Sunday, January 25, 2009

CIA-ISI Jihadi "Frankenstein" Sows Chaos, Reaps Death

With 180 girls' schools torched since 2008 in Pakistan's Swat Valley and some 900 indefinitely closed, the future for education for some 125,000 young women is under dire threat by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The latest bombings took place Monday in the district capital, Mingora, "once considered the safest place in Swat," according to The Guardian. Five girls' schools were leveled by TTP militants who last week decreed a permanent ban on education for girls.

In recent weeks, residents who have crossed the TTP have been strung-up from trees, beaten, or had their shops destroyed while markets have been ruled "no go" areas for women.

First mobilized during the 1980s by the CIA and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) as "plausibly deniable" assets to wage "holy war" against Afghanistan's socialist government, organized crime and drug-linked jihadi groups now threaten Pakistan itself. Call it "blowback" on steroids.

As the Obama administration prepares to the double the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, attacks in Pakistan by the American-led NATO coalition will only accelerate the splintering of the nuclear-armed South Asian nation and fuel new attacks by international terrorist outfits such as "former" allies, the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda.

Amply warned by South Asian and Middle Eastern experts in the 1970s who predicted a slow-moving but inevitable catastrophe for the region, short-term Cold War "gains" against the Soviet adversary trumped long-term strategic planning which, if America were a sane country, would have worked to strengthen, rather than undermine, progressive regional forces.

Despite the inescapable conclusion that the CIA's Islamist Frankenstein monster is running amok, one can only surmise that America's corporatist masters continue to view religiously-inspired neofascists as a reliable auxiliary force to advance geopolitical goals against their capitalist rivals.

As I documented in "Unconventional Warfare in the 21st Century: U.S. Surrogates, Terrorists and Narcotraffickers," (Antifascist Calling, December 19, 2008) despite the catastrophes wrought by American global gamesmanship, for United States Special Operations Command (USSOC) and the CIA, this disastrous paradigm is still fully operational.

Indeed a September 2008 USSOC planning document, first disclosed by Wikileaks, avers that unconventional warfare "must be conducted by, with, or through surrogates; and such surrogates must be irregular forces." For the people of Pakistan, the "irregular forces" ranged against them are driving the country headlong over the edge of a precipice. Unfortunately however, this is not by accident.

As Swiss investigative journalist Richard Labévière wrote, describing Pakistan's descent into chaos, "The Pakistani morass and its profound strategic implications for all of Central Asia have become one of the most alarming and chaotic scenes on the planet. As one of the most strategic areas of the next millennium slips into a criminal state, Uncle Sam looks on with cynicism (if not benevolence)."

Citing the confluence of interests amongst American corporate grifters and far-right Islamist terror networks, Labévière pointedly cites a top U.S. intelligence officials' approval of the reactionary forces set in motion by America's anti-Soviet Afghan gambit as a signpost for future destabilization campaigns:

"The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army," explains a former CIA analyst. "The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter Chinese influence in Central Asia." In a certain sense, the Cold War is still going on. For years Graham Fuller, former Deputy Director of the National Council on Intelligence at the CIA, has been talking up the "modernizing virtues" of the Islamists, insisting on their anti-Statist concept of the economy. Listening to him, you would almost take the Taleban and their Wahhabi allies for liberals. "Islam, in theory at least, is firmly anchored in the traditions of free trade and private enterprise," wrote Fuller. "The prophet was a trader, as was his first wife. Islam does not glorify the State's role in the economy." (Richard Labévière, Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam, New York: Algora Publishing, 2000, p. 6)

But inevitably, facts on the ground put paid the mad schemes of imperialist architects such as Graham Fuller and his acolytes. Fast forward a decade and it becomes all-too-painfully clear it is the Afghan and Pakistani people who are paying the price in blood for America's bankrupt policies. Having armed, financed and provided an ample array of targets for "free trade liberals" such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda--subsisting on the illicit profits of the international narcotics trade and other dubious ventures--Yankee hubris, as historian Chalmers Johnson reminds us, has called forth the goddess of divine retribution, Nemesis, on all our heads.

Medievalism in Swat Valley: Pakistan, and America's, Future?

While moves to impose sharia law on the Pakistani people through violence is the alleged intent of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and their al-Qaeda "brothers," more mundane, though far-more worldly concerns motivate the jihadists: state power and the loot such a position would afford enterprising charlatans.

What better means than control--through fear--of a terrorized population forced to look the other way as a gang of "holy warriors" steal their resources and process heroin on an industrial scale while turning a quick profit in the bargain!

Investigative journalist Amir Mir, writing in the Lahore-based newspaper The News International reports that

Around 10,000 TTP militants have been pitted against 15,000 Army troops since Oct 22, 2007, when the [Swat Valley military] operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan Army is Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcasts, still operational despite being banned by the NWFP [North West Frontier Province] government, the firebrand keeps inspiring his followers to implement Shariah, fight the Army and establish his authority in the area.

Military authorities have repeatedly alleged that Fazlullah, who has thousands of armed supporters ready to challenge the security forces on his command, has close links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The cleric has already become a household name in Swat, as his Shaheen Commando Force is destroying and occupying government buildings, blowing up police stations, bridges, basic health units and hotels and burning girls' schools. ("Amid Rising TTP Gains, Army Adopts New Strategy," The News International, January 21, 2009)

Since the military launched an offensive against the clericalist thugs, indiscriminate Army attacks against the civilian population have wrecked havoc. In addition to burning down nearly 200 girls' schools, the TTP have torched 80 video shops, 22 barber shops and have destroyed some 20 bridges in the mountainous region. Mir reports the TTP have carried out some 165 bomb attacks against security forces, including 17 suicide bombings and increasingly sophisticated remote-controlled IED attacks.

So serious has the situation grown in the Swat Valley, that 800 provincial police, half the stated total according to The News International, have either deserted or left the area under pretext of going on "extended leave." Other observers contend that the TTP and the Army are collaborating together.

Local politicians who have fled the valley claim that "elements of the military and the militants appear to be acting together." Bushra Gohara, the Vice-President of the Awami National Party told The Independent on Sunday, "Even if they are not, there needs to be a complete review of the military's strategy."

"The suspicion of collusion, said a local government official in the largest town, Mingora," according to the IoS, "is based on the proximity of army and Taliban checkposts, each 'a mile away from the other'."

Reports indicate that Fazlullah's militia now effectively controls the Swat Valley. "Under these circumstances," Mir writes, "the state writ has shrunk from Swat's 5,337 square kilometres to the limits of its regional Mingora headquarters, which is a city of just 36 square kilometres."

In Mingora itself, once a prosperous urban hub that thrived on the tourist trade, the nature of the crisis can be gauged by the number of bodies that appear each morning after a night of terror. According to Mir, shopkeepers are now finding "four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or trees."

Unsurprisingly, it is the civilian population who have suffered the worst depredations of the TTP and the Pakistani Army. Hemmed-in on all sides, a military spokesperson conceded that a third of the population has fled the area since the Army launched its offensive.

Creating a dual-power situation as the state's hold in the area shrinks, some "70 Taliban courts are now ruling on hundreds of cases of 'immoral activity' every week," The Sunday Times reported.

Fueled by the repressive Saudi-inspired Wahhabi doctrine that fired the Afghan mujahedin during America's anti-Soviet Cold War "jihad," the TTP have embarked on a rule-by-fear strategy that seeks to impose "Sharia law" on an unwilling--and unarmed--population, as part of its long-term strategy to seize state power.

As in Afghanistan under the Taliban however, it is women who face the harshest sanctions by the jihadi thugs. The refusal to wear a veil or dancing in public are "offenses" punishable by death. The Sunday Times averred,

The emergence of a parallel Taliban legal system has a sinister objective. "This is our first step towards the implementation of sharia in Swat," said Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman. In the next phase, Khan said, the courts would begin to carry out harsher punishments, such as execution or chopping off hands.

Villagers said the Taliban were already killing people who defied their orders. "They didn’t even spare barbers and women coming out of markets without wearing their veils," said a Mingora resident.

There have been 51 Taliban executions since the start of the year, he added. The victims include politicians, security men, dancers, prostitutes and shopkeepers selling alcohol. (Daud Khattak, "Taliban's deadly 'justice' cows Pakistan," The Sunday Times, January 18, 2009)

Ominously, Fazlullah's state within a state is not staffed primarily by madrassa-educated cannon-fodder, but draw on a surplus of former Army and intelligence officers to fill the ranks, raising suspicions that the TTP enjoys powerful backing from ruling elites.

According to Mir, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) and TTP are composed of two Shuras, or councils. One is the Ulema Shura that advises the group on "religious polices," while the Executive Shura, "is the highest policy-making organ of the TNSM, which has a large number of ex-servicemen, including retired commissioned officers, as its members."

Since 9/11, under intense pressure by their American "allies" in the "war on terror," the Army and ISI have been partially purged by military and political elites who rule the roost. However, disaffected ISI cadre who never endorsed former President-General Pervez Musharraf's half-hearted--some would say, deceitful--"break" with the Army's own creation, the Taliban, continue to sponsor retrograde jihadist outfits.

