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[Both Hezbollah and Hamas got their starts this way, providing the emergency services needed by the people after disasters, in place of government or other humanitarian assistance which was not forthcoming.]
Government needs to be on the watch
by Ahmad Aley
The recent floods in Pakistan have resulted in a colossal loss of life and property and require the government to go an extra mile for the rehabilitation of the victims. Yet a very important aspect which needs attention from media as well as the government is the terrorist connection. This may sound unusual but the militant organisations, terror groups and fundamentalist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami, LeT, Jamaat e Dawah, LeJ, etc. have thrived in multiple ways in times of calamity and disasters.
These organisations use multiple covert and overt means to exploit the times of human misery and distress caused by natural disasters for their own benefits. This calls for an extra vigilance from the state as well as the media. As the state functionaries as well as most of the people are involved in responding to the calamity these scourge of the land have an ample opportunity to operate freely.
Foremost of these activities is the establishment of Fund Raising camps all around the country in every street and every town as well as in other countries where the Pakistani community is present by their clandestine operatives. The irony is that most of the people who even don’t subscribe to the views and activities of such groups are ensnared just for the sake of helping the victims of disasters.
There is no check on such activities and nobody knows from where they crop up, one fine morning you will see the camps appearing in your nearby markets and streets and after some days these are gone. The receipts provided in lieu of cash/kind are spurious too. And how these collected funds and goods are used is anyone’s guess. In the disaster areas the most heinous activity by these groups is enlisting, with consent or coercion, of the stranded, abandoned and poor. Moreover the kidnappings of children for being trained were also widely reported in case of EQ 2005. So is the case in recovery and relief which provides them ample opportunity for propagation of their ideologies as well as recruitment of unemployed and distressed. The welfare faces of these bandits also provide them a perfect disguise for monitoring and conducting surveys of their potential victims and targets. This connection becomes of particular importance in the present context of actively operating religio-political terrorist outfits in civilian areas in Pakistan. As in the times of disaster most of the state agencies have more attention to provide relief and rehabilitation of the victims and this lax environment provides sectarian/terrorist outfits an additional opportunity to make good of the misery of people.
Besides other things this scenario underscores the failure of state as well as the political parties to provide means for the citizens to be part of the response as well as recovery and rehabilitation effort. And as such events gain attention and sympathy of all and sundry these are also used to gain political weightage by the marginal political groups. Pakistan Peoples Party is the only party with national presence and it’s really sad to see that in such times we fail to see its cadres work. This provides a big time opportunity to the minions to act big as well as to use the situation for their ulterior motives.
So to make people aware of nature and dynamics of such actions of these groups should atleast be a part of LUBP’s efforts for flood victims.
People try to stop fire near the village of Verchnaya Vereya
MOSCOW : Wearing sanitary masks or clutching wet rags to their faces, Moscow residents struggled Saturday against the worst smog in living memory which has enveloped the Russian capital from spreading wildfires.
The concentration of toxic particles was up to five times higher than safe levels, experts warned, as the city’s iconic landmarks like the Kremlin and golden church cupolas disappeared behind a layer of smoke.
The emergencies ministry warned that the wildfires which have sparked the smog were still spreading in central Russia as weather forecasters said Russia’s worst heatwave in decades would continue for the next days.
The fires have raised concerns about the security of Russia’s main nuclear research centre in the still closed city of Sarov, one of the areas worst hit by the blazes and where the emergencies ministry has sent thousands of workers.
The authorities were also closely watching the situation around the region of Bryansk in western Russia where the soils are still contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Moscow drivers put on their headlights in broad daylight to see through the acrid smog that had descended on the capital while the sun shone as a hazy disc easily viewed by the naked eye with little discomfort.
The smoke — easily visible from space in NASA images — penetrated into homes and offices and was even visible inside the Moscow metro, one of the deepest underground systems in the world.
“The situation is truly extreme. People are in circumstances under which they should not have to live,” leading Russian doctor Ivan Yurlov of the League for the Nation’s Health group told the Kommersant daily.
