27 Luglio 2009
We live in an era defined by its brutality. Our challenge is whether to accept this – or to take the risks necessary to transform our world commons in beloved community. (read here)
27 Luglio 2009
We live in an era defined by its brutality. Our challenge is whether to accept this – or to take the risks necessary to transform our world commons in beloved community. (read here)
After years of examining CIA operations of dubious legality, an important member of the House intelligence committee is exploring an option that many in the intelligence community view with apprehension: a comprehensive investigation of all intelligence-community operations over years and perhaps even decades. The model is the famous Church and Pike committees of the 1970s, which exposed widespread CIA lawlessness; created the modern legal and congressional oversight structures for intelligence; and cleaved the history of the CIA into before- and after- periods.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a progressive who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chairs a special oversight panel that helps write the intelligence budget, has been increasingly comfortable talking about a new “Church committee.” He floated the idea in an interview with TWI on July 14, again to the Newark Star-Ledger the next day, and even attempted to discuss the Church committee’s precedents for congressional oversight with Lou Dobbs on CNN on July 20.
“I’d like to see something on the scope of the Church committee,” Holt told TWI in a Friday phone interview. The congressman said that it had been a “few decades” since Congress took a comprehensive inquiry into the intelligence community’s impact on “the relationship between the individual and her or his government, as well as the role that the U.S. plays in other countries around the world, outside of declared military activities.”
Holt said he did not have a concrete proposal prepared for the creation of such an investigation, and was at the stage of seeing what colleagues and members of the intelligence community made of such a move. “There’s agreement with the idea,” he said. “An awful lot of people have not really thought about how many unanswered questions there are or unresolved issues there are out there about how we do intelligence in the United States.”
He declined to name any members of congress with whom he has discussed such an investigation, but said they were members of the House intelligence committee and the oversight panel he chairs. “Are we close to commissioning a study in the way I’m conceiving it? No, not yet,” he said. A House Republican aide, who requested anonymity, was unaware of Holt’s early feelers, raising questions about whether Holt’s envisioned inquiry would have Republican support. And a spokesman for Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), the House intelligence committee chairman, did not return a request for comment.
Many in the intelligence world and on the right view the committee investigations led by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Rep. Otis Pike (D-N.Y.) as representing an apex of progressive congressional attempts to geld the intelligence community. Empaneled in response to a New York Times article by Seymour Hersh in 1974 reporting widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens, the investigations unearthed other abuses, such as repeated CIA assassination attempts on foreign heads of state. It resulted in the passage of laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to prevent warrantless domestic surveillance and the creation of standing committees in Congress to oversee intelligence activities. Some conservatives view the investigations as an example of congressional overreach. “I think they undermined our capabilities in some respects,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told his biographer, Stephen F. Hayes.
Holt said that he is “not talking about upsetting the applecart, I’m talking about analyzing the full applecart” of intelligence activities. He rejects the idea that such a comprehensive investigation necessarily entails eroding U.S. intelligence capabilities. “Is giving your kid a test in school an inhibition on his free learning?” Hold said. “Sure, there are some people who are happy to let intelligence agencies go about their business unexamined. But I think most people when they think about it will say that you will get better intelligence if the intelligence agencies don’t operate in an unexamined fashion.”
But over the past several years, the intelligence committees and official commissions have peered into intelligence matters repeatedly. In 2002 and 2003, an unprecedented joint House-Senate intelligence committee investigation looked into intelligence work on al-Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks, work that the 9/11 Commission took as a point of departure. A panel created by the Bush administration examined intelligence work on weapons of mass destruction. The Senate intelligence committee, from 2004 to 2007, undertook a multi-tiered look at intelligence failures preceding the invasion of Iraq. At the moment, the Senate intelligence committee is conducting a study into the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after 9/11, and the House intelligence committee on which Holt serves is examining recent revelations of a shuttered CIA program believed to be tied to strengthening assassinations capabilities.
