mukasey alleges "could have prevented" the September 11 attacks? Paul Thompson and the History Commons demolishes the claim and reports,

Early 2000-Summer 2001: NSA Intercepts Communications between Hijackers in US and Al-Qaeda Communications Hub
The NSA intercepts approximately 14 calls between the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana'a, Yemen, run by Ahmed al-Hada, who is hijacker Khalid Almihdhar's father in law (see August 5-25, 1998).
The first calls are made by Almihdhar and are intercepted during the spring and summer of 2000 (see Spring-Summer 2000).
More calls are made by hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001).
The final call from the US is intercepted just a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)). The NSA intercepted the hijackers' calls outside the US before this (see Early 1999 and December 29, 1999) and continues to do so in 2000 (see Summer 2000) after Almihdhar returns to Yemen (see June 10, 2000 and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000)). Some of the calls may only contain non-operational information, as they are between Almihdhar and his wife. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 17; SUSKIND, 2006, PP. 94; WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 343] However, the calls are also used to relay messages to the 9/11 hijackers. [EMBASSY OF YEMEN (WASHINGTON), 2/13/2002; MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005] The CIA is the lead agency monitoring the communications hub. It has planted bugs inside the house and is wiretapping all calls (see Late August 1998). Intercepts of calls to and from the hub are a major plank of the US intelligence community's effort to fight al-Qaeda. Also involved is the FBI, which is using phone records to plot these calls on a map (see Late 1998-Early 2002). Some of the calls intercepted by US intelligence come from bin Laden's satellite phone in Afghanistan (see August 5-25, 1998 and Late August 1998). After 9/11, counterterrorism officials will say that the number was one of the hottest targets being monitored by the NSA and was an "intelligence bonanza." [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 12/21/2005; WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 343]

As I wrote earlier this month, the NSA--and other U.S. intelligence agencies--did "connect the dots" that may have prevented the 9/11 attacks. That they chose not to do so, reflected Bush administration desires to protect on-going U.S. intelligence operations elsewhere and "certain foreign interests" notably those of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Pakistan.

Mukasey's posturing is a dodge on two fronts: it continues the 9/11 cover-up narrative first floated by U.S. National Security Advisor (now Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice that "no one could have imagined" the 9/11 terrorist operation, that the hijackers "acted alone" without active support networks inside the U.S., and finally, Mukasey's duplicities serve as a justification for on-going domestic intelligence operations that target the American people.

The retroactive immunity sought by the Bush administration for giant telecommunications corporations have little to do with "protecting the Homeland." It is, however, a propitious mechanism for inoculating corporate executives and their shareholders for their criminal complicity with the Bush regime, as America is transformed into a "post-Constitutional" police state.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"FARC Uranium," Less than Meets the Eye

In a corporatist society such as the United States, anonymous "government officials," "Western diplomats," and "military sources" often telegraph the animus of ruling elites to mass media on questions deemed critical to their constituents: the executive class who exercise real power.

No where is this more pronounced than on issues of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when natural resources (controlled by other nations) are assigned a "strategic value" by multinational corporations, their shareholders and the guardians of imperial order. Here too, the media's role is to serve as an "objective observer" simply reporting the "facts" as filtered through fixed frames of reference and agendas determined by the dominant political culture.

Since the March 1 "targeted assassination" of FARC leader Raúl Reyes and 24 others by Colombia, there are clear signs that Washington's crusade against Venezuela's democratic socialist experiment have escalated.

A key to unlocking the extent of Washington's current destabilization campaign is by deciphering the black propaganda "product" crafted by U.S. and Colombian disinformation specialists. One such "product" are the series of fraudulent documents I have dubbed Uribe's "dodgy dossier," a trial balloon introduced by Washington and their regional surrogates as a potential casus belli for direct U.S. military intervention to topple the Chávez government.

Three, sometimes four computer hard drives, are claimed to have been seized in the FARC encampment by Colombian commandos. But considering the concentrated firepower of multiple U.S. "smart bombs" dropped in the area, it seems highly unlikely that the hard drives would have survived such an onslaught.

Nonetheless, Colombian officials claim their analysis of the files "prove," among other things that the Ecuadorean and Venezuelan governments are colluding with the FARC. According to some readings, Defense Ministry spokespeople aver that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was planning to provide FARC with $300 million dollars. It has also been alleged, without a shread of documentary evidence to back up their assertions, that Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has "allowed" the FARC to occupy its sovereign territory and create new firebases as launching pads for attacks into southern Colombia. Other readings even have the FARC bankrolling Correa's presidential campaign.

The most explosive charges, however, are allegations that the FARC intend to purchase enriched uranium for the construction of "dirty bombs." As resilient as the FARC may be as a fighting force, the group do not even field the most primitive ground-to-air missiles that would significantly hamper Colombian counterinsurgency operations, let alone possess the technical capacity to construct a uranium weapon. The most "sophisticated" ordnance in the FARC arsenal are highly-inaccurate gas-canister bombs, mortars, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Depending on one's interpretation of FARC's commitment to a socialist transformation of society, it would be political suicide to even consider deploying a weapon such as a "dirty bomb" in a Colombian city!

But allegations by Colombian and U.S. "counterterrorist" officials do however, fit a discernible pattern. As a species of "news management" and "public diplomacy," U.S. disinformation serves the unmistakable purpose of fabricating the connection "Chávez = $300 million = FARC = uranium = terrorism" in the public mind. The standard practice of a continuous injection of known falsehoods into the media cycle (black propaganda) or more disingenuously, through nuanced media operations as in the run-up to the Iraq invasion where "the intelligence and facts [are] being fixed around the policy," are all in play here.

According to analyst Eva Golinger, a factor in U.S. elite planning, is the manufacturing of "evidence" that demonizes Chávez and links him to "drug trafficking," "money laundering," "terrorism," constructing "a dictatorship," fomenting "an arms race," and posing "a threat against regional security." If Golinger is correct, then we are witnessing a new phase in U.S. psychological warfare operations that have as their "target audience" the Venezuelan and American people.

According to declassified U.S. Army documents cited by historian Christopher Simpson, psychological warfare

"will employ any weapon to influence the mind of the enemy. The weapons are psychological only in the effect they produce and not because of the nature of the weapons themselves. In this light, overt (white), covert (black), and gray propaganda; subversion; sabotage; special operations; guerrilla warfare; espionage; political, cultural, economic, and racial pressures are all effective weapons. They are effective because they produce dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness in the minds of the enemy, not because they originate in the psyche of propaganda or psychological warfare agencies." (Science of Coercion, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 12)

Since March 1, U.S. administration officials have been ratcheting-up the "fear factor" and creating what they hope will serve as a plausible scenario that justifies a new round of attacks against Venezuela. Wednesday's "discovery" by Colombian officials of "66 pounds of low grade uranium" outside Bogotá, is certainly following Washington's playbook in this regard.

However, as the "dodgy dossier" continues to be exposed as a fraudulent patch work quilt, Colombian Defense Ministry officials are scrambling for "proof" of FARC--and by implication, Ecuadorean and Venezuelan--perfidy. According to the Weekly News Update on the Americas,

On Mar. 17 the Bogotá daily El Tiempo published a photograph, supposedly from a laptop computer found at the FARC camp, which it said showed Reyes together with Ecuadoran internal and external security minister Gustavo Larrea. It was in fact a picture of Patricio Etchegaray, general secretary of the Communist Party of Argentina, who said he had a long interview with Reyes three years ago at a rebel camp. El Tiempo issued a retraction in the afternoon, saying its information came from the Colombian police. El Tiempo is partly owned by the Santos family, which currently has two members in the government: Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón and Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. ("Ecuador: ID Bombs Used on FARC Camp," Weekly News Update on the Americas, No. 940, March 23, 2008)

Undeterred by the "facts," the Miami Herald breathlessly reports,

Colombian authorities said they seized up to 66 pounds of low-grade uranium hidden off the side of a road in southern Bogotá on Wednesday, which the Colombian Defense Ministry said belonged to FARC guerrillas.

