“DRUMMING UP MONEY, BY BEATING THE DRUMS FOR YET ANOTHER WAR ?”
And so it goes, another day, another appeal for campaign funds by saying and at least pretending a willingness to do something, anything, that might tickle the nerves and stroke the metaphysical and incarnational fantasies of potential major donors.
My, oh my, how our once noble liberal democratic republican experiment keeps evolving as it stumbles along such an amazingly convoluted path.
One can only wonder what will come next. What do you think may be about to happen??
And, at the end of the day, does it really matter. More wars, more money flowing into the pockets of the privileged insiders, more campaign donations into the right coffers. Aren’t we ever going to grow up and get tired of this? Or it this ultimately what the original intelligent design was really all about??
Anyway, have another beer and enjoy this circus while it lasts, or until you fall asleep again for another four years. Take care, Andy
OBAMA'S OCTOBER SURPRISE: BOMBING IRAN
By Jacob Heilbrunn, The National Interest, 2 August 2012.
A devastating strike would create an upsurge of patriotism in America and fully neutralize Mitt Romney's contention that Obama is a foreign-policy wimp. It could allow Obama to sweep to victory in November.
Will he do it?
One reason he might is that Mitt Romney is singlehandedly pushing the entire debate about Israel and Iran to the right. The parameters have changed markedly. As TNI editor Robert Merry and others have noted, Romney's efforts to ingratiate himself with Jewish donors and voters have prompted him to suspend any notion of an independent American foreign policy in the Middle East. Traditionally, the green or red light for military action has come from America, at least when it comes to actions that directly impinge upon American interests.
Ronald Reagan, for instance, successfully demanded that Israel halt its attacks on Lebanon in 1983. Romney, by contrast, has effectively promised to give Israel a veto power over military action, indicating that he will do whatever Benjamin Netanyahu wants. As Romney observed in December, he would never, ever criticize Israel. Instead, he would get on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu and ask, "What would you like me to do?" So it's fair to say that Romney would outsource his foreign policy to Netanyahu when it comes to Israel and its enemies.
What's more, anyone who thinks that Romney is bluffing should think again. It's no accident that his senior adviser on the Middle East is Dan Senor, a hard-line neoconservative. As the New York Times notes today, Romney relies upon him for advice and frequently cites his book “Start-Up Nation”. Senor wasn't dissembling when he said in Israel that Romney was prepared to endorse an attack on Iran—he simply got a little ahead of the program.
Obama has not been far behind in giving Netanyahu close to carte blanche. But he has not gone as far as Romney in endorsing the threat that Iran should be precluded from having the capability of building a nuclear weapon. But as Netanyahu champs, or tries to give the impression of champing, at the bit to bomb Iran, Obama must be weighing whether or not he should call Netanyahu out on his threats. So far, the Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to dissuade Israel from speedy action. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Israel was another sign that the administration is trying to reassure Israel of its commitment to its security. But his emphasis was on sanctions:
The most effective way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is for the international community to be united, proving to Iran that it will only make itself less secure if it continues to try to pursue a nuclear weapon.
But as Romney calls for "any and all measures" to stop Iran, Obama surely could deflate his sails by launching a strike in October. If it worked, he would be hailed as a hero. The consequences of a strike wouldn't be felt for at least a few weeks—the nightmare scenario is that an oil shock would result in a quadrupling of oil prices, plunging the world into a new Great Depression. Enough time for Obama to sail back into office as a tough foreign-policy president.
Given Obama's congenital caution and sobriety, he seems unlikely to follow such a course. But it should not be ruled out. The neocons may be closer to helping bring about an assault on Iran than even they realize. They've already captured Romney. But they may also be on the verge of capturing Obama. Their sustained campaign of pressure, in other words, may be more effective than anyone has acknowledged. For the fact is that Obama already has amply demonstrated his ruthlessness when it comes to confronting America's adversaries. If he were able to carry out regime change in Tehran, he might even start referring to himself as the “new Decider”.
ADVISER DRAWS ATTENTION TO ROMNEY MIDEAST POLICY
By Michael D. Shear, NYT, 1 August 2012.
WASHINGTON — Moments after making remarks in Jerusalem about Middle East culture that enraged Palestinians and undermined the public relations value of his trip to Israel, Mitt Romney looked around the room for Dan Senor, one of his campaign’s top foreign policy advisers.
It was Mr. Senor’s book about entrepreneurs in Israel that informed his comments, Mr. Romney explained to the group of Jewish-American donors he had assembled at the King David hotel. The book, “Start-up Nation,” is among Mr. Senor’s writings that Mr. Romney frequently cites in public.
Mr. Senor (pronounced See-NOR) has become one of the key people shaping Mr. Romney’s increasingly hawkish views on the Middle East. A television-savvy former spokesman for the American government in Iraq, Mr. Senor blends a foreign policy background, high-volume punditry and ties to wealthy hedge fund investors in the United States to become a triple threat as an insider in Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign.
His presence in the tight orbit of advisers around the Republican candidate foreshadows a Romney foreign policy that could take a harder line against Iran, embrace Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move away from being the honest broker in the conflict with Palestinians.
But his views and influence have drawn new scrutiny to Mr. Romney’s Mideast positions, particularly after Mr. Senor said last week that Mr. Romney respected Israel’s right to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Campaign aides conceded that Mr. Senor got “a little ahead” of Mr. Romney on Iran, but said it had not diminished his role at the campaign.
“Dan is a long-term friend and adviser of Mitt,” said Beth Myers, one of Mr. Romney’s top strategists. “He’s consistently been a part of his foreign policy advising world. Mitt appreciated his advice and counsel on that trip and he remains a close adviser.”
By tapping Mr. Senor, 40, as his principal adviser on the Israel leg of his foreign trip this week, Mr. Romney passed over more seasoned strategists, some of them veterans of the Middle East peace efforts that have bedeviled presidents and diplomats for decades.
In Mr. Senor, Mr. Romney turned to an advocate of neoconservative thinking that has sought to push presidents to the right for years on Middle East policy. (His sister, Wendy Senor Singer, runs the Jerusalem office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential lobbying organization.)
“Mr. Senor is a pragmatic hawk who clearly has an acute sensitivity and sensibility toward Israeli security interests,” said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to Democratic and Republican secretaries of state. “That’s clearly a filter through which he, and should he get to be president, Romney, sees the whole panoply of issues in the Middle East.”
The plan for Mr. Romney’s overseas trip called for him to mix delicate global diplomacy with high-dollar campaign fund-raising, all on foreign soil. It would take an adviser accustomed to maneuvering effortlessly through the worlds of politics, money and news media.
Enter Mr. Senor, who has become one of Mr. Romney’s closest foreign policy advisers, having traveled three times to Israel with him. Mr. Senor began visiting Boston in 2006 to brief Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, on foreign policy, and has had his ear since. In the acknowledgments of his book “No Apology,” Mr. Romney wrote that Mr. Senor sharpened his “appreciation of the dangers presented by the shift in our foreign policy.”
Mr. Senor declined to comment for this article.
But in Israel last week, the carefully laid plan was quickly consumed by negative attention. Gushing comments about Mr. Romney by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were initially overshadowed by Mr. Senor’s comments to reporters about Iran. When that died down, Mr. Romney’s assertion that cultural factors helped account for the wide Israeli economic edge over the Palestinians drew condemnation from Palestinian leaders.
For all the furor, Mr. Senor has proved to be a resilient public figure, often finding new success after public criticism.
At the start of the Iraq war, Mr. Senor served as the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, often delivering rosy accounts of the war’s progress to reporters whose on-the-ground view of the crisis there was anything but. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a Washington Post reporter who wrote a critical book about the authority, once described Mr. Senor’s office as doing “a masterful job of spinning the media.”
Mr. Senor’s departure from Iraq was followed by a stint running a private equity firm that made him wealthy. He married Campbell Brown, a former anchor for CNN, formed a conservative research organization and secured invitations to appear on Fox News and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
“He is intrigued by the game of politics,” said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and a longtime friend. “But he is genuinely public spirited.”
Mr. Romney’s relationship with Mr. Senor began just after his honeymoon in 2006, when Ms. Myers asked if he would meet with Mr. Romney, then a likely presidential candidate.
Before long, Mr. Senor was regularly visiting Boston for briefings and setting up visits by other foreign policy hawks in Washington. He accompanied Mr. Romney to Israel in January 2007 and went with him on a trip to Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel and Dubai last year.
“I believe they are genuinely close and personal,” Mr. Kristol said.
Perhaps the best evidence of that is the frequency with which Mr. Romney talks about Mr. Senor’s book. Acquaintances of both men said Mr. Romney frequently mentions it. The slim book argues that Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit contributes to its success — a message that resonates with Mr. Romney’s background in business.
“He goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises,” Mr. Romney said at his Jerusalem fund-raiser.
Looking around a room filled with wealthy Americans, including Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who has donated tens of millions of dollars to Republicans, Mr. Romney noted Mr. Senor’s absence and his success at hitting such people up for campaign cash.
“I saw him this morning. I don’t know where he is,” Mr. Romney said. “He’s probably out twisting someone’s arm.”
ROMNEY EDGES U.S. TOWARD WAR WITH IRAN
By Robert W. Merry, TNI, 1 August 2012.
Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His latest book is “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians” (Simon & Schuster).
The major newspapers all understood that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s expressions in Jerusalem last weekend were important, which is why they played the story on page one. But only the New York Times captured the subtle significance of what he said. The paper’s coverage, by Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker, reported that Romney sought to adhere to the code that says candidates shouldn’t criticize the president on foreign soil.
“But,” they added, “there were subtle differences between what he said—and how he said it—and the positions of his opponent.”
Most significantly, while Obama talks about stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Israel insists Tehran should be prevented from having even the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. This means no nuclear development even for peaceful purposes. Romney embraced the Israeli language. In doing so, he nudged his nation closer to war with Iran.
Based on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s oft-repeated expressions, he clearly seems bent on attacking Iran to destroy or delay its nuclear program and, if possible, undermine the Iranian regime. And he wants America at his side when he does it. Obama has been seeking to dissuade Israel from contemplating such an assault in order to give the president’s austere sanctions regimen a chance to work. But what does he mean by “a chance to work?”
If he means a complete capitulation by Iran, he’s dreaming, of course. History tells us that nations don’t respond to this kind of pressure by accepting humiliation. That’s the lesson of Pearl Harbor, as described in my commentary in these spaces. Many close observers of the Iran drama believe there may be an opportunity for a negotiated outcome that allows Iran to enrich uranium to a limited extent—say, 5 percent—for peaceful purposes. Iran insists, and most experts agree, that the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows such enrichment for energy production. In any event, numerous signatories to the NPT do in fact maintain limited enrichment programs for peaceful ends.
Obama seems torn between pursuing such an outcome and embracing the Israeli position, which demands that Iran foreswear all enrichment and any peaceful nuclear development. In last spring’s Istanbul meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany), there seemed to be a genuine interest on the part of those six nations to explore an outcome that would allow for some enrichment by Iran. Five weeks later in Baghdad, the P5+1 group seemed to backtrack and insist upon zero enrichment. Talks are ongoing but only among low-level technical people; any serious negotiations are on hold pending the election. Thus Obama has managed to maintain his flexibility during the delicate campaign period.
But now we have Romney in Israel essentially telling the people there that they need fear no ambivalence on his part. If elected, he will embrace the Netanyahu position, which is designed to ensure the collapse of any negotiations attending anti-Iran sanctions, which Netanyahu already has labeled a failure.
“We have to be honest,” he said over the weekend, during Romney’s visit, “and say that the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.”
That’s the view that Romney subtly embraced in Jerusalem.
True, it was all done with a wink and a nod. In actual language, Romney didn’t diverge too far from what the president had been saying. Certainly in declaring that Americans “recognize Israel’s right to defend itself,” he echoed similar expressions that Obama has uttered on many occasions. But when he added, “and it is right for America to stand with you,” he was offering just a touch more of a free pass for an Israeli attack on Iran than Obama has done.
But all this apparently was just a little too subtle for Dan Senor, Romney’s senior foreign-policy aide, who told reporters just prior to Romney’s Jerusalem speech,
“If Israel has to take action on its own, the governor would respect that decision.”
This led to much back-and-forth afterward, but the message was clear: unlike Obama, and unlike George W. Bush before him, Romney harbors no inclination to dampen Netanyahu’s determination to solve his perceived Iran problem through force of arms. And, since an Israeli strike on Iran inevitably would thrust America into the resulting conflict, the Romney-Senor expressions, taken together, moved America that much closer to another Mideast war.
Arguably, this is true even if Obama is reelected in November and Romney is tossed to the side of the campaign trail. That’s because the mere expression of such sentiments from a major-party presidential candidate confers an added legitimacy to the idea that the United States would accept or even welcome a unilateral Israeli preemptive attack on another nation, whatever its leaders say in public. Such an attack almost surely would unleash a powerful wave of instability throughout the Middle East, with incalculable consequences for global peace and prosperity. It’s inconceivable that, in such circumstances, America could avoid getting drawn into the maelstrom that would ensue. In the meantime, the economic consequences would be nearly catastrophic as oil prices soared, dealing a heavy blow to an already unsteady global economy.