Holt said that such inquiries still left a host of unexamined activities. “There’s a lot to look at, [and] not just who told what to whom, or the treatment of detainees or [renditions], or interrogation, or domestic surveillance or national security letters or on and on and on,” he said. “Church looked at everything since the OSS,” referring to the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II-era predecessor of the CIA. “The recommendations of the Church committee, in large part, have been eroded, ignored or violated since then. The world situation has evolved, and the technologies, methodology and organizations of the intelligence community have evolved, [and] also the look back then, in a sense, has been forgotten by some.”
Representatives from the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not return messages seeking comment.
Steven Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, said that in some respects it was surprising that no one had proposed a Church committee-like investigation. “It’s the shoe that has not dropped yet,” Aftergood said. “The Church committee was established following a series of revelations of disturbing intelligence community activities. To a remarkable extent the series of events precipitating the Church committee has been replicated in recent months and years. The famous December 1974 Seymour Hersh front-page story in The New York Times talking about domestic surveillance [presaged] the December 2005 [James Risen and Eric Lichtblau] story in The New York Times about domestic surveillance.”
Aftergood said that a new Church committee was “overdue,” and disputed the characterization of the 1970s congressional investigations as weakening U.S. intelligence. “While to some people in the intelligence business the name of Frank Church is a dirty word, it’s also true that the structures that emerged from the Church committee benefited intelligence by introducing stability and predictability into intelligence policy,” Aftergood said. “The idea that this was a disaster or an assault on intelligence is shortsighted to the point of misunderstanding. The Church committee yielded the framework that the U.S. intelligence community needed to grow and to regain at least in some measure the confidence of the public and the rest of the government.”
Along those lines, Holt said that he’s heard representatives of the intelligence community say, in “breathtaking honesty and self-awareness,” that a thorough investigation might enable them to better do their jobs. “In a representative democracy, there is a very important role for the legislative branch to help the CIA and the intelligence community determine and understand their proper role and give them the tools and the latitude to carry out” lawful intelligence activities.
Journal of Turkish Weekly (JTW)
The unexpected and sudden renewal of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani dispute over three hydrocarbon fields in the middle of the Caspian Sea is the latest setback to the European Union’s Nabucco gas-pipeline project.
An argument over ownership of the Caspian fields had soured Turkmen-Azerbaijani relations for more than a decade. But over the last two years, representatives of the two countries — prodded by EU and U.S. officials — had been meeting regularly, reviving hopes that Nabucco could be realized.
Those hopes took a hit on July 24 when Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov cited a report from Deputy Foreign Minister Toyly Komekov during a cabinet meeting.
Berdymukhammedov said the report showed that the impasse over thedemarcation of the Caspian seabed between the two countries has remained unresolved “due to Azerbaijan’s specific position. The main reason behind this situation is that there are mineral deposits located exactly in the disputed areas of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan claims ownership of these deposits, including the deposit known as Promezhutochnoyee during the Soviet era and which we now call our Serdar deposit.”
Berdymukhammedov went on to mention the Omar and Osman fields, which he said Azerbaijan is already exploring but which, he claimed, “belong to us.” The Turkmen president expressed regret that 16 bilateral meetings had not resolved the issue and then instructed Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov to take the issue to “the International Court of Arbitration.”
More Gas Needed
That could present a major obstacle to the European Union’s Nabucco plans. The proposed 3,300-kilometer pipeline starts at Georgia’s western border and then heads toward Europe via Turkey. Nabucco wants to include Central Asian gas in the pipeline, particularly gas from Turkmenistan, which has one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas.
For some 15 years now the plan was to construct a “trans-Caspian” pipeline along the Caspian seabed from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, where it would be join a pipeline leading to Georgia’s western border. But the dispute between Ashgabat and Baku over ownership of the three Caspian fields made construction of this pipeline impossible.
The recent warming of ties between the two countries, including a visit by Berdymukhammedov to Baku last year, raised hopes the pipeline could finally be built.