Flights from Domodedovo, one of Moscow’s main international airports, were disrupted by the smog with several flights diverted to other airports and around 40 flights cancelled, state aviation committee Rosavitsia said.
“Visibility around Domodedovo is 325 metres (1,050 feet): it is up to the captain of the aircraft to make a decision about landing,” Rosaviatsia official Sergei Izvolsky told Interfax.
The other main international hub, Sheremetyevo in the north of Moscow, was working normally.
Germany closed its embassy until further notice and advised citizens against “non-essential” travel to the affected regions while the US State Department asked nationals to seriously review travel plans.
Russia’s football federation meanwhile moved a friendly match with Bulgaria from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, fearing for the health of the players.
With health experts warning that the best solution was to leave the city for the weekend, package tours abroad were completely sold out and there was a rush for seats on trains and planes out of the capital, news agencies said.
The levels of carbon monoxide in the air were five times higher than the maximum level acceptable for public health, state pollution watchdog Moseokmonitoring was quoted as saying in the Kommersant daily.
The situation with the wildfires that have sparked the smog showed no sign of abating, with blazes with an area of 193,500 hectares (478,000 acres) recorded across the country.
In the last 24 hours, 290 new fires were recorded, more than the 244 that were extinguished in the same timespan, the emergencies ministry said.
River cruises in Moscow, a popular summer pastime, were cancelled as the smog made navigation impossible while some museums were also shut down as the smog penetrated their ventilation systems.
– AFP /ls
by Stephen Lendman
The WikiLeaks “Afghan War Diaries” provided documented evidence of America’s out-of-control lawlessness, including Special Forces death squads (Task Force 373) extrajudicially murdering or capturing suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures, many hundreds or perhaps thousands on a so-called Jpel (joint prioritized effects) list, also willfully killing civilian men, women and children, the London Times Kabul-based Jerome Starkey reporting earlier on these crimes, suppressed in US media accounts, presenting an embedded view of the war, omitting the targeting of Americans until then Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair acknowledged it in February, explaining that:
CIA operatives and Special Forces death squads have been authorized to kill US citizens abroad, suspected of terrorist involvement, Blair saying:
“If we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that,” the criteria being “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us, whether that American is a threat to other Americans. Those are the factors involved. We don’t target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans or has resulted in it,” based on suspicions, not evidence.
Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in Yemen, was perhaps the first “announced” candidate, targeted for opposing US belligerency, not crimes.
In late June, Deputy White House National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John O. Brennan, acknowledged a hit list with dozens of other names, saying:
“There are, in my mind, dozens of US persons who are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us, not just because of the passport they hold, but because they understand our operational environment here, they bring with them certain skills, whether it be language skills or familiarity with potential targets, and they are very worrisome, and we are determined to take away their ability to assist with terrorist attacks.”
“If an American person or citizen is in Yemen or in Pakistan or in Somalia or another place, and they are (suspected of) trying to carry out attacks against US interests, they also will face the full brunt of a US response. What we need to do is to apply the appropriate tool and the appropriate response,” leaving little doubt what he meant, putting all Americans at risk globally, based on suspicions, not proof – potential targets for lawless assassinations with impunity.
It was standard policy under George Bush’s November 2001 Military Order Number 1, authorizing the capture, kidnapping, or otherwise neutralizing of non-citizens (and later citizens) suspected of terrorist involvement, holding them indefinitely without charge, evidence, or due process, treating them as non-persons, disappearing them forever, the practice continuing under Obama.
Last September, it was learned that then Central Command head General David Petraeus issued a secret directive to send covert US Special Operations forces to friendly and hostile states in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa, and by implication anywhere in the world to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” terror threats and “prepare the environment” for planned military attacks.
On June 4, Washington Post writers Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe headlined, “US ‘Secret War’ Expands Globally as Special Operations Forces Take a Larger Role,” saying:
The Obama administration “has significantly expanded a largely secret US war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups with Special Ops forces in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.”
