Pakistani forces clash with NATO troops

Pakistani forces clash with NATO troops
Mon, 15 Sep 2008 16:08:32 GMT

Pakistani security forces have repulsed a ground attack by the NATO troops at Pakistan-Afghanistan border in South Waziristan, sources say.

Local officials and tribal elders told reporters that the fight between Pakistani forces and the NATO troops started late on Sunday at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border village Angoor Adda and continued for four hours but caused no casualties.

The tribesmen along with the security forces responded to the NATO attack and their fire power prevented the foreign forces from entering Pakistan territory to hunt for the wanted militants.

As the fighting erupted, the authorities sealed the Pak-Afghan border and the local residents fled the area for safety.

Also, earlier on Monday, some US drones violated the Pakistani airspace but after facing Pak fighter jets’ fire, fled the area.

In September, more than 17 civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in the same region, Angoor Adda.

Pakistan’s Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani vowed to defend the country “at all costs” and the local tribesmen also promised they would counter any US attack inside Pakistan territory.

The tribal areas especially Waziristan region have recently witnessed a string of missile attacks launched from suspected US drones.


The Pentagon Legacy of the MBA President

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, The Pentagon Legacy

of the MBA President

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Part two of Frida Berrigan’s three-part series on the expansion of the Pentagon is just the sort of post — a major story of the Bush era — that you can only get at this site. The expansion and privatization of the Pentagon should, of course, be the subject of front-page pieces in newspapers across the country as the dark legacy of the Bush presidency begins to be considered. In the light of just this sort of work from TomDispatch, let me mention a new feature at the site. If you look to your right while at the main screen, you’ll see a clickable button (“Resist Empire. Support TomDispatch.”) that leads you to a secure page where, if you wish, you can give modest $$ to help this site fund projects like Berrigan’s and do outreach work of various kinds. I’ve always enjoyed the “freeness” of TomDispatch, but readers, from time to time, have sent in contributions anyway. Now, this added feature makes it easier, if you are so disposed, to do so and, believe me, I’ll be grateful. We’ll use whatever you send our way to improve the site. (Just make sure you never send in even a dollar that you need!) And, by the way, click over to Book TV on C-SPAN2, if you want to catch an appearance I made with Michael Schwartz for the new book, The World According to TomDispatch.]

Having laid out the staggering expansion of a budget-busting Pentagon — as diplomat, arms dealer, spy, intelligence analyst, domestic disaster manager, humanitarian caregiver, nation-builder, and global viceroy — in part one of her series on the Bush military legacy, Frida Berrigan, arms expert at the New America Foundation, turns to the issue of privatization. In these last seven years, the Pentagon’s key role as war fighter has increasingly become a privatized operation. In Iraq, for instance, a Congressional Budget Office report in August revealed that the U.S. has already spent at least $100 billion on private contractors. (Pentagon auditing has, however, been so bad that that’s considered a low-ball figure.)

Approximately one out of every five war dollars spent on the war went private. That’s not so surprising, as James Risen of the New York Times reported, since private contractors now outnumber the 146,000 U.S. troops in that country. At 180,000, they represent, as Risen writes, “a second, private army, larger than the United States military force, and one whose roles and missions and even casualties among its work force have largely been hidden from public view.”

Moreover, as modest drawdowns of U.S. troops occur, American taxpayer dollars going to private contractors in Iraq, especially private security contractors, are actually on the rise. Part of the charm of privatizing war, of course, is that you can also privatize information about it, so we really have little idea just how many armed, Blackwater-style mercenaries there are in that country (though the number may rise into the tens of thousands). No less curious, amid all the talk of drawdowns and withdrawals, you seldom see any serious discussion of those hired guns in the mainstream. When withdrawal does come, who withdraws them? Who decides that? Who knows?

In the meantime, let Frida Berrigan take you past the obvious Blackwater issues and into the deeper quagmire of the massive privatization of the American military. It’s an issue whose time should long ago have arrived, but don’t hold your breath till the media discussion and debate begins. Tom

Military Industrial Complex 2.0

Cubicle Mercenaries, Subcontracting Warriors, and Other Phenomena of a Privatizing Pentagon
By Frida Berrigan

Seven years into George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror, the Pentagon is embroiled in two big wars, a potentially explosive war of words with Tehran, and numerous smaller conflicts – and it is leaning ever more heavily on private military contractors to get by.


Crashed jet carrying cocaine linked to CIA

Crashed jet carrying cocaine linked to CIA

By Jeremy R. Hammond
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 15, 2008, 00:24

A private jet that crashed last year in eastern Mexico and was found to be carrying more than 3 tons of cocaine was also used by the Central Intelligence Agency for clandestine operations, the Mexican daily El Universal reported September 3.

The newspaper cited documents from the United States and the European Parliament which “show that that plane flew several times to Guantanamo, Cuba, presumably to transfer terrorism suspects.” It said the European Parliament was investigating the jet for its possible use in “extraordinary rendition” flights, whereby prisoners are covertly transferred by the U.S. to a third country.

In June 2006, the British Department for Transport website published flight data on US aircraft into or out of the UK. According to the site, “This data had previously been released by Eurocontrol to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to assist with its enquiry into allegations of ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights operating in Europe.” The jet that crashed in Mexico, with registration number N987SA, is listed in the data report.

According to El Universal, FAA records show that the jet flew to Guantanamo on May 30, 2003. From June 23 to July 14, the jet flew from New York to Iceland, France, Italy, and Ireland. From July 16 to 20, it flew from the U.S. to Canada, the UK, Ireland, the UK, Canada, and back to the U.S. again. From April 7 to 12, 2004, it went from New York to Canada, the UK, Canada, and again to the U.S. The jet then flew to Guantanamo again. On April 21, it flew from the U.S. to Canada, France, the UK, Canada, and back to the U.S. It left the U.S. for Guantanamo once more on January 21, 2005.