Still allied with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and home-grown terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), elements burrowed deep within the state, including prominent former generals closely associated with former dictator, General Zia ul-Haq and the CIA, are actively conspiring to destabilize the civilian government.

Indeed, last November's terrorist assault on Mumbai, a joint venture amongst disaffected elements of the security/intelligence apparatus, LET and organized crime-linked assets such as Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company, was a shot across the bow of President Asif Ali Zadari's administration meant to further polarize the country and sow doubt amongst ruling class elites as to the efficacy of civilian rule.

Staggering from crisis to crisis, under heavy pressure from imperialism to "show results" for the billions of dollars in "aid" showered on the military by Washington, time is running out as the jihadi Frankenstein flexes its muscles.

From the Lal Masjid Siege to the Bhutto Assassination

Fazlullah's rise, and the TTP's assault on the people of the Swat Valley, can be directly linked to the fall-out from the July 2007 Red Mosque siege.

When the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) controversy exploded, the state was forced, though some would say dragged kicking and screaming, to act against brothers Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the al-Qaeda-linked leaders of the Mosque.

It wasn't always that way. Since its founding in 1965 in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, the Red Mosque enjoyed patronage from influential members of the government, primes ministers, army chiefs and presidents, according to BBC News.

During the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad, the Red Mosque played a prominent role in the recruitment and training of fighters and was supported handsomely by the ISI when the Taliban was launched in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. During the 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, many Red Mosque fighters were captured or killed by U.S. forces and Northern Alliance militia fighters.

In other words, high state officials, including intelligence chieftains such as Hamid Gul and Mahmoud Ahmad were staunch backers of the Ghazi brothers, hard-line advocates of dictator General Zia ul-Haq's program to "Islamize" Pakistani society come hell or high water. In this bankrupt project to destroy what little remained of Pakistani democracy and civil society, Zia and his retinue of Islamist generals were generously supported by the United States.

Former ISI General Hamid Gul told Asia Times, "It is a pity that our army was preparing youths to seize Lal Qala [the Red Fort of Delhi] and they ended up seizing the Lal Masjid." According to a recent report in The News International, Gul is now wanted by the U.S. "charged ... with providing financial assistance to Kabul-based criminal groups and involvement in spotting, assessing, recruiting and training young men from seminaries," as well as accusations that the ex-general has been "assisting the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in developing high-tech weapons."

Gun battles erupted in 2007 after gangs of burqa-clad seminary students occupied a children's library, kidnapped a group of Chinese women accused of being "prostitutes," and after repeated forays into surrounding commercial districts trashed CD shops accused of selling "pornography." But when the "students" demanded strict enforcement of sharia law, the state's hand was forced.

When police failed to stamp-out the mini-rebellion in the nation's capital, the Army was brought in. By the time the smoke cleared, Abdul Ghazi had been killed and his brother Abdul Aziz was arrested after attempting to flee the scene dressed in a woman's burqa, sparking outrage amongst the fundamentalists and former high-ranking intelligence officials. Conflicting reports claim that anywhere between 200 and 1,000 people lost their lives during the siege. In the aftermath, according to multiple press reports, a huge arms' cache was recovered, including stocks of AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers.

After the raid, Fazlullah joined forces with TTP and Pakistani al-Qaeda "emir" Baitullah Mehsud, "in a bid to provide an umbrella to all insurgent movements operating in several tribal agencies and settled areas of the NWFP," according to journalist Amir Mir.

Scant months after the Lal Masjid affair and in the midst of tumultuous nation-wide demonstrations by tens of thousands of democracy activists, including lawyers and left-wing labor militants demanding the restoration of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry, sacked by the Musharraf regime after ordering the government to account for Pakistan's "disappeared," Benazir Bhutto was murdered in Rawalpindi.

In the aftermath of Bhutto's December 27, 2007 assassination, state officials alleged that Mehsud claimed responsibility for her murder, a claim he denied. The "targeted killing" of Pakistan's most popular political figure followed on the heels of the October 2007 Karachi bombing that killed 150 of Bhutto's supporters when she returned home from exile.

The official story has undergone several contradictory metamorphoses. Shortly after Bhutto's murder it was alleged that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), another banned terror group linked to al-Qaeda, were the reputed authors. The story then changed and al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed responsibility, telling Asia Times, "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat the mujahideen." Many analysts believe these serial fabrications by the government were meant to muddy the waters and conceal the true architects of the attacks.

In a letter to Musharraf before her murder, published by the Karachi-based newspaper Dawn, Bhutto named four persons involved in an alleged plot to kill her: Intelligence Bureau (IB) Chief Ijaz Shah, former chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, former chief minister of Sindh Arbab Ghulam Rahim, and the former ISI chief, Hamid Gul. All are prominent pro-Islamist figures within the intelligence and security establishment who favored a continuation of Pakistan's policy of fielding terrorist proxy armies.

While first claiming that Bhutto was killed when she struck her head on the latch of her SUV sunroof fracturing her skull as the result of a suicide bomb blast, video footage surfaced showing a gunman firing several shots at the popular politician prior to the bomb's detonation. This would increase the likelihood that the suicide bomber's actual target was the gunman and therefore, part of a clean-up operation meant to conceal the identities of those who ghostwrote the Bhutto assassination script.

However, conflicting claims of responsibility, the hasty manner in which the security services removed all traces of forensic evidence from the crime scene and threats by police and intelligence officials against physicians who examined Bhutto's body, fueled speculation that Islamist elements within ISI and the Army--or the state itself--either manipulated the militants or carried out the terrorist outrages in a move to bolster Musharraf's waning grip on power.

Though allegedly on the outs with the clericalists, Musharraf was a staunch supporter of the Army's policy of fielding "irregular forces" comprised of far-right thugs such as Lashkar or the virulently anti-Shia communalist group Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) to carry out "plausibly deniable" strikes against India or internal left-wing political opponents.

Originally founded in 1985 at the behest of dictator General Zia ul-Haq to liquidate secular and leftist forces opposed to his moves to "Islamize" Pakistani society with the blessings of the CIA, the SSP was "banned" in 2002 but quickly regrouped under the banner of Millat-e-Islamia. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was an SSP member as was his uncle, the al-Qaeda operative and alleged architect of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Echoes of the Lal Masjid affair continue to reverberate. On September 21, 2008 a massive truck bomb was detonated outside the Marriot Hotel in downtown Islamabad, killing 60 and wounding some 260 people, virtually obliterating the five-star hotel. Some 700 Pakistanis had gathered to break the daily Ramadan fast. If the bomber had managed to drive the truck into the lobby, the toll would have been far higher.

The conclusion drawn was bleak: if the Marriot could be hit in one of the most secure and upscale neighborhoods in the heart of Pakistan's capital, then no one was safe. It was feared that the bombers' intent was to destabilize and possibly spark an Army coup against the first civilian government in nine years.

With little to hope for from the Army and ISI, President Asif Ali Zadari has expanded the civilian-led Special Investigations Group (SIG), a distinct antiterrorist branch of the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA), The Guardian reported earlier this month. The SIG had languished under Musharraf. According to investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott Clark,

On December 14, the British PM flew to Islamabad to announce a £6m "pact against terror", saying he wanted to "remove the chain" that led from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of Britain. A significant part of the funding was intended for the SIG currently a tight-knit cell of 37 full-time specialists that was to be expanded into a 300-strong force with an investigation division, an armed wing, an intelligence department and a research section. In return, Britain asked for access to the SIG's raw data and captured extremists who might illuminate British plots. ("On the Trail of Pakistan's Taliban," The Guardian, 10 January 2009)

The need for security would indeed be high. On March 11, 2008, the anniversary of the Madrid transport attacks, a suicide bomber struck the SIG's provincial office in Lahore, killing 25 people, including 13 officers. Tariq Pervez, the SIG's head told The Guardian that since the end of 2007, "suicide strikes from this region had killed 597 security force personnel and 1,523 civilians, including Benazir Bhutto on December 27."

Despite attempts to recruit--or co-opt--poverty-stricken, often unwilling young members of TNSM/TTP head-honcho Baitullah Mehsud's extended clan in Waziristan for use as cannon-fodder, Pervez told The Guardian its a hard sell given Mehsud's brutal methods of dealing with those who oppose him.

Indeed, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, when 600 tribal elders spoke out against the TNSM/TTP in 2005, Mehsud had each of them sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own funeral shrouds: all of them were subsequently murdered.

The situation has deteriorated to such a degree for U.S./NATO "coalition" forces that America's main supply route into Afghanistan from western Pakistan's tribal belt, that the military "has obtained permission to move troop supplies through Russia and Central Asia, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in the Middle East, said on Tuesday," according to The New York Times.

In December, hundreds of NATO supply trucks were torched in Peshawar by Taliban, TTP and al-Qaeda fighters and Pakistani truck drivers are now refusing to drive along the supply route.

Frankenstein Turns on its Master: "Round Up the Usual Suspects!"