Thus, Romney’s words may have been subtle, but this is foreign-policy mischief on a very large scale. If he becomes president, two of Mitt Romney’s primary responsibilities will be to ensure peace and prosperity in the nation he leads. Those imperatives certainly didn’t seem uppermost in his mind over the past weekend. He may have looked frivolous and unprepared for the office he seeks when he arrived in London last week and, responding to a routine question about the Olympics, promptly demonstrated a tin ear for the nuances of diplomatic expression. But that was child’s play in comparison to what he did in Jerusalem.
ROMNEY, NETANYAHU, AND GEORGE WASHINGTON'S WARNING
By David Bromwich, HuffPost, 1 August 2012.
Mitt Romney's campaign stop in Jerusalem has been criticized for the grossness of the subservience that the candidate exhibited toward Israel. This reaction was surely factored in by his handlers. Liberals, internationalists, human rights advocates might demur, but Romney's intended audience was none of these people. Nor was it the Arab world, nor was it American voters, with a possible exception for the state of Florida. Romney was aiming to reach two distinct but related target groups: first, a small set of extremely wealthy donors, and second, a group composed of one person, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both have long been potent players in American elections. Both were already helping Romney. It was necessary and useful at this time to cement the alliance in public.
Judged in the light of that purpose, Romney's visit must be counted a success. And it was a success in one other respect. The billionaires and the prime minister wanted Romney to bring the United States closer to supporting a war with Iran. Romney obliged, and we are now closer to war. He recognized, he said, the "right" of Israel to defend itself. Who ever denied that right? He meant: the righteousness of a preventive attack on Iran. This left open the question, Does Iran have the right to defend itself? A question that Americans and Israelis, as effectively propagandized as we have been, can be trusted not even to ask. So Romney's intervention in Jerusalem amounted to approval of war -- and a war before November if Netanyahu happens to find that desirable. As a candidate in an election season, Romney gave the green light to a power whose engagement in war would involve the United States.
Nothing like this has ever happened before in American politics. But then, there has never been anything in history remotely like the present relationship between the United States and Israel. President Obama, who is thought to be lukewarm by Romney's supporters, in March described our alliance with Israel as "sacrosanct." A month earlier, he had assured Israel and its warmest American partisans that his administration was marching in "lockstep" with Israel in our approach to Iran.
All this Obama said and did in deference to Benjamin Netanyahu and without regard to American interests. For he had been told by the CIA that Iran is not working at present on a nuclear weapon, and he was warned by the Pentagon that a war with Iran would be a regional disaster for the United States. Even so, he gave Netanyahu in effect a yellow light: proceed with caution. And to sweeten the transaction, he promised to issue no traffic ticket if Israel speeds up. It was the same at this year's AIPAC convention where Obama again assured Netanyahu: "I have Israel's back."
A corny line from the playbook of the younger Bush, suggesting a false analogy between a gunfight and a world war, but Obama at the start of an election year knew very well what the script called for.
It has been said by members of the Israel lobby that Obama's actions speak louder than his words, and that his actions have hurt Israel. Let us recall some of the actions. In response to the onslaught on Gaza in December-January 2008-2009, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis, Obama observed a silence which he has never broken. When, in November 2010, Netanyahu balked at the proposal of a 90-day partial extension of the freeze on West Bank settlement expansion, Obama offered twenty F-35 fighter jets if he would change his mind; Netanyahu refused, and Obama gave him the jets anyway. Only a week ago, the president donated another $70 million, on top of U.S. assistance already given, to build up the Israeli "Iron Dome" defense against rockets. Yet it is felt that Obama's love of Israel has been insufficiently demonstrative. The reason is simple but it is seldom mentioned quite candidly.
Twice, in the last four years, this president lapsed from the post-1992 American protocol toward Israel of undiluted flattery and largesse. In June 2009 he called for a settlement freeze, and in May 2011 he spoke of the 1967 lines as the starting point for the creation of an independent Palestine. Now, the de facto policy of the Netanyahu government is annexation of the West Bank. These diplomatic hints and reminders from the president were therefore as unwelcome as they were unexpected.
As for Iran, Israelis themselves (except Netanyahu and those in his immediate circle) are a good deal more cautious than their American neoconservative supporters. At a public meeting in April, in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, Yuval Diskin, who in 2011 retired as head of Shin Bet (the Israeli FBI), said that he had "no faith" in Netanyahu's policy or his instincts on Iran. Two days later the former chief of Mossad, Meir Dagan, emphatically concurred and praised Diskin for his honesty.
What does it mean for an American like Romney, unskilled in international politics and innocent of the complexities of the Middle East, to back the pressure now being exerted by Netanyahu against the advice of the American president and against the advice of high-ranking intelligence and military officers in Israel? It means that Romney is not a friend of Israel so much as he is a friend of Netanyahu. Or rather, for Romney, as for the billionaires he had in tow, the personal is political. For them, Netanyahu is Israel. A point to which we shall return.
Joe Biden and Leon Panetta in recent months have taken care to issue statements along the lines of Obama himself, implying American avoidance of any war short of necessity, but adding that Israel is a sovereign nation and America does not pretend to control it. And yet we give Israel fighter jets, Iron Dome technology, and more than three billion dollars a year in foreign aid. If there is ever again an American president capable of deciding to concern himself more with the soundness of policy than with his chances in the next election, that president will have considerable control over Israel. Obama, however, works slowly and he starts worrying about the next election a year ahead. That does not leave much margin for inventive policy or persuasion. On the Middle East, his boldness in theory and timidity in practice seems to have roused the adventurism of Romney's neoconservative advisers. But Obama does occasionally offer convincing signs of not wanting the war with Iran that the Pentagon says would be a disaster. Romney, by contrast, with his quarterback-audible in Jerusalem, signaled that a war would be fine with him.
What are the actual stakes for Israel? Netanyahu has called the possession of a nuclear weapon by Iran an "existential threat," but nobody known for sanity, including his own defense minister Ehud Barak, has agreed with him about this. An existential threat conjures an image of war-loving Iran poised on the brink of exterminating the Jews of Israel. The evidence for that intention is a statement by the anti-Semitic president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who did indeed say that history would wipe the "Zionist entity" off the map.
What only readers who follow politics are likely to know is that Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful figure in Iran and that after the next election he may be out of a job. The cost to the mullahs of bombing Israel, with a weapon they are not yet close to possessing, would be massive retaliation by Israel, whose nuclear arsenal is estimated between 200 and 300 weapons. That picture is so improbable that Netanyahu has been forced to adopt a different stratagem.
On the argument that he now presses, even low-enrichment uranium is a danger in the hands of Iran. Obama and the European capitals, in the October 2009 negotiations, had offered Iran an agreement allowing 5% enrichment, and at the time Netanyahu raised no public objection. He now says he will not settle for any enrichment at all by Iran. He is lowering the threshold to justify an attack. And Romney last week in Jerusalem, with the support of his war party advisers, fell into step in with the Netanyahu ultimatum. Nothing less than zero enrichment will satisfy Mitt Romney.
Still, if Iran is not an existential threat, why is the wish to attack Iran so strong in Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition? The reason is fear of Iran as a regional competitor. A powerful hostile nation induces any rival to hesitate before wielding power as often as it would like. An Iran with a serious armed force could not equal Israel, or thoroughly deter Israel, but it would doubtless inhibit Israeli military ventures in the Arab world. And that, for an advocate of Greater Israel, is intolerable. Israeli designs must go forward unhindered. So Netanyahu is asking for American support against Iran for much the same reason that his predecessor Yitzhak Shamir wanted America to go to war with Iraq in 1991. Iraq, like Iran, was pursuing nuclear research but had no nuclear weapon. In 1991, however, Iraq did have a formidable army, and Israel had an interest in seeing that army destroyed. Some side effects of the elimination of Iraq as a military power are now a familiar part of the regional landscape: the air, land, and sea blockade on Gaza, and the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which proceeds with fresh evictions every day.
Romney was asked by a reporter at the Western Wall if he endorsed the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. The question was put to him three times, and three times Romney ignored it. The channeling to the settlers of West Bank aquifers, the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves, the expulsion of Bedouin shepherds from their grazing lands all are done under the ostensible explanation of military necessity by Israel. Anyone who recalls the Jim Crow society of the American South in the 1950s knows the real purpose of such actions: to assert and make visible by force the superiority of one caste of people over another, and to drive the inferior people from places of value.
At the King David Hotel, Romney addressed campaign donors from America who had traveled thousands of miles to another country to affirm their loyalty. But loyalty to what and whom? Are the United States and Israel the same country? This was one of the weirdest exhibitions of transnational financial muscle in recorded history. It probably has no precedent. Will it have a sequel? Let us try a thought experiment. Imagine the American reaction to an American presidential candidate who calls a meeting of wealthy Italian-Americans in Vatican City in order to declare their unconditional fidelity to the Pope. The United States was once the country of protestant nonconformity. What is happening to us?
The ad-lib comments that Romney spoke on this occasion have received plenty of notice, but they cannot be quoted too often. They display with a fine economy the good-natured insolence of Romney himself alongside the conventional racism of the Republican Party and its roots in Social Darwinism.
"As you come here," he said, “and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.”
Such was his revelation for the self-made party donors, as well as the heir and heiress billionaires. But there was more:
"As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."
Among the other things of course was "the hand of providence," the non-denominational shorthand notation for Tetragrammaton or Jesus Yahweh Smith. But the key word here was culture. There is a good culture, we know, of self-respect and commercial success and technology. And that culture looks a lot like Israel. Then there is a culture of poverty and inertia and resentment, and it looks like the West Bank. The occupation has nothing to do with the difference. For the slow-of-wit, Romney clarified his idea by adding that a similar disparity exists between other neighboring countries like Mexico and the United States.
Note that this division between the deserving and less deserving peoples scarcely departs from the old anti-Semitism. It uses the same clichés: the despised people are crafty but sullen, lacking in Western energy, discipline, and refinement. The prejudice has now been turned against another Semitic tribe, the Palestinians. The Jews of Israel, by contrast, are praised for their adaptation to the ways of commerce, and are treated as honorary Christians.
Pass from Romney to his audience. These people, as reported by the New York Times, were high net worth individuals whose total holdings may well have approached half a trillion. We will never know, since they have multiple accounts in the Cayman Islands, where some of them also have alternate private residences. But it is worth following up a few details of the Times story by Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker.
"Sheldon Adelson...wore a pin that said 'Romney' in Hebrew letters," yet Adleson is troubled, these days, by an investigation of the links between his casino holdings in Las Vegas and Macau.
"Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau," John McCain pointed out in a recent interview. "Maybe," McCain speculated, "in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American political campaign."
Also not so roundabout. The money coming from the crowd at the King David Hotel evidently came from Americans and was going back into an American campaign. What, then, was the symbolic importance of having it routed through an event in Israel timed to begin at the end of the religious day of mourning Tisha B'Av?
Other members of the Romney-Netanyahu billionaire entourage were touched on briefly in the Times account. Cheryl Halpern, a New Jersey Republican and big party donor, was named by George W. Bush the successor to Kenneth Tomlinson as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and served in that office during the years 2005-07. She disciplined NPR for political bias and, along with Tomlinson, succeeded in bending the tone and content of NPR toward the platitudes and human interest by which it is mainly known today. John Miller, the chief executive of the National Beef Packing Company, helped Tagg Romney and Spencer Zwick to find the $244 million they needed for the startup of a private equity fund, Solamere Capital, which in its early days shared an address with the Romney campaign headquarters.
Paul Singer, founder of the $20 billion hedge fund Elliott Associates and its affiliate Elliott Management, operates a "vulture fund" that specializes in buying up third-world debt. Elliott trawls for assets that have drastically fallen in value, and then sues countries for full value, with a legal threat if they refuse. It goes after vulnerable nations like Panama, Peru, Argentina, and Congo, offering rigor-mortis prices to the panicked holders of collapsing bonds, before it compels the derelict governments to buy them back at a swollen price or suffer international disgrace and an utter loss of autonomy at the hands of financiers.
The ingenuity and detective work that goes into Elliott is perhaps another clue to what Romney means by culture. But where Romney's Bain bought, gutted, repackaged and sold factories and store chains, and held in thrall occasionally the happiness of a town or a pension plan, Elliott transfixes the life holdings of large tracts of the world, including tribes and peoples whose names its officers will not have known how to pronounce until they began to reduce them to finance fodder. Will the vulture funds take out a second mortgage on the Parthenon?
"Elliott hasn't [yet] built up a hold-out position in Greek debt, according to an individual close to the firm. Last year it profited instead by trading Greek credit default swaps."