The jet crashed on September 24, 2007. According to an Aviation Safety Network description of the accident, the Gulfstream Aerospace G-1159 Gulfstream II jet with registration N987SA crashed near Tixkokob in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. ASN describes it as an “Illegal Flight” and reports that “When being chased by Mexican military helicopters, the crew carried out a crash-landing. No bodies were found in the wreckage, but soldiers found 132 bags containing about 3.6 tons (3.3. metric tons) of cocaine.”

An initial Reuters report on the crash noted, “Drug planes packed with South American cocaine — often with passenger seats ripped out to make space — frequently fly through Mexico and Central America en route for the United States. Some unload their cargo at clandestine airstrips south of the border where traffickers send it on by road or sea.”

El Universal, in its initial report on the crash in 2007, stated that the cocaine was in 132 bags and noted the registration number of the wrecked plane.

McClatchy Newspapers observed a few days after the crash that “news reports have linked the plane to the transport of terrorist suspects to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but those reports cite logs that indicate only that the plane flew twice between Washington, D.C., and Guantanamo and once between Oxford, Conn., and Guantanamo.”

In November of last year, reporters from the Tampa Tribune followed up on the international investigation that resulted after the Gulfstream II crash. An expert on the drug trade from the University of Miami told the reporters that cocaine is being moved by air through Florida more frequently, as an alternative to being brought into the U.S. in the southwest.

The Gulfstream II jet was one of two planes being used by the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, also known as the Pacific Cartel, to carry cocaine. The other jet, a DC-9, had been seized and was found to be carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine. Both aircraft were purchased by the cartel from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

The DC-9 with tail number N00SA, was seized on April 11, 2006, carrying an amount of cocaine valued at an estimated $82.5 million, according to Reportedly sold in March, the jet was scheduled to depart for Simon Bolivar International airport in Venezuela on April 5. FAA records show that at the time of the seizure, it was still registered to Royal Sons Inc., which operates out of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. It was deregistered two days after the seizure and listed as exported to Venezuela.

At the time of the crash, the Gulfstream II was registered to Donna Blue Aircraft Inc., owned by Joao Luiz Malago and Eduardo Dias Guimaraes, who had reportedly purchased the jet in July and then sold it to two Florida men on September 16, 2007. Two days later, the jet left Fort Lauderdale for Cancun. Then, according to Mexican authorities, it flew to Columbia to pick up the cocaine and was en route to deliver the drugs when it came to the attention of the military and crashed in the resulting chase.

Some have speculated that Donna Blue Aircraft may have been a front company. The Florida Department of State Division of Corporations lists the “Date Filed” for the company as March 29, 2007. And from June 1, it was listed at an address in Coconut Creek, Florida. Then, on June 18, 2008, the company name was changed to North Atlantic Aircraft Services, Corp., listed at the same address, but with Malago as the sole owner.

Journalist Daniel Hopsicker visited the Coconut Creek location and found no sign that such a business existed there. Hopsicker wrote, “Moreover the brief description of Donna Blue on its Internet page, apparently designed to ‘flesh out the ghost a little,’ is such a clumsy half-hearted effort that it defeats the purpose of helping aid the construction of a plausible ‘legend,’ or cover, and ends up doing more harm than good . . . For example, the website features a quote from a satisfied Donna Blue Aircraft customer. Unfortunately his name is ‘John Doe.’ And the listed phone number is right out of the movies: 415.555-5555.”

The company’s website (now offline) stated only, “we are in this business over 20 years, attending South, North and Central america, with outstanding service, we are today most trusted company in this market. our customer loyality make us different” [sic]. According to Whois, the site was created on August 20, 2007, a month after the Gulfstream II was reportedly bought by the company and less than a month before it crashed carrying the cocaine. Once uploaded, the site was apparently never updated and seems to have gone offline sometime after February 2008. According to the site description still available on Alexa, the company opened in 1995 despite the fact, as noted above, that the date the company was filed with the Florida Department of State was in March 2007.

Malago sold the jet to Clyde O’Connor. The name of Gregory D. Smith also appeared as a co-signer on the bill of sale.

A reporter from the Broward-Palm Beach New Times contacted Gregory D. Smith of Global Jet Solutions. When asked about the plane crash, Smith replied, “I’m not allowed to discuss that — I’m sorry,” and hung up. Contacted a second time, he said, “I’m not going to divulge anything.”

O’Connor had once written a letter to the editor in response to an article on the death of a police officer saying that “one less cop is not a bad thing.” He was convicted in 2001 for criminal air safety violations. In October 2007, he was detained by Canadian officials after they searched a Cessna 210 he had flown to Nova Scotia and found two Derringer pistols he had failed to report.

Reporters from McClatchy Newspapers attempted to reach O’Connor at one of his companies, Execstar Aviation in Fort Lauderdale, but the number had been disconnected. “Adding to the plane’s mystery,” their article noted, “are allegations that it made trips in 2003, 2004 and 2005 between the United States and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. detention center for suspected terrorists is located.”

Baruch Vega, a Columbian who has worked with the FBI, DEA, and CIA in law enforcement operations told Narco News that one of the main pilots used in operations for flights between Florida and South America was named Greg Smith.