The alliance forged in the wake of the Lal Masjid siege and the Bhutto assassination amongst forces loyal to Maulana Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud's TTP, Mullah Mohammed Omar's Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Afghan-Arab database, al-Qaeda, are chickens that have come home to roost for U.S. imperialism. But it is the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who are paying the price.

Despite the grave threats to the people of Central, South Asia and the Middle East posed by a resurgence of far-right fundamentalism sponsored by the United States, Washington still continues to view Islamist terror and organized crime-linked networks such as al-Qaeda and their related complex of jihadi groups as "off-the-shelf," plausibly deniable intelligence assets.

Notwithstanding the severe global capitalist economic meltdown, geopolitical expansion into regions of strategic and economic interest to the United States is a top priority of the Obama administration. A central pillar of the American policy despite "regime change" in Washington, is the destabilization of Iran. As Seymour Hersh reported, the U.S. via their ISI and Saudi "allies" are arming and financing Pakistani-based jihadi groups such as Jundullah to target Iran.

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. "The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda," Baer told me. "These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers--in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we're once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties." Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People's Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. "This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists," [Vali] Nasr told me. "They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture." The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support. ("Preparing the Battlefield," The New Yorker, July 7, 2008)

While North American and European Muslim communities remain a target of repressive "counterterrorist" policies that demonize Muslims and Arabs as dangerous "others," internal "enemies" and "usual suspects" to be preyed upon by police and intelligence agencies, real, not fictional, terrorist networks continue to operate, indeed thrive, with impunity. Here, as elsewhere, short-term tactical advantage over capitalist rivals trump democratic processes and economic well-being based on social justice.

As security analyst and historian, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed documented in a Briefing Paper prepared for the British Parliament in the wake of al-Qaeda's 2005 London transport attacks,

The government appears unable to fully extract itself from these strategic interests, continuing to tolerate Islamist extremist networks in the UK, including successor organizations to al-Muhajiroun, and showing an inexplicable unwillingness to investigate them; displaying ongoing reluctance to arrest and prosecute leading extremists despite abundant evidence of their incitement to terrorism, murder, violence and racial hatred (with serious action delayed until public pressure is brought to bear); and refusing to investigate key al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist suspects based or formerly based in the UK connected to 7/7 and other terrorist attacks. In this dire situation, proposing the extension of state power through yet further anti-terror legislation, as the Brown government is now doing, can never hope to contribute to real security. For in this context, such legislation not only fails to rectify the multiple failures of domestic and international security policy behind the paralysis of the British national security system; it simply lends unprecedented powers of social control to a paralysed system operating according to a defunct and dangerous intelligence paradigm. (Inside the Crevice: Islamist terror networks and the 7/7 intelligence failure, London: Institute for Policy Research and Development, August 2007)

Much the same can be said for the United States and its myopic "counterterrorist" policies that rely on the demonization of entire communities, driftnet surveillance of the population, the infiltration of provocateurs into antiwar, socialist and left-wing organizations with no demonstrable ties to international terrorism, and the induced climate of suspicion and fear that breed social paralysis in the face of grave, contemporaneous ruling class threats to democracy.

As a tsunami of Predator drones rain remote-controlled death on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as the Obama administration prepares a major military escalation in Central- and South Asia, girls' schools continue to burn in the Swat Valley with matchbooks labeled "Made in the USA."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nuclear Proliferation, Terrorism and Deceit. America's Deadly Game

Call it a coincidence, but one headline you're not likely to have read just days after the Mumbai terrorist attacks concerned the quiet release by Swiss authorities of Urs Tinner. One of the key players in Pakistan's nuclear proliferation network run by "rogue" scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and the military, Tinner had been held in administrative detention for nearly four years.

This is all the more ironic given that Dawood Ibrahim, the drugs kingpin, terrorist operative and underworld crime boss who allegedly helped infiltrate Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) commandos into Mumbai, is long-suspected of providing similar "expertise" to A. Q. Khan's shadowy nuclear black market through a web of dodgy Dubai-based companies.

When the Khan scandal broke, some analysts wondered whether the United States "will at least conduct a thorough enquiry into the involvement of smugglers and black-marketers in the process of proliferation."

Asia Times claimed "that a Dubai company run by Ibrahim, which has suddenly disappeared, was involved in procuring nuclear-related material from Pakistan," and then shipping it to the highest bidder. To date, no such investigation has been publicly disclosed.

Just as pertinent however, is the security of the Pakistani people, not just its nuclear arsenal. With formidable internal threats from al-Qaeda and neo-Taliban elements linked to the Army and the shadowy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and external threats from both the United States and geopolitical rival India, Pakistani secular and civil society is under siege.

However, at the center of this spider's web of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and deceit sits the United States. After all, Khan's shady activities have been well-known for decades and yet, to secure advantage over their capitalist rivals, the U.S. has been content to exploit Pakistan as a cats' paw for destabilizing covert operations in dozens of global hot spots from Asia to the Balkans and beyond. But you wouldn't know this by even the most cursory perusal of The New York Times.

One (among many) examples of the Times' shoddy reporting and journalistic duplicity in the service of Pentagon war planners, was brought to light by Russ Wellen in Asia Times. Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured an alarmist screed by David Sanger, "The Worst Pakistan Nightmare for Obama."

Sanger claims that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal faces the threat of being hijacked by jihadi groups intent on provoking "a confrontation between Pakistan and India in the hope that the Pakistani military would transport tactical nuclear weapons closer to the front lines, where they would be more vulnerable to seizure. Indeed, when the deadly terror attacks occurred in Mumbai ... officials told me they feared that one of the attackers' motives might have been to trigger exactly that series of events."

Neoconservative hawks Frederic Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, respective members of the "Attack Iran" lobby at the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, told Sanger, the "best bet" would be for American forces and the Pakistanis "to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place ... like New Mexico ... More Likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan."

But as Brian Cloughley, a security analyst who writes for Jane's and has contributed to the University of Bradford's Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU) told Asia Times, moving nuclear warheads to remote locations is precisely the worst possible method of securing atomic arms, one that more likely would increase the chances of seizure by extremist elements.

Cloughley accuses Sanger of "cheap, nasty and silly journalese at its most risible depths." As in other reporting by Sanger on the Khan network, alarmist rhetoric, half-truths and outright mendacity is the preferred method, particularly when it comes to covering-up Washington's complicity.

While I necessarily focus here on Pakistan's corrupt nuclear proliferation regime, a state-sanctioned program from which key military and civilian leaders profited handsomely, the biggest proliferator of this deadly technology is Washington. As the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported earlier this month, "the United States spent over $52 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs in fiscal year 2008, but only 10 percent of that went toward preventing a nuclear attack through slowing and reversing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology."

Why? With profits for America's largest defense firms hanging in the balance, real peace and security are always trumped by the corporatist bottom line.

A Web of Shady Connections

While Washington claims that the 2004 exposure of some elements of Khan's network as a "victory" for its alleged antiproliferation efforts, key players including Khan and his top associates, remain out of reach.

By portraying itself as a "helpless giant" dependent on Pakistani "assistance" in its fraudulent "war on terror," the United States is covering-up its own complicity and silence. As in the run-up to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, or the current Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, corporate media, primarily The New York Times, are key players obfuscating Washington's role.

The BBC reported in June that Khan's chief associate, Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan "businessman," was quietly released from custody after four years detention by Malaysian authorities. While President Bush had described Tahir as A. Q. Khan's "chief financial officer and money launderer," the United States has "no plans" to seek Tahir's extradition.

This is all the more remarkable considering that the Malaysian Police investigation into the Khan network found that Tahir's family was closely connected with Dawood Ibrahim and that the D-Company's terrorist don had helped the Pakistani nuclear establishment in their clandestine procurement and smuggling activities. According to numerous reports, D-Company has long had a major base of operations in Malaysia.

For years Tinner, along with brother Marco and father, Friedrich, were active in the smuggling network run out of Kahuta, the site of Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). Located near Rawalpindi, KRL is the primary fissile-material production facility and long-range missile development site. For their enterprising efforts the Tinners' allegedly earned millions in commissions.

According to reports, they were instrumental in setting up and operating a machining facility in Malaysia that produced centrifuge components for the production of highly-enriched uranium (HRE). The key element in manufacturing a weapon, thousands of centrifuges were sold by the network to governments such as Libya, North Korea and allegedly Iran, that were seeking to skirt restrictions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That firm, Scope, was a subsidiary of the Scomi Engineering Group. Urs Tinner was hired by Tahir in 2002 as a full-time "consultant." According to the Malaysian Police investigation, Tinner routinely erased all technical drawings kept in his computer at the Scope plant. When his "term of service" ended in October 2003, Tinner retrieved the hard disc from the company's computer "designated for his use," and gave the impression that he "did not wish to leave any trace of his presence there."