On June 5, London Sunday Times writers Tim Reid and Michael Evans repeated it, headlining, “Obama secretly deploys US special forces to 75 countries across the world,” saying:
He usurped even greater power than George Bush to pursue an “aggressive secret war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups,” using increased drone attacks and 9,000 Special Forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians, operations continuing daily.
Petraeus’ order “also allowed for US special forces to enter Iran to gather intelligence” for potential future operations. The Pentagon’s Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order authorizes Special Ops forces sent anywhere, and its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) deploys covertly to kill suspected suspects, including US citizens.
Washington Denying Anwar al-Awlaki’s Right to Legal Representation
US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) regulations, under The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, prohibit lawyers from defending accused terrorists pro bono without government permission, violators subject to up to 20 years imprisonment and fines up to $1 million.
According to Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the prohibition is unconstitutional, violating the Separation of Powers and First Amendment protection of “the right of non-profit lawyers and legal organizations to give pro bono legal representation to any US citizen,” guaranteed also under the Fifth Amendment. CCR/ACLU’/s brief states:
“The notion that the government can compel a citizen to seek its permission before challenging the constitutionality of its actions in court is wholly foreign to our constitutional system, (and as) non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting civil liberties and human rights, Plaintiffs have a First Amendment (Fifth Amendment, and Separation of Powers) right to represent clients in litigation consistent with their organizational missions.”
US law, not al-Awlaki, is at issue, the Obama administration exceeding its predecessor’s lawlessness, expanding its imperial wars, threatening other parts of the world on every continent, openly targeting US citizens globally, perhaps even in America covertly by disappearing them, and denying lawyers the right to represent them – a clear example of despotism.
Several times it tried unsuccessfully to kill al-Awlaki. Covert efforts continue. CCR and ACLU want to defend him, saying civil law must decide, not Treasury regulations or Pentagon/CIA assassins. His father said “If the government has proof his son violated the law, then they should charge him in public and let the law take its course.”
According to Quigley and others supporting the rule of law, “The right to go to court to challenge the government is a core US value.”
As a result, on August 3, CCR and the ACLU sued Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Adam Szubin, Office of Foreign Assets Control Director,
“challeng(ing) the legality of a regulatory scheme that requires attorneys to seek permission from the government before providing uncompensated legal representation to or for the benefit of individuals whom the government has designated as terrorists. In this case, the effect of the scheme may be to deny legal representation to a United States citizen whom the government is attempting to kill without any legal process.”
The suit seeks an emergency order, invalidating the Treasury’s unconstitutional regulation, permitting pro-bono representation to proceed without criminal or monetary penalties. If successful, a second suit will try to enjoin al-Awlaki’s assassination. However, in today’s lawless environment, the federal courts stacked with right-wing ideologues, and a reckless, out-of-control administration, CCR and ACLU lawyers face daunting obstacles to succeed – despite only wanting constitutional law enforced.
In early July, Nasser al-Awlaki, Anwar’s father, retained CCR and the ACLU on his behalf. On July 16, OFEC named him a “specially designated global terrorist,” prohibiting legal representation without permission. CCR and ACLU sought it but were denied, their suit challenging OFAC’s decision “to invalidate the regulations and to make clear that lawyers can (represent “designated”) individuals without first seeking the government’s consent.”
Its purpose is to challenge the lawless decision to kill American citizens, including al-Awlaki, without charge, evidence, trial, or due process – authority not allowed under US and international law.
“Under international human rights law, lethal force may be used in peacetime only when there is an imminent threat of deadly attack and (killing) is a last resort.”
Designating US citizens terrorists, providing no criminal proof of guilt or evidence of an imminent threat, and denying them legal representation is lawless and egregious by any standard. Yet, post-9/11, “the US government has (targeted and) detained thousands of men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself later to discover that the evidence (or charge) was wrong or unreliable and released them.”