The Defense Ministry said the discovery adds weight to the evidence found in a laptop belonging to slain guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes, which showed the rebels were interested in buying and selling the uranium on the international underground market. (Frances Robles, "Colombia Says it Found Uranium Linked to FARC," Wednesday, March 26, 2008)

Accordingly, Robles reports that "informants" gave "military intelligence officers," a "sample of uranium" allegedly "acquired by FARC rebels."

The "proof": according to Armed Forces commander Freddy Padilla, the uranium "was found Wednesday, hidden near the road that leads to San Juan de Sumapaz, a longtime rebel stronghold."

The FARC have vociferously denied any uranium deal. "Only developed nations like the United States and others have the conditions and the technology required to process uranium, not a guerrilla movement that still fights for people's dignity with rifles and even sticks."

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos (a partial owner of scandal sheet, El Tiempo) asserts that the seizure "proves" that FARC are "negotiating to get radioactive material, the principal base for making dirty weapons of destruction and terrorism." Santos added, "This shows that these terrorist groups ... constitute a grave threat not just to our country but to the entire Andean region and Latin America."

And continuing the drum-beat, the Herald reported on Friday,

The State Department said Thursday it was "deeply concerned" by the discovery in Colombia of uranium linked to a Marxist guerrilla group.

"This underscores the terrorist threat that FARC poses to the people of Colombia and to the region," said State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke. ...

The discovery of the uranium is one of the most intriguing chapters to emerge from the computer files belonging to the slain guerrilla leader, which also suggest the FARC had broad financial dealings with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and contributed to the election campaign of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. (Pablo Bachelet, "Uranium Cache in Colombia Poses Rebel Puzzle," Miami Herald, Friday, March 28, 2008)

The Los Angeles Times were more circumspect in their story,

A Western official, however, expressed skepticism about the "dirty bomb" report, saying there is "a bit less than meets the eye here." U.S. Embassy officials declined to comment. ...

There has been no independent analysis of the laptops or their contents, and some analysts have cautioned that information described as being taken from them could be part of a government-sponsored disinformation program to discredit Ecuador and Venezuela.

Those allegations were strengthened somewhat when it was revealed this month that a photo from Reyes' laptop leaked to El Tiempo newspaper that alleged to show Reyes with Ecuadorean Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea did not actually picture Larrea.

One laptop is alleged to contain information linking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a $300-million donation to the FARC. Chavez has denied the allegation. (Chris Kraul, "Colombia Links Uranium to FARC Rebels, Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2008)

Reuters however, sticks close to the "product roll-out:"

Colombia ... claims the files show evidence that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has given financial support to the FARC.

The United States, which calls the FARC a terrorist group and has long considered Chavez a destabilizing force in Latin America, said the evidence is "disturbing".

Chavez openly sympathizes with the FARC but says Colombia's accusations are part of a U.S.-backed plot to smear him. He has also questioned how the computer files could have survived the bombing raid. (Hugh Bronstein, "Colombia Seizes Uranium from Leftist Rebels," Reuters, March 26, 2008)
If, however, the guerrilla organization did indeed purchase depleted uranium, rather than Colombian Defense Ministry officials "finding" the material in a "longtime rebel stronghold" where it could have easily been planted by a military power that does freely spew depleted uranium weapons across global battlefields, say the United States, FARC may have been seeking to increase their firepower. Bloomberg News reports,

The depleted uranium, found yesterday in a rural area outside the city, poses no health risk and can't be used to build a dirty bomb, said Charles Ferguson, a nuclear affairs analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. A video released by the Colombian military showed the metal had a slow radiation rate of 1.5 Microsieversts per hour, he said.

"You could stand next to this material for days and nothing would happen to you, unless you dropped it on your foot," said Ferguson.

Possible uses for the FARC might include making armor-piercing conventional weapons or an ingestible poison, Ferguson said. Less likely, the metal could be used as a shield while handling more potent radioactive materials that would be used to make a dirty bomb. ...

"The FARC may have wanted this material to build a stronger rocket that destroys the president or a minister's armored car, not create a weapon of mass destruction," said Cesar Restrepo, from Bogota's Security and Democracy Foundation. (Joshua Goodman, "Colombia Probes FARC Ties to Uranium Seized in Bogota," Bloomberg News, March 27, 2008)

The fact is we don't know the origin of Colombia's depleted uranium "discovery" any more than we have a clear picture of what additional files may be drawn from Uribe's "dodgy dossier." Whether or not this latest salvo in Washington's propaganda offensive against Venezuela will gain traction among U.S. power brokers and their media gatekeepers, as Eva Golinger cautions,

The US Government is waging war on Venezuela--not your typical, traditional war, but a modern, asymmetric--4th Generation War--against President Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
This too unfortunately, will continue...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Did U.S. Mercenaries Bomb the FARC Encampment in Ecuador?

As diplomatic and military fallout from the March 1 Colombian raid into Ecuador escalate regional tensions, allegations from Ecuadorean sources link the unprovoked attack to the U.S. Manta airbase and charge the American mercenary firm DynCorp with piloting the planes that killed FARC commander Raúl Reyes and 24 others.

According to investigative journalist Kintto Lucas,

A high-level Ecuadorean military officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, told IPS that "a large proportion of senior officers" in Ecuador share "the conviction that the United States was an accomplice in the attack" launched Mar. 1 by the Colombian military on a in Ecuador, near the Colombian border.

"Since Plan Colombia was launched in 2000, a strategic alliance between the United States and Colombia has taken shape, first to combat the insurgents and later to involve neighbouring countries in that war," said the officer. "What is happening today is a consequence of that." ("Ecuador: Manta Air Base Tied to Colombian Raid on FARC Camp," Inter Press Service, March 21, 2008)

Ecuadorean Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval said an investigation into whether the Manta airbase was used in the attack should be carried out by Ecuador's armed forces. According to the leasing agreement, the Manta base can only be used for counternarcotics operations.

While U.S. Ambassador Linda Jewell assured Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Isabel Salvador that the planes at Manta "were not involved in any way," the military source told the IPS reporter that "the technology used, first to locate the target, in other words the camp, and later to attack it, was from the United States."

Sandoval had earlier said that "equipment that the Latin American armed forces do not have" was used in the Mar. 1 bombing, according to Lucas.

Commenting on the tactical modalities employed in the raid, Sandoval said,

"They dropped around five 'smart bombs'," the kind used by the United States in the First Gulf War (1991), "with impressive precision and a margin of error of just one metre, at night, from planes travelling at high speeds," said the minister.

The military source said that "an attack with smart bombs requires pilots who have experience in such operations, which means U.S. pilots. That's why I think they did the job and later told the Colombians 'now go in and find the bodies', which is when Colombian helicopters and troops showed up" at the site of the raid.

The U.S. role in the raid could have been even greater. The officer claimed that the bombing raid was actually led by "U.S. pilots, possibly from DynCorp." While demonstrable evidence for these explosive charges has yet to surface, the statements by the Ecuadorean officer seem plausible, particularly when one considers the role played by American military- and mercenary personnel in coordinating Plan Colombia.

Claiming that the aircraft "took off from the Tres Esquinas air base in the southern Colombian department of Caquetá," the officer went on to describe how "the planes used to fumigate coca crops or to attack the guerrillas are piloted by serving members of the U.S. military or (former) military men at the service of companies like DynCorp."

More than $5.5 billion dollars has been poured into the region by the United States since 2000, allegedly for "counternarcotics operations." A key strategic goal of America's "war on drugs" is to take the "battle" to the source--coca growing, processing and exporting Andean nations, and DynCorp has been a major beneficiary of U.S. largess in the area.

Meanwhile, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa warned on Saturday that diplomatic tension with Colombia will rise "if an Ecuadorean was among the dead," in the March 1 raid Reuters has reported. "It would be extremely grave if it is proven that a Ecuadorean died. We will not let this murder go unpunished."