On state television on July 25, Deputy Foreign Minister Xalaf Xalafov indicated Azerbaijan was prepared to have a court decide on the ownership issue. “We believe that we are ready to defend Azerbaijan’s position and rights on all levels,” Xalafov said.
Ilham Shaban, an Azerbaijan-based energy expert and the editor of the “Turan Energy” daily newsletter, tells RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service that after years of this dispute, a court ruling may be the most “civilized” means of ending the stalemate.
“And to take this matter before a court is a natural step and we also hope the court will render a fair verdict,” Shaban says.
Shaban adds that a resolution of the ownership question could then pave the way for dramatic improvement in Turkmen-Azerbaijani ties, which in turn opens up the way for projects like Nabucco. Nabucco foresees that the lion’s share of the proposed 31 billion cubic meters of gas for the pipeline would come from Turkmenistan.
“I feel that this court will render a decision that will bring our countries even closer together if Ashgabat and Baku will observe and accept the decision of the International Arbitration Court,” he says.
Shaban concedes that if the two countries do not show flexibility and maintain the rigid posturing that has marred bilateral ties for so long, the court case could drag on for years and endanger the construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline and also Nabucco.
Guvanch Geraev and Marat Rakhimov of RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service contributed to this report
By Bruce Pannier
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Albert Pchelintsev, 38, is the head of group which which investigates corruption by officials working in the local government of Khimki.
A man attacks an opposition demonstrator during a protest against the current government`s leadership and policies in central Moscow January 31, 2009.
The Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups run by Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov, said on its website http://www.kasparov.ru that Pchelintsev was in hospital in a “moderately serious” condition.
A band of up to five men attacked Pchelintsev as he was leaving a train and shouted: “You won’t be able to speak out now for a long time,” an environmental organisation for the Moscow region reported on its site http://www.ecmo.ru, citing witnesses.
The assailants were still at large, it added.
Saturday’s attack comes less than two weeks after Chechen human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was killed, triggering worldwide outrage, and several days after the body of activist Andrei Kulagin was found in a sand pit in north-west Russia.
The Other Russia’s website said Pchelintsev had been receiving threats “for some time” since he openly spoke out against Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko, and added that rights activists in the region regularly suffer attacks.
Last November Mikhail Beketov, the editor of an investigative newspaper in Khimki, was savagely beaten, resulting in the amputation of his leg and fingers.
Reporting the incident, Russian popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets printed a photograph of Pchelintsev sitting beside a picture of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Medvedev, cultivating an image as a liberal, has pledged to increase openness in society and reduce graft and lawlessness, though critics say there have been very few substantial changes so far.
WASHINGTON: Pakistan should first create a secure environment for the refugees to return home before launching an operation against Baitullah Mehsud and his militants, says US special envoy Richard Holbrooke.
The US envoy made this statement in an interview to The Washington Post, published on Monday when other media outlets claimed that Pakistan was engaged in secret talks with the reclusive Taliban leader.
The report claimed that Pakistan had planned a major military offensive against Mehsud but delayed it because of these secret talks.
Mr Holbrooke, however, indicated no such links. Instead, he made it clear that the United States did not expect Pakistan to launch another major military offensive while it was still struggling with the refugee problem.
‘Baitullah Mehsud is a dreadful man, and his elimination is an imperative. However, the first imperative is to secure the areas the refugees are going back into,’ said Mr Holbrooke.
Although Mr Holbrooke said it could be beneficial to have simultaneous offensives — the US Marines on the Afghan side and the Pakistani army in Fata — the greater concern is unfinished business elsewhere. ‘Why would I push them to start an offensive when they have two million people they have to protect first?’ the US envoy said.
The Pakistan army also denied any negotiations with Mehsud, saying that it wanted to surround the militants and use air power and artillery to ‘soften them up’.
The operation is a ‘punitive measure’, said Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, head of the army’s public relations wing.
At least six brigades of Pakistani troops have blocked the four main arteries into Mehsud’s fiefdom in South Waziristan, media reports said.