No one should be denied due process and judicial fairness. US policy is shocking, egregious and illegal, CCR, ACLU, numerous human rights groups, and others challenging it courageously, representing our rights like al-Awlaki’s, fighting for the rule of law to prevent further democratic freedom erosions, vanishing in plain sight.
A Final Comment
In a late development, Politico.com reports that the Treasury Department will let CCR and ACLU represent al-Awlaki, OFAC Director Szubin saying Treasury’s policy “is to broadly authorize the provision of pro bono legal services….To the extent that the particular legal services that the ACLU (and CCR wish) to provide in this instance do not fall into any of the broad categories that are generally licensed, (OFAC) will work with (them) to ensure that the legal services can be delivered.”
At issue now is enjoining al-Awlaki’s assassination, CCR Executive Director saying:
“President Obama is claiming the power to act as judge, jury and executioner while suspending any semblance of due process….The US government is going outside the law to create an ever-larger global war zone and turn the whole world into a battlefield. Would we tolerate it if China or France secretly decided to execute their enemies inside the US?”
In a separately filed March Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit, the ACLU wants information on procedures followed to put individuals like al-Awlaki on an unconstitutional hit list.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
MELBOURNE — People sometimes forget that the boy who cried wolf ended up being eaten. True, nobody has been killed by a nuclear weapon since the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 65 years ago this month.
And, with Cold War tensions long past, it is all too easy for policymakers and publics to resist the doomsayers, be complacent about the threats that these weapons continue to pose, and to regard attempts to eliminate them, or contain their spread, as well-meaning but futile.
But the truth is that it is sheer luck — not statesmanship or anything inherently stable about the world’s nuclear weapon systems — that has let us survive so long without catastrophe. With 23,000 nuclear weapons (equivalent to 150,000 Hiroshimas) still in existence, more than 7,000 of them actively deployed, and more than 2,000 still on dangerously high launch-on-warning alert, we cannot assume that our luck will hold indefinitely.
We know now — with multiple revelations about human error and system breakdown on both the American and Russian sides during the Cold War years and since — that even the most sophisticated command and control systems are not foolproof. We know that some of the newer nuclear-armed states start with systems much less sophisticated than these. And we know that, across the spectrum of sophistication, the risk of destabilizing cyber attack beating cyber defense is getting ever higher.
So it should be obvious that maintaining the status quo is intolerable. Moreover, there is the real risk of proliferation, especially in the Middle East, multiplying the dangers that nuclear weapons will be used by accident or miscalculation as well as design.
There is also the sometimes exaggerated but unquestionably non-negligible risk of non-state terrorist actors getting their hands on insufficiently secured weapons or fissile material and exploding a bomb in a major population center. And there is the disconcerting prospect that new civil nuclear-energy players will insist on building uranium-enrichment or plutonium-reprocessing plants of their own, rightly described as “bomb starter kits.”
President Barack Obama came to office alert to all these threats and determined, as no other U.S. president — and almost no other world leader — has been, to eliminate them. His leadership inspired hope that more than a decade of sleepwalking was behind us, and brought some modest gains over the last 18 months.
They include the conclusion of the U.S.-Russia new START treaty, which would reduce deployed strategic weapons; modest limitations on the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. nuclear doctrine; a Washington summit that reached useful agreement on the implementation of improved nuclear-security measures; and hard-to-achieve consensus at the recent pentannual Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference on useful steps forward, including a 2012 conference on achieving a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
But START treaty ratification is going nowhere fast in the U.S. Senate and progress on other key issues has been slow or shaky: bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force; starting negotiations on a new treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; strengthening the nonproliferation regime with effective measures to detect violations and deter treaty walk-outs; reaching agreement on some form of international management of the most sensitive aspects of the fuel cycle; and, above all, starting new rounds of serious disarmament talks, involving not just the two nuclear superpowers but all eight nuclear-armed states.
Arms control and disarmament is a grinding, unglamorous business that brings few quick returns. With domestic issues and re-election anxieties now dominating most political agendas, it will be all too easy for commitment to wane. If that is to be avoided, continued leadership from the top — above all from Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — will be indispensable. But there are a number of major contributions that less powerful states and leaders, as well as civil-society organizations, can make.