Citing Uribe's "dodgy dossier," the Associated Press claims "that the FARC gave money to Correa's 2006 presidential campaign." Without skipping a beat, or apparently examining the files, denounced as forgeries by investigative journalist Greg Palast who actually did, the AP reporter avers, again citing Uribe that "Correa's ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, planned to give the rebels US$300 million."

As a key "private partner" of Plan Colombia, DynCorp's aerial spraying of herbicides over portions of the Colombian countryside has caused wide-spread ecological damage with no discernible diminution of the flow of narcotics into Europe and the United States.

Indeed, according to a February 2008 report published by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), "intensive aerial herbicide spraying of coca crops in Colombia has backfired badly, contributing to the spread of coca cultivation and cocaine production to new areas of the country and threatening human health and the environment." The WOLA report, citing UN figures, goes on to describe how cocaine production in Colombia has risen from 617 metric tons in 2001 to 640 metric tons in 2005, a wretched failure considering the inestimable cost in human lives and habitat destruction.

Since 2002, congressional authorization for the program has permitted "counternarcotics" funds to be siphoned-off into scorched-earth counterinsurgency operations by the Colombian Army and their paramilitary allies. Some 300 U.S. Special Forces "advisors" serve as "mentors" to elite Army units in what has become another front in the U.S.-led "war on terror."

Analyst Doug Stokes describes how Plan Colombia has morphed into an all-out war against Colombia's left-wing opposition:

In the case of Colombia, civil society organizations, especially those that seek to challenge prevailing socio-economic conditions, are construed by the U.S. government as potentially subversive to the social and political order, and in the context of counter-insurgency, legitimate targets for "paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist" attack. [T]he 1991 post-Cold War U.S. reorganization of Colombian military and paramilitary networks and the massive levels of post-Cold War U.S. funding of the Colombian military serves to underline the continued relevance of counterinsurgency for destroying movements that may threaten a stability geared towards U.S. interests. ("The U.S. War of Terror in Colombia, Colombia Journal, December 2, 2002)

The controversial mercenary outfit, like its better-known cousin, Blackwater, has a dodgy history and has been fingered by investigators in human rights and other abuses in countries where it operates.

According to a CorpWatch profile,

DynCorp began in 1946 as a project of a small group of returning World War II pilots seeking to use their military contacts to make a living in the air cargo business. Named California Eastern Airways the original company was soon airlifting supplies to Asia used in the Korean War. By 2002 Dyncorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, was the nation's 13th largest military contractor with $2.3 billion in revenue until it merged with Computer Sciences Corporation, an El Segundo, California-based technology services company, in an acquisition worth nearly $1 billion.

The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees--139 of them American--flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it "Colombia's Coke-Bustin' Broncos." ("CSC/DynCorp," Company Profiles, CorpWatch, no date)

While attempting to fly below the public radar, DynCorp's questionable Plan Colombia operations surfaced when a group of Ecuadorean peasants filed a class action lawsuit against the outfit in 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp aircraft in Colombia drifted across the border, killing their crops and causing widespread livestock and human illnesses; in several cases, aerial fumigation led to the death of several children.

Washington responded by attempting to have the suit squashed. According to CorpWatch, "Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed 'a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives.'"

In a 2001 article profiling DynCorp's Latin American operations, investigative reporter Jeremy Bigwood wrote,

DynCorp's day to day operations are overseen by a secretive clique of officials in the State Department's Narcotic Affairs Section (NAS) and the State Department's Air Wing, a group that includes unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from the Central American wars of the 1980's. Working hand-in-hand with U.S. military officials, Narcotic Affairs is supposed to be part of the drug war only, running the fumigation operations against drug crops. But there are indications that it is also involved in the counter-insurgency. In areas that are targeted for fumigation by Narcotic Affairs, Colombian right-wing paramilitaries arrive, sometimes by military helicopter, according to a human rights worker living in the Putumayo who asked for anonymity. Members of these paramilitaries "clear the ground" so that the planes spraying herbicides, often piloted by Americans, are not shot at by angry farmers or insurgents. ("DynCorp in Colombia: Outsourcing the Drug War," CorpWatch, May 23, 2001)

Whether or not DynCorp pilots bombed Ecuador on behalf of America's ally, the paramilitary-linked regime of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, it is clear the United States will not willingly relinquish the Manta airbase when its lease expires in November 2009.

In 2001, a retired Ecuadorean army colonel, Fausto Cobo, told IPS that "Manta, for the purposes of Plan Colombia is a U.S. aircraft carrier, on land."

As one of four "forward operating locations (FOLs), along with Curaçao, Aruba and El Salvador, Manta is a critical strategic base for U.S. "counternarcotics" and "counterinsurgency" operations in Latin America--and as a possible launching pad for an attack on Venezuela.

While the furor surrounding Colombia's allegations against Ecuador and Venezuela may have fallen off the media's radar, congressional efforts to have Venezuela declared "a state sponsor of terrorism," have not.

In Latin America, the "public-private partnership" in repression with well-paid mercenary outfits like DynCorp taking the lead, it is a near certainty that incidents like the March 1 raid will continue as Washington seeks to shore-up the periphery of its shrinking imperialist empire.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rightist Gangs Murdering Trade Unionists in Colombia

In the wake of recent mass demonstrations against state and paramilitary violence across Colombia, four trade union activists who helped coordinate the events were brutally murdered.

Convened by the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), the March 6 mobilization denounced the complicity of the Uribe regime with paramilitary gangsters, aided and abetted by the Bush administration's on-going sponsorship of rightist atrocities through Plan Colombia.

According to the Center for International Policy, MOVICE organizer Iván Cepeda Castro reported in the Colombian weekly El Espectador, that the assassinated union leaders were:

* Carmen Cecilia Carvajal, teacher. Killed 4 March, in Ocaña, Norte de Santander.

* Leonidas Gómez Rozo, member of the bankworkers union, Unión Nacional de Empleados Bancarios (Uneb), president of the CITY-BANK Branco. Killed on 5 March, in Bogotá.

* Gildardo Gómez Alzate, teacher and activist of the Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia (Adida). Killed 7 March, in Medellín.

* Carlos Burbano, vice-president of the Hospitalworkers Union, Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Hospitalarios. Killed 11 March, San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá.

Castro went on to describe how,

Carlos Burbano...was disappeared on 9 March in San Vicente del Caguán. He had led the local March 6 demonstration. His corpse was found at the municipal rubbish dump with his face disfigured by acid. ("A Serious Wave of Threats," The Center for International Policy, March 18, 2008)

That these murders were preceded by provocative allegations denouncing the march by dodgy state figures is hardly surprising. José Obdulio Gaviria, an advisor to president Álvaro Uribe, impugned MOVICE when he declared on February 10 that the demonstrations were being "convened by the FARC," a virtual death sentence for anyone publicly tarred with the "narcoguerrilla" brush. This, despite the fact that MOVICE leaders had "denounced parallel calls by armed groups" to participate, according to Castro.

Gaviria's inflammatory pronouncement was echoed, as if on cue February 11, when the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a fascist death squad with documented links to narcotrafficking, "affirmed that the march was instigated by the guerrillas."

This was followed March 12, when a communiqué appeared on the Colombian Indymedia website from the shadowy far-right gang Aguilas Negras or Black Eagles. The anonymous author declared "all those entities, institutions, diplomatic representations and common people who receive this virtual communiqué are declared PHASE A MILITARY OBJECTIVES."

In the context of contemporary Colombia society, such rhetoric is not taken lightly.

That these union leaders were "disappeared," cruelly tortured and then assassinated by state-aligned paramilitaries is ironic, given that the U.S. State Department in its annual "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Colombia," last week claimed there aren't any new paramilitary groups in Colombia. That such mendacity passes muster in an official government report is indicative of the Bush regime's panic at proverbial "facts on the ground." As Latin America moves left, rejecting IMF/World Bank "privatization" (resource extraction) schemes, a corporatist façade of "democratic leaders" committed to "market reforms" and "the rule of law," drive the North American ruling class and their proxies, to create their own hollow realities.