Vega said, “Well originally . . . I met Greg Smith . . . we needed a pilot, a very trustful pilot, someone we could trust to bring in the [Colombian] drug traffickers to surrender. Then the members of the FBI recommended to get in contact with this guy [Smith] because he was very close to them. Ever since we flew only with him. Everything was with him. . . . I never asked anything [about Smith’s background]. But he [Smith] brought a couple of pilots because we always have two pilots in the plane. He occasionally brought pilots from the US Customs. I tell you one thing. We flew with Greg Smith easily 25 to 30 times. All [the] operations [were] between the end of 1997 to 2000.”

He added that there were “DEA agents in the plane and of course drug traffickers who were coming to surrender with attorneys.” He also said the name of the company from which the aircraft were chartered was Aero Group Jets. A court document confirms one instance in which the CIA had worked with the DEA to bring a fugitive Colombian drug trafficker, one Mr. Cristancho, to Florida by means of an aircraft rented from Aero Group Jets.

According to Narco News, “A check of the public records available through Florida’s Department of State lists the registered agent/officer of that now inactive company as Gregory D. Smith.”

When contacted by Narco News, the Gregory Smith identified in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times story denied that he was the same Greg Smith as the one whose signature appeared as co-signer on the bill of sale of the Gulfstream II. He said his middle initial is “J’ and that he had been wrongly identified.

Narco News obtained a copy of a 2007 document with the signature of Gregory Smith from Global Jet Solutions and compared it with the signature Gregory D. Smith in a 1998 annual report from Aero Group Jets filed with the state of Florida. The signatures “appear to be different,” Narco News concluded. They do indeed appear to be different signatures, but the fact that the two samples are nine years apart also must be taken into consideration, as a person’s signature may evolve over time.

In a follow up report, Narco News tracked down Malago, who denied that he operated a front company. “Some people told on Internet,” he said, “that my company is a CIA cover office and that bring me a lot of problems. First this is not true and you can imagine if this people came to talk with me. I have family and don’t want any more problems there.”

Malago also agreed to share a copy of the bill of sale of the Gulfstream II jet with Narco News, which reported, “In comparing the two signatures, there are some differences, such as one is signed as Gregory D. while the other is signed simply as Greg, with no middle initial. However there are some striking similarities as well, including the fact that some of the letters appear to be penned in precisely the same way.”

Mike Levine, a former undercover DEA agent who has worked as an expert witness in court cases, told Narco News, “I did much of this handwriting comparison work, without using an expert, but my opinion was accepted before grand juries as having a significant amount of work experience in comparing handwritings (IRS, BATF, Customs and DEA). I would say the samples you sent me are definitely the same handwriting.”

Although inconclusive, there is compelling evidence that the Gregory Smith who cosigned with O’Connor for the purchase of the Gulfstream II from Malago was indeed the same Gregory Smith who was involved in piloting flights for CIA and DEA operations out of Florida.

The recent article from El Universal noted that the Gulfstream II jet had also been previously owned by AGI Holdings Corp., which sold it to S/A Holdings LLC, a company for which, the paper says, there is virtually no information.

The use of front companies by the CIA to provide cover for its operations is well known and documented.

In December 2005, the Toronto Star ran a story on CIA “ghost flights.” It noted that a plane with registration N196D was registered with the FAA under Devon Holding and Leasing, Inc. — but that no such company existed.

“There is no Devon Holding and Leasing Inc. at 129 W. Center St. in Lexington, N.C. There is no phone listing. The city offices have never heard of it; neither has the Chamber of Commerce. The law offices of James A. Gleason are at 129 W. Center St., but five days of inquiries there failed to yield an answer to this simple question: Does anyone in this office know of a company called Devon Holding and Leasing? It is almost certainly a CIA shell company, existing on paper only, and the turboprop was likely carrying a ‘ghost’ prisoner to a country where torture is used during interrogations.”

Devon Holding and Leasing was being investigated by the European Parliament for its possible role in the CIA’s rendition program, and was named by investigators as a CIA “shell company.”

In one documented case of extraordinary rendition, the Toronto Star story continues, the CIA flew Maher Arar, who is from Ottawa, from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Syria, where he was tortured as a suspected terrorist. In another case, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was abducted from the streets of Milan and taken to Egypt, where he was tortured. Saad iqbal Madni was similarly taken from Jakarta and flown to Cairo, where he was held for two years before being delivered to Guantanamo Bay. He claims he was tortured in Egypt.

On the use of front companies by the CIA: “It’s careless tradecraft,” says John Pike, an expert on U.S. intelligence matters at “They [the CIA] have allowed the tail-spotters into the game and they have not come to grips with the advent of the Internet, and not come to grips with the massive parallel processing which is underway with all those tail-spotters.” The planes are supposed to be registered with legitimate companies, so they just blend in and can’t be traced to the CIA, Pike says. “These are not real companies. They should be using good-looking companies which arouse no suspicion at all.”

The New York Times ran a story in 2005 stating that Aero Contractors Ltd. was a CIA front company. “When the Central Intelligence Agency wants to grab a suspected member of Al Qaeda overseas and deliver him to interrogators in another country,” the Times report said, “an Aero Contractors plane often does the job. If agency experts need to fly overseas in a hurry after the capture of a prized prisoner, a plane will depart Johnston County and stop at Dulles Airport outside Washington to pick up the C.I.A. team on the way.”

The Times also stated, “The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary C.I.A. officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency’s Vietnam-era air company” and that “Aero appears to be the direct descendant of Air America.”

The article in the Times declined to note, however, the CIA’s well-documented role in heroin trafficking through Air America in Southeast Asia during the war in Vietnam.

Adding to the intrigue, in December 2007, Narco News reported that according to DEA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the crashed Gulfstream II jet “was part of an operation being carried out by a Department of Homeland Security agency” codenamed “Mayan Express.” The effort was “spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the sources claim.”