These people, so important because of their money, are united in their belief that Israel stands in grave peril because of the neglect or hostility of Barack Obama. Yet Obama's actions toward Israel -- the gifts of weapons and security systems, the reflex vetoes on U.N. resolutions -- have been dangerous if anything by their one-sided solicitousness on behalf of Israel. Obama has conducted himself toward Israel, in fact, as he has acted toward establishments like the American military and the Wall Street banks and brokerage houses. He mentions his power of refusal chiefly in order to show that, in some technical sense, that power does exist. But his use of the power has been, in all of these contexts, nominal and decorative. Again and again he has said he could bring results and has not brought them: tougher bank regulations, faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, "hands-on" presidential engagement in negotiations to create a Palestinian state and achieve peace with Iran. In all of these settings, Obama's practice has been hands-off, no matter what he may have pledged. Still, it is true that Romney would be a distinct improvement from the point of view of Netanyahu. Rhetorically, as well as in fact, he would be hands-on in Israel's favor at all times.
Because the Tisha B'Av spectacle was so bizarre, almost grotesque, one cannot help asking again: why were those American donors going to Israel to cheer an American candidate in an American election? Is being an American no longer good enough?
In a speech in Israel in 2010, Sheldon Adelson regretted that "the uniform that I wore in the military unfortunately was not an Israeli uniform, it was an American uniform."
Such an attitude of abasement or self-subordination toward Israel, often accompanied by a peculiar vicarious nostalgia, is not confined to American Jews or billionaires. On arriving in Jerusalem in March 2010, Joe Biden said "It's good to be home." What was he thinking?
As Netanyahu looks at these postures of genuflection, it is no wonder that he feels himself entitled to criticize an American president in front of the American Congress, or to "vet" Republican vice-presidential hopefuls such as Chris Christie and Rob Portman. If Netanyahu is now the most effective bundler in the Republican Party, why should he not have a say in the party's choice of a vice-president?
George Washington thought that being Americans should be enough for us. In his great Farewell Address, he also gave some reasons why attachment to a foreign power, no matter how sentimental the affection, could only impair American liberty and independence and serve to draw the country into unnecessary wars.
"Nothing," said Washington, “is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. . . .Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. . . .The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.”
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity.
Can there be any doubt what George Washington would have made of the scene of Mitt Romney and his high-rolling backers at the King David Hotel?
Washington summed up his criticism of such attachments in these climactic words of warning:
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. . . .Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.”
A contrary understanding has become so familiar in our politics that it is hard to recall when anyone last worried about excessive partiality for one nation.
We should expect no compunction, no reservation, no self-consciousness regarding the "passionate attachment" to a "favorite nation" by Romney and his foreign policy team. Part of the reason lies in the composition of the team itself. They are, to a man, alumni of the Cheney circle and the post-2001 Patriot Act security establishment, and close affiliates of the Israel lobby.
But another reason for the partiality goes far back in Romney's own life. He has been a friend of Netanyahu since their younger American corporate years together; the two have gone to each other for advice ever since, as Michael Barbaro disclosed in an April 8 story in the New York Times: they consult casually and with implicit trust, in every walk of political practice, from discussing the right strategy against Iran to canvassing the sharpest method for cutting state pensions. They share, said Barbaro (with less irony than he needed), "the same profoundly analytical view of the world."
To readers who know this personal history, it may seem that Romney went to Jerusalem to confirm one detail of Barbaro's story:
"Mr. Romney has suggested that he would not make any significant policy decisions about Israel without consulting Mr. Netanyahu -- a level of deference that could raise eyebrows given Mr. Netanyahu's polarizing reputation, even as it appeals to the neoconservatives and evangelical Christians who are fiercely protective of Israel."
Romney could not fail to consult his personal friend who happens to lead a foreign power, since he has pledged to do so without exception, in all decisions affecting that power. It is exactly the situation that George Washington described and warned against; but Romney seems unaware of any conflict of duties or even a possible tension. During a December primary debate, Barbaro notes,
Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: "Before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: 'Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?'"
"What would you like me to do." Those are the words of our intendant decider, and he means to address them, with an implied vow of fidelity, to the leader of another country.
Can we read Washington's words of 1796 addressed "to the people of the United States," and compare Romney's words addressed to his donors in Jerusalem, and not feel a deep disturbance? What would you like me to do?
KILL OR CAPTURE
By Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 2 August 2012.
On September 30, 2011, in a northern province of Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and a senior figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, finished his breakfast and walked with several companions to vehicles parked nearby. Before he could drive away, a missile fired from a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency struck the group and killed Awlaki, as well as a second American citizen, of Pakistani origin, whom the drone operators did not realize was present.
President Barack Obama had personally authorized the killing. “I want Awlaki,” he is said to have told his advisers at one point. “Don’t let up on him.”
The President’s bracing words about a fellow American are reported in “Kill or Capture,” a recent and important book on the Obama Administration’s detention and targeted-killing programs, by Daniel Klaidman, a former deputy editor of Newsweek.
With those words attributed to Obama, Klaidman has reported what would appear to be the first instance in American history of a sitting President speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.
The due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Obama authorized the termination of Awlaki’s life after he concluded that the boastful, mass-murder-plotting cleric had, in effect, forfeited constitutional protection by waging war against the United States and actively planning to kill Americans. Obama also believed that the Administration’s secret process establishing Awlaki’s guilt provided adequate safeguards against mistake or abuse—all in all, enough “due process of law” to take his life.
Awlaki was certainly a murderous character; his YouTube videos alone would likely convict him at a jury trial. Yet the case of Awlaki’s killing by drone strike is to the due-process clause what the proposed march of neo-Nazis through a community that included many Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, was to the First Amendment when that case arose, in 1977. It is an instance where the most onerous facts imaginable should lead to the durable affirmation of constitutional principle, as Skokie did. Instead, President Obama and his advisers have opened the door to violent action against American citizens by future Presidents when the facts may be much less compelling.
Last March, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, delivered an address at Northwestern University in which he sought to explain and justify the Awlaki killing, without ever naming the victim, apparently because such honesty would violate the Administration’s classification rules. Holder’s arguments are worth absorbing at length. He explained,
Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad. Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens—even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans….
An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks….
Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.
It would be difficult to list all of the ways in which Holder’s arguments are disturbing. Overall, the large-scale targeted killing of non-Americans affiliated with Al Qaeda during the Obama Administration’s first term raises many questions about legality and transparency. The more recent addition of Klaidman’s reporting, however, calls attention to one area, infrequently discussed, where it seems clear that the Obama Administration has driven right through a constitutional stop sign. This involves the second of Holder’s three conditions for killing a U.S. citizen who has joined Al Qaeda and is actively planning to kill Americans—that is, “capture is not feasible.”
Klaidman’s reporting suggests the title of his own book may be misplaced. “Kill or Capture” conjures an image of Obama and his counterterrorism advisers holding one anguished debate after another about whether to immolate terrorism suspects with Predator drones, as they did Awlaki, or send in Special Forces or local militias to capture the accused for trial. In fact, the book makes clear that the Obama Administration has judged again and again—almost routinely—that capturing terrorist suspects outside of Afghanistan (where there is a friendly host government and an extensive prison system) is not feasible.
According to Klaidman, Obama’s advisers have concluded, for example, that the risk of creating political turmoil in Yemen is reason enough to avoid attempting an arrest there by, for example, landing Special Forces on the ground—as if Yemen were not already in a state of perpetual turmoil.
Protecting American soldiers from potential death or injury during a risky capture operation is a second reason it was judged better to kill Awlaki by remote control. Of course, soldiers should not be placed at unreasonable risk if there is no way to deploy a force that can protect itself during a capture attempt. Surely, however, Special Forces commanders would regard the defense of American constitutional rightness as reason to shoulder at least some physical risks, just as American police officers routinely place themselves at risk by patiently surrounding an armed, defiant murder suspect’s house. They attempt to talk the suspect into surrender, even when it would be safer for the police themselves just to blow the house up.
Even more disturbing is the evidence in Klaidman’s narrative suggesting that the Obama Administration leans toward killing terrorism suspects because it does not believe it has a politically attractive way to put them on trial. Federal criminal trials of terrorist suspects draw howls of protest from many Republicans, even though the George W. Bush Administration successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile terrorists in federal court. Military commissions, the Obama Administration’s reluctantly endorsed best-of-the-bad alternative to federal trials, are unpopular with civil-rights activists and European allies, for good reason, because of their relatively weak protections for defendants. But is political discomfort about this choice of trial venues a reason to override the Fifth Amendment, in the case of a targeted American citizen like Awlaki? Doesn’t the case-by-case application of the due-process clause require some extraordinary finding by the president that capture is not possible? Shouldn’t there be a bias in operations, when an American citizen is involved, toward making an arrest?
“Come out with your hands up” may have been Hollywood’s whitewashed reimagining of how sheriffs warned suspected killers to surrender and face trial in the Wild West, or how G-men warned barricaded bank robbers to give up before they met death. Yet the words became cliché for a reason: they had the ring of justice even in the midst of tense scenes ridden with risk and the possibility of sudden violence.
“To me, the weakness in the drone activity is that if there’s no one on the ground, and the person puts his hands out, he can’t surrender,” the retired vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright, told the journalist Tara McKelvey earlier this year. “What makes it worse with a Predator is you’re actually watching it. You know when he puts his hands up.”
Holder and other Obama Administration legal hands have told Congress that they are convinced, after repeated reviews of classified evidence about targeted terrorism suspects, that the Obama Administration’s secret process for placing Al Qaeda leaders and operatives on death lists is careful, legal, and sound—even though a number of cases of mistaken targeting have been documented publicly.
None of Obama’s legal advisers has testified similarly about what secret system and classified legal memos may exist for judging, in the case of an American citizen targeted overseas, whether and why a capture attempt may be feasible. Congress has the power to force such statements onto the public record. It must try; it is obvious by now that the Obama Administration will not volunteer them. Is “kill or capture” a policy, or are the words just a screen for politically convenient targeted killings?
WHERE’S THE NETANYAHU SCANDAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES?
DOES IT MATTER WHAT ISRAELIS DO?
by Saul Landau, CounterPunch Weekend Edition, July 20-22, 2012
Western leaders met in Paris last week to discuss possible intervention in Syria where almost 10,000 people have died over the last year of internal conflict. The West has never even considered holding such a meeting on Israel’s murderous behavior, however, despite a July 5 UN report that claimed that over the last five years Israeli forces have killed nearly 2,300 Palestinians and injured 7,700 in Gaza (statement from UNOCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.)
The UN agency said that 27 percent of the fatalities in Gaza were women and children in a report highlighting the effects of Israel’s blockade.
Six years ago Israel imposed its sea and air blockade of Gaza. Under the blockade, Gaza exports have dropped to less than 3 percent of 2006 levels.
UNOCHA said, “The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.”
Israel’s naval blockade has also undermined the livelihood of 35,000 fishermen, and Gaza farmers have lost around 75,000 tons of produce each year due to Israeli restrictions along Gaza’s land border, the UNOCHA report said.
Half of Gaza’s youth is unemployed and 44 percent of its people are food insecure.
Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that because Gaza’s ruling party Hamas is a
“terrorist organization, the blockade was necessary.”
“All cargo going into Gaza must be checked because Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization,” Regev told Reuters in response to a petition by 50 aid groups, including six UN agencies, calling on Israel to lift the blockade.
The West abhors the Syrian – disobedient – government, allied to Iran, and adores Israel, no matter what it does to the Palestinians. The media does little to dramatize the obvious double standard criteria used to measure the worthiness of the two neighboring governments. Iran, the West’s post Cold War bad guy, found a friend in Syria and that alone has condemned the Syrian government. The fact that Saudi Arabia has armed and financed rebels entering Syria in the name of “democracy” should cause at least some news absorbers to feel a bit skeptical over the anti-Syria campaign.
It doesn’t seem to matter what Israelis do. For example, Arutz Sheva, the nationalist Israeli press, reported that
“declassified FBI documents from a 1985-2002 investigation implicate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an initiative to illegally purchase United States nuclear technology for Israel’s nuclear program.
“Netanyahu was allegedly helped by Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer with ties to Israeli prime ministers and U.S. presidents.”
Grant Smith at antiwar.com had reported that
“Netanyahu worked inside a nuclear smuggling ring.”
Here’s an example of what is found in the report:
“On June 27, 2012, the FBI partially declassified and released seven additional pages from a 1985–2002 investigation into how a network of front companies connected to the Israeli Ministry of Defense illegally smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The newly released FBI files detail how Richard Kelly Smyth – who was convicted of running a U.S. front company – met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel during the smuggling operation. At that time, Netanyahu worked at the Israeli node of the smuggling network, Heli Trading Company. Netanyahu, who currently serves as Israel’s prime minister, recently issued a gag order that the smuggling network’s unindicted ringleader refrain from discussing ‘Project Pinto’.”
The Hebrew paper Ma’ariv continued the report on this incident.
“According to FBI documents released by the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was involved in smuggling in the 70s from the U.S. components of Israeli nuclear program, and assisted by the businessman Arnon Milchan, who according to previous publications was a former Mossad agent.
“The documents describe the findings of the investigation… performed between the years 1985 to 2002 on about how a network of front companies a U.S. security firm illegally smuggled equipment used for weapons seeds out of the U.S.”