As analyst Garry Leech points out:

In reality, there is a wealth of evidence showing that there are dozens of new paramilitary groups waging a dirty war in Colombia. Numerous human rights groups have shown that new paramilitary groups operating under names such as the New Generation or the Black Eagles do indeed exist and that they are responsible for a significant percentage of the country's political violence. In 2006, the Colombian NGO Indepaz reported that 43 new paramilitary groups totaling almost 4,000 fighters had been formed in 23 of the country's 32 departments. Last year, the OAS estimated that there were 20 new paramilitary groups with 3,000 fighters operating in Colombia. According to Alirio Uribe, a leading Colombian human rights lawyer with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective:

"There are forty-three new paramilitary groups but, according to the Ministry of Defense, these new paramilitary groups have nothing to do with the old ones. But the truth is, they are the same. Before they were the AUC, now they are called the New Generation AUC. They have the same collusion with the army and the police. It is a farce." ("Bush Administration Fails to Acknowledge Existence of New Paramilitary Groups in Colombia," Colombia Journal, Monday, March 17, 2008)

These are dangerous times for leftists and union organizers in Colombia. Since 1985 more than 4,000 union leaders and rank-and-file members have been murdered, either by the U.S.-backed Army or their paramilitary stand-ins. Often enough, activists have been killed or "disappeared" while organizing workers or during strike actions at giant American-owned firms. U.S. multinational corporations alleged to have collaborated with narcotrafficking rightist gangs include: the Coca-Cola Corporation, Chiquita Brands, Alabama-based Drummond Coal, to name but a few of the well-heeled U.S. companies pushing for a "free trade" deal with the death squad state.

Ironically, while praised by George W. Bush, Uribe was linked to drug traffickers by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) back in 1991. Citing documents published by the National Security Archive, according to Bill Van Auken,

The confidential DIA report described Uribe in the following terms: "A Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín Cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the US. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection with the narcotics traffickers. Uribe has worked for the Medellín Cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviría." It added that Uribe had "attacked all forms of the extradition treaty" that Washington had sought to bring Colombian drug traffickers to trial in the US.

Uribe and his spokesmen rushed to deny the veracity of the document, pointing to factual errors in its findings. ... They failed, however, to dispute what many have charged is the key allegation in the document: that Uribe enjoyed a close personal association with Escobar and the Medellín Cartel. ("Colombia's Uribe: US ally in 'war on terror' named as drug trafficker," World Socialist Web Site, 5 August 2004)

Today's plague of violence and mayhem is the deranged offspring of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrines taught in Colombia. Back in 1962, a proposal to organize "irregular" forces in tandem with regular Army units was made by a top-level U.S. Special Warfare team from Ft. Bragg. According to historian Michael McClintock,

General [William P.] Yarborough...pressed for a stay-behind irregular force and its immediate deployment to eliminate communists representing a future threat:

[A] concerted country team effort should be made now to select civilian and military personnel for clandestine training in resistance operations in case they are needed later. This should be done with a view toward development of a civil and military structure for exploitation in the event the Colombian internal security system deteriorates further. This structure should be used to pressure toward reforms known to be needed, perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States. (Instruments of Statecraft, New York: Pantheon Books, 1992, p. 222)

Fast forward more than 40 years and tens of thousands of deaths later: "communists" in the form of union leaders, peasant organizers, human rights workers, or indeed, anyone who dares raise their voice against the oppressive social and economic policies of a narcostate backed by the full weight of the imperialist "Colossus to the North" is a target worthy of "elimination."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama, Imperialism and the Paradox of Plenty amid Poverty

Editor's Note: Here at Antifascist Calling... we place a premium on cutting-edge, radical analysis and criticism of "actually existing capitalism." For more than two decades, Michael Novick has illuminated what so many others have sought to obscure: that the U.S. is a settler-colonial empire founded on land theft, genocide and slavery. Five years on from the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the slow ethnic-cleansing of Palestine, an onslaught of racist demonization of America's poor and disenfranchised, on-going threats of a "Pinochet option" against socialist Venezuela and with an aggressive naval fleet poised to strike Iran: the first, and most audacious revolutionary act, as always, is to tell the truth.

The following editorial is from the latest issue of Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education, Volume 21 Number 2, March-April 2008. A free sample copy is available from ARA-LA/PART, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232;; 310-495-0299. Subscriptions are $18 for six issues (one year) payable to Anti-Racist Action at the above address.

by Michael Novick
Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

In the 1950s and '60s, liberal and conservative social theorists used to speculate about the reasons for "the paradox of poverty amid plenty." How could we account for persistent and unyielding cross-generational poverty in certain sectors of the US population, when the US was the richest and most powerful country in the world? These 'thinkers' shared the assumption that the Empire was capable of endless growth, producing ever-increasing wealth. The idea that this horn of plenty could not seem to eradicate poverty even inside its own borders was a nagging perplexity. Neither school of thought could admit or even contemplate the reality that increasing wealth was extracted from, and in turn produced, increasing poverty. Nor could they begin to acknowledge the on-going process of race-based settler colonialism and "primitive accumulation" that characterizes the US Empire. Openly racial explanations were either too discredited or too embarrassing to allow in the era of the civil rights struggle and decolonization in Africa, Latin America and Asia. So the liberals and conservatives alike tended towards slightly different varieties of blaming the victim. Liberals focused on a lack of education; conservatives blamed sociopathic family inadequacy. These were two different sets of code for pinning the problem on Black women. Perhaps the fact that most of these social critics were well-educated and well-paid white men helps explain how this 'analysis' developed. Some lined up with JFK's New Frontier and LBJ's War on Poverty; others cast their lot with Nixon's "benign neglect" and later Reagan's "supply side" economics. Globally, the permutations of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism used imperial 'rule making' and austerity measures, in combination with imperial saber-rattling and direct military intervention, to impose "solutions" that further enriched US corporate interests at the expense of the rest of the world.

Forty years on, we can begin to recast, in fact reverse, the nature of the paradox they attempted to explain - the paradox in fact is the existence of plenty amid poverty. This is the era of peak oil, limits to growth, and the environmental devastation of global warming, mass extinctions and oceanic acidification. Now it is clear that endless growth is a cancerous, destructive and unsustainable delusion. So the paradox is not why a few people insist on staying poor amid all the wealth. Rather, the paradox is how it's possible for a handful to become increasingly, obscenely wealthy when so many billions of people in the world, and the planet itself, seem doomed to misery and poverty.

Seen from that angle, the explanation is self-evident. All the wealth has been extracted from the masses of exploited and colonized people and from the biosphere of the planet itself. All the power is amassed by transferring it from the masses of oppressed and colonized people and nations into the hands of the oppressors and colonizers. Not really a paradox at all, it is simply the irreconcilable and inescapable contradiction that is at the heart of the system of colonialism/capitalism. The stratagems of liberal or neo-liberal, conservative or neo-conservative theorists and practitioners only serve to delay and increase the enormity of the inevitable explosive resolution of that contradiction through the expropriation of the expropriators and the suppression of the oppressors.

However, socially, culturally and politically, new paradoxes do seem to emerge in this stage of not merely moribund but necrotic capitalism. One that springs to mind is the paradox of how a Black man can emerge as the front runner for the Democratic nomination and the presidency, at the same time that a majority of all Black men in the US serve time at some time in prisons and jails. How is it possible that simultaneously with the nation-wide spread of nooses at high schools, colleges and workplaces - when the noose is a symbol of mass white complicity in racist terror through lynchings - that a Black candidate for president would garner compelling majorities in predominantly white states? Yet really, the two phenomena are flip sides of the same coin, the desperation of the doomed social system of settler colonial empire and white supremacy. It is not uncommon in the history and life span of empires that in their decadence and senescence, they seek rejuvenation and a new lease on life by conferring the imperial throne on someone from the ranks of the colonized. Neither is the last-ditch, die-hard turn to reactionary violence and terror uncommon, particularly among settler-colonial societies that see the handwriting on the wall, such as in the Reconstruction-era South, "French" Algeria or Rhodesia.