The report continues: “The operation also appears to be badly flawed, the sources say, because it is being carried out unilaterally, (Rambo-style), by ICE and without the knowledge of the Mexican government — at least it was up until the point of the coke-packed Gulfstream jet’s abrupt impact with the Earth.

“’This is a case of ICE running amok,’ one DEA source told Narco News. ‘If this [operation] was being run by the book, they would not be doing it unilaterally,’ — without the participation of the DEA — ‘and without the knowledge of the Mexican government.’”

The DEA confirmed to Narco News that it was handling the investigation into the crash. The pilots were apprehended after their initial escape from the crash site and apparently “spilled the beans on the ICE operation during their interrogation by Mexican authorities, DEA sources tell Narco News.”

“One proposition that all of the law enforcers who spoke with Narco News agreed on with respect to the Mayan Express is that even if DEA was precluded from participating in the effort, the CIA almost certainly was involved on some level.”

Narco News also noted that a report from a British government agency listed the Gulfstream II jet as one “European investigators were interested in obtaining more information about in relation to a probe into CIA rendition flights” and added that other sources also suggested that “Mayan Express” might have been a CIA operation using ICE for cover.

Narco News reported again in 2008 on yet another plane that was apparently involved in a drug trafficking operation. On November 26, 2004, a twin-prop Beechcraft King Air 200 landed and was abandoned on a makeshift runway in a cotton field in Nicaragua. Traces of cocaine were found in the plane. The cocaine had apparently been loaded onto a truck. Several days after the plane was abandoned, law enforcement officials arrested the occupants of a truck carrying 1,100 kilos of cocaine.

The abandoned aircraft’s tail number was N168D, registered to none other than Devon Holding and Leasing Inc., the same company used as a front by the CIA for its extraordinary renditions operations, as noted previously.

Then the story of that plane gets even more convoluted, as FAA records show that the plane registered under Devon Holding and Leasing Inc. with tail number N168D actually belongs to a different kind of plane, model CN-235-300. The Beech 200’s actual tail number is N391SA, registered with the FAA under Sky Way Aircraft Inc.

Sky Way Aircraft Inc. can also be linked to Royal Sons Inc., which, as noted above, was still the registered owner of the DC-9 that was seized carrying more than 5 tons of cocaine. The parent company of Sky Way Aircraft was Skyway Communications Holding Corp., which had originally arranged to purchase the DC-9 that was ultimately registered with Royal Sons Inc. The president of Royal Sons, Frederick J. Geffon, was also a shareholder in Skyway Communications. In addition, the two companies had at one time jointly filed for a loan to purchase another DC-9, tail number N120NE. The CEO of Skyway Communications, James Kent, had also served under contract with the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, and the Department of the Navy.

Like the DC-9, the Beech 200 was sold to a buyer in Venezuela in October 2004, about one month before it was abandoned in the cotton field and linked by authorities to cocaine trafficking.

The Beech 200 may have been a part of the Mayan Express operation. According to Narco News, “Mark Conrad, a former supervisory special agent with U.S. Customs, ICE’s predecessor agency, speculates that the Mayan Express operation is not controlled by ICE at all, but is, in fact, a CIA-run operation using ICE as a cover. He adds that the CIA has agents operating inside many federal law enforcement agencies utilizing what is known as an ‘official cover.’”

A former ICE agent also told Narco News he suspected the CIA was behind the drug plane operations.

There is no shortage of precedents for alleged CIA involvement in drug trafficking.

Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, first published in 1972, documented CIA complicity in drug trafficking such as its involvement in the opium and heroin trade in southeast Asia.

Journalist Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance series is a well known investigation into allegations of the CIA’s involvement in the Los Angeles crack epidemic in the 1980s to help finance the Contras in the terrorist war to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua.

Michael Ruppert, former narcotics officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, famously confronted CIA director John Deutch at a televised conference with information on specific CIA operations, which he cited by name and said he had documentation on, and said the CIA had been dealing drugs in L.A. for a long time.

And there is evidence that the CIA flew drugs into Mena, Arkansas during Bill Clinton’s governorship, in its operations to finance the Contras.

In 1993, CBS 60 Minutes broadcast The CIA’s Cocaine. The former head of the DEA, Judge Robert Bonner, told correspondent Mike Wallace that the CIA had an unauthorized operation to bring drugs into the U.S. “If this has not been approved by DEA or an appropriate law-enforcement authority in the United States,” Bonner said, “then it’s illegal. It’s called drug trafficking.”

Bonner, asked to rationalize the operation, suggested that it might “lead to some valuable drug intelligence about the Colombian cartels.”

A DEA agent interviewed for the show said that she had been told by the CIA officer in charge of the CIA station in Caracas, Venezuela, that they had to keep the cartel happy by delivering their cocaine to their dealers in the U.S. “The CIA and the Guardia Nacional,” she explained, “wanted to let cocaine go on into the traffic without doing anything. They wanted to let it come up to the United States, no surveillance, no nothing.”

The CIA had gone to the DEA with its proposal, which was rejected. “They made this proposal,” said Bonner, “and we said, ‘No, no way. We will not permit this. It should not go forward.’ And then, apparently, it went forward anyway.”

Senator Dennis DeConcini of the Senate Intellience Committee also told Wallace, “It was an operation that I don’t think they should’ve been involved in. . . . I don’t doubt that the drugs got in here.” He called the operation “a mistake.”

Morley Safer closed the piece by saying, “And what happened to the tens of millions that were paid for the CIA’s cocaine? Well, General Guillen insists he didn’t get any of it. But Judge Bonner says one thing is certain, the Colombian cartel did. They got their money once the dope made it to our streets.”