We live in the Golden Age of Empire Judaism, said Prof. Marc Ellis. “Greater Israel” means Jewish settler expansion in a denial of Palestinians and their rights. It also means perpetual conflict, maybe war, in the region. Is this why our Congress pledges eternal love to Israel? Is this why the Israeli lobby pays and threatens our Congress?
When will Western powers meet to decide what to do about Israel so as to lessen the damage she causes to Palestinians, her neighbors and the region?
Israel has baffled the U.S. political apparatus. It gets away with imposing apartheid against Palestinians, stealing their land and stirring up war against its neighbors. One negative word from a U.S. pol on Israel brings heavy pressure, intimidation and money for opposing candidates – along with charges of anti-semitism.
How pathetic that a small group of right-wing Jews allied to right-wing Israeli parties, has buffaloed U.S. politicians and media.
One former Congressman described the Israeli lobby as the equivalent of a pit bull that bites the Congressman’s leg in the morning and holds on during lunch and the afternoon. The Congressman sleeps with the bull’s teeth in his leg and wakes with it the next morning. No wonder Members don’t want to antagonize this angry dog!
I don’t suggest Palestinians form an equivalent lobby, but rather that the media develop a little courage and report accurately on events in Israel and Palestine. Just spread reviews of the new film “5 Broken Camera,” in which a Palestinian West Bank farmer documents the encroachment by army-backed settlers that bulldozed his village’s olive trees to make room for Israeli apartment houses. Israel’s treatment of West Bank Palestinians is no better than its behavior toward residents of Gaza.
Saul Landau’s: WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens at Washington DC’s Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave 8 pm, august 14 and at the San Jose Peace an Justice Center on Aug 3, 7 PM 48 South 7th St., San Jose CA.
DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,
One of the greatest current tragedies on planet Earth is our unwillingness to recognize the horror of what is taking place every day in this metaphysically iconic land.
Who really gave this land to whom, and on what real justification can those whose families have lived here for so many centuries be expelled and made homeless today?
Can religion really be the reason?? Or are there other factors lurking here that need to remain unmentionable?
What do you think about this?
All the very best and take care,
‘I AM AN ILLEGAL ALIEN ON MY OWN LAND’
By David Shulman, NYRB, 17 July 2012.
A Palestinian couple inspecting their former cave dwelling in Susya following an earlier expulsion, September 6, 2004
In 1949, shortly after Israel’s War of Independence, S. Yizhar—the doyen of modern Hebrew prose writers—published a story that became an instant classic. “Khirbet Khizeh” is a fictionalized account of the destruction of a Palestinian village and the expulsion of all its inhabitants by Israeli soldiers in the course of the war. The narrator, a soldier in the unit that carries out the order, is sickened by what is being done to the innocent villagers. Here he is in Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck’s translation (Ibis Publications, 2008):
I felt a terrifying collapse inside me. I had a single, set idea, like a hammered nail, that I could never be reconciled to anything, so long as the tears of a weeping child still glistened as he walked along with his mother, who furiously fought back her soundless tears, on his way into exile, bearing with him a roar of injustice and such a scream that—it was impossible that no one in the world would gather that scream in when the moment came….
Still, the narrator goes along with the expulsion without overt protest. Yizhar himself was an intelligence officer during the war; he describes events he may well have seen himself:
“We came, we shot, we burned; we blew up, expelled, drove out, and sent into exile. What in God’s name were we doing in this place?”
Somewhat surprisingly, this story was taught for many years in Israeli secondary schools as part of the modern Hebrew canon; even today it is still on the books as an optional text for the matriculation exam (unless the Netanyahu government has secretly removed it). The story embodies the conscience of Israel at the moment of the state’s formation. It also gives voice to a much older Jewish tradition of moral protest and the struggle for social justice. When I was growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s, I mistakenly thought that this tradition was at the core of what it meant to be Jewish.
A Susyan woman holding an Israeli demolition order, June 2012
Sixty-three years have passed since Yizhar wrote “Khirbet Khizeh.” I wish I could say that what he described was an ugly exception and that such actions don’t happen any more. It is not, and they do. This week I find myself in Susya, in the South Hebron hills, near the southern corner of the West Bank. Like their counterparts in many other Palestinian villages, Susya‘s approximately 300 inhabitants are impoverished, badly scarred, terrified, and defenseless.
The week before last the officers of the Civil Administration, that is, the Israeli occupation authority, turned up with new demolition orders in their hands; these orders apply to nearly all the standing structures in the village—mostly tents, ramshackle huts, sheep-pens, latrines, and the wind-and-sun-powered turbine that Israeli activists put up some three years back to generate electricity on this stony, thirsty hilltop in the desert. If the orders are carried out—this could happen at any moment—then it means the nearly complete destruction of an entire village and the violent expulsion of its people. They will be, quite literally, cast into the desert.
Not, however, for the first time. Depending on how you count them, there have already been three, perhaps four, expulsions at Susya.
The first one happened in 1986, when Palestinian families—over 1500 people— were driven from their homes in Susya al-Qadima, “Old Susya,” which sat on top of an archaeological site that, to their misfortune, contained a second-Temple-period synagogue. They took up residence at a site nearby, on lands belonging to them, called Rujum al-Hamri, which happened to be close to the new Israeli settlement of Susya (established in 1983).
The new settlers, put there by the state, were not good neighbors. In fact, for the last nearly three decades they’ve done whatever they could to drive the Palestinians out—including many violent, sometimes murderous attacks on them, continuous harassment, and efforts to use the courts, both military and civil, against them. Together with several of my colleagues, I myself have had the honor of being brutally assaulted by Susya settlers.
A tent in Susya that may soon be demolished by Israeli authorities, June, 2012
The second expulsion took place in 1990, when Rujum al-Hamri was evacuated by the army. The inhabitants were loaded onto trucks, exactly as in Yizhar’s story from 1949, and driven some fifteen kilometers north, where they were dumped by the roadside at the edge of the desert. Still, most of them came back, building the encampment of present-day Susya on a rocky escarpment within their historic agricultural and grazing grounds.
Their daily life—I can tell you from long first-hand experience—is a fierce struggle to survive in this arid land in the face of a hostile system that has devoured most of their property, destroyed the caves they lived in, and still subjects them to arbitrary arrest, humiliation, and life-threatening violence.
They are poor, poorer than anything I have ever seen in India; what they have are their sheep and goats and a few sun-baked fields where they grow a low-grade variety of wheat and barley that serve as fodder. Because they have been robbed of their wells, they have to buy water from the nearby city of Yatta, which is delivered in small tankers.
The third expulsion took place in July 2001, when civilians—undoubtedly settlers—worked side by side with Israeli soldiers to destroy the tattered tents and shacks and drive the Palestinians out, apparently in response to the murder of a well-known settler, Yair Har Sinai (the Susyans had nothing to do with this). Again they came back and rebuilt. But Israeli Susya has continued to expand, spawning a series of so-called “illegal outposts,” all of them on Palestinian land, even as the Palestinian shepherds and farmers have been hemmed into a continually shrinking space. The coup de grâce may be delivered in the next few days—unless we manage to forestall it.
Earlier this year, in February, a settlers’ NGO called “Regavim” (literally “clods of soil”--the name aptly represents the romantic fantasy of belonging that settlers typically cultivate), petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court, demanding that demolition orders issued years ago by the Civil Administration for Palestinian Susya be carried out immediately. The petitioners, many of whom live on stolen land, had the temerity to refer to Palestinian Susya, the last remnant of the ancient village, as an “illegal outpost.”
The court held a hearing on June 6 and issued an order prohibiting all further building in Palestinian Susya. In itself, this makes little difference; it is anyway next to impossible for Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank, under direct Israeli control, to get a permit to build from the committee, largely composed of settlers, that oversees such requests. But the Court’s preliminary ruling seems to be linked to the new demolition orders, for reasons not yet clear.
Perhaps the Civil Administration sees the court order as an opportunity to act with impunity against Palestinian Susya. Perhaps the Court itself is trying to restore a balance after having ruled recently against the settlers in Beit Ulpana, a suburb of the huge central West Bank settlement of Beit El. (The Beit Ulpana houses, all illegally built, will apparently be sawed off their foundations and moved a few hundred meters to another piece of appropriated Palestinian land.)
Israeli soldiers in a vehicle with an anti-riot "Skunk" gun, Susya, June 22, 2012
Susya is a microcosm of the Israeli occupation, a lucid embodiment of its norms and habits. Only the scale of the planned expulsion is a little unusual; normally the process, though relentless, proceeds in smaller steps. Note that the legal aspect of the situation, which I’ve only outlined, is little more than a superstructure, one might even say a distant theory; on the ground what one sees is a refined form of human malevolence, incapable of justification in rational terms.
The Israeli army, the police, the bureaucrats of the Civil Administration, the government, the cabinet, the Knesset, the military and civilian courts, and large parts of the Israeli press—all are deeply implicated in an act, or a series of acts, of gratuitous violence inflicted on innocent human beings, in broad daylight. No one should pretend that any of this is anything but a crime.
Perhaps the sheer magnitude of the impending injustice, and the particular resilience and courage shown by the Susya Palestinians over the years, can explain the impressive response to the call for a major protest at Susya on June 22. I’ve rarely seen so large, so disciplined, and so clearly focused a peace demonstration. Over 500 people came from Jerusalem (including a large Palestinian contingent from East Jerusalem), Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, and various sites in the occupied West Bank.
For once, there were no rambling speeches rehearsing the terrible tale. Within minutes of arrival, we were marching under a scorching sun toward Susya al-Qadima, the original site of the village, now off limits to Palestinians. The Susya people were going home. It was a moving sight, and a certain solemnity, even serenity, accompanied us as we walked through the thorns and rocks. There was not the least hint of violence; no stone was thrown.
Of course, the army was waiting for us, and the soldiers, too, lost no time in doing what soldiers do. There were stun grenades, which can make you deaf for a few days if they go off close to you, and tear gas, and the usual threats and shouts and orders barked at us by senior officers. None of this stopped us. Much more ominous was the Israeli army’s Doomsday Weapon, the Bo’esh or Skunk, which sprays a liquid of overpowering stench that sinks into your pores and clothes and stays there for days; it causes severe vomiting and very effectively stops a crowd of marchers. I’ve never experienced it, but there are activists who describe it as worse than the rubber-coated bullets the army likes to shoot at Palestinian demonstrators.
The Skunk sits atop a long, ugly military vehicle, and it has a turret that swivels back and forth, taking aim at whoever it wants to attack. It’s a little unnerving when the turret targets you. But even the threat of the Bo’esh didn’t deter the demonstrators, who faced a line of heavily armed soldiers, guns loaded.
“Let them spray me,” said one of the Palestinians to me, smiling; “I don’t care; anyway it’s a stinking occupation.”
As in other Palestinian villages I’ve seen in this mode of non-violent protest, at Susya the women had a leading part, fearlessly engaging the soldiers, taunting them, dancing and singing before them, insouciant. Alongside these women was a troupe of five brightly costumed clowns, no less daring and inventive. Imagine a soldier, laden down with helmet and cartridges and grenades and boots and all the other foolish bits of metal and plastic, pouring sweat in the midday sun. What, exactly, is this soldier to do when a clown with a bright red nose, cackling and giggling, sticks a peacock’s feather down the muzzle of his sub-machine gun and then proceeds to tickle his nose?
Protesters in clown suits confronting Israeli soldiers, Susya, June 22, 2012
I wondered, as I often do at such moments, if any of the soldiers standing there in the Palestinian fields felt as ridiculous as they looked to us. And why were they there? Maybe to make sure we didn’t march on the Israeli settlement of Susya, just over the hill? Was this what really terrified them? But we had no intention of trying this. Still, I said to my friend Danny, maybe one day this will happen, and everything will change. I’d told him just moments before that I had good news; last night just after midnight a granddaughter was born.
He laughed: “Your granddaughter will live to see that day.”
But I don’t think it will take that long.
Meanwhile, what will happen in Susya next week, and the week after that? The protest is spreading, no doubt about that, but the danger of expulsion remains very real. Here is Nasser Nawaja’, 28 years old, one of the leading activists in Susya and a close friend, speaking to the Hebrew press:
They’re calling our village an illegal outpost. These lands are ours from before there was a State of Israel. My father is older than your state—and I am an illegal alien on my own land. I ask where is justice? Your courts distinguish between the settler and the Palestinian…We’re surrounded by illegal outposts [built by settlers] that have everything—infrastructures of water and electricity— despite the fact that these settlements are illegal even under Israeli law. And now you want to expel this old man from his home once again? To expel all of us who own these lands, who have lived on them for generations in this space that is ours, which is all we know?
June 28, 2012, 5 p.m.
Plus ça change…, and this first story is even from one of Israel’s leading newspapers!!
So who really works for whom?? Any ideas??
| | 'ISRAELI MOSSAD AGENTS POSED AS CIA SPIES TO RECRUIT TERRORISTS TO FIGHT AGAINST IRAN'
Foreign Policy magazine cites CIA memos from 2007-2008 that the Mossad recruited members of Jundallah terror group to fight against Tehran; U.S. was reportedly furious with Israel and moved to limit joint intelligence programs.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz (Israel), 13 January 2012.