The notion that Barack Obama is to any degree the candidate of a "movement" is a measure of the degradation of both language and politics in the period since the defeat and disorientation of the revolutionary struggles of the 60s and 70s through COINTELPRO and other counter-insurgency warfare. It is not racist to compare the Obama candidacy to Jesse Jackson's reformist Rainbow Coalition campaigns in the 1980s. Doing so makes it immediately clear that Obama is simply a youthful, charismatic and rhetorically gifted speaker and a conventional politician. He has never challenged or opposed the Empire or even its most retrograde and reactionary sectors through any form of mass action, militance or grassroots organizing and resistance during his entire career or in his current platform. Jackson, for all his personal flaws and political reformism, at least came out of a massive social movement, and attempted to unite various opposition sectors beginning with poor and working people. Jackson staked his campaign on voter registration of the disenfranchised, unity among Black, Mexicano, Asian and white workers. He actually had success in winning some white 'Reagan Democrat' workers in places like Michigan, because he created a pole of attraction by uniting significant movement sectors of people of color and by speaking out forcefully against unfair privilege and advantage.

Obama, on the heels of massive electoral fraud and ongoing disenfranchisement directed against Black people, of the institutionalization of thuggishness in the Republicans and spinelessness in the Democrats, presents himself as a post-racial, post-partisan "unifier." Democrats who spent eight years praying for someone who would stand up to and stick it to the Republicans are now falling head-over-heels for someone who presents himself as a paragon of bipartisanship. This only serves to underline the deeply delusional nature of a belief in the efficacy of the US electoral system to produce any meaningful or significant change. Supporting Obama allows people who are not prepared to acknowledge or break with the system of white supremacy and settler colonial empire the ability to feel that they are color-blind and have transcended racism. Thus their extreme discomfort with Hillary Clinton and her "injection" of race into the race. Aren't we beyond that?

Obama, conveniently for Euro-American society, answers the paradox of poverty amid plenty - he 'proves' that poverty, particularly Black poverty, is the fault of the poor - while allowing the privileged to ignore the paradox of plenty amid poverty. Perhaps more pertinent than the comparison to Jackson would be one to Cynthia McKinney. McKinney fought back ferociously against Black disenfranchisement, opposed US support for Zionist aggression, questioned the official story of '9-11' and opposed gentrification, mass incarceration and the locking up of political dissidents and Muslims. As a result, she was twice ousted from her Congressional seat, and her campaign for the presidency via the Green Party receives scant media attention, all of it negative. By contrast, Obama politely opposed the war in Iraq when he could do little officially, and has done little officially against it since he could. As the war enters is 6th (or really, 16th) year, he now proposes to withdraw 'combat' troops - not all US forces. So he is the Democratic front runner. To get there and stay there, Obama has had to discipline and/or distance himself not only from Farrakhan but even from his own wife and his spiritual advisor. John Edwards has had more to say about New Orleans than Obama. George Bush, for that matter, spoke out more forcefully about the spate of nooses in the aftermath of the Jena Six case than Obama did. Is it possible to even imagine Obama drawing attention to the selective prosecution and set-up case of the Black Rider 3 in Los Angeles, or calling for a moratorium on the incarceration of Black and Mexicano/indigenous youth, or speaking out against the unparalleled increase in police killings in Los Angeles and around the US? Would Obama use his candidacy to draw attention to the Winter Soldier hearings organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, let alone support active duty resisters inside the military? Obama asks us only to put rage and resentment behind us, and trust him.

It's noteworthy that Obama's candidacy has in fact failed to stimulate an outpouring of Black voters from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed. He is winning high percentages of the Black people who cast ballots, but the new voters he is drawing to the polls have come not from the poor Black masses but from young college graduates, predominantly white. His candidacy is a manifestation of the class divide that has opened inside the Black community between the downtrodden, dispossessed poor and the stratum that has been given a degree of entry into positions of status and wealth within the corporate economic and political system. Where once relatively well-to-do Black people functioned in relationship to, and drew their support and their wealth from, the Black masses, perhaps serving as interlocutors between them and white society, today's so-called Black bourgeoisie owes its status to separation from the Black masses and incorporation into the white power structure. We have moved beyond the 'house negro/field negro' distinction drawn by Malcolm X, to a distinction between Black overseers, managers and consiglieres of white property interests on the one hand, and Black lumpen, super-exploited and current, former and future prisoners on the other.

The smart money in the Empire is betting on Obama in hopes that he will prove clever enough, charismatic enough and capable enough to pull their chestnuts from the fire, to buy a little more time for them to maneuver. This is a pipe dream. The decay and disarray of imperialism, particularly that of the US Empire, is too far along to be easily surmounted (in which case Obama may then serve as a convenient fall guy if he does win). The paradox of plenty amid poverty is reaching its over-extended conclusion. No amount of "confidence-restoring" infusions of credit or monetary tinkering with interest rates will solve the ballooning crises of the US economic system, because the crisis is not one of confidence - it is a crisis of the disappearance of wealth and productive capacity. The bursting of the housing bubble and the inevitable toppling of the rest of the house of cards derived from it is because the median-priced house is now far beyond the capacity of the median-income family. No amount of gentrification and no amount of sub prime lending can create a market that will sustain the unsustainable. If there is no market for housing, because oppressed and exploited people cannot afford to buy, the price will collapse. Speculative flipping, interest-only loans, and packaging of mortgages into financial instruments have only made the collapse more colossal and damaging to the entire financial and banking system. In an economic system whose growth sectors are prisons and health care, in which most productive capacity has been exported abroad to take advantage of super-exploited labor in China and India, and where even high-tech, high-value service jobs have followed the flight of capital, Obama has no solutions to offer. He will not deter US aggression against Iran or China.

The oppressed, colonized and exploited inside the US must take responsibility for our own survival and future, in the first place by making common cause with the oppressed, exploited and colonized around the world, and by learning from them. We need to apply the methods of horizontal organizing, of environmentally-sound food production, of factory and land takeovers that are developing in Latin America, Africa and Asia. We need to recognize that those who rule this society - those who benefit from the paradox of plenty amid poverty - are our enemies. White supremacy, neo-colonialism and other forms of privilege within the empire will only bind us to a sinking ship and take us down with it. It is time to make a break with illusion, and end our identification with the Empire and the oppressor. We need to begin to strategize now, not how to ensure Obama's election, but how to deal with the Empire if Obama indeed becomes Emperor.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush Consolidates the National Security State

The Washington Post revealed Friday that the FBI is continuing its systematic violation of Americans' Fourth Amendment guarantees against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

A Justice Department report concluded that the Bureau had repeatedly abused its intelligence gathering "privileges" by issuing bogus "national security letters" (NSLs) from 2003-2006. On at least one occasion, the FBI relied on an illegally-issued NSL to circumvent a ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain records the secret court deemed protected by the First Amendment.

While the Bush regime claims that the Bureau requires sweeping authority to invade the privacy of American citizens to "protect the homeland" from the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets, al-Qaeda, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine determined that fully "60 percent of the nearly 50,000 security letters issued that year [2006] by the FBI targeted Americans," according to Post reporter Dan Eggen.

Despite the FISA court twice rejecting Bureau requests to obtain sensitive private records, determining "the 'facts' were too thin" and the "request implicated the target's First Amendment rights," the FBI used an NSL as a "work around" and proceeded anyway.

The stunning disregard for all legal norms under the Bush regime is encapsulated by FBI general counsel Valerie E. Caproni's statement to investigators that "it was appropriate to issue the letters in such cases because she disagreed with the court's conclusions."

Fine asserted in the Inspector General's report that the Bureau has recklessly used NSLs to sweep-up vast quantities of telephone numbers and internet searches with a single request.