Murkier still, are the relations between Tahir and the son of Malaysia's current Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi. Kamaluddin Badawi sat on the board of a firm plugged into the proliferation network. In 2007, Asia Times reported, that Scomi built

components for centrifuges that were destined for use in Libya's nuclear program. Scomi Group had since acknowledged that its subsidiary Scomi Precision filled a contract negotiated by Buhary to supply machine parts to Libya.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that Buhary was the chief financial officer of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's underground nuclear-proliferation network. How he was able to forge such high-powered alliances with Malaysia's political elite is a question that remains unanswered. When the scandal broke, Abdullah said Tahir would remain free because there was no evidence of wrongdoing. (Ioannis Gatsiounis, "Malaysia's axis mysteriously shifting," Asia Times Online, August 28, 2007)

While Tahir will continue to be "under police watch," no charges have ever been brought against Kamaluddin. According to the BBC, his firm was investigated "but cleared of wrongdoing." How convenient!

Activities by Khan and the nuclear establishment were well-known to the CIA back in the 1970s. However, when Dutch authorities were alerted by Frits Veerman, a former colleague of Khan's at the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), the Dutch partner of the European consortium Urenco, long after Khan had stolen Urenco plans for constructing high-speed centrifuges, nothing was done. For his troubles, Veerman was threatened with prosecution by Dutch security officials who demanded his silence. According to investigative journalists David Armstrong and Joseph Trento,

The Dutch considered reopening the case [against Khan] in 1986 but backed off at the request of the CIA, according to then-Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. Lubbers had suggested that the United States wanted Khan left alone in part because Pakistan had by then become a key U.S. ally in the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (America and the Islamic Bomb, Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2008, p. 67)

Among the concessions made by the United States to Pakistan for their support of numerous anticommunist destabilization operations across the decades was a cynical and cultivated blindness when it came to Pakistan's development of atomic weapons and A. Q. Khan's nuclear supermarket.

BCCI, the CIA and Nuclear Proliferation

During the 1970s, the Safari Club, a secret cabal of intelligence agencies including France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Shah's Iran, Morocco and the United States, decided that it required a network of banks to help launder illicit funds and finance intelligence operations, according to investigative journalist John Cooley's account in Unholy Wars. With the blessings of George H. W. Bush, then Director of the CIA, the task fell to Saudi Intelligence Minister Kamal Adham.

Within the space of a few years, Adham helped transform Agha Hasan Abedi's small Pakistani merchant bank into the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). According to investigative journalist Joseph Trento's account in Prelude to Terror, under Adham's guidance Abedi created "a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money network in history." Indeed, BCCI was a major player in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, with powerful American intelligence officials deeply involved in the drugs-for-guns financing of the Nicaraguan Contras and Afghanistan's "holy warriors."

In 1991, Time Magazine described BCCI as not just a bank but also as "a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank's offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The black network--so named by its own members--stops at almost nothing to further the bank’s aims the world over."

While the United States was pouring billions of dollars in aid to finance drug- and organized crime-linked "holy warriors" in Afghanistan such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, much of the money was actually siphoned off by the ISI. Sarkis Soghanalian, a "middleman" profiting from American largess, told Trento that most of the money flowing into Pakistan was diverted into BCCI accounts controlled by the Army and ISI and then distributed to A. Q. Khan's weapons program and proliferation network.

According to Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark's account in Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, Abedi created a "charity" called the BCCI Foundation. Pakistani Finance Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan granted it tax-free status while simultaneously serving as the foundation's chairman and overseeing finances for Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta.

Close to leading Islamists in the Army, Ishaq Khan served as Pakistan's President between 1988-1993 and acquiesced to the Army's "soft coup" against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. As I reported in "Organized Crime, Intelligence and Terror: The D-Company's Role in the Mumbai Attacks," when Bhutto removed Islamist General Hamid Gul as ISI director, Army Chief Aslam Beg and Lt. General Asad Durrani created a BCCI-linked slush fund to finance Bhutto's removal from power.

According to Time Magazine investigative journalists Jonathan Beatty and S. C. Gwynne's 1993 book The Outlaw Bank, BCCI chairman Abedi announced that some 90% of the bank's profits would be donated to the BCCI Foundation. In reality, the Foundation was a tax-dodge and money-laundering instrument that will "donate" most of the money it raised to A. Q. Khan's illicit nuclear program. In 1987, according to Beatty and Gwynne, the Foundation gives a $10 million donation to an "institute headed by A. Q. Khan."

All of this is known at the time and covered-up by the United States. By 1984, BCCI's Black Network enforcement arm had effectively taken control of the port of Karachi ("management" subsequently transferred to Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company by his ISI masters), controlling the flow of arms to the Afghan mujaheddin, as well as overseeing drug flows, arms smuggling and the illicit trade in nuclear technology ebbing towards KRL in Kahuta.

The American response? A Senate investigation by John Kerry (D-MA) and New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau stumbled across BCCI's role as an international money-laundering machine for drug dealers and arms merchants. At every step of the way, the investigation was blocked by the United States Justice Department during Bush I's tenure as President. The cover-up accelerated when U.S. Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller took over the BCCI investigation. Mueller subsequently became Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2001 and oversaw the FBI's "investigation" of the 9/11 attacks.

During the course of the investigation the CIA stonewalled Kerry's probe, refusing to hand over documents it provided to a U.S. Customs Service inquiry into Khan's nuclear proliferation network, arms trafficking and BCCI drug money laundering through U.S. banks. While some information on the CIA's clandestine relationship to Abedi's criminal enterprise surfaced, the Agency refused to disclose any information on operations using the bank as an intelligence cut-out. Kerry's public report concluded, "Key questions about the relationship between U.S. intelligence and BCCI cannot be answered at this time, and may never be."

When Kerry's report is issued in 1992, it states that the Justice Department went to extraordinary lengths to block the investigation "through a variety of mechanisms, ranging from not making witnesses available, to not returning phone calls, to claiming that every aspect of the case was under investigation in a period when little, if anything was being done." Once the report is published, official interest in BCCI is allowed to die. For his efforts and those of his staff, Kerry is labeled "a randy conspiracy buff" by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff.

Meanwhile, Khan's illicit nuclear proliferation ring is profiting handsomely.

The CIA and the Tinner Family: Best Friends Forever!

Back in June, The New York Times reported that "American and international investigators" had found the electronic blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon on computers that belonged to associates of Khan's network, the Tinners.

According to the report, the designs are for a nuclear device that is half the size of weapons previously believed to be in Pakistan's arsenal and packed with advanced electronics. When IAEA investigators confronted Pakistani officials with the evidence, they insisted that Khan "did not have access to Pakistan's weapons designs." Though less than truthful, Pakistan was again let off the hook by American officials intent on securing Pakistan's "cooperation" in the oxymoronic "war on terror."

But perhaps it helped the Tinners' case when it was revealed by The New York Times last August that the "Swiss Family Proliferation" (my phrase) worked closely with the CIA while simultaneously making millions of dollars illegally selling deadly nuclear technology to any and all comers.

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin announced May 23, that his government destroyed files, including digital copies of advanced nuclear weapons designs in the Tinners' possession. According to Couchepin, the files were destroyed "so that they would never fall into terrorists hands." The Times averred,

Behind that official explanation, though, is a far more intriguing tale of spies, moles and the compromises that governments make in the name of national security.

The United States had urged that the files be destroyed, according to interviews with five current and former Bush administration officials. The purpose, the officials said, was less to thwart terrorists than to hide evidence of a clandestine relationship between the Tinners and the C.I.A.

Over four years, several of these officials said, operatives of the C.I.A. paid the Tinners as much as $10 million, some of it delivered in a suitcase stuffed with cash. In return, the Tinners delivered a flow of secret information that helped end Libya's bomb program, reveal Iran's atomic labors and, ultimately, undo Dr. Khan's nuclear black market. (William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, "In Nuclear Net's Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals," The New York Times, August 25, 2008)

Mendaciously however, the Times fails to reveal just what "compromises" that successive U.S. "governments make" in the interest of "national security." Perhaps a 30-year history of close collaboration with organized crime, terrorists and nuclear proliferators? While the CIA and Bush administration are keen to claim the Khan network has been rolled-up, the U.S State Department said January 12 that it had "slapped sanctions on 13 individuals and three private companies" because of their involvement in the network, according to Reuters.

The Guardian reported that "two British businessmen," Peter and Paul Griffin, "a father and a son," were added to the blacklist and any assets the pair have in the U.S. are now frozen. While denying the charges, The Guardian reports that

Peter Griffin has been named in court cases in South Africa and Germany as being a member of the Khan network. He has repeatedly confirmed he knew Khan, but has denied knowingly being involved in illicit nuclear bomb programmes. A German judge in 2006 named the elder Griffin as one of Khan's four main associates. (Ian Traynor, "U.S. blacklists father and son over alleged nuclear racket," The Guardian, January 13, 2008)

Several of the individuals named by the State Department are either behind bars such as Gotthard Lerch, currently serving a 5 1/2 year sentence in Germany, have had charges dropped or like Tahir and A. Q. Khan, remain out of reach. The Tinners do not appear on the State Department's list of "sanctioned" individuals and firms. No doubt, their well-paid service as CIA assets has much to do with their escaping sanctions.