Pakistani aircraft, along with unmanned American planes, have attacked Mehsud’s territory in recent weeks. Soldiers have deployed into neighbouring North Waziristan and have imposed an economic blockade, trying to withhold food and supplies from the Taliban, a US defence official in Washington told the Post.
The blockade and US strikes have forced thousands of Mehsud’s men to flee the area.
Meanwhile, media outlets claiming secret talks between Islamabad and Mehsud said they still had no details. They supported their claim by arguing that Pakistan had delayed a planned operation against Mehsud after having corralled his stronghold in South Waziristan.
The Pakistani government, the reports said, had a one-point agenda: stop attacking government targets. This would not be a total surrender, but a guarantee that Baitullah Mehsud would not indulge in any anti-state activity in future, the media quoted unidentified Pakistani officials as saying.
The delay in launching a military offensive in South Waziristan would annoy Pakistan’s US allies, the reports claimed.
Ambassador Holbrooke’s statement that Washington understood Islamabad’s position and was not pushing Pakistan to launch yet another offensive, however, contradicted this claim.
The Post also quoted Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit as saying that while they were focussed on the refugees, they did not want to rush into opening new fronts against the Taliban.
‘We would not like to do anything haphazardly. If you open so many fronts at the same time, then the danger is you will not achieve success on any front. So we would like to move with utmost circumspection,’ said Mr Basit. The tribal areas are ‘a different ballgame and we need to understand how difficult it is’.
From DESMOND MGBORH, Kano, TIMOTHY OLA, Maiduguri and ABU ONYELEBOCHO, Potiskum
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Corpses of Islamist militants killed by security agents in Maiduguri on Monday
•Photo: The Sun Publishing
Security forces on Monday fought gun battles with Islamist militants who staged attacks on police stations, prisons, churches and other government buildings in Borno, Yobe and Kano states, leaving no fewer than 100 dead.
The attacks came on the heels of similar incident in Bauchi, which death toll the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr Ogbonnaya Onovo put at 65, including five police casualties.
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno was thrown into pandemonium on Monday as members of the Mohammed Yusuf Movement (Yusuffiya), Islamic sect in the state made real their threat as they burnt down some police stations, prisons and churches. The Islamist militants also set free inmates of the Maiduguri Maximum Prison, while similar attacks were carried out on a police station and church in Potiskum, Yobe State.
The crisis broke few days after nine of the sectarian members were arrested by the police for being in possession of locally made bombs, explosives, dangerous chemicals and weapons, while one was also killed by a bomb explosion. The leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf had in a well-publicized message recently threatened to stage a show-down with those he tagged enemies of Islam, calling on his followers to prepare for a Jihad.
By Sunday night, some members of the sect members stormed the State Police Headquarters along Kano-Jos Road in Maiduguri and attacked the Mobile Police senior officers quarters beside the headquarters, killing two police officers.
“The militants came in the midnight with dangerous weapons and some substances suspected to be bombs. They caught us unaware because we never thought they could target the training college side. They immediately set some quarters ablaze and most of us ran out of our houses before our colleagues and Operation Flush men came to the scene,” a police officer who witnessed the incident told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity.
Daily Sun gathered that the sect members arrived the quarters around 11.30 pm, shouting Allhu Akbar (God is great) and immediately set nine buildings, six cars and two motorcycles on fire. Two police officers were reportedly killed.
Sources said the men of the state special security task force, Operation Flush and some mobile policemen who came to the scene shortly, engaged the militants in a gun battle, forcing the sect members to beat a retreat.
Those who escaped the police onslaught among the fundamentalists were said to have proceeded to the Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison. By early Monday morning, the prison has been burnt while all the inmates were set free. A prison warden was also killed just as some churches around the railway area in the metropolis were torched by the rampaging sect.
Unconfirmed reports claimed two churches were also burnt in Gamboru-Ngala, a border town in the state.
Over 100 corpses of members of the sect who were reportedly shot security officials police were seen littering the deserted streets of Maiduguri as at the time of filing this report. Movements in and out of the state capital were restricted even as commercial activities were paralyzed. All banks, schools and companies were shut down as combined team of police; state security services (SSS) and army mounted surveillance in the state.