Jameel Jaffer, national security director at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Eggen,

"The fact that these are being used against U.S. citizens, and being used so aggressively, should call into question the claim that these powers are about terrorists and not just about collecting information on all kinds of people. They're basically using national security letters to evade legal requirements that would be enforced if there were judicial oversight."

Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesperson, said Fine's report "should come as no surprise," tendentiously claiming new "procedural changes" would ameliorate future problems.

According to FBI Assistant Director John Miller, a former correspondent and anchor for ABC News, NSL requests "are now reviewed by a lawyer before they are sent to a telephone company, Internet service provider or other target."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has quietly stripped the independent Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) of much of its authority to root out illegal spying activities by the intelligence "community," Boston Globe journalist, Charlie Savage reports.

A little noticed February 29 executive order signed by Bush gutted the board's mandate to refer illegal activities by an ever-expanding national security state to the Justice Department.

According to Savage,

Bush's order also terminated the board's authority to oversee each intelligence agency's general counsel and inspector general, and it erased a requirement that each inspector general file a report with the board every three months. Now only the agency directors will decide whether to report any potential lawbreaking to the panel, and they have no schedule for checking in.

In other words, we'll police ourselves. Move along!

The IOB was created in 1976 by president Gerald Ford following congressional revelations that a panoply of U.S. intelligence entities including the CIA, FBI, NSA and DIA, had engaged in illegal domestic spying operations, organized the assassination of foreign leaders, incited coups and other destabilization campaigns around the world to advance U.S. geopolitical goals during America's anticommunist Cold War jihad.

On the domestic front, the FBI's COINTELPRO, the CIA's Operation CHAOS, the NSA's Project SHAMROCK and the DIA's domestic operations under control of various Military Intelligence Groups, conducted illegal surveillance of antiwar, socialist, feminist and black liberation groups targeted for "disruption and neutralization" during the 1960s and '70s.

Federal intelligence agents, in addition to conducting illegal surveillance and infiltration of domestic dissident groups, worked closely with local police "red squads" and actually financed and controlled far-right terrorist gangs such as the Minutemen, the San Diego-based Secret Army Organization and the Legion of Justice in Chicago. Dozens of attacks, including fire-bombings, physical assaults and attempted "targeted assassinations" of vocal antiwar activists and socialist organizers were the result.

Even after the "COINTELPRO era" presumably ended with the 1971 Media, PA raid by the "Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI" that exposed the Bureau's illegal operations, abuses continued--and multiplied.

* In 1979, five members of the Communist Workers Party were murdered by a combined Ku Klux Klan/American Nazi Party hit team in Greensboro, NC. The anticommunist death squad had been recruited, organized and led by an FBI infiltrator, Edward Dawson. Dawson was also a paid informant for the Greensboro Police Department.

* During the 1980s, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), opposed to U.S. intervention in support of El Salvador's death squad state, was infiltrated by FBI informants and far-rightists' associated with Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). The ultra-right wing Council for Inter-American Security, working as public relations apologists for death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, compiled a dossier on CISPES that was subsequently passed to the FBI. The Bureau then recommended "active measures" be taken to destroy the group.

* In May 1990, Earth First! leaders Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were targets of a politically-motivated assassination attempt. A bomb was detonated in their car by unknown assailants. At the FBI's instigation, Oakland Police immediately arrested the pair and charged them with terrorist crimes. After two months of adverse media publicity targeting the victims, charges were dropped. Twelve years later, the environmentalists were awarded $4.4 million in a federal civil suit when a jury determined the FBI had acted recklessly in their handling of the case. The FBI was doomed when their own forensic lab specialist testified the bomb was under the car seat not on the floorboard behind Bari as Bureau counterterrorism "experts" alleged.

* Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) is another in a long-line of corrupt Pentagon "public-private partnerships." Initially authorized by president William Clinton's Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)-75, CIFA and its associated TALON/CORNERSTONE database provide "threat assessments" for DoD facilities and personnel. One CIFA-supported database project, managed by defense giant Northrop Grumman was designated "Person Search." It was designed to "provide comprehensive information about people of interest." Its intended use included the ability to search government and commercial databases "to track and monitor activities of suspect individuals." However, numerous reports and internal memoranda published by the National Security Archive clearly document that CIFA's military and private contractors systematically conducted surveillance and data-mining operations against the antiwar movement. The Archive has posted 9 TALON reports collected by the 902nd Military Intelligence Group documenting CIFA's repressive activities. Originally falling under the purview of Stephen A. Cambone, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, CIFA's intelligence and data-mining programs are being spun-off to private contractors. Cambone has since gone on to an executive position with QinetiQ North America. QinetiQ signed a $30 million Pentagon contract in January 2008 for unspecified "security services" to CIFA, according to CorpWatch investigative reporter, Tim Shorrock.

* CISPES is again a target of the Justice Department. Citing the Foreign Registration Act of 1938, Bush's DOJ is questioning the organization's relationship with the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), a legal political party in El Salvador. With elections looming in 2009, the Bush regime is terrified that another Latin American country will elect a leftist government, thus further weakening U.S. regional domination and control over its shrinking imperialist empire. The Bush plan? Target solidarity activists in an attempt to smear the group as "foreign agents," or worse.

The gutting of the Intelligence Oversight Board's authority to investigate criminal activities by the Bush administration comes at a time when domestic spying operations have multiplied exponentially.

Last week The Wall Street Journal exposed the NSA's data-mining capabilities and revealed that the agency was targeting millions of Americans in its electronic driftnet and has compiled terabytes of data on every aspect of lives.

While administration apologists claim such sweeping and intrusive spying is necessary to "keep America safe," if history is any judge of past intelligence abuses these practices are designed instead, to "keep America in line," ever-fearful and obedient servants of our capitalist masters.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dogs of War Gathering in the Andes -- and in Washington

With dizzying speed--and rank hypocrisy--the United States is escalating its war of words with Venezuela.

On Friday, a group of Republican lawmakers proposed a resolution that calls on the Bush regime to declare Venezuela "a state sponsor of terrorism."

Hyped by Florida representatives Connie Mack and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a staunch apologist for Cuban neofascist thugs Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, the congressional text, according to the Miami Herald cites, agreements committing nations to fight terrorism that Venezuela is allegedly violating by backing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has waged a guerrilla war against the government there for more than four decades. It also lists FARC abuses, including kidnappings and drug trafficking.

Were Bush to list Venezuela as a "terrorist sponsor," crippling economic sanctions could be imposed as a prelude to a military intervention to topple the Bolivarian socialist Republic.

Without skipping a beat, Herald reporters declared without a shred of proof, referencing Uribe's "dodgy dossier," that

U.S. officials have long complained of close ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the FARC, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and Colombian governments and the European Union.

But the capture of four computers belonging to the FARC by Colombian police suggest the ties were deeper than previously believed and could involve payments of cash. (Pablo Bachelet, "Bill: Deem Venezuela a Terror Sponsor," Miami Herald, Friday, March 14, 2008)

(For the full text of the proposed congressional resolution, see: "Mack, Ros-Lehtinen Introduce Resolution Calling for Venezuela to Be Named a State Sponsor of Terrorism," Press Release, March 13, 2008.)

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday "that all U.N. nations, including Venezuela, have an obligation to go after terrorists and keep them from operating within their borders."

Ramping up the "Mighty Wurlitzer" for a confrontation with the socialist government, Rice said in response to a question about Venezuela's alleged links to the FARC, "We will watch the situation and the United States will act accordingly."

Responding to escalating threats from Washington, president Hugo Chávez said in a televised speech reported by the Associated Press,

"Let them make that list and shove it in their pocket. We shouldn't forget for an instant that we're in a battle against North American imperialism and that they have classified us as enemies--at least in this continent they have us as enemy No. 1.