Although a "senior intelligence official in Washington," may have been "very happy they were destroyed," European antiproliferation investigators believe that the Swiss government's destruction of evidence "obscured the investigative trail."

According to the Times, the destroyed evidence contained more than frightening electronic blueprints for constructing a compact nuclear weapon, but "decades of records" of the Tinners' involvement in the Khan network, including bomb and centrifuge designs as well as documents linking the family to the CIA. Broad and Sanger write,

One contract, a European intelligence official said, described a C.I.A. front company's agreement to pay the smugglers $1 million for black-market secrets. The front company listed an address three blocks from the White House. (New York Times, op. cit. August 25, 2008)

An unnamed "European official" told the Times, "Maybe that labyrinth held clues to another client or another rogue state," perhaps a new--or old--"best friend forever" of the CIA's such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Indeed, one can plausibly argue this was precisely Washington's--and the New York Times' intent: muddy the waters while covering-up participation by U.S. corporate grifters and high government officials.

Sibel Edmonds' Revelations

While keen to attack official enemies, Washington has aided and abetted nuclear proliferation through key "allies" such as Israel, Pakistan and Turkey as revealed by gagged FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds in a series of eye-opening reports last January by The Sunday Times.

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.

Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan. (Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria, "For Sale: West's Deadly Nuclear Secrets," The Sunday Times, January 6, 2008)

According to Edmonds and subsequent reporting by The Sunday Times, that investigation "was compromised" by a senior State Department official and eventually led to the roll-up of the CIA corporate cut-out, Brewster Jennings, by Washington neoconservatives embedded in the Pentagon and the Vice President's office.

While The Sunday Times did not name that official, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi wrote last January that Edmonds told investigators that Marc Grossman, Ambassador to Turkey during the mid-1990s and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 2001-2005, was a "person of interest" and had his phone tapped by the FBI during a two year period. Grossman is currently vice chairman of The Cohen Group, a high-powered lobby shop founded by Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen. According to Giraldi,

After 9/11, Grossman reportedly intervened with the FBI to halt the interrogation of four Turkish and Pakistani operatives. According to Edmonds, Grossman was called by a Turkish contact who told him that the men had to be released before they told what they knew. Grossman said that he would take care of it and, per Edmonds, the men were released and allowed to leave the country.

Edmonds states that FBI phone taps from late 2001 reveal that Grossman tipped off his Turkish contact regarding the CIA weapons proliferation cover unit Brewster Jennings, which was being used by Valerie Plame, and that the Turk then informed the Pakistani intelligence service representative in Washington. It is to be assumed that the information was then passed on to the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. (Philip Giraldi, "Found in Translation: FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds spills her secrets," The American Conservative, January 28, 2008)

This tracks closely with information revealed by The History Commons that former con man and U.S. government informant Randy Glass told investigators. Glass told MSNBC in 2003 that as part of a sting operation, ISI operative Rajaa Gulum Abbas and arms dealer Diaa Mohsen sought to purchase nuclear material for Osama bin Laden. During a 1999 meeting at a posh New York City restaurant in sight of the Twin Towers, ISI operative Abbas pointed to the Towers and told Glass, "Those towers are coming down." According to the report,

A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before. This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and it is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, Islamic militant groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists them in fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to "dignitaries" and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a "dirty bomb" or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material, MSNBC reported in 2002.

According to Dick Stoltz, a federal undercover agent posing as a black market arms dealer, one of the Pakistanis at the warehouse claims he is working for A. Q. Khan. A Pakistani nuclear scientist, Khan is considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and also the head of an illegal network exporting nuclear technology to rogue nations, MSNBC revealed in 2005.

Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, "The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government." ("ISI Tried to Buy Nuclear Material for Bin Laden," The History Commons, no date)

When the Khan network was allegedly run to ground, it exposed a long collaboration amongst nuclear proliferators and terrorists, many of whom were subsequently revealed to have worked closely with the CIA, Britain's MI6 and Pakistan's ISI in global destabilization operations across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. While the Cold War Safari Club may have passed into history, the global network linking organized crime, intelligence operations and the capitalist deep state continue to flourish.

That the United States continues to utilize the services of extreme right-wing assets that morphed from BCCI's Black Network for "unconventional war" against official enemies was reported in 2007 by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh revealed that as part of Washington's covert program to overthrow Iran's theocratic regime the Bush administration "has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda."

Talk about inconvenient truths!

A Nuke for Osama? Better Bomb Iran!

Before the 9/11 attacks, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid were taken into custody for interrorgation by Pakistani police. Mahmood, a nuclear scientist who designed and ran the gas centrifuges at the Khushab reactor, had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan to discuss "scientific matters" with the former CIA-MI6 mujahideen allies.

The founder of a bizarre fundamentalist group, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (Reconstruction of the Muslim Ummah, or UTN), Mahmood and his associates were not illiterate cannon fodder "trained up fierce" by ISI-linked madrassas, but the crème de' le' crème of Pakistan's military and scientific establishment.

Former ISI Director Hamid Gul, another UTN founder, is reportedly scheduled to be added to a list of names by the UN Security Council as a sponsor of international terrorism, according to a December 2008 report in the Pakistani newspaper The News. Gul, a darling in some circles for claiming "9/11 was an inside job," continues to play a cynical game and, as alleged by The News, is still linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

When informed of the charges, Gul told The Washington Post, "There seems to be an orchestrated campaign to somehow get me," dismissing them as an effort to "malign" him. While Gul and other former members claimed UTN was a "charity" formed to provide "humanitarian relief" to Afghanistan, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported in 2003,

A few weeks after September 11, however, Pakistani authorities detained Mahmood, Majeed, and other UTN board members amid charges that their activities in Afghanistan had involved helping Al Qaeda in its quest to acquire nuclear and biological weapons as well. The U.S. government, which pressed for Mahmood's and Majeed's arrest, later placed them and their organization on its list of individuals and organizations supporting terrorism. ...

Suspicion about Mahmood and others at UTN increased in November 2001. After the fall of the Taliban, coalition forces and the media began to search UTN facilities in Kabul. Some of the records found there revealed that the charity did indeed help Afghanistan with educational material, road building, and flour mills. But other records demonstrated that UTN was very interested in weapons of mass destruction. (David Albright and Holly Higgins, "A Bomb for the Ummah," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 3, 2003)

But even after these revelations, Khan's illicit smuggling network continued to operate with impunity. In order to secure Pakistani "cooperation" in Washington's "war on terror" senior Bush administration officials and U.S. intelligence agencies turned a blind eye to Khan's global operations and sabotaged efforts to bring the network down.

As in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, evidence of America's deadly complicity with Sunni-based fundamentalist outfits such as al-Qaeda, organized crime- and intelligence-linked mafia groups such as D-Company or with nuclear proliferators such as the Pakistani Army, one discovers reality turned on its head. When it comes to Iran, American mendacity is boundless!

Despite an embarrassing National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that disclosed in December 2007 that "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," covert action against Iran by the Pentagon and CIA continues while Pakistan and other known and unknown proliferators are given a free pass.

Leading Washington neoconservatives linked to Israel's far-right Likud party are encouraging Israel--with an assist from the Pentagon--to bomb Tehran's nuclear research facilities. Chief among them are usual suspects John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. But the incoming Obama administration is replete with its own stable of neocon hawks who have made common cause with the Likudniks. These include Tony Lake, UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice, Tom Daschle and Dennis Ross.

Indeed, according to Middle East analyst Robert Dreyfuss, Democrats Lake and Rice joined their Republican counterparts last June at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), founded in coordination with the Israel lobby-shop AIPAC, during the group's "2008 Presidential Task Force" meet-up that vigorously supported "a confrontation with Iran."

On and on, Washington's deadly and duplicitous game continues...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Betrayed! FBI Provocateur Sets-Up Anti-RNC Activists on Trumped-Up "Terrorism" Charges

An FBI provocateur and undercover informant, Brandon Michael Darby, unmasked himself December 30 in a bizarre letter to the Independent Media Center (IMC), an activist website and alternative news clearinghouse.

Darby's admission came after government documents were provided to defense attorneys representing Bradley Crowder and David McKay. The activists were arrested in early September during the Republican National Convention and charged with one count of possession of firearms. They remain in jail awaiting trial.

According to an Associated Press report, the pair allegedly bought supplies for "constructing explosive devices" at a St. Paul Wal-Mart. However, it cannot be ruled out that Darby set these activists up in connivance with his Bureau handlers. It wouldn't be the first time the FBI has sought to instigate violent confrontations in order to roll-up entire organizations.

With a history of traveling around the country and no visible means of support, by his own admission Darby is a mercenary who wormed his way into left-wing and anarchist groups while proclaiming bogus allegiance to "social justice." But with the cat out of the bag he candidly stated, "the simple truth is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Although he claims he has done his best "to act in good conscience" and "to do what I believe to be most helpful to the world," evidence suggests Darby worked as an informant for a considerable period, infiltrating a multitude of activist groups for the U.S. government.