The Commissioner of Police, Christopher Dega and the commandant of the Operation Flush, Col Ben Ahanotu could not be reached as at the time of filing report. Ironically, all the mobile telephone networks were not working fueling speculations that the authorities might have asked the operators to jam their communication devices to prevent the sect members who are scattered across the North from coordinating their operations.
Meanwhile, Governor Ali Sheriff has declared a dusk to dawn curfew from Monday.
A three paragraph statement signed by the Director of Press in the Government House, Zanna Usman Chiroma stated that the curfew, which was declared in all parts of the two local government areas in the Maiduguri metropolis “will take effect from 7p.m to 6a.m daily until the security situation improves.”
The governor advised residents to stay in their homes during the period as no movement would be allowed, assuring all citizens of full protection of lives and property.
He also promised to lift the curfew as soon as the situation was brought under control.
Similarly, the religious upheaval has spilled to Yobe State as attacks in Potiskum in the early hours of Monday morning left at least one policeman and a personnel of the state fire service dead.
Daily Sun gathered that the members numbering over 40 attacked the police station in Potiskum, freed suspects in custody, looted the armoury and then set ablaze the station and the office of the Federal Road Safety Commission adjacent to it.
The attacks were launched, according to sources at the period it was raining catsß and dogs.
Mr. Mohammed Paddah, spokesman of the Yobe State Police Command who confirmed the attack said the State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Abbas had paid a visit to the scenes of the attacks as well as the police armoury.
The police spokesman confirmed the death of the two uniformed men, adding that seven other police officers were injured in the attack. He said some suspects had been arrested and were already being investigated.
He called on members of the public to give vital information on suspects to enable the police nip attacks in the bud.
As at the time of filing this report, Governor Ibrahim Geidam who was said to have gone to a town in Gulani local government area had not made any statement on the attacks.
Also a police station in Wudil town situated on the outskirts of Kano was attacked on Monday.
Police repelled the attack, killing three members of the group and arresting 33 others, Kano police spokesman, Baba Mohammed said. Two police officers were injured in the clashes in the town, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Kano.
“An unspecified number of these extremists attacked the police station at around 4:00a.m and injured two officers but our men repelled them, killed three and apprehended 33 of them,” said Mohammed.
He said the attack was similar to the one staged overnight at a police station in Potiskum in Yobe State.
Police have meantime besieged the Kara neighbourhood of Wudil where the group has a mosque, preparing for an offensive to flush them out.
A Kano resident said police were patrolling the streets of the bustling capital following the attack in the nearby town.
“The situation is still very tense but armed policemen are patrolling the streets and trouble-prone parts of Kano to make sure they put the situation under complete control.”
He suspected the militants were fleeing from Yobe and Bauchi states where they launched attacks on Sunday and Monday.
The latest wave of fighting broke out on Sunday in Bauchi State when police hit back at militants after they attacked a police station at dawn.
The Nigerian Taliban emerged in 2004 when it set up a base dubbed Afghanistan in Kanamma village in Yobe, on the border with Niger, from where it attacked police outposts and killed police officers.
Its membership is mainly drawn from school dropouts. The north of Nigeria is majority Muslim, although large Christian minorities have settled in the main towns, raising tensions between the two groups.
Since 1999 and the return of a civilian regime to Nigeria’s central government, 12 northern states have introduced Islamic Sharia law.
More than 700 people died last November in Jos, capital of Plateau state, when a political feud over a local election degenerated into bloody confrontation between Muslims and Christians.
Sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi State killed 14 people in February. A Muslim mob went on the rampage, attacking Christians and burning churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques, which Muslims blamed on Christians, they said.
One of the Nigerian Taliban leaders, Aminu Tashen-Ilimi, had told newsmen in a 2005 interview that the group intended to lead an armed insurrection and rid society of “immorality” and “infidelity.”