Senator and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry told NBC’s Dateline that the CIA was complicit in the flow of drugs into the U.S. His Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism, and International Operations found that “it is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking” and that this activity did not go unnoticed by the government agencies.

Kerry also headed up a Senate investigation into the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) that documented the CIA’s involvement in the bank, which was a criminal front for money launderers, drug traffickers, arms dealers, and even nuclear proliferators.

The government went into damage control. In 1997, the Department of Justice issued a report addressing the allegations of CIA involvement in drug trafficking, and the CIA released its own report the following year.

The full story behind the crashed Gulfstream II jet and the other planes that were found to have been involved in drug trafficking is far from known. But the facts that have surfaced to date strongly indicate CIA involvement of one kind or another. The agency’s fingerprints, one might reasonably say, are all over this one.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent researcher and writer whose articles have appeared on numerous alternative news websites. He maintains a website,, dedicated to critical analysis of U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the U.S. “war on terrorism” and the Middle East. He currently resides with his wife in Taiwan. You may contact him at

Latin America uniting against neocons of Washington

Latin America uniting against neocons of Washington

By Wayne Madsen

(WMR) — Antipathy and disgust for the Bush administration and its neocon ideological ilk, including the key players and advisers in the John McCain campaign, have long taken root in the Middle East and South Asia. Names like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, and Ledeen are held in utmost contempt throughout the Middle East and Muslim worlds.

The same kind of hatred for the United States and its neocon Latin American policy is now sweeping through South and Central America. In Latin America, it is individuals with names like Goldberg, Levey, Shapiro, Mukasey, Berman, Brownfield, and Shannon who have rankled Latin American nerves by their meddlesome actions in not only grossly interfering in the domestic affairs of Latin American nations, including fomenting insurrection and acts of terrorism, but designating certain Latin American leaders and officials as aiding in drug trafficking and terrorism.

The lack of non-Cuban exile Hispanic surnames involved in crafting the U.S.’s Latin American policy is astounding considering the percentage of Hispanics in the United States.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon told Rep. Howard Berman’s (D-CA) House Foreign Affairs Committee in July that “several” Venezuelans were providing support to Hezbollah, a rather bizarre mixing of Middle East and Latin American neocon policies in an obvious effort to please Berman, one of Israel’s most ardent supporters in the U.S. Congress.

From Bolivia to Venezuela and Honduras to Argentina, Latin American governments are standing firm against the interference by the American administration, which has done everything possible to stoke the flames of insurrection and secession in energy-rich areas of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, who faces CIA and U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)-sponsored right-wing rebellions in the energy-rich provinces of Santa Cruz, Pando, Tarija, and Beni, expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg for interfering in Bolivia’s domestic affairs and supporting the right-wing rebels.

The State Department’s spokesman Sean McCormack, whose snottiness is unprecedented for a spokesperson for America’s seat of foreign diplomacy, responded by expelling Bolivia’s ambassador. McCormack had earlier joked that Russia could send warships to Venezuela if it could find any that could make it that far.

In a side quarrel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly upbraided British neocon and pro-Israeli Foreign Secretary David Miliband by stating “who are you to fucking lecture me?”

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, in solidarity with Morales and reacting to yet another CIA-planned coup against him, after an April 2002 coup organized by then-U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro failed, ordered U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave Venezuela. The State Department responded by expelling Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington.

In an act coordinated between Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), headed by Adam Szubin, the assets of two current and one former Venezuelan officials were frozen after accusations that they aided and abetted drug smuggling and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is attempting to oust U.S. narco-fascist from power in Colombia.

Levey and Szubin named Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, the director of Venezuela’s Military Intelligence Directorate (DGIM); Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, director of Venezuela’s Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP); and Ramon Emilio Rodriguez Chacin, the recently-departed minister of Interior and Justice, in the freeze order. The three were named by the Bush regime after DGIM and DISIP uncovered a plot by CIA-based retired Venezuelan military officers to seize the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas and blow up Chavez’s presidential aircraft, killing Chavez and his aides. The coup organization was identified as the “2-D Movement” or the “December 2 Movement.”

A spokesperson for the Venezuelan National Assembly described the plotters as some of the same military officers who participated in the CIA-backed 2002 coup against Chavez. The charges by Chavez came as Morales said the United States was behind the explosion of a natural gas pipeline from Bolivia to Brazil. The charges of American involvement in terrorist plans and attacks in Latin America came while Americans were being subjected to a gross use of another anniversary, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to whip up nationalistic fervor.

Chavez also agreed with Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that the trial in Miami of Guido Antonini, who is accused of attempting to deliver a suitcase of cash from Venezuela to help the presidential campaign of Kirchner in Argentina, was an attempt to “trash” both he and Kirchner. The Venezuelan and Argentine leaders are both ardent critics of neocons, their international free trade and financial contrivances, and the Bush regime.

The Justice Department of Attorney General Michael Mukasey is using the Miami cash-for-Argentina trial to damage Chavez and his Interior minister, Tarek el-Aissami. El-Aissami’s only crime appears to be that his father was born in Syria, which, of course, for neocons in their myopic and archaic of the world, is tantamount to having a direct link to terrorism.

Argentina has shown solidarity with both Venezuela and Bolivia in their showdowns with the United States. However, disgust with neocon-occupied Washington does not end with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina. Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo extended his full support to Morales in his confrontation with the right-wing provincial secessionists. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya refused to accept the credentials of the new U.S. ambassador to Tegucigalpa, in solidarity with Morales and Chavez. Zelaya announced solidarity with Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela in their showdowns with the United States.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also supported Bolivia and Venezuela in expelling the American ambassadors and announced that Nicaragua, like Venezuela, was prepared to establish closer military links with Russia. Ortega particularly supported Bolivia sending Goldberg packing, saying the U.S. envoy had interfered in Bolivia’s internal affairs.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos also charged that Washington was trying to undermine Nicaragua’s government by pressuring international organizations to cancel aid packages to the country. Nicaragua also recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the U.S.- and Israeli-backed Republic of Georgia.