While hoping his work as a snitch will result "in discussion" between himself and the victims of his spying, the self-serving nature of Darby's letter reveals the cynical game he played. Betraying his friends, Darby has the temerity to assert that his "job" as an FBI spy was "a good moral way to use my time."

But hidden behind such inane pieties lurk the tradecraft of a seasoned intelligence asset. And according to documents, including a sworn affidavit by FBI Special Agent Christopher Langert, Darby "carried out a thorough surveillance operation that dated back to at least 18 months before the Republican gathering. He first met Mr. Crowder and Mr. McKay in Austin six months before the convention," The New York Times reports.

According to a statement by the Austin Informant Working Group,

Darby has been characterized by many people who have known and worked with him as both persuasive and manipulative, with a history of provocation, instigation, and incitement. According to Lisa Fithian, who worked with Darby for years, "Brandon was always provoking discord and aggression, in the anti-war movement in Austin in 2003, in protests in Houston against Halliburton, and in disaster relief at Common Ground in New Orleans. I worked with Darby in all of those places and saw the disruption he caused."

The FBI documents make it clear that Darby did not restrict his informing to people he alleges were planning illegal activities. He also gathered information on numerous people who were engaged in lawful activism; including some who had no plans to attend the Republican Convention. "The wider net cast by Darby in his information gathering shows that he was part of an FBI campaign to suppress political dissent and activism," said Will Potter, an award-winning independent journalist. "By gathering information on law abiding activists and then defending his actions as stopping violence, Darby contributes to the public perception that political dissent is criminal, which has a chilling effect on free speech." ("Austin RNC Informant Brandon Darby is Provocateur Not Hero," Austin Informant Working Group, January 6, 2009)

In addition to casting an electronic surveillance driftnet over anti-RNC organizers, the Bureau relied on what they euphemistically term "confidential human sources" to do the dirty work. According to the Times, though Darby refused to provide details about his "undercover activities," he confirmed that "he had also worked as an informant in cases not involving the convention." The Times reports,

Mr. Darby provided descriptions of meetings with the defendants and dozens of other people in Austin, Minneapolis and St. Paul. He wore recording devices at times, including a transmitter embedded in his belt during the convention. He also went to Minnesota with Mr. Crowder four months before the Republican gathering and gave detailed narratives to law enforcement authorities of several meetings they had with activists from New York, San Francisco, Montana and other places. (Colin Moynihan, "Activist Unmasks Himself as Federal Informant in G.O.P. Convention Case," The New York Times, January 5, 2009)

FBI spokesperson E. K. Wilson told the Times, "as a matter of policy, we're not going to confirm or deny the identity of anybody who gives us information confidentially."

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, citing a leaked planning document published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency (HSEM) closely coordinated with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the run up to the Republican National Convention.

The 31-page document, "Special Event Planning: Republican National Convention," is a dense schematic used by repressors to plan their response to protests. Along with local police and the FBI, agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), the United States Secret Service and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) coordinated an action plan to squelch dissent, preemptively arresting activists and journalists, seizing cameras, recording equipment, computers and reporters' confidential notes.

In addition to Crowder and McKay (the "Texas Two"), eight activists associated with the RNC Welcoming Committee now face serious felony charges resulting from preemptive state repression prior to the Convention.

According to the Friends of the RNC 8, protest organizers were charged with "conspiracy to riot in the 2nd degree in the furtherance of terrorism." Three additional felony charges were added in mid-December, according to a letter to defense attorneys from the Ramsey County District Attorney's office. Pre-trial motions in their case will be heard January 26.

Apparently, Darby's "relationship" with the FBI went back several years. After Hurricane Katrina he surfaced in New Orleans and worked with Common Ground Relief, a grassroots organization founded by former Black Panther Party member and current Green Party activist Malik Rahim to aid hurricane victims criminally abandoned by federal, state and local authorities as New Orleans drowned.

While Brownie may of been doing "a heck of a job" before being sacked by DHS head honcho Michael Chertoff, Common Ground Relief was one of the few organizations that actually provided help to flood victims. That they did so without benefit of plum federal contracts handed to Bush cronies, including armed mercenaries from Blackwater Worldwide, drew the ire of local elites--and the police.

On several occasions, Common Ground was the target of repressive maneuvers by the New Orleans Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security. In one documented incident in November 2005, an activist outside the free medical clinic the group created, was arrested and tossed into the back of a squad car. While handcuffed, he was threatened by police who told him he "would be shot, and his body tossed into the river," according to an eyewitness report posted on the Portland IMC website.

One cannot rule out that repeated threats and harassment against Common Ground workers weren't instigated by FBI point-man Brandon Darby. Indeed, he had embedded himself so well into the fabric of the organization that he is cited on the group's website as a founding member. The Bureau snitch acted as a spokesperson and even appeared on PBS' "The Tavis Smiley Show."

Scott Crow, a co-founder of Common Ground Relief, had defended Darby publicly when charges against him first surfaced and warned against "rumors, conjecture and innuendo." He told the Times, "I put it all on the line to defend him when accusations first came out. Brandon Darby is somebody I had entrusted with my life in New Orleans, and now I feel endangered by him."

With good reason.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that documents linking the Maryland State Police to widespread spying on activists, in concert with federal agencies that included the National Security Agency and FBI "was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored--and labeled as terrorists--activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes."

Such reports began to surface in 2005 when it was revealed that the Pentagon's now defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), illegally spied on antiwar and other activist groups at the behest of their political masters at the Defense Department. Some 90% of former CIFA employees, as I reported in April, were drawn from 30 defense and security firms that have profited handsomely from the burgeoning "Homeland Security" market.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration and Congress--with Democrats and Republicans marching in lockstep--have pursued repressive policies that resulted in ubiquitous domestic surveillance under the rubric of Washington's endless "war on terror." While deep cover intelligence assets such as Darby are beneath contempt, they are symptoms of wider, and more troubling, antidemocratic trends in the U.S.

As the economy continues to meltdown, the incoming Obama administration seeks to widen imperial wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, including the current Israeli slaughter in Gaza which Washington fully supports. Under conditions of systemic crisis, the ruling capitalist elite will continue to rely on dictatorial police state methods--fear, repression and intimidation--as a first resort.

Above all else, the case of Brandon Darby is a cautionary tale for activists everywhere and confirmation of the old adage: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Secret and (Very) Profitable World of Intelligence and Narcotrafficking

When Afghan drug kingpin Haji Bashir Noorzai was arrested in New York in 2005, it set off a chain of events that continue to echo today.

A federal jury in Manhattan convicted Noorzai September 22, for his involvement in an international narcotics trafficking conspiracy that sold tens of millions of dollars of heroin on world markets. The drug lord now faces life in prison and will be sentenced on January 7.

But things aren't always what they seem.

Noorzai, described by federal investigators and journalists as "the richest man in Afghanistan," enjoyed close and cosy relations with the Taliban's top leader Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence agency (ISI).

Indeed, Noorzai had become one of the capo tutti capos of Afghanistan's flourishing heroin rackets and profited handsomely from the protection of his Taliban "friends," his ISI mentors and allegedly the CIA.

The Washington Post reported December 27, that Noorzai's New York arrest was aided by a private security outfit, Rosetta Research and Consulting, a firm founded in 2003 by two "businessmen" which the Post refuses to name "because of the sensitive nature of their undercover work."

"Mike A.," a former Army Special Forces captain, "Patrick J.," a former Treasury Department financial-crimes analyst and a group on investors connected to the law firm Motley Rice were principals in the sting that netted Noorzai. Rosetta's mission according to the Post "was to assist in a mammoth legal case filed on behalf of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by tracking the flow of terrorist-connected money."

In April 2005, Noorzai was lured to the United States from his Dubai estate "at the instigation of the Drug Enforcement Agency." After a lavish 11 day holiday at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Manhattan where he enjoyed room service "and considered himself a guest of the U.S. government," the drug kingpin was arrested.

But here's the kicker: even as law enforcement sought his arrest as a world-class drug trafficker, Noorzai "was considered an asset by the intelligence side of the government." And why wouldn't they?

As I revealed in "Unconventional Warfare in the 21st Century: U.S. Surrogates, Terrorists and Narcotraffickers," (Antifascist Calling, December 19, 2008) citing the Pentagon's Army Special Operations Forces FM 3-05.130 published by Wikileaks, unconventional warfare is conducted "by, with or through surrogates" and that their preferred assets are irregular forces:

Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political "undesirables." (Unconventional Warfare, p. 1-3)

It is hardly a stretch that a drug kingpin like Haji Bashir Noorzai, with documented links to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces would be viewed as one such "surrogate."

Spooks, Drugs and Thugs

When the Taliban was routed by the U.S. during the initial phase of its 2001 invasion, Noorzai was entrusted with some $20 million of the Taliban's cash for "safekeeping," according to the History Commons.

But Noorzai turned himself in to U.S. military forces where he spent several days in custody at Kandahar airport. Though questioned by U.S. officials, Noorzai was released and quietly disappeared into Pakistan after an associate was killed by U.S. forces. In a 2002 CBS News account, Noorzai reportedly said, "I spent my days and nights comfortably. There was special room for me. I was like a guest, not a prisoner."