Israeli Mossad agents posed as CIA officers in order to recruit members of a Pakistani terror group to carry out assassinations and attacks against the regime in Iran, Foreign Policy revealed on Friday, quoting U.S. intelligence memos.
Foreign Policy's Mark Perry reported that the Mossad operation was carried out in 2007-2008, behind the back of the U.S. government, and infuriated then U.S. President George W. Bush.
Perry quotes a number of American intelligence officials and claims that the Mossad agents used American dollars and U.S. passports to pose as CIA spies to try to recruit members of Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization that has carried out a series of attacks in Iran and assassinations of government officials.
According to the report, Israel's recruitment attempts took place mostly in London, right under the nose of U.S. intelligence officials.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
According to a currently serving U.S. intelligence officer, Perry reports, when Bush was briefed on the information he "went absolutely ballistic."
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told Perry. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
The intelligence officer said that the Bush administration continued to deal with the affair until the end of his term. He noted that Israel's operation jeopardized the U.S. administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was under immense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah.
According to the intelligence officer, a senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, but ultimately the U.S. did nothing.
"In the end it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat," the intelligence officer said.
Apparently, the Mossad operation caused a fiery debate among Bush's national security team and it was only resolved when U.S. President Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, Perry quotes several serving and retired officers as saying.
The U.S. State Department has vehemently denied any ties to Jundallah and many U.S. intelligence officials remained angry with Israel over the 2007-2008 operation.
"Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us," Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying. "If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
The CIA, the White House, and the Mossad failed to respond to the Foreign Policy report by the time it went to press. FALSE FLAG
A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.
By Mark Perry, Foreign Policy, 13 January 2012.
Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives -- what is commonly referred to as a "false flag" operation.
The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah -- a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government
and published reports
, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel's Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel's recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel's ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad's efforts. "It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with,"
the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.
The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.
There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped
a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.
According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website
, is tasked with investigating "threats posed by foreign intelligence services."
The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on its contents. "The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk,"
the intelligence officer told me. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
Israel's relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel's activities jeopardized the administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel. "It's easy to understand why Bush was so angry,"
a former intelligence officer said. "After all, it's hard to engage with a foreign government if they're convinced you're killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same."
A senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off"
with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing -- a result that the officer attributed to "political and bureaucratic inertia." "In the end,"
the officer noted, "it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat."
Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush's national security team, pitting those who wondered "just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on"
against those who argued that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers.
The decision was controversial inside the CIA, where officials were forced to shut down "some key intelligence-gathering operations,"
a recently retired CIA officer confirmed. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition
of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."
Since Obama's initial order, U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership. "We don't do bang and boom,"
a recently retired intelligence officer said. "And we don't do political assassinations."
Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. "They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads,"
one highly placed intelligence source said, "and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'"
Unlike the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the controversial exiled Iranian terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is supported by former leading U.S. policymakers, Jundallah is relatively unknown -- but just as violent. In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.
The attack enraged Tehran, which traced the perpetrators to a cell operating in Pakistan. The Iranian government notified
the Pakistanis of the Jundallah threat and urged them to break up the movement's bases along the Iranian-Pakistani border. The Pakistanis reacted sluggishly in the border areas, feeding Tehran's suspicions that Jundallah was protected by Pakistan's intelligence services.
The 2009 attack was just one in a long line of terrorist attacks attributed to the organization. In August 2007, Jundallah kidnapped
21 Iranian truck drivers. In December 2008, it captured and executed
16 Iranian border guards -- the gruesome killings were filmed, in a stark echo of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq at the hands of al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In July 2010, Jundallah conducted
a twin suicide bombing in Zahedan outside a mosque, killing dozens of people, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The State Department aggressively denies that the U.S. government had or has any ties to Jundallah. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah,"
a spokesman wrote
in an email to the Wall Street Journal,
following Jundallah's designation as a terrorist organization. "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism. We will continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations and prevent violence against innocent civilians. We have also encouraged other governments to take comparable actions against Jundallah."
A spate of stories in 2007 and 2008, including a report
by ABC News and a New Yorker article
, suggested that the United States was offering covert support to Jundallah. The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and has outraged serving and retired intelligence officers who fear that Israeli operations are endangering American lives. "This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of,"
former Centcom chief and retired Gen. Joe Hoar said of the Israeli operation upon being informed of it. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."
The Israeli operation left a number of recently retired CIA officers sputtering in frustration. "It's going to be pretty hard for the U.S. to distance itself from an Israeli attack on Iran with this kind of thing going on
," one of them told me.
Jundallah head Abdolmalek Rigi was captured
by Iran in February 2010. Although initial reports claimed that he was captured by the Iranians after taking a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, a retired intelligence officer with knowledge of the incident told me that Rigi was detained by Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan. The officer said that Rigi was turned over to the Iranians after the Pakistani government informed the United States that it planned to do so. The United States, this officer said, did not raise objections to the Pakistani decision.
Iran, meanwhile, has consistently claimed that Rigi was snatched from under the eyes of the CIA, which it alleges supported him. "It doesn't matter,"
the former intelligence officer said of Iran's charges. "It doesn't matter what they say. They know the truth."
Rigi was interrogated, tried, and convicted by the Iranians and hanged on June 20, 2010. Prior to his execution, Rigi claimed
in an interview with Iranian media -- which has to be assumed was under duress -- that he had doubts about U.S. sponsorship of Jundallah. He recounted an alleged meeting with "NATO officials"
in Morocco in 2007 that raised his suspicions. "When we thought about it we came to the conclusion that they are either Americans acting under NATO cover or Israelis
," he said.
While many of the details of Israel's involvement with Jundallah are now known, many others still remain a mystery -- and are likely to remain so. The CIA memos of the incident have been "blue bordered," meaning that they were circulated to senior levels of the broader U.S. intelligence community as well as senior State Department officials.
What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel's actions. "This was stupid and dangerous,"
the intelligence official who first told me about the operation said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true." HERDING AMERICANS TO WAR WITH IRAN Exclusive: The murder of a fifth Iranian scientist on the streets of Tehran had all the earmarks of an Israeli-sponsored assassination. The killing also worsened tensions at a moment when the momentum toward war with Iran seems unstoppable, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry, ConsortiumNews, 13 January 2012.
For many Americans the progression toward war with Iran has the feel of cattle being herded from the stockyard into the slaughterhouse, pressed steadily forward with no turning back, until some guy shoots a bolt into your head.
Any suggestion of give-and-take negotiations with Iran is mocked, while alarmist propaganda, a ratcheting up of sanctions, and provocative actions – like Wednesday’s assassination of yet another Iranian scientist – push Americans closer to what seems like an inevitable bloodletting.
Even the New York Times now acknowledges that Israel, with some help from the United States, appears to be conducting a covert war of sabotage and assassination inside Iran. “The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim on Wednesday when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran’s morning rush hour,” Times reporter Scott Shane wrote in Thursday’s editions.
Though U.S. officials emphatically denied any role in the murder, Israeli officials did little to discourage rumors of an Israeli hand in the bombing. Some even expressed approval. Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said he didn’t know who killed the scientist but added: “I am definitely not shedding a tear.”
The latest victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was the fifth scientist associated with Iran’s nuclear program to be killed in the past four years, with a sixth scientist narrowly escaping death in 2010, Fereydoon Abbasi, who is now head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
As might be expected, Iran has denounced the murders as acts of terrorism. They have been accompanied by cyber-attacks on Iranian centrifuges and an explosion at a missile facility late last year killing a senior general and 16 others.
While this campaign has slowed Iran’s nuclear progress, it also appears to have hardened its resolve to continue work on a nuclear capability, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes only. Iranian authorities also have responded to tightening economic sanctions from Europe and the United States with threats of their own, such as warnings about closing the oil routes through the Strait of Hormuz and thus damaging the West’s economies. Target: USA
Another front in Israel’s cold war against Iran appears to be the propaganda war being fought inside the United States, where the still-influential neoconservatives are deploying their extensive political and media resources to shut off possible routes toward a peaceful settlement, while building support for future military strikes against Iran.
Fitting with that propaganda strategy, the Washington Post’s editorial page, which is essentially the neocons’ media flagship, published a lead editorial on Wednesday urging harsher and harsher sanctions against Iran and ridiculing anyone who favored reduced tensions.
Noting Iran’s announcement that it had opened a better-protected uranium enrichment plant near Qom, the Post wrote: “In short, the new Fordow operation crosses another important line in Iran’s advance toward a nuclear weapons capability. “Was it a red line for Israel or the United States? Apparently not, for the Obama administration at least. In a television interview Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: ‘Our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon.’ He asserted that Tehran was not trying to develop a weapon now, only ‘a nuclear capability.’ The Revolutionary Guard, which controls the nuclear program, might well take that as a green light for the new enrichment operation.”
While portraying Panetta as an Iranian tool, the Post suggested that anyone who wanted to turn back from an Iran confrontation was an Iranian useful fool. The Post wrote: “The recent flurry of Iranian threats has had the intended effect of prompting a new chorus of demands in Washington that the United States and its allies stop tightening sanctions and instead make another attempt at ‘engagement’ with the regime. The Ahmadinejad government itself reportedly has proposed new negotiations, and Turkey has stepped forward as a host . “Almost certainly, any talks will reveal that Iran is unwilling to stop its nuclear activities or even to make significant concessions. But they may serve to stop or greatly delay a European oil embargo or the implementation of sanctions on the [Iranian] central bank — and buy time for the Fordow centrifuges to do their work.”
The Post’s recommended instead “that every effort must be made to intensify sanctions” and to stop Iranian sale of oil anywhere in the world. In other words, continue to ratchet up the tensions and cut off hopes for genuine negotiations. A Vulnerable Obama
The escalating neocon demands for an ever-harder U.S. line against Iran — and Israel’s apparent campaign of killings and sabotage inside Iran — come at a time when President Barack Obama and some of his inner circle appear to be looking again for ways to defuse tensions. But the Post’s editorial – and similar neocon propaganda – have made clear that any move toward reconciliation will come with a high political price tag.
Already, a recurring Republican talking point is that Obama’s earlier efforts to open channels of negotiation with Iran and other foreign adversaries proved his naivete and amounted to “apologizing” for America. Obama also has faced resistance within his own administration, especially from neocon-lites such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
For instance, in spring 2010, a promising effort – led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil’s then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – got Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to agree to relinquish Iranian control of nearly half the country’s supply of low-enriched uranium in exchange for isotopes for medical research.
The Turkish-Brazilian initiative revived a plan first advanced by Obama in 2009 – and the effort had the President’s private encouragement. But after Ahmadinejad accepted the deal, Secretary Clinton and other U.S. hardliners switched into overdrive to kill the swap and insist instead on imposing harsher sanctions against Iran.
At the time, Clinton’s position was endorsed by editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times, who mocked Erdogan and Lula da Silva as inept understudies on the international stage. If anything, the Post and Times argued, the United States should take an even more belligerent approach toward Iran, i.e. seeking “regime change.”
As Clinton undercut the uranium swap and pushed instead for a new round of United Nations’ sanctions, Lula da Silva released a private letter from Obama who had urged the Brazilians to press forward with the swap arrangement. However, with Washington’s political momentum favoring another confrontation with a Muslim adversary, Obama retreated and lined up behind the sanctions.
Over the next nearly two years, the sanctions have failed to stop Iran’s work on enriched uranium which it claims is needed for medical research. Israel, the neocons and other American hardliners have responded by demanding still more draconian sanctions, while promoting anti-Iran propaganda inside the United States and winking at the murder of Iranian scientists inside Iran.
In this U.S. election year, Israel and the neocons may understand that their political leverage on Obama is at its apex. So, if he again searches for openings to negotiate with Iran, he can expect the same kind of nasty disdain that the Washington Post heaped on Panetta on Wednesday. The Carter-Begin Precedent
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Likud leaders appear to fear a second Obama term – when he’d be freed from the need to seek reelection – much as their predecessors feared a second term for President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Then, Prime Minister Menachem Begin thought that Carter in a second term would team up with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in forcing Israel to accept a Palestinian state.
Begin’s alarm about that prospect was described by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option.
Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinians. “Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,”
Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for Ronald Reagan led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages then being held in Iran until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980.
Today, Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu seems as strained as Carter’s relationship with Begin was three decades ago. And already many American neocons have signed up with Obama’s Republican rivals, including with GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney whose foreign policy white paper was written by prominent neocons.
So the question now is: Will the President of the United States take his place amid the herd of cattle getting steered into the slaughterhouse of another war? Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.
AL-JAZEERA OBTAINS MORE THAN 1,600 CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS FROM MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS – REVEALS 'HISTORIC CONCESSION' ON JERUSALEM
Agence France Presse, 23 January 2011.
Palestinian negotiators offered in 2008 to cede vast swathes of annexed east Jerusalem in peace talks with Israel, Al-Jazeera news channel reported, citing "secret documents."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, however, questioned on the Doha-based channel, said the Palestinian leadership had "nothing to hide" and dismissed most of the report as "a pack of lies."