After El Salvador presidential candidate for the progressive Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Mauricio Funes, visited Argentina to meet with Kirchner, the neocon media began to claim that Funes was being funded by Chavez of Venezuela. The neocons, bereft of any hard evidence of “plots,” are always apt to concoct elaborate conspiracy theories that take in everyone whom they have targeted in their political sights.

The signs that the Bush regime and the neocons are on a major political offensive in Latin America are also demonstrated by the discovery in Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada’s office in Guatemala City of three hidden microphones — one installed in a telephone, one in a calculator, and the third in a reception room. Guatemala’s progressive president, Alvaro Colom, has expressed solidarity with Bolivia and Venezuela. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who has faced CIA-backed secessionists in the Guayaquil area, also stood in solidarity with Morales and Chavez. Correa has ordered the United States Air Force to vacate a military air base at Manta next year and he accused the United States military of assisting Colombia in cross-border raids into Ecuador. Correa said if any evidence emerged of U.S. diplomats violating Ecuador’s sovereignty, they would also be expelled.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia also backed Morales against the secessionists as did Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.

Latin America’s political, military, and economic powerhouse, Brazil, also warned against any attempt by secessionists in Bolivia to overthrow Morales. Earlier, Brazil and Argentina announced they were eliminating the U.S. dollar as an international monetary exchange medium. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s foreign policy adviser, Marco Aurelio Garcia, told UPI that Brazil would oppose any rival or unconstitutional government in Bolivia. There are reports that U.S. “paramilitaries” are active in fomenting unrest in both Bolivia and Venezuela.

Washington has also revived the U.S. Navy’s Fourth Fleet, to be based in Jacksonville, Florida, a move that Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia claim is a return to U.S. “gunboat diplomacy.”

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2008

Shock waves hit Wall St. as 2 big firms fall




Shock waves hit Wall St. as 2 big firms fall

40 minutes ago

NEW YORK – In a stunning reshaping of America’s financial landscape, two venerable Wall Street firms fell from the shock waves of a credit crisis that has plunged the financial system into turmoil, as stocks tumbled across the globe Monday in response.

Lehman Brothers, a 158-year-old bank burdened by $60 billion in soured real-estate holdings, filed for federal bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court after attempts to rescue firm failed. Bank of America Corp. said it is snapping up Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. in a $50 billion all-stock transaction.

Stock markets fell precipitously and Treasury bond prices soared as investors reacted to some of the most dramatic economic news in modern U.S. history. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 300 points, though the market’s initial losses were not as steep as some investors had feared.

The developments took place as U.S. voters, who rank the economy as their top concern, prepare to elect a new president in seven weeks. Presidential candidates John McCain, a Republican, and Democrat Barack Obama, immediately called for stricter financial regulation.

Obama called the news “the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression” of the 1930s.

President George W. Bush meanwhile signaled that the government would not continued to bail out Wall Street, saying only that “we are working to reduce disruptions and minimize the impact of these financial market developments on the broader economy.”

“The policymakers will focus on the health of the financial system as a whole,” Bush said during the White House appearance with visiting Ghanian President John Kufuor.

The demise of the independent Wall Street institutions comes six months after the collapse of Bear Stearns and 14 months after the beginning of the credit crisis, sparked by bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.

Ominously, American International Group Inc., the world’s largest insurance company, was asking the Federal Reserve for emergency funding and planned to announce a major restructuring Monday

A global consortium of banks, working with government officials in New York, announced a $70 billion pool of funds to lend to troubled financial companies. The aim of the bank consortium, according to participants who spoke to The Associated Press, was to prevent a worldwide panic on stock and other financial exchanges.

Ten banks — Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS — each agreed to provide $7 billion “to help enhance liquidity and mitigate the unprecedented volatility and other challenges affecting global equity and debt markets.”

The Federal Reserve also chipped in with more largesse in its emergency lending program for investment banks. The central bank announced late Sunday that it was broadening the types of collateral that financial institutions can use to obtain loans from the Fed.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the discussions had been aimed at identifying “potential market vulnerabilities in the wake of an unwinding of a major financial institution and to consider appropriate official sector and private sector responses.”

Europe’s major central banks also moved quickly to calm markets, pumping billions of euros and pounds into the financial system to shore up confidence.

The European Central Bank said it received 51 bids for 90.3 billion euros ($127 billion) on its one-day tender of 30 billion euros ($42.6 billion) with a bid rate of 4.25 percent, a clear sign that demand for cash is over the top.

Similarly, the Bank of England in London offered 5 billion pounds (nearly $9 billion) in a three-day auction that drew bids for 24.1 billion ($43 billion), or nearly five times the amount that was offered.

The Zurich-based Swiss National Bank said it was also providing liquidity in “a generous and flexible manner” at an overnight rate of 1.9 percent, but wouldn’t say how much was on offer.

Still, the FTSE-100 share index was down 4.07 percent in London, the Paris CAC-40 was off 4.5 percent and Germany’s DAX 30 index of blue chips sagged 3.23 percent.

Asia’s biggest stock exchanges in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for holidays, but India’s Sensex tumbled 3.4 percent, Taiwan’s benchmark index plummeted 4.1 percent and Singapore dropped 3.2 percent.

Samuel Hayes, finance professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, said the Bush administration may get a lot of blame for the situation, which could benefit Obama.

“Just the psychological impact of this kind of failure is going to be significant,” he said. “It will color people’s feelings about their well-being and the integrity of the financial system.”