Eventually, Noorzai resurfaced in Peshawar. Armed with a Pakistani passport allegedly furnished by the ISI, the kingpin operated drug-processing laboratories that turned raw opium into finished "product," heroin bound for European and U.S. markets.

In 2004, USA Today reported that "according to House International Relations Committee testimony this year, Noorzai smuggles 4,400 lbs. of heroin out of the Kandahar region to al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan every eight weeks."

No surprise here. After all as journalist James Risen wrote in State of War, "Once the Taliban had been routed, top CIA officials had little interest in the drug problem." Or if one took a more nuanced approach one would argue Noorzai's operation amounted to a protected drug racket. The question is: whose racket was being protected? As Pakistani investigative journalist Ahmed Rashid documented,

The Pentagon had a list of twenty-five or more drug labs and warehouses in Afghanistan but refused to bomb them because some belonged to the CIA's new NA [Northern Alliance] allies. The United States told its British allies that the war on terrorism had nothing to do with counter-narcotics. Instead, drug lords were fêted by the CIA and asked if they had any information about Osama bin Laden. Thus, the United States sent the first and clearest message to the drug lords: that they would not be targeted. (Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, New York: Viking, 2008, pp. 320-321)

This was serious business. With the rapid expansion of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan after the American invasion, the price of heroin plummeted on world markets leading the syndicates that control the illicit trade to stockpile opium in an effort to bolster sagging prices.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) 2008 World Drug Report, the global increase in opium production "was almost entirely due to the 17% expansion of cultivation in Afghanistan." In 2007, Afghanistan produced some 8,700 metric tons of opium that accounted for a staggering 92% of global opium production.

But in a twist that readers of Antifascist Calling are well aware, convicted narco Noorzai apparently enjoyed a cosy and productive relationship with both al-Qaeda and the CIA. According to the Post,

In an affidavit in his criminal case, he traced a history of cooperating with U.S. officials, including the CIA, dating to 1990. In early 2002, following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Noorzai said he turned over to the U.S. military 15 truckloads of Taliban weapons, including "four hundred anti-aircraft missiles of Russian, American and British manufacture."

From the perspective of the CIA and Defense Department, Noorzai could be a useful intelligence asset. But law enforcement officials continued to consider him a notorious criminal whose drug proceeds supported militants battling U.S. forces. Rosetta's interest seemed purely commercial: to pump him for information that could be reported back to its clients, the Rosetta documents indicate. (Richard Leiby, "Tangled U.S. Objectives Bring Down U.S. Spy Firm," The Washington Post, December 27, 2008, A01)

But lest we fall into an obvious trap and think that the Afghan drugs trade is solely a creature of the ISI, al-Qaeda or the Taliban, similar charges of corruption have been leveled against Hamid Karzai's government. Indeed, in 2006 The Guardian reported that senior political figures in Kabul, including the president's brother, Walid, and deputy interior minister for counternarcotics General Muhammad Daud, are heavily involved in the illicit trade.

One official told The Guardian, "He [Daud] moves competent officials from their jobs, locks cases up and generally ensures that nobody he is associated with will get arrested for drugs crime." The Interior Ministry according to published sources didn't just fail to take down the warlords, "it became a major protector of drug traffickers."

Additional reports identified the governor of Helmand province, Sher Mohammed Akhunzada, a close friend and ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as personally profiting from the illicit trade. Indeed, British counternarcotics officials told Rashid that Akhunzada "was accused of favoring his cronies with prime real estate parcels and commanded hundreds of well-paid gunmen, while the police force was undermanned and unpaid and mullahs, aid workers, teachers, and women activists who opposed poppy cultivation were being gunned down."

Helmand province, under the nominal control of the Karzai government and American and NATO allies was the conduit for opium sales flowing towards the drug labs in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan from other provinces, particularly those from the far northern provinces of Mazar and Badakhshan, run by U.S.-backed warlords favored by Special Forces' "unconventional warfare" theorists.

It wouldn't be the first time nor the last, that the United States cultivated narcotraffickers as intelligence assets, including those connected to America's reputed arch-enemy, Osama bin Laden. As Peter Dale Scott wrote on the convergence of international organized crime structures and the capitalist deep state,

Mafias and empires have certain elements in common. Both can be seen as the systematic violent imposition of governance in areas of undergovernance. Both use atrocities to achieve their ends; but both tend to be tolerated to the extent that the result of their controlled violence is a diminution of uncontrolled violence. (I would tentatively suggest an important difference between mafias and empires: that, with the passage of time, mafias tend to become more and more part of the civil society whose rules they once broke, while empires tend to become more and more irreconcilably at odds with the societies they once controlled.) ("Deep Events and the CIA's Global Drug Connection," Global Research, September 6, 2008)

Why then, given the decades-long collaboration amongst intelligence agencies and drug trafficking syndicates, do U.S. corporate media still find it "ironic" that current American efforts to stamp out Taliban-controlled drug networks in fact, simply hand control of the traffic over to narcos more amenable to American geopolitical goals?

One Big Happy Family

While the United States insists that international drug flows are financing terrorism, which indeed they are, U.S. agencies including the CIA and Army Special Forces continue to rely on trafficking networks as a reliable source for irregular fighters and as intelligence assets.

According to The Guardian, the relationships amongst Afghan government forces, opium smugglers and their Taliban "adversaries" are quite complex, but when it gets down to brass tacks, amazingly simple: money talks. Hameedullah, an opium smuggler and government employee told The Guardian,

He went on to explain how the economy of the poppy trade took in the Taliban and the government. "The Taliban benefit from the poppy because the farmers pay them taxes. And when the government destroys the fields, the people support the Taliban," he said. "The government also benefits from the poppy--we pay officials so they won't destroy our land. Two years ago we paid them so they only destroyed two jeribs (1 acre) of my land." ...

"The Taliban say we are doing the jihad and you are making money so you should support us. Smugglers give a lot: three Land Cruisers in Sangin a few weeks ago."

The relationship between the Taliban, police and poppy trade is quite simple, he added: "If we don't plant opium then smugglers don't make money. If we [the smugglers] don't make money the Taliban and police don't make money. The Taliban and the officials have a very strong relationship--if they don't then how can we do so much trade and travel to so many districts?" (Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Life in Helmand, where rich rewards are reaped by poppy farmers, police and the Taliban," The Guardian, 22 December 2008)

Its a relationship that has a proven track record: drug lords make money, intelligence agencies cultivate assets and perhaps, siphon illicit funds for off-budget operations, international banking cartels earn billions from laundered drug proceeds and corrupt comprador elites secure a comfortable existence.

Such richly-rewarded "arrangements" continued long after the Soviet military withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Indeed, international narcotrafficking and related terrorist networks with links to the the CIA, the ISI, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States launched subsequent "jihads" against their geopolitical rivals in the Balkans and the ex-Soviet Union, where thousands of former Afghan veterans filled the ranks of the Bosnian, Kosovan and Chechen "mujahideen."

According to economist Loretta Napoleoni, by the 1990s Pakistan hoped to create "a trans-Asian axis, under Pakistani hegemony, stretching from the eastern border with China, inclusive of Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, to the oil-producing regions of the Caspian Sea."

That the government of Benazir Bhutto did so with U.S. blessings as a means to destabilize Russia is evident with the subsequent assault in Chechnya by CIA-trained Afghan-Arab veterans aided and abetted by ISI and Saudi Arabia. The plan, according to Napoleoni, was "to divert Russian attention" by encouraging an "Islamist insurgency in Chechnya, forcing the Russians to fight in the Caucasus."

Thusly, Shamil Basayev, a Chechen field commander, received extensive ISI training "at the Amir Muawia camp in the Khost province in Afghanistan," under the operational control of ISI and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Afghan-Arab veterans were sent to Chechnya to train future fighters. "Among them was the Jordanian-born Khattab, whom Basayev had met and befriended in Pakistan. Khattab was a hero of the anti-Soviet Jihad; he was also close to Osama bin Laden and his funding network. In 1995, Khattab was invited to Grozny to head the training of Mujahedin fighters."

Indeed, Osama bin Laden is reported to have contributed some $25 million to the Chechen "jihad." But as Napoleoni documents, the operation relied heavily on already-existent drugs and arms trafficking networks.

In 1995, Khattab's move to Grozny was arranged by the International Islamic Relief Organisation, a Saudi-based charity funded by mosques and wealthy donors in the Gulf. The same year, Basayev, and later Khattab, linked up with criminal organisations in Russia as well as with Albanian organised crime and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). These alliance proved fruitful in generating profits from the drug trade and contraband, especially that of arms. Chechnya soon became an important hub for various rackets, including kidnapping and the trade in counterfeit dollars. Basayev also benefited financially from money laundering activities in Chechnya. (Loretta Napoleoni, Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks, London: Pluto Press, 2003, pp. 92-93)

Similar destabilization campaigns utilizing the same Pakistani-Saudi terrorist networks and international drug trafficking syndicates broke out in Ingushetia, Dagestan and North Ossetia. The United States and their NATO partners encouraged what Napoleoni terms "the expansionism of Muslim countries such as Pakistan and religious colonisation by Saudi Arabia" across the region.