Al-Jazeera said the Jerusalem areas offered were where Jewish settlements have been built, including French Hill, Ramat Alon and Gilo, as well as the Jewish Quarter and a part of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City.
Israel, the Arab satellite channel added, offered nothing in return for what it called the "historic concession" from the Palestinians, in the documents which Britain's The Guardian newspaper said it was also leaking.
Al-Jazeera said the concessions came at a June 2008 meeting in Jerusalem between Condoleezza Rice, then US secretary of state, then Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and ex-Palestinian premier Ahmad Qorei, and Erakat.
"This last proposition could help in the swap process," Qorei is quoted as saying in the "Palestine Papers."
"We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa)," he said in the documents, as cited by the news channel.
"This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David," he added, referring to the US-hosted 2000 Camp David peace talks attended by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
But "the Israeli side refused to even place Jerusalem on the agenda, let alone offer the PA (Palestinian Authority) concessions in return for its historic offer," the report said.
Qorei told Livni at the June 2008 meeting, however, there would be no concessions on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the Palestine Papers.
The report comes as world powers seek ways to haul Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after direct peace talks broke down last September in a dispute over Jewish settlements.
"We cannot vouch for their veracity," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley in a Twitter post.
The Palestinians refuse to resume negotiations while Israel builds on land they want for a future state of their own.
In what it termed "shocking revelations," Al-Jazeera said it had obtained more than 1,600 internal confidential documents from a decade of US-brokered peace negotiations.
They were to be disclosed in installments on the channel and its website.
"We are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history," chief negotiator Erakat is quoted as telling Livni, using the Jewish name for the Holy City.
Erakat also offered concessions on the status of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the Palestine Papers.
On refugees, he is said to have offered to accept the return of only 100,000 out of the Palestinians who fled at the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and their descendants, now numbering almost five million.
But Erakat scoffed at the reports.
"We have not gone back on our position. If we had given ground on the refugees and made such concessions, why hasn't Israel agreed to sign a peace accord?" he asked.
Observers said the Al-Jazeera report revealed little new as details of the land swap proposals had long been an open secret.
In Britain, The Guardian said on its website that the cache of confidential Palestinian documents obtained by Al-Jazeera was to be "shared exclusively" with the daily.
The documents also show how PA leaders had been "privately tipped off" about Israel's 2008-2009 war against the Gaza Strip ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas, the paper said.
"The overall impression... is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals."
The Guardian said "the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators."
The leaked documents were "drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings," it said.
Many of them had been "independently authenticated by The Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources."
MORE ON KILLING AMERICANS WHO LIVE ABROAD
This article below is deeply disturbing. And how interesting that it is written by a former intelligence officer and political conservative!
What, if anything, can overseas Americans do now to try to protect ourselves from some bureaucrat deciding in secret that it is time for us to die?
No due process or other Constitutional rights for us because we are not physically present in the United States. No right to know of the accusation, no right to a trial, no way to defend ourselves.
How in the world did this happen and no one spoke out in our defense?
And, to cut to the chase real quick, is there a single individual that anyone can identify anywhere in the U.S. Government who is responsible for protecting the fundament rights and interests of Americans who live overseas? And, if not, why not?
Any thoughts here?
Deep Background - Assassinating Americans
By Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative, 30 March 2010.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is a fellow with the American Conservative Defense Alliance.
Even in World War II, the United States did not attempt to assassinate U.S. citizens who went over to the enemy, but that has now changed with President Obama’s overseas contingency operations.
On Feb. 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the United States government has developed procedures for killing American citizens abroad who are “involved” with groups threatening to carry out terrorist acts directed against other Americans.
Three U.S. citizens have already been approved by the White House for summary execution as soon as actionable intelligence is developed to enable a pilotless drone’s hellfire missiles to do the killing.
One is Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi; the second is American al-Qaeda member Adam Perlman, who goes under the name Adam Yahiye Gadahn; and the third is believed to be a Somali from Minnesota who has joined the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa.
Anwar al-Aulaqi, linked in the media to the Christmas underwear bombing and with Major Malik Nadal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, has denied any involvement in either incident. Perlman, a propagandist for al-Qaeda, is in Waziristan. Killing these men would involve using military drones to attack targets in three countries with which the United States is not at war.
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a citizen due process and a public trial, as well as the right to confront his accuser.
The Obama administration is arguing that these American turncoats do not have constitutional rights because they are not physically in the United States and are actively engaged in planning terrorist acts that the government has the right to disrupt by killing them preemptively.
Blair has also explained that there are “defined policies and legal procedures,” but as the criteria for inclusion on the kill list are secret, due process is likely limited to the ruminations of a senior bureaucrat and a government lawyer, neither of whom has a mandate to protect the rights of the suspect.
Furthermore, Blair’s use of the world “involved” suggests that the definition of terrorist activity might be somewhat elastic.
The result is that secret information used to make a secret decision can very definitely get you killed in the Obama White House’s Brave New World.
It will also kill many of your friends and family, as the hellfire missiles are notorious for their infliction of collateral damage.
Killing dissident citizens without due process is not a unique practice.
Libyans, Iranians, and Soviets all did it in the 1980s and 1990s.
But it is unusual in a liberal democracy where there are restraints on depriving a citizen of his life.
The odd thing is that no one who matters seems too disturbed.
No congressional committee protested, the New York Times only ran a short discussion thread on its online opinion page, and the Washington Post relegated the story to page 3 without any follow-up.
IS THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE SYSTEMSTILL INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED AND CONTROLLED?
It was great to have a chance to communicate with so many of you this last year and these conversations have shown how enduring are the interests we all share in the health and welfare of the country we have loved and respected for so many years. And it is from this perspective that I thought it might be worthwhile sharing a few additional thoughts with you.
As we step gingerly toward the threshold of yet another year of spin on our Earth’s axis, and embark on another circle in orbit around our stalwart sun, here is an update on a hearty perennial institutional conundrum that keeps knocking on the door of our political conscience and hopefully irritating our moral sub-consciences too.
From many reliable reports, we as a country, and as a people, have created and passively tolerate an incredibly unwieldy, and apparently highly dysfunctional intelligence apparatus in the United States. It has become so big that its aggregate budget now is greater than the annual GDP of more than 100 member countries of the UN.
It consists of so many separate compartments, covert and overt, compulsively secretive and aggressively competitive with each other, that probably no one has any clue anymore about how it is supposed to function in the aggregate, how you are supposed to reconcile conflicting analyses of complex subjects, or how it could possibly be effectively controlled.
But that also makes it especially and probably irresistibly vulnerable to becoming more and more, and perhaps principally, a reality fabrication and perception management machine which can enable politicians and entrepreneurs to churn out scenarios that justify national security and military initiatives that their political and economic ambitions find the most attractive and perhaps irresistible.
As far as alleged external adult supervision is concerned the Congress also seems to be not only inadequate but even institutionally vulnerable because the committee structures and security clearance requirements create significant political dangers for individual members to be accused of improperly revealing secrets, then losing their security clearances, etc, etc.
Indeed, given all of these factors there are very serious questions now as to whether it would even be possible to design an effective and politically responsible way to control this steadily growing and constantly morphing entity today because so much of it operates sub rosa.
So, what do you do with it? How does a liberal democratic republic function when voters are no longer cleared to have access to an increasingly significant portion of the information necessary to make their own decisions as to what is the proper course for their country to take? Also, with so much of this production under various depths of cover, how do you have any check on whether you are being told the truth or ever more creative and complicated lies?
More than a decade ago, a newly installed Administration came up with the bright idea of trying to scale it down in size, and an effort to reduce the number of people on these payrolls was initiated. But the numbers never really went down. Instead, a parallel effort was undertaken to start privatizing this extremely sensitive function and many of the people going out the front door with their pink slips, just walked into the building next door and started working again in similar functions but this time for private firms that had picked up secret and apparently highly lucrative outsourcing contracts. These career professionals are once again safely embedded in jobs that this time will probably be even more secure, and now due to different rules and even less accountability and visibility to Congress or any other oversight, will be even more difficult to curtail. And no doubt their salaries and bonuses will go up, all allegedly as part of a cost savings initiative!!
Also, just to add some additional sauce to this meal, think about the problem of keeping these outsourcing companies in business and profitable. There must be an enormous temptation to make sure that demand for their services will not only endure but keep growing. And that means that the temptation to create new and ever more dramatic problems could indeed become irresistible. Because of the way the system now functions we will not be able to know if this is happening, nor have any obvious way to curtail it.
How serious is this? Well, here is one example from several decades ago. A former head of the CIA, who is an old friend, told me over lunch a few years ago that when he tried to find out some simple things about what was going on in his own agency he was told rather bluntly by those working for him that access to such knowledge was not part of his job description and he would not get the answers he was seeking. When I asked him then who might know such answers, he replied that he had no idea and never did find out! So much for the illusion of control even for those in top positions.
Sixty years ago, the National Security Act of 1947 sent our little democratic republic experiment wandering off into an ever darkening wilderness from which it may never again emerge. Does it have to end this way, or is there still something that we might be able to do to rescue it?
The following three stories explore this question from different angles and offer some clues.
The first is testimony presented by Robert Hutchings, the former head of the U.S: National Intelligence Council, before a Congressional Sub-Committee a couple of weeks ago. Hutchings, a Naval Academy graduate (1967?), has had a long career in the intelligence business and seems to know a lot about what he is describing. His assessment is a very sober eye-opener.
The second story, from Mother Jones in 2005, tells about the great outsourcing boondoggle, and how this works today. From news that fortunately still leaks out, it seems that the volume of such outsourcing has continued to grow and the entrepreneurs in this privileged sector, especially those who are politically well connected, are reaping sumptuous rewards.
The third and final article is from the Washington Post a couple of days ago describing the progress being made by the FBI in developing new technologies so that the U.S. Government can more and more effectively follow each and every one of us from the time we leave the front doors of our homes until we return, and perhaps even while we are inside. Apparently we have become the biggest threats to ourselves and to our country and this is apparently the most appropriate way to deal with us now. The world seems truly to have turned upside down.
So, given all of this, what do you as a responsible shareholder in our innovative national political experiment think can and/or should be done now? If we are no longer cleared for democracy, what choices do we as stakeholders and voters still have? Can this marriage of an open democracy with a huge and growing secret intelligence apparatus work, or are we going to have to make some fundamental changes of future design and direction for our republic?
Finally, has the recent declaration of war against a couple of “isms”, accompanied by the hard selling of high octane fear and religiously flavored vitriol, already set us on a path of no return? Do we still have any meaningful control, or could the occult apparatus itself now be taking charge and calling the shots from the inside?
If you have a few spare moments, please read, contemplate and share your thoughts as we cross the beckoning threshold into 2008. Take care and Happy New Year. Andy
U.S. INTELLIGENCE SEEN "RETREATING INTO GREATER SECRECY"
From FAS - Secrecy News – December 18, 2007
The U.S. intelligence community is reverting to old patterns of cold war secrecy, warned the former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), to the detriment of U.S. intelligence.
"The reality that I see is an Intelligence Community that is retreating into greater secrecy and old cultural habits, even in the short time since I left the NIC in early 2005," said Amb. Robert L. Hutchings in recent testimony.
"Try to get a CIA analyst to go on the record at an academic conference, or participate in an interactive website or blog with experts from outside government or other countries, and you will see how deeply ingrained are the old Cold War cultural habits and mind-sets," he said.
"What this means, additionally, is that the Intelligence Community is not attracting the 'best and brightest' into their ranks. They go elsewhere."
Here is Amb. Hutchings’ prepared testimony from a very recent hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
The Morning After: How to Reform the Intelligence Reform
Testimony of Robert L. Hutchings before the Intelligence Community Management Sub-Committee House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
December 6, 2007
Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the reform efforts led by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) as developed in his 100-day and 500-day plans. I will come at these issues indirectly, by looking back to the impetus behind the intelligence reforms that gave rise to these efforts, particularly those embodied in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act and the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
Let me first preview my bottom line: namely, that the organizational changes that led to the creation of the office of the DNI were undertaken without addressing the other aspects of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. The result, I fear, may leave us worse off rather than better.
Instead of strengthening coordination among intelligence agencies via a single intelligence “czar” we may be further dividing responsibility among a new Director of National Intelligence with (nominal) authority but not much staff, a Director of CIA with staff but diminished authority, and a Director of the National Counterterrorist Center with a broad but unclear mandate.
Worse, we seem to be trying to centralize our efforts at the very time that the threat we are trying to meet is becoming more decentralized, dispersed, and eclectic. It is the wrong model. The DNI’s 100- and 500-day plans address some of these issues, but the changes envisioned in them fail to address, and may even exacerbate, the most urgent problems as I see them.
A “Perfect Storm”
How did we come to this pass? It is unfortunate that intelligence reform was pursued under conditions of a “perfect storm” for intelligence-bashing.