"The imperial plan is to overthrow this government and knock down the Bolivarian Revolution. They're afraid of the impact of this revolution in the rest of the countries ... of Latin America. That permanent aggression is because of that." (Jorge Rueda, "Chavez Dares U.S. on Terror List Proposal," Associated Press, Friday, March 14, 2008)

Rice's belligerent remarks followed equally harsh rhetoric from international war criminal and state terrorist, U.S. president George W. Bush. According to "the Decider-in-Chief," Latin America, " facing an increasingly stark choice: to quietly accept the vision of the terrorists and the demagogues or to actively support democratic leaders like President Uribe."

This is particularly rich, considering the unfolding "parapolitical" scandal rocking Colombia's elite as their ties to right-wing paramilitary death squads and narcotrafficking syndicates expose new layers of complicity and corruption festering at the heart of the Colombian deep state.

The Center for International Policy, citing the Colombian newsmagazine Semana, has posted excerpts of an interview with "David Hernández López, a former Colombian army lieutenant who became a close associate of paramilitary leaders between 2000 and 2007."

According to CIP's report, the cozy relationships amongst the Colombian Army, paramilitary narcotraffickers and the oligarchy threaten Uribe's credibility as "our guy."

Retired Gen. Rito Alejo del Río. General del Río headed the Colombian Army's 17th Brigade in the Urabá region of Antioquia department in 1995-1997, a time when paramilitary groups were taking over the region through a campaign of near-daily massacres. (Also a time, incidentally, when Álvaro Uribe was Antioquia's governor.) Though Gen. del Río stands widely accused of aiding and abetting the bloody paramilitary takeover of Urabá, charges against him were controversially dropped in mid-2001.

Sen. Ciro Ramírez. Outside Colombia, Sen. Ramírez is best known -- if known at all -- as the first Colombian politician to call for changing Colombia's constitution yet again to allow Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term. He did so at a press conference held August 2, 2006, shortly before President Álvaro Uribe's second inauguration. According to David Hernández, Ciro Ramírez -- now under investigation for the "para-politics" scandal -- eagerly aided the AUC's nascent "Capital Bloc" starting in 2000 and 2001. (The Center for International Policy, "Another Paramilitary Witness Comes Forward," March 12, 2008)

So much for "democratic leaders like President Uribe"!

Semana's revelations are consistent with a decades'-long collaboration by the Colombian far-right, international narcotics syndicates and the United States: quintessential "partners" of America's own deep state. But what of the U.S. role in fomenting and exacerbating the crisis? Latin American analyst James J. Brittain argues that the "targeted-killings" of FARC commanders Raúl Reyes (March 1) and Iván Ríos (March 7) were intimately linked to U.S. counterinsurgency operations with the Colombian Army and far-right paramilitary forces, Brittain writes,

Reports have detailed that US Special Forces and Marines have been illegally engaging in counter-insurgency campaigns within the country of Colombia for years. Even though the legal number of US troops cannot exceed 800 state forces (and 600 private forces), thousands have been operating in campaigns against the FARC-EP. For example, Peter Gorman published that as far back as 2002 roughly 1,100 US counter-insurgency troops were on "orders to eliminate all high officers of the FARC". This does not even highlight what possible actions private US-based contracted counter-insurgency forces may be carrying out.

Brittain believes this is a component of extensive U.S.-Colombian psychological operations (PSYOPS) against the FARC and other leftist opponents--armed actors or legal political parties. The methodology employed is drawn directly from the U.S. counterinsurgency playbook and includes:

1) Systemically exposing sectors of Colombia's general public to photographs of the bullet ridden and mutilated corpse of Reyes on an hourly basis or the 'cooler' containing Ríos' severed limbs is a tool utilized to intimidate the subconscious and sociopolitical direct action, deter sympathizers of the insurgency, political activists, and state opponents within Colombia from criticizing the state's political dominance and promotion of far-right economic policies.

2) Telling the world that Comandante Ríos' was murdered by his own comrades is a tactic employed to decrease external solidarity from sectors of the international community, who may now falsely believe the argument that the largest and most powerful Marxist-Leninist revolutionary social movement in Latin America is losing ground, power, and influence in the Colombian countryside. At the same time, such accusations are internally disseminated in the hopes of destabilizing the FARC-EP itself. Propagating that the rank-and-file have abandoned the leadership and that the movement is collapsing is a strategy to destabilize the insurgency's many Squads, Companies, Columns, and Fronts. ("Was the United States Involved in Recent Attacks Targeting the FARC-EP?" Venezuela Analysis, March 12, 2008)

Brittain's analysis seems plausible, although the proverbial "smoking gun" has yet to make its appearance. Considering the $5.5 billion in Plan Colombia dollars showered on the region for "counternarcotics" operations, it would seem that Washington's unrepentant cold warriors would encourage full-blown counterinsurgency tactics replete with "hunter-killer" teams of U.S. Special Forces and PSYOPS advisers working in tandem with "mission friendly" narcotrafficking paramilitaries leading the charge in defense of the Uribe regime.

As a cash cow for American defense contractors and "private military contractors" (armed mercenaries), Plan Colombia is another in a long line of shady U.S.-sponsored "public-private partnerships" in repression. According to John Lindsay-Poland,

DynCorp International has signed contracts with the State Department for about $150 million annually since 2000 for its operations in Colombia. It also also handles most of the operations at the Manta base. The company's corporate offices, like those of many of the growing band of mercenary outfits, are located in suburban Virginia, outside Washington. (The company’s headquarters are in Falls Church, which is adjacent to the Congressional district of Representative Frank Wolf, the ranking Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Operations subcommittee that marks up the hundreds of millions of dollars in funds that Congress approves for DynCorp.) The company in turn has consistently given thousands of dollars to Wolf's campaign. Such a blatant conflict of interest is another demonstration of Plan Colombia's corrupt underlying dynamics, which should be cause for a fundamental re-casting of the policy. ("Yankees Head Home," Foreign Policy in Focus, March 6, 2008)

Conflict of interest or business as usual, you make the call. But back in 2001, investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood exposed an even darker side of the all-purpose mercenary outfit:

DynCorp's shroud of secrecy has the potential for giving cover to a wide range of activities outside stated US policy objectives. DynCorp is contracted to help eliminate drug production in Colombia. But a DEA document, recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, stated that on May 12, 2000 the Colombian National Police intercepted a FedEx parcel at the airport. It was sent from the Bogota DynCorp site and destined for DynCorp's office on Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. The name of the sender has been blacked out. The 250 Gram liquid "tested positive for heroin," according to the DEA. "My understanding is that was a faulty test result," DynCorp spokesperson Wineriter told CorpWatch. ("DynCorp in Colombia: Outsourcing the Drug War," CorpWatch, May 23, 2001)

Fast-forward to 2008, billions of dollars later, and the results of U.S. counternarcotics operations are anything but promising. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), U.S. aerial fumigation of Colombia's coca and poppy fields have, as in Afghanistan, been a dismal failure.

In a new report, WOLA analysts describe how "Intensive aerial herbicide spraying of coca crops in Colombia has backfired badly, contributing to the spread of coca cultivation and cocaine production to new areas of the country and threatening human health and the environment." They found that during a seven-year period, "the area under coca cultivation in Colombia rose from 122,500 hectares to 157,200 hectares, according to U.S. government figures" and that "Cocaine production in Colombia rose from 617 metric tons in 2001 to 640 metric tons in 2005, according to UN figures, despite an increase in fumigation every year during that period." ("'Chemical Reactions'," Washington Office on Latin America, February 29, 2008)

But as I detailed in an earlier report, citing investigations by Bill Conroy and Daniel Hopsicker, such "failures" may very well be part and parcel of a protected intelligence operation intended to link massive coca cultivation and "drug trafficking" by FARC rebels to Venezuela.

As Plan Colombia falters, oil prices soar and the U.S. economy "heads south," Latin America is rejecting the "Washington consensus" of IMF-World Bank-dictated neoliberal "reforms." Predicated on NED-guided "managed democracy" and vicious resource extraction schemes guaranteed by U.S.-friendly "strong states," the Bush regime is preparing the ground for full-blown political destabilization and possible military intervention across the Andes to annihilate any potential "threat" of a socialist alternative.