These networks, with a wink and a nod from Washington, are fully operational today.

Mumbai Attack: Same Drugs, Same Thugs

Indeed, international drug trafficking syndicates connected to Pakistan's ISI and the CIA are reported to have been operational assets during the November Laskhar-e-Toiba (LET) assaults in Mumbai. As I reported in mid-December, Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company enjoys protected status afforded by the ISI and his extensive smuggling networks along the Indian coast were used to infiltrate LET thugs into Mumbai.

Despite these linkages, investigative journalist Jeffrey R. Hammond reported December 19, that Ibrahim associate "Mohammed Ali continues smuggling operations out of Mumbai for Ibrahim's crime syndicate, D-Company, completely unmolested by Indian investigators and law enforcement."

As the crisis deepens and Pakistan shifts troops towards the Indian border, a December 4 piece in The Times of India wonders why the Maharashtra government "has not taken any action against the D-Company here."

One senior official asked, "What's the point of asking Islamabad to hand over Dawood when we're not doing anything to destroy his empire in Mumbai and other places in India?"

Similar questions must also be put to senior U.S. intelligence and counterterrorist officials as to why Afghan drugs kingpin Haji Bashir Noorzai was viewed as "a useful intelligence asset" up to the time of his arrest and conviction in New York federal court?

An unmentionable fact in Noorzai's indictment, one that was raised however by defense attorney Ivan Fisher during the drug lord's trial, was Noorzai's work as a U.S. intelligence asset even as he grew rich off of Afghanistan's heroin trade, through "efforts to reach working agreements with the Americans in Afghanistan since the 1990s," Fisher told the International Herald Tribune. James Risen reports,

Noorzai was in Quetta when the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks occurred, and he returned soon after to Afghanistan, according to his lawyer. In November 2001, he met with men he described as American military officials at Spinboldak, near the Afghan-Pakistani border, Fisher, his lawyer, said. Small teams of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence officers were then operating in Afghanistan, seeking the support of local tribal leaders against the Taliban.

Noorzai was taken to Kandahar, where he was detained and questioned for six days by the Americans about Taliban officials and operations, according to his lawyer. He agreed to work with them and was released. In January 2002, he handed over 15 truckloads of weapons, including about 400 anti-aircraft missiles, that had been hidden by the Taliban inside his tribe's territory, Fisher said. ("Afghan's arrest shines light on dark side of U.S. terror fight," International Herald Tribune, February 2, 2007)

But when State Department official Robert Charles suggested placing Noorzai on President Bush's list of foreign narcotics kingpins, at the time no Afghan heroin traffickers were on the list which Charles thought was "a glaring omission."

He suggested three names, including Noorzai's, but said his recommendation was met with an awkward silence during an interagency meeting. He said there was resistance to placing any Afghans on the list because countering the drug trade there was not an administration priority. Charles persisted, and in June 2004, Noorzai became the first Afghan on the list. (Risen, op. cit.)

"Awkward silence" indeed! Even as tensions today continue to rise between India and Pakistan, the virtual disappearance of Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company from the Mumbai frame is all the more astonishing given the narcoterrorists' documented record of violence in furtherance of the geopolitical goals of his ISI masters.

But even though civilian rule has returned in Islamabad, retired Pakistani Army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, a veteran of the Afghan campaign and a key figure responsible for toppling Benazir Bhutto's government in 1990 cautioned The Wall Street Journal, "The ISI can make or break any regime in Pakistan. Don't fight the ISI."

9/11's Drug Connection

These links are not new and were revealed long before the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, a former analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Julie Sirrs, traveled undercover to Afghanistan in 1998 after al-Qaeda's East African embassy attacks and learned that the Taliban regime, then a darling of the Clinton administration and the multinational oil giant Unocal, was being courted by Washington as a force for "regional stability." Sirrs reveals that the regime "was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden's money and the narcotics trade."

In 2004, Gail Sheehy reported in The New York Observer that for her trouble, Sirrs had her security clearances revoked and was subsequently hounded out of the DIA.

Unocal, a California-based company, had been courting the Taliban to build a massive pipeline system across Afghanistan that would connect the vast oil and natural-gas reserves of Turkmenistan to ports in Pakistan. The American energy giant partnered with a Saudi company, Delta Oil Co. Ltd., and promised the Taliban that it could expect up to $100 million in transit fees from the proposed $4.5 billion project. ...

Ms. Sirrs said she believed that her information was discounted because it was damaging to the Taliban.

"The State Department didn't want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban," she said. (Gail Sheehy, "Ex-Spook Sirrs: Early Osama Call Got Her Ejected," The New York Observer, March 14, 2004)

And what of the 9/11 attacks themselves, the presumed "trigger" for the Global War on Terror?

In the introduction to Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié's book Forbidden Truth, investigative journalist Wayne Madsen wrote: "Yet the links [to 9/11] do not merely end with the greater bin Laden family--they involved the House of Saud, the Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence agency, other wealthy Saudi bankers and merchants, Islamic charities and madrassas, U.S. oil tycoons, and U.S. defense contractors like The Carlyle Group."

An unholy alliance that has persisted since the end of World War II. Added to the mix are the invisible yet omnipresent tentacles of the international narcotics trade that cuts across global money flows and paves the way for U.S. "special operations."

As investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker revealed in Welcome to Terrorland and subsequent reporting,

Just three weeks after Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi arrived on July 3, 2000 to attend the flight school at Huffman Aviation in Venice, FL., the owner of the flight school, Wallace J. Hilliard, had his Learjet surrounded by DEA agents with submachine guns on the runway of Orlando Executive Airport.

Agents found 43 pounds of heroin, arrested everyone onboard, and confiscated the plane. ...

Moreover, the drug connection was uncovered independently in two different places: by our investigation in Venice, FL., and by FBI translator Sibel Edmonds in Washington D.C.

"The 9/11 terror plot intersected with the activities of a drug trafficking network of international scope, in ways that form a 'crystal clear' picture of what was going on," said Edmonds. ("The 9/11 Heroin Connection," MadCowMorningNews, September 7, 2006)

Indeed, according to German investigative reporter Jürgen Roth's account in Netzwerke des Terrors, in 1995 the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) investigated Atta for drug crimes and falsifying phone cards while a student at the Hamburg Technical University. While 9/11's lead hijacker wasn't charged, a record of the investigation will prevent him from obtaining a security job with Lufthansa Airlines in early 2001 according to Newsday, the History Commons revealed.

As FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds wrote on the connections amongst drug traffickers, terrorists and key U.S. allies such as Turkey, a major transportation hub for the flow of heroin into Europe, Edmonds wondered, "who are the real lords of Afghanistan's poppy fields?"

For Al Qaeda's network Turkey is a haven for its sources of funding. Turkish networks, along with Russians', are the main players in these fields; they purchase the opium from Afghanistan and transport it through several Turkic speaking Central Asian states into Turkey, where the raw opium is processed into popular byproducts; then the network transports the final product into Western European and American markets via their partner networks in Albania. The networks' banking arrangements in Turkey, Cyprus and Dubai are used to launder and recycle the proceeds, and various Turkish companies in Turkey and Central Asia are used to make this possible and seem legitimate. The Al Qaeda network also uses Turkey to obtain and transfer arms to its Central Asian bases, including Chechnya. ("The Hijacking of a Nation," National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, November 29, 2006)

This too, follows a demonstrable pattern. Since the 1960s, the Turkish state has utilized far-right and Islamist surrogates to wage a dirty war against the left. Openly fascist political formations such as the National Action Party (MHP), the organization's terrorist wing, the Grey Wolves and various Islamist "green gangs" such as the Army-controlled Turkish Hizbullah, have all been implicated in state terrorism and the international narcotics trade.

But the connections amongst narcotraffickers and terrorist financiers, though extensive, have all but been ignored by U.S. corporate media as it hyped the "failure of imagination" fairy tale spun by Washington insiders.

While the 9/11 Commission cited "intelligence failures" to "connect the dots" prior to the attacks, it is the contention of this writer that ongoing intelligence operations utilizing Afghan-Arab veterans and international narcotics syndicates, including al-Qaeda--in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and South Asia--lie at the heart of 9/11's cover-up.

In other words these cosy and highly profitable relationships built-up over decades, rather than unproven claims of an "inside job," allegations which all-too-frequently disappear Western intelligence agencies and their Islamist partners, were central to the 9/11 plot and subsequent U.S.-led "war on terror," a war of terror waged globally for resource extraction and geopolitical advantage over capitalist rivals.

One shudders to consider what the incoming Obama administration is contemplating when it recommends a "surge" of U.S. troops into Afghanistan. But if history is any judge, we can be certain that the illicit relationships amongst drug cartels and intelligence agencies will continue far into the future.

While drug lord Haji Bashir Noorzai awaits sentencing in Manhattan, someone else has already taken his place. After all, some things never change...