First was the Iraq WMD estimate of October 2002. It was flawed, but the criticism of this estimate lost all sense of proportion. The impression has been left that the intelligence community produced a deeply flawed assessment of Iraq’s WMD programs, and that this assessment led our country into war. The first half of that assertion is correct, but not the last half. The pre-war debate was never about the intelligence but about the policy. Yet the policymakers who launched the war and the members of Congress who voted for it, chose to blame it all on faulty intelligence. Neither the 9/11 Commission nor the WMD Commission addressed the failures of policy, which were vastly more serious than anything the intelligence community did or failed to do.
Second, the controversy over the WMD estimate was then conflated with the alleged “intelligence failure” of 9/11. My own view, which is actually supported by the 9/11 commission report, is that this was not a failure at all, in the sense that the attack should have been prevented and could have been prevented with good intelligence performance. There is a whole body of psychological literature on “hindsight bias,” defined as "the tendency of people to falsely believe that they would have predicted the outcome of an event once the outcome is known." Because outcome information affects the selection of evidence, a critic falling victim to hindsight bias tends to see clear lines of causation where such clarity was in fact lacking before the fact. It is easy to say that the intelligence community should have “connected the dots,” but in reality it is only after the fact that one can know which dots, out of a vast universe of them, to connect.
Third and finally, all of this came to a head during an intensely political election season in the fall of 2004. Democrats attacked the intelligence community to get at the president; Republicans attacked it to protect him. What both sides agreed on was to stick it to the intelligence community.
The Intelligence Reforms of 2004-5
Let me hasten to add that the intelligence community did and does need reform. But these reforms were debated in the worst possible climate for sound judgment. This had led, in my view, to deeply flawed intelligence reform.
In particular, focusing on the dramatic, politically attractive “quick fix” of creating an intelligence “czar” has diverted attention from the more fundamental issues that need addressing. At worst, it will create another several layers of bureaucracy that will make most of these problems worse; at best, it is simply irrelevant.
This idea is also tied up with what I call the “coordination myth”: namely, that it is somehow possible to “coordinate” the work of hundreds of thousands of people across dozens of agencies operating in nearly every country of the world. Anyone who has worked in complex organizations knows, or should know, that it is possible to coordinate only a few select activities and that there are always tradeoffs, because every time you coordinate some activities you are simultaneously weakening coordination among others. To cite just one example, the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center may have enhanced interagency coordination among terrorist operators, which is a good thing, but it has surely weakened coordination between them and the country and regional experts. The net result is that the Intelligence Community is probably stronger in tactical counter-terrorist coordination but is surely weaker in strategic counterterrorism. While we are looking for the next car bomb, we may be missing the next generation of terrorist threats.
Reforming the Reforms
With those thoughts in mind, let me offer five suggestions for intelligence reform, none of which entail further organizational change. Indeed, after the organizational turmoil of the past four years, I think we should leave the organizational charts alone for a while and try to dig deeper to effect cultural change.
First, fix the “demand” side of the problem.
All the reform ideas so far have focused on the “supply side” – the quality and reliability of the intelligence being provided – but until we fix the demand side, all these efforts will fail.
Politicization of intelligence is a part of this problem, and I fear that it will get worse under the new DNI setup. (This comment is no reflection on the incumbent but rather on the tendencies inherent in the organizational design.) As an example, I think it a mistake for the DNI to be taking the lead in defending Administration’s wiretapping program – for the same reason that it is a mistake for General Petraeus to be point person for defending the “surge” in Iraq. U.S. intelligence, like our uniformed military, should be at least one step removed from policy advocacy.
This is part of the larger problem of the inadequate linkage between intelligence and policy. In 2004, when I was Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, we produced a bleak assessment of the Iraqi insurgency that incurred presidential wrath when it leaked to the New York Times. But the real story was that the President hadn’t read it – not even the one-page “Presidential Summary”! When the results of such a key Intelligence Community product are wholly ignored, there is something badly broken. This is why the reference to “the customer” in the DNI’s 100- and 500-day plan is so misleading. This is not a marketplace in which intelligence products have any intrinsic value; they are freely and routinely ignored.
Second and relatedly, create an interagency strategic planning group.
This would have two benefits. It would restore the primacy of strategic analysis, after a period when the overriding focus on current intelligence has robbed our government of the capacity to think broadly and strategically. And it would lend coherence, rather than have different departments undertaking their own, uncoordinated planning – as was the case in preparations for post-war Iraq. There was a brief effort to create such a planning group a few years ago – I was the intelligence community’s representative on it – but the effort died after a single meeting.
Interagency planning may seem obvious, but it does not happen because administrations do not want it. Individual departments certainly do not: they want their own pet projects held close until the last possible moment rather than having them run up against the competing ideas of other departments. So the bureaucratic resistance to such efforts is enormous. But the need is compelling: we would never have gotten into the mess in Iraq had the Pentagon’s plans been subjected to serious critical scrutiny.
Third, strengthen Congressional oversight
Strengthen this oversight as the 9/11 Commission recommended. For all the criticism of the WMD estimate after the fact, it is alarming that before the war HPSCI never held hearings on it, and only six senators bothered to read it.
Let me put this in present tense. In the past year or so there have been two National Intelligence Estimates on terrorism – with quite alarming findings. But to my knowledge no Congressional hearings on those estimates have occurred. On the second of those estimates, concerning threats to the homeland, General Hayden said (at the Council on Foreign Relations) that 70% of the information came from detainee interrogations. This is worrying for two reasons: it shows how poor our penetration of terrorist networks still is, and this dependency on (often dated) detainee information can turn into a circular argument for continuing our disastrous detainee policy. Have there been Congressional hearings to look into this? A final example: one reads reports about some offices of government pushing for military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. As a citizen, I would like to know whether the Congress is asking U.S. intelligence if we could identify Iranian targets with sufficient confidence to make such a course of action even theoretically feasible (leaving aside the wisdom of such a step). This, it seems to me, is a legitimate and essential function of effective before-the-fact Congressional oversight.
Fourth, accentuate the strategic coordinating role of the DNI
Accentuate the strategic coordinating role of the DNI and de-emphasize the centralization of operational functions. This means putting the “central” back into Central Intelligence Agency and accentuating its role as the lead implementing agency, lest we wind up creating another CIA on top of the first one. My old operation, the NIC, should coordinate the Intelligence Community, not become the DNI’s operational staff. This, then, would free it to play a strategic role that risks being lost.
It seems to me that the 100-day and 500-day plans are heading in the wrong direction. They are much too intrusive, bureaucratic, and formalistic. They create an agenda that will not be achieved in 500 years, much less 500 days. Let me focus on the very first of the 33 “enabling objectives” of the 500-day plan – to formalize a “National Intelligence University.” I think I know what a university is. What the IC intends is not one; it is a training center. Calling it a university is a triumph of form over substance. The DNI set-up, and the impulse to centralize and “coordinate” everything, reinforces this tendency.
Fifth: Begin the Evolutionary Process of Changing the Culture of Intelligence
This then leads to my fifth and final recommendation: begin the evolutionary process of changing the culture of intelligence. This will entail a radical re-conceptualization of what “intelligence” is and should be. We have moved from an era in which clandestinely acquired information accounted for a large chunk of what we needed to know (or thought we needed to know) into one in which our “secrets” count for relatively little for most of the issues that affect our national well-being. There are no secrets that will shed much light on China’s rise, the contradictions of globalization, or most of the other issues we care about. For those issues we need openness, access, and flexibility.
Instead of thinking of intelligence as something done by a few specialized agencies with highly secretive mandates, we need to think of it much more expansively as a global intelligence community – an eclectic virtual community with unclassified, lightly classified, and heavily classified domains. At the unclassified level, this would mean an exponential expansion of the kinds of ties we established through the NIC’s “2020” project with experts around the world, including China. At the next level, there would be a lightly classified level (confidential/secret) involving private Americans, foreign government officials, and private individuals and institutions around the world. These links would move all the way up to the most highly classified level, involving counter-terrorist and counter-proliferation cooperation.
These considerations have implications for intelligence collection, too, though this is an area I know less about. Traveling around the world as NIC chairman, I was all too conscious of the way we create “Little America” wherever we go, populated by people with insufficient language training and incapable of disappearing into the local culture. We pay a heavy and increasing price for this ignorance. Relatedly, we have done extremely poorly since 9/11 in bringing into the intelligence community qualified Arabic language speakers. There are reasons for this, some of them valid, but the bottom line is that we need to strengthen our national commitment to understanding foreign languages and cultures – and relax the requirements for bringing in those who contribute to that understanding.
The DNI’s 100-day and 500-day plans focus on many of theses issues, and for that they deserve credit. But the reality that I see is an Intelligence Community that is retreating into greater secrecy and old cultural habits, even in the short time since I left the NIC in early 2005. Try to get a CIA analyst to go on the record at an academic conference, or participate in an interactive website or blog with experts from outside government or other countries, and you will see how deeply ingrained are the old Cold War cultural habits and mind-sets. What this means, additionally, is that the Intelligence Community is not attracting the “best and brightest” into their ranks. They go elsewhere. The Intelligence Community, and for that matter that departments of State and Defense, need to modernize the ways they go about recruitment and recognize that they are in a competitive market for a new generation of graduates with very different expectations.
These are some of the kinds of innovations that needed to be undertaken after the end of the Cold War. They don’t have much to do with the motivations that got us to the present state of intelligence reform, but if these reforms can get us headed in this direction, they will have succeeded.
# # #
WHO IS ROBERT HUTCHINGS?
On December 10, 2002, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet announced the selection of Ambassador Robert Hutchings, then the assistant dean at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC). The chairman of the NIC reports to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), and coordinates intelligence estimates for the President. Hutchings is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Virginia.
The NIC represents the entire U.S. intelligence community and reports to the DCI in his role as head of the community, rather than as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The NIC acts as a center for the intelligence community's mid- and long-term strategic thinking around national security issues. Along with the chairman, the NIC also includes a vice chairman, and twelve national intelligence officers who are selected from the U.S. government, academia and the private sector, and who serve as the DCI's senior experts for a full range of regional and functional intelligence issues. The NIC leads the intelligence community to produce National Intelligence Estimates and other analyses, with the goal of providing U.S. policymakers the best and most objective assessments of international developments. Hutchings, who was 56 at the time, assumed this role in early 2003. "Bob has been an outstanding teacher and administrator here at the Wilson School. We will miss him, but take pride in his achievement. He will serve with distinction at a time of great national need," commented Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. "We look forward to his return upon the completion of his public service."
Hutchings, who had been at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School since 1997, took a two-year public service leave of absence from the School, and returned in 2005. Hutchings' previous experience included service as Director of International Studies at Washington, DC's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Special Advisor to the Secretary of State (with rank of Ambassador); Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council; and Deputy Director at Radio Free Europe. Hutchings has previously served two tours in the NIC as Director of its Analysis Group and as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Europe. In announcing the selection, Director Tenet remarked, "Bob's wide-ranging career in public service, including experience both as an analyst and a consumer of intelligence, make him an ideal choice to lead the NIC as it grows and adapts to meet an unprecedented demand from policymakers for intelligence community products."
The Spy Who Billed Me
In the post-9/11 rush to beef up intelligence, the government has outsourced everything from spy satellites to covert operations -- and well-connected companies are cashing in.
Tim Shorrock, Mother Jones, January/February 2005 Issue
A small crowd files past a sign reading “Career Fair Today” at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. An American flag and a cluster of colorful balloons flutter in the breeze. But inside, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary job fair. Everybody, from the well-dressed applicants to the stern-faced recruiters, wears a badge reading “Secret” or “Top Secret.” That’s because this event is open only to candidates with an intelligence background and a government security clearance -- the more high-level, the better.
Many of the 5,517 jobs available have something to do with the global war on terror or the occupation of Iraq. One recruiter has a position open for an “Iraq Counterterrorism Analyst.” Another is looking for personnel to “conduct interrogations of detainees” in Iraq. There is a job in Baghdad for a senior intelligence analyst and several in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for intelligence analysts experienced in “counter-terrorism, threat analysis, and counter-narcotics.” One job looks formidable: a “deputy site manager” is needed in Baghdad to supervise “1,500-2,000 linguists providing interpreter-translator service to a 140,000-member deployed U.S. military force conducting counter-insurgency, stabilization and nation building operations.”
There’s only one thing missing: the U.S. government. Every one of these jobs is being advertised by a private company -- one of hundreds of firms that contract with the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, or the Pentagon to provide everything from urine testers to supervisors of clandestine operations overseas. The people hired for these jobs may be doing government work in Washington or Baghdad, but they will be paid by firms such as the international consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton or CACI International, one of the companies whose employees were implicated in prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
The job fair is being sponsored by IntelligenceCareers.com, a recruitment firm headed by William D. Golden, a former Army intelligence officer. Golden says his company can hardly keep up with the demand for intelligence contractors. “The government has become addicted to the use of private industry in the world of intelligence,” he says. “In fact, they’ve made a science of it.” Indeed they have. A CIA official interviewed for this story wouldn’t say how much of the agency’s work is done by private companies, but admitted that outsourcing has increased substantially since 2001. Of the estimated $40 billion the United States is expected to spend on intelligence this year, experts say at least 50 percent will go to private contractors.