Dangerous times for the capitalist masters call forth desperate measures. Washington is seeking a regional adversary to blame for its own bankrupt policies and Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian socialist government are being made to fit the frame.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Target Venezuela!

Just days after president Hugo Chávez affirmed at the Rio Group summit that "our government only wants peace," the U.S. is now seeking to have Venezuela declared "a state sponsor of terrorism."

McClatchy News reported Monday,

The Bush administration has launched a preliminary legal inquiry that could land Venezuela on the U.S. list of nations that support terrorism, following reports of close Venezuelan links with Colombian rebels, a senior government official has confirmed. (Pablo Bachelet, "U.S. May Add Venezuela to List of Terrorist States," McClatchy Washington Bureau, Monday, March 10, 2008)

In other words, the U.S. State Department is using Uribe's "dodgy dossier" as a pretext for sanctions and embargoes against the Bolivarian republic. If implemented, such restrictions would severely limit the ability of U.S. firms to do business with Caracas while making it nearly impossible for Venezuela to export oil to the United States or import vital spare parts necessary to keep the economy going.

Under onerous rules now being considered, the Treasury Department's Office of Asset Control could potentially freeze Venezuelan financial assets in U.S. banks. Such aggressive action by the Bush administration would "make the economy scream," the infamous order given by Richard M. Nixon to the CIA in the run-up to the violent putsch that overthrew Chile's democratically-elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, on September 11, 1973.

The McClatchy report continues,

The legal review comes after Colombia captured four computers belonging to a guerrilla leader in a March 1 raid into Ecuador. The documents suggest the Venezuelan government was in the process of providing $300 million to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

As investigative journalist Greg Palast reported after actually reviewing the documents, there is no mention whatsoever that the Venezuelan government was "in the process of providing $300 million to ... FARC."

Commenting on the crisis, U.S.-Venezuelan attorney Eva Golinger wrote Tuesday,

Over the past year, the U.S. State Department has classified Venezuela as a nation "not collaborating" with either the "war on drugs" or the "war against terrorism". The Pentagon and the intelligence communities released reports earlier this year citing Venezuela as a "major threat to U.S. national security" and have proposed beefing up military presence in the region. The White House and Congress have increased USAID and National Endowment Funding to opposition groups in Venezuela in an effort to rebuild ailing conservatives that favor a U.S. agenda. International media portray Chávez as "public enemy #1" and the leader of a Latin American "axis of evil" that is threatening regional stability. ("The Peacemaker," Venezuela Analysis, Tuesday, March 11, 2008)

With this in mind, Bill Conroy at The Narco News Bulletin is reporting that CIA and Pentagon corporate cut-outs have exported at least 11 aircraft to Venezuela since 2003, four of which have subsequently been linked to cocaine planes seized by Mexican and Central American authorities. Conroy's extensive investigation into the mysterious aircraft and even dodgier companies have led him to conclude that the planes are linked "to an elaborate covert intelligence operation." Conroy reports:

The covert program, law enforcement sources contend, likely involves the CIA and components of Defense Department intelligence agencies, and is focused, in part, on penetrating, or even propping up, narco-trafficking groups in Venezuela. That country's outspoken leader, Hugo Chávez, is regularly demonized by U.S. policymakers for, among other things, supposedly allowing his country to become a haven for narco-traffickers. ("U.S. Cocaine-Plane Invasion Spooks Latin America," The Narco News Bulletin, March 11, 2008)

The Narco News investigation dovetails with one that Florida-based journalist Daniel Hopsicker has been reporting for nearly two years when the first plane was seized on the Yucatan peninsula by Mexican authorities in April 2006, carrying some 5.5. tons of cocaine.

Conroy and Hopsicker have both reported that the operation, code-named Mayan Express, appears to prioritize intelligence goals over law enforcement. Multi-ton loads of cocaine may have been allowed to flow freely into the United States as Washington's "drug warriors" looked the other way, a classic sign of a sanctioned intelligence operation.

Two of the aircraft identified in their reports, a Gulfstream II jet (tail number N987SA), which crashed in Mexico last September with a payload of some four tons of cocaine, and a Beech 200 (N391SA) seized in Nicaragua "with the false tail number N168D," have been linked to the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, according to Council of Europe investigators.

In a prior interview with Conroy, attorney Mark Conrad, "a former high-level supervisory U.S. Customs agent who has an extensive background in the intelligence world," told Narco News,

"Even though it looks as if you are unraveling odd connections you may be only seeing a small part of what is going on -- or you may be seeing what you are expected to see, missing something else.

"My guess -- and that is all that it is -- is that this has something to do with operations in Venezuela -- either to finance ops, or to divert attention from Agency ops in Venezuela to destabilize Chávez. ... It is not in the U.S. interests for Chávez to create another Cuba on some of the largest oil field reserves in the world." [emphasis added]

Before the December 2007 constitutional referendum which the Chávez government lost, Golinger reported that Venezuelan counterintelligence obtained a CIA memorandum from the U.S. Embassy which revealed extensive CIA/Pentagon plans to destabilize the country. Code-named "Operation Pliers," the memo was dated November 20, 2007. Golinger wrote,

Operation Tenaza has the objective of encouraging an armed insurrection in Venezuela against the government of President Chávez that will justify an intervention of US forces, stationed on the military bases nearby in Curacao and Colombia. The Operation mentions two countries in code: as Blue and Green. These refer to Curacao and Colombia, where the US has operative, active and equipped bases that have been reinforced over the past year and a half in anticipation of a conflict with Venezuela. [emphasis added]

The document confirms that psychological operations are the CIA's best and most effective weapon to date against Venezuela, and it will continue its efforts to influence international public opinion regarding President Chávez and the situation in the country.

Operation Tenaza is a very alarming plan that aims to destabilize Venezuela and overthrow (again) its legitimate and democratic (and very popularly supported) president. The plan will fail, primarily because it has been discovered, but it must be denounced around the world as an unacceptable violation of Venezuela's sovereignty. ("CIA 'Operation Pliers' Uncovered in Venezuela," Venezuela Analysis, November 28, 2007)

While "Operation Pliers" may have failed back in December, the CIA has been ratcheting up tensions ever since, as the March 1 U.S.-Colombian attack on Ecuador clearly demonstrates. Since its failed April 2002 coup against the socialist government, the United States, working through a multitude of fronts--from the CIA, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the International Republican Institute to the National Endowment for Democracy--have poured millions of dollars into Venezuela, funding a broad campaign of subversion and violence.

Utilizing assets such as Súmate, Acción Democrática, Comando Nacional de la Resistencia and media outlets such as Globovisión, RCTV and the Interamerican Press Society, Washington and their far-right allies are planning a "Pinochet option" to topple the democratically-elected government of Hugo Chávez.

Despite on-going attacks by Colombian far-right narco-trafficking paramilitary gangs such as the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) in the Venezuelan state of Tachira, analysts believe that the U.S.-funded Plan Colombia is being used by the Bush and Uribe regimes as part of a military "pincer" movement against Venezuela.

Tachira's governor, Blanco la Cruz, told the Australian socialist journal, Green Left Weekly that,

"The zones that suffer this problem most intensely are [the area] south of Lake Maracaibo in Zulia, Alto Apure, and, obviously, Tachira. In these states, the paramilitaries, helped by the Colombian government, have taken control of various areas, buying up farms with the money from extortion, kidnapping and, principally, drug-dealing." (Jim McIlroy & Coral Wynter, "Venezuela: Guns, Drugs and Thugs: The threat from Plan Colombia, Number 684, September 20, 2006)

If the United States determines that Venezuela "has ... crossed the threshold of state sponsor of terror," according to an "unnamed official" cited by McClatchy News, full-blown U.S. sanctions would usher in a state of savage economic warfare as a prelude to a U.S. invasion and occupation of Venezuela and its strategic petroleum resources.

Additional documentation of U.S. destabilization operations against Venezuela can be found at