Lehman Brothers’ announcement that it is filing for bankruptcy came after all potential buyers walked away. They were spooked by the U.S. Treasury’s refusal to provide any takeover aid, as it had done six months ago when Bear Stearns faltered and earlier this month when it seized mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In an effort to calm the markets, Lehman pre-announced third-quarter results on Wednesday. In an affidavit filed with the bankruptcy court, Lehman Chief Financial Officer Ian Lowitt said that action “did little to quell the rumors in the markets and the concerns about the viability of the company.” He said the uncertainty made it impossible for Lehman to continue.

Employees emerging from Lehman’s headquarters near the heart of Times Square Sunday night carried boxes, tote bags and duffel bags, rolling suitcases, framed artwork and spare umbrellas.

Its businesses in Britain were placed in administration Monday, said the administrator, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and employees carrying boxes and bags were walking out of Lehman’s London offices.

Merrill Lynch, another investment bank laid low by the crisis that was triggered by rising mortgage defaults and plunging home values in the U.S., agreed to be acquired by Bank of America for 0.8595 shares of Bank of America common stock for each Merrill Lynch common share.

That values Merrill at $29 a share, a 70 percent premium over the brokerage’s Friday closing price of $17.05, but well below what Merrill was worth at its peak in early 2007, when its shares traded above $98.

Bank of America has the most deposits of any U.S. bank, while Merrill Lynch is the world’s largest brokerage. A combination of the two would create a global financial giant to rival Citigroup Inc., the biggest U.S. bank in terms of assets.

If the deal goes according to plan, Bank of America will be able to offer Merrill’s retail brokerage services to its huge customer base. Where there is duplication, however, the combination of the two companies could result in more layoffs. Both Merrill and Bank of America have already cut thousands of investment banking jobs over the past year.

The deal would not come without risks, however. Merrill Lynch, like many of its Wall Street peers, has been struggling with tight credit markets and billions of dollars in assets tied to mortgages that have plunged in value. Merrill has reported four straight quarterly losses.

Bank of America’s own finances are far from robust. As consumer credit deteriorates, the bank has seen its profits decline, and the company is still in the midst of absorbing the embattled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, which it acquired in January.

Insurer AIG, hit hard by deterioration in the credit markets, said it is reviewing its operations and discussing possible options with outside parties to improve its business after a week when its stock dropped 45 percent amid concerns about the company’s financial underpinnings.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both reported early Monday on their Web sites that the American International Group is seeking an additional $40 billion in emergency funds — possibly from the Federal Reserve — to help it avoid a credit rating downgrade, which would make it more expensive for AIG to raise money. The insurer has already raised $20 billion in fresh capital this year.

AIG was working with New York Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo and a representative of the governor’s office through the weekend to craft a solution that protects policyholders, according to Dinallo’s spokesman David Neustadt.

“It’s clear we’re one step away from a financial meltdown,” said Nouriel Roubini, chairman of the consulting firm RGE Monitor.

The end of Lehman may not stop the financial crisis that has gripped Wall Street for months, analysts said. More investment banks could disappear soon.

The independent broker-dealers “are going the way of the dodo bird,” said Bert Ely, an Alexandria, Virginia-based banking consultant.

That’s partly because some of the firms, particularly Merrill, made bad bets on real estate. But several analysts said that investment companies will need the deep pockets of commercial banks to survive the next few years.

Roubini said it’s difficult to accurately gauge the health of companies like Merrill because their financial health depends on how they value complex securities. As a result, their finances aren’t very transparent, he said.

That can lead to a loss of confidence in the financial markets, he said, which can overwhelm an investment bank even if it is financially healthy by some measures.

“Once you lose confidence, the fundamentals matter less,” he said.

The common denominator of the financial crisis, analysts said, is the bursting of the housing bubble. Home prices have dropped on average 25 percent so far. Roubini predicted they could drop another 15 percent.

The crisis has begun to slow the broader economy as banks make fewer loans and consumers have begun cutting spending. Many economists are now forecasting that the economy could slip into recession by the end of this year and early next year.

That, in turn, could cause additional losses for commercial banks on credit cards, auto loans and student loans.

The wreckage could prompt the Federal Reserve to do an about face and once again cut a key interest rate this week or possibly later this year. Just a few days ago, a rate cut appeared largely off the table, but now it has emerged as a possibility as the Fed prepares to meet Tuesday.

The International Monetary Fund predicted earlier this year that total losses from the credit crisis could reach almost $1 trillion. So far, banks have only taken about $350 billion in losses.

Decade worth of messages, interviews from bin Laden leaked to web

Decade worth of messages, interviews

from bin Laden leaked to web

Ten years of messages and interviews with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden have been leaked. Translated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the documents were posted on a blog Friday.

Posted to Secrecy News blog on September 12, and copied to similar sites like, the ten years of messages span from 1994-2004. The packet, issued in 2004, is nearly 300 pages, and labeled “official use only”. It was translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a division of the CIA, and includes interviews with bin Laden from various news agencies and also includes messages he sent directly to the United States.

One message includes bin Laden’s denial of having anything to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

“Following the latest explosions in the United States, some Americans are pointing the finger at me, but I deny that because I have not done it. The United States has always accused me of these incidents which have been caused by its enemies. Reiterating once again, I say that I have not done it, and the perpetrators have carried this out because of their own interest,” said bin Laden on September 16, 2001, just five days after the attacks.

Bin Laden also states that he was living in Afghanistan at the time of the attacks and that “I have held talks with His Eminence Amir ol-Momenin [Taleban leader Mola Mohammad Omar Mojahed], who does not allow such acts to be carried out from Afghanistan’s territory.” Again on September 28, 2001 in an interview with Karachi Ummat, bin Laden denies any involvement with the attacks and further denied that al-Qaeda had anything to do with plotting and carrying out the attacks.