Yet as Americans learn more about the role of intelligence contractors from Afghanistan (where a contractor has been charged in connection with the death of a detainee) to Guantanamo (where Lockheed Martin has supplied interrogators, according to the trade publication Federal Times), critics are beginning to question whether private companies should be in the business of handling some of the government’s most sensitive work. Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, believes that the kind of military intelligence work contracted to CACI, Titan Corp., and other companies is particularly ripe for problems because intelligence agencies “operate under unusual authority.” He adds: “I don’t think the current oversight system is equipped to monitor the activities of contractors. That is one of the central lessons of the Abu Ghraib affair.”
Like the defense industry, the intelligence business is driven by a network of lobbyists and a web of close connections between government and the private sector. But unlike the arms industry, intelligence contractors operate in a world where budgets are classified and many activities -- from covert operations to foreign eavesdropping -- are conducted in secret. Even the bidding for intelligence contracts is often classified. As a result, there is virtually no oversight of the intelligence community and its corporate partners. That was one of the central findings of the 9/11 commission, which called congressional supervision of intelligence and counterterrorism “dysfunctional.”
The outsourcing revolution began with the end of the Cold War, when hundreds of intelligence jobs were eliminated, and quickened in the mid-1990s under Vice President Al Gore’s Reinventing Government initiative. Sensing a niche, information technology companies like CACI and Titan began hiring retired intelligence employees and contracting them back to the agencies they had once worked for; their business boomed after 9/11, when the intelligence community found itself awash in money and desperate to catch up.
Today, the ties between intelligence agencies and the private sector are so close, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Joan Dempsey, a former CIA deputy director, recently -- and approvingly -- referred to consulting firm Booz Allen as “the shadow intelligence community.” Three of Booz Allen’s current and former vice presidents previously served as intelligence agency directors, including James Woolsey, who headed the CIA during the Clinton administration. Connections with the private sector are especially close at the NSA, where outsourcing has grown rapidly. Former NSA director William Studeman is now a vice president of Northrop Grumman, and Barbara McNamara, a former deputy director, is on the board of CACI. After leaving government, these officials keep their high-level security clearances, which makes them extremely valuable to their new employers. “You can’t do anybusiness without having the clearances,” says John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, a Virginia- based think tank. “How else would you know about the contracts?”
The lines separating contractors from agencies are so blurred that at the leading trade association -- the Security Affairs Support Association (SASA) -- 8 of 20 board members are current government officials. The association represents about 125 intelligence contractors, including Boeing, CACI, General Dynamics, and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Retired Air Force Lt. General Kenneth Minihan, its president and chairman, is yet another former director of the NSA. As a nonprofit, SASA is barred from lobbying, but it frequently sponsors events where government and corporate officials mingle, and it provides infor- mation to members of Congress. “We use the term ‘advocacy,’” says Frank Blanco, SASA’s executive vice president.
Intelligence contractors themselves, meanwhile, have fielded armies of lobbyists to keep the money flowing; according to the Project on Government Oversight, Lockheed Martin spent $47 million on outside lobbying between 1997 and 2004, while another company, SAIC, spent $8.6 million and CSC spent $3.3 million. Lockheed Martin has also hired Joe Allbaugh, who managed the 2000 Bush campaign, to lobby for its rapidly growing intelligence division. And the companies are showering key members of Congress with contributions: The top contributor to Duncan Hunter (R-Ca.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is Titan Corp. Over at the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) received $14,000, almost half of his PAC intake in 2004, from six key contractors.
Most of the big players in the intelligence business have set up shop within shouting distance of SASA’s offices on the National Business Parkway in Annapolis Junction, Maryland -- just blocks from the gleaming headquarters of the NSA. One large building bears the logo of Boeing, the prime contractor for the nation’s spy satellite system; the next complex houses CSC and Logicon, the information technology unit of Northrop Grumman. Together, in 2001, the companies won a $2 billion contract to modernize the NSA’s information systems; the day the project began, more than 600 government workers were instantly transformed into private contractors.
Next door sits the brand-new headquarters for Titan, whose earnings have surged due to its contract with the U.S. Army to supply translators and provide support for the military’s unmanned spy planes. Across the street is Booz Allen, one of the prime contractors for the Trailblazer project, a huge effort to overhaul the NSA’s top-secret signals intelligence capabilities. Booz Allen and SAIC are doing research for the project under a $280 million “technology demonstration platform” contract, and few doubt that the NSA will award the final, much larger contract to the same companies. That troubles analysts, who say that allowing contractors to write the specs for their own future deals -- as Halliburton did in Iraq -- is a conflict of interest. That task “should remain within the agencies,” says Aftergood. (Booz Allen, like other contractors contacted for this article, would not comment on its intelligence work.)
But with the contracting boom continuing unchecked, such controls are unlikely -- which means, says Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, that America’s spy network could soon resemble NASA’s mission control room in Houston. “Most people, when they see that room, think they’re looking at a bunch of NASA people,” Pike notes. “But it’s 90 percent contractors.”
FBI Prepares Vast Database of Biometrics
$1 Billion Project to Include Images of Irises and Faces
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, December 22, 2007. Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.
CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.
"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.
The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. Critics say that such government initiatives should not proceed without proof that the technology really can pick a criminal out of a crowd.
The use of biometric data is increasing throughout the government. For the past two years, the Defense Department has been storing in a database images of fingerprints, irises and faces of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghan detainees, Iraqi citizens and foreigners who need access to U.S. military bases. The Pentagon also collects DNA samples from some Iraqi detainees, which are stored separately.
The Department of Homeland Security has been using iris scans at some airports to verify the identity of travelers who have passed background checks and who want to move through lines quickly. The department is also looking to apply iris- and face-recognition techniques to other programs. The DHS already has a database of millions of sets of fingerprints, which includes records collected from U.S. and foreign travelers stopped at borders for criminal violations, from U.S. citizens adopting children overseas, and from visa applicants abroad. There could be multiple records of one person's prints.
"It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society."
If successful, the system planned by the FBI, called Next Generation Identification, will collect a wide variety of biometric information in one place for identification and forensic purposes.
In an underground facility the size of two football fields, a request reaches an FBI server every second from somewhere in the United States or Canada, comparing a set of digital fingerprints against the FBI's database of 55 million sets of electronic fingerprints. A possible match is made -- or ruled out--as many as 100,000 times a day.
Soon, the server at CJIS headquarters will also compare palm prints and, eventually, iris images and face-shape data such as the shape of an earlobe. If all goes as planned, a police officer making a traffic stop or a border agent at an airport could run a 10-fingerprint check on a suspect and within seconds know if the person is on a database of the most wanted criminals and terrorists. An analyst could take palm prints lifted from a crime scene and run them against the expanded database. Intelligence agents could exchange biometric information worldwide.
More than 55 percent of the search requests now are made for background checks on civilians in sensitive positions in the federal government, and jobs that involve children and the elderly, Bush said. Currently those prints are destroyed or returned when the checks are completed. But the FBI is planning a "rap-back" service, under which employers could ask the FBI to keep employees' fingerprints in the database, subject to state privacy laws, so that if that employees are ever arrested or charged with a crime, the employers would be notified.
Advocates say bringing together information from a wide variety of sources and making it available to multiple agencies increases the chances to catch criminals. The Pentagon has already matched several Iraqi suspects against the FBI's criminal fingerprint database. The FBI intends to make both criminal and civilian data available to authorized users, officials said. There are 900,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers who can query the fingerprint database today, they said.
The FBI's biometric database, which includes criminal history records, communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects.
The FBI is building its system according to standards shared by Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), 45 minutes north of the FBI's biometric facility in Clarksburg, researchers are working on capturing images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI.
Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.
Think of a Navy ship approaching a foreign vessel, said Bojan Cukic, CITeR's co-director. "It would help to know before you go on board whether the people on that ship that you can image from a distance, whether they are foreign warfighters, and run them against a database of known or suspected terrorists," he said.
Skeptics say that such projects are proceeding before there is evidence that they reliably match suspects against a huge database.
In the world's first large-scale, scientific study on how well face recognition works in a crowd, the German government this year found that the technology, while promising, was not yet effective enough to allow its use by police. The study was conducted from October 2006 through January at a train station in Mainz, Germany, which draws 23,000 passengers daily. The study found that the technology was able to match travelers' faces against a database of volunteers more than 60 percent of the time during the day, when the lighting was best. But the rate fell to 10 to 20 percent at night.
To achieve those rates, the German police agency said it would tolerate a false positive rate of 0.1 percent, or the erroneous identification of 23 people a day. In real life, those 23 people would be subjected to further screening measures, the report said.
Accuracy improves as techniques are combined, said Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's biometric services section chief. The Next Generation database is intended to "fuse" fingerprint, face, iris and palm matching capabilities by 2013, she said.
To safeguard privacy, audit trails are kept on everyone who has access to a record in the fingerprint database, Del Greco said. People may request copies of their records, and the FBI audits all agencies that have access to the database every three years, she said.
"We have very stringent laws that control who can go in there and to secure the data," Bush said.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the ability to share data across systems is problematic. "You're giving the federal government access to an extraordinary amount of information linked to biometric identifiers that is becoming increasingly inaccurate," he said.
In 2004, the Electronic Privacy Information Center objected to the FBI's exemption of the National Crime Information Center database from the Privacy Act requirement that records be accurate. The group noted that the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2001 found that information in the system was "not fully reliable" and that files "may be incomplete or inaccurate." FBI officials justified that exemption by claiming that in law enforcement data collection, "it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely and complete."
Privacy advocates worry about the ability of people to correct false information. "Unlike say, a credit card number, biometric data is forever," said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster. He said he feared that the FBI, whose computer technology record has been marred by expensive failures, could not guarantee the data's security. "If someone steals and spoofs your iris image, you can't just get a new eyeball," Saffo said.
In the future, said CITeR director Lawrence A. Hornak, devices will be able to "recognize us and adapt to us."
"The long-term goal," Hornak said, is "ubiquitous use" of biometrics. A traveler may walk down an airport corridor and allow his face and iris images to be captured without ever stepping up to a kiosk and looking into a camera, he said.
"That's the key," he said. "You've chosen it. You have chosen to say, 'Yeah, I want this place to recognize me.' "
In our Alice in Wonderland world of today, the unasked, politically incorrect, but oh so relevant, question really is, how do we know that she or someone else didn’t produce this video rather than discover it as she claims?
With perception management and disinformation the flavors of the decade, anything and everything is possible now. Enduring enemies are worth billions in appropriations today, especially for those well connected insiders who get the gigantic no-bid guaranteed profit contracts.
Where, oh where, is the adult supervision we need so badly? Any ideas??
| | Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets
Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, October 9, 2007
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden
video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda
Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.
The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.
The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.
While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
But privately, some intelligence officials called the incident regrettable, and one official said SITE had been "tremendously helpful" in ferreting out al-Qaeda secrets over time.
The al-Qaeda video aired on Sept. 7 attracted international attention as the first new video message from the group's leader in three years. In it, a dark-bearded bin Laden urges Americans to convert to Islam and predicts failure for the Bush administration in Iraq
. The video was aired on hundreds of Western news Web sites nearly a full day before its release by a distribution company linked to al-Qaeda.
Computer logs and records reviewed by The Washington Post
support SITE's claim that it snatched the video from al-Qaeda days beforehand. Katz requested that the precise date and details of the acquisition not be made public, saying such disclosures could reveal sensitive details about the company's methods.
SITE -- an acronym for the Search for International Terrorist Entities -- was established in 2002 with the stated goal of tracking and exposing terrorist groups, according to the company's Web site. Katz, an Iraqi-born Israeli citizen whose father was executed by Saddam Hussein
in the 1960s, has made the investigation of terrorist groups a passionate quest.
"We were able to establish sources that provided us with unique and important information into al-Qaeda's hidden world," Katz said. Her company's income is drawn from subscriber fees and contracts.
Katz said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House
without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.
She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding
, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.
Administration and intelligence officials would not comment on whether they had obtained the video separately. Katz said Fielding and Bagnal made it clear to her that the White House did not possess a copy at the time she offered hers.
Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. "Please understand the necessity for secrecy," Katz wrote in her e-mail. "We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations."
Fielding replied with an e-mail expressing gratitude to Katz. "It is you who deserves the thanks," he wrote, according to a copy of the message. There was no record of a response from Leiter or the national intelligence director's office.
Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.
By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News
's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.
Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.
A small number of private intelligence companies compete with SITE in scouring terrorists' networks for information and messages, and some have questioned the company's motives and methods, including the claim that its access to al-Qaeda's network was unique. One competitor, Ben Venzke, founder of IntelCenter, said he questions SITE's decision -- as described by Katz -- to offer the video to White House policymakers rather than quietly share it with intelligence analysts.
"It is not just about getting the video first," Venzke said. "It is about having the proper methods and procedures in place to make sure that the appropriate intelligence gets to where it needs to go in the intelligence community and elsewhere in order to support ongoing counterterrorism operations."