The US strategy for Afghanistan won’t work

The US strategy for Afghanistan won’t work

Patrick Cockburn:

“Covert action is frequently a substitute for policy,” was an aphorism first coined by the former director of the CIA Richard Helms. Its truth is exemplified by the decision of President Bush in July to secretly give orders that US special forces will in future carry out raids against ground targets inside Pakistan, without getting the approval of the Pakistani government.

Mr Bush’s order is fraught with peril for the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. In one respect, it is a recognition at long last by Mr Bush that the Taliban and their al-Qa’ida allies could not stay in business without the backing of Pakistan. This is hardly surprising, since it was Pakistani military intelligence which largely created them in the first place.

It was always absurd for the White House and the Pentagon to pour praise on the former Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf as their greater ally against terrorism, despite the clearest evidence that it was the Pakistani army which has been keeping the Taliban going since 2001.

True to Helms’s nostrum, Mr Bush has not adopted a new policy, but is resorting to covert operations, the political disadvantages of which are obvious, and military benefits dubious. A good example of this is the first of these operations undertaken under the new dispensation. On 3 September, two dozen US Navy Seals were helicoptered in to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where they attacked a compound, aided by an AC-130 gunship. When they retreated, they said they had killed many al-Qa’ida fighters, though a senior Pakistani official later said that the true casualty figures were four Taliban and al-Qa’ida “foot soldiers” and 16 civilians, including women and children.

It is a curious way to usher in democracy in Pakistan. Once Pakistan emerges from its preoccupation with the Ramadan fast, it will create nothing but anger among Pakistanis. It will alienate the Pakistani army, which has been humiliated and disregarded. Politically, it only makes sense in terms of American politics, where it will be seen as a sign that the administration is doing something in Afghanistan. It also diverts attention from embarrassing questions about why the Taliban is such a potent force seven years after it had supposedly been destroyed in 2001.

Use of covert forces to achieve political ends with limited means has always held a fatal attraction for political leaders. CIA officials have become used to being dumped with insoluble problems, with peremptory orders to “Get rid of Khomeini” or “Eliminate Saddam.” Plots to do just that are the common theme of a thousand Hollywood movies, which revolve around the dispatch of elite forces into enemy territory, where they successfully dispatch some local demon.

In reality, covert warfare seldom works. Up-to-date intelligence is hard to come by. Take, for instance, the repeated claims by the US Air Force that it had killed Saddam Hussein during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was meant to be based on up-to-the minute information, much of which turned out to be spurious. Of course Saddam had survived, though not the poor civilians who had the ill luck to live or work where the Iraqi leader was meant to be.

The media plays a particularly nasty role in all of this. Stories of the attempts to kill Saddam Hussein were given maximum publicity. Their total failure was hardly mentioned. The reaction of the Pentagon to the killing of large numbers of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Pakistan has traditionally been first to deny that it ever happened. The denial is based on the old public relations principle that “first you say something is no news and didn’t happen. When it is proved some time late, that it did happen, you yawn and say it is old news.”

For some reason, the Israelis have a reputation for being good at undercover operations. This is hardly difficult in Gaza, where the enemy is so puny and vulnerable. But while I was stationed in Jerusalem for this newspaper, Israeli intelligence was involved in a series of ludicrous fiascos. My favourite was when the chief Mossad agent in Syria turned out not to exist, though his Israeli handler happily pocketed several million dollars that the spy was supposedly receiving for his treachery. The handler concocted the agent’s reports and one of these, falsely claiming that Syria was plotting a surprise military offensive, even managed to get the Israeli army mobilised.

Israel also provides a classic example of a covert operation that will produce limited gains if it is successful, and a diplomatic disaster if it does not. In September 1997, two Mossad agents carrying forged Canadian passports tried to assassinate Khaled Mashal, a Jordanian citizen, in the centre of the capital Amman. He was the head of the political bureau of Hamas in Jordan. The ingenious method of assassination was to inject a slow-acting poison into his ear as he entered his office. In the event, the would-be poisoner was captured after a chase through the streets of Amman. Four other agents took refuge in the Israeli embassy.

The mission had been given the go-ahead by the Israeli prime minister of the day, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had simply ignored the idea that it might go wrong. King Hussein was reduced to threatening to storm the Israeli embassy unless Israel handed over an antidote to the poison. Israel was forced to release Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the head of Hamas, and other Palestinian prisoners from jail.

Covert operations only really succeed when they have strong local allies who want outside support. There are two recent outstanding examples of this. In Afghanistan in 2001, US special forces reinforced the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and, most importantly, gave them forward air controllers who could call in air strikes. Two years later, US special forces played a similar role in northern Iraq, when they provided air support to Kurdish troops attacking Saddam’s retreating army.

But if covert forces are acting alone, they are very vulnerable. What will happen to them in Pakistan if they get in a fire fight with regular Pakistani forces? What will they do if they are ambushed by local tribesmen allied to the Taliban? Usually, the first to flee in these circumstances are the local civil authorities and the civilian population, so the Taliban will be even more in control than they were before.

Helms’s dictum was right. The Bush administration got itself into a no-win situation in Afghanistan. “The US attack on Iraq,” writes the Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid, in his newly-published Descent into Chaos, “was critical to convincing Musharraf that the United States was not serious about stabilising the region, and that it was safer for Pakistan to preserve its own national interest by clandestinely giving the Taliban refuge.”

The covert action in Pakistan is merely an attempt to divert attention from the consequences of this bankrupt American policy.