The most immediately important task is for those with credible voices to take every opportunity to bridge the complacency gap. The messages must be stark: Nuclear weapons are not only the most indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented, but the only ones capable of destroying life on this planet as we know it.
The second major task is to set a clear global disarmament action agenda — with credible timelines and milestones. It is probably too difficult right now to set a reliable target date for getting all the way to “global zero”: There are still too many difficult technical problems of verification and enforcement to be worked through, as well as the obvious geopolitical and psychological ones. But it is not incredible to set a date like 2025 as a target for minimizing the world’s nuclear arsenal to less than 10 percent of its current size, with very few weapons actually deployed, and their role in all states’ military doctrine dramatically reduced.
Nor is it too early to begin work on crafting a new nuclear weapons convention that provides a workable framework for multilateral negotiations, and on devising an independent high-level monitoring mechanism that would spell out clear benchmarks for progress, track how they are being met, and create real pressure for change.
These are all recommendations of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. As the world commemorates the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August, we should recognize that our luck is running out — and take them seriously.
Miami, Florida (CNN) — He was born in Saudi Arabia and spent much of his youth in New York and south Florida. Then he vanished.
Investigators now allege that Adnan Shukrijumah has risen to a key position in al Qaeda’s leadership.
The FBI says that after he left America, Shukrijumah started off as an al Qaeda dishwasher, doing menial tasks at training camps.
But he’s much more than a dishwasher now, according to investigators.
“It’s like any other business. He would be equated with being the chief of operations,” says Brian LeBlanc, a special agent for the FBI.
As the alleged director of al Qaeda’s overseas operations, investigators believe he is “extremely dangerous,” LeBlanc says.
“He may not be someone who’s going to come into the United States to conduct the attack, but what makes him more dangerous is he’s out there plotting the attacks and recruiting people to actively do that,” LeBlanc says.
The breakthrough came when LeBlanc, an FBI counter-terrorism agent, linked Shukrijumah to the thwarted New York subway suicide mission last fall — the biggest post-9/11 terror investigation.
Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay admitted they planned to blow themselves up using homemade bombs.
Prosecutors say it was Shukrijumah who called the shots — probably from somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“[Shukrijumah] was the one that convinced … them to come back to the United States and conduct the attack here,” LeBlanc says.
But Shukrijumah’s mother — who did not wish to be named in order to protect her privacy — says authorities are using her son as a scapegoat.
“That is not my son. My son is not a violent person. He is very kind, generous,” she says.
Shukrijumah — the eldest son of a Saudi Imam — came to America as a young child.
They settled in Brooklyn, New York, where his father preached at a mosque. They lived at a nearby house before moving to Florida in the mid-’90s.
His father, who is now dead, opened a small mosque near Fort Lauderdale.
Meanwhile, Shukrijumah worked at odd jobs, including selling used cars. His family says it’s how he paid for courses, including computers and chemistry, at a small college in South Florida. He even took classes to improve his English.
A few years later, when the FBI said they wanted to find him, Shukrijumah’s English professor remembered videotaping him in class and turned over the tape to the FBI. That proved crucial six years later.
On a hunch, LeBlanc asked agents in New York to show that video of Shukrijumah to would-be bomber Zazi.
“From that video, he was able to make an identification,” LeBlanc says.
The FBI says it now has a more detailed profile of Shukrijumah in part, from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Just before 9/11, the FBI says Shukrijumah crossed the U.S. by train. Later, he scoped out the Panama Canal as a target.
He went to Trinidad, London and — by June 2001 — Afghanistan.
On 9/11, his mother says he called home for the last time.
“He called me and he said, ‘Did you hear what happened with so and so and so?’ He said, ‘They’re putting it on the Muslims. I said, ‘yes.'”
She says she told him not to come home.
“And he was arguing with me. He said, ‘No, I didn’t do nothing. I will come, don’t worry about this,'” she recalls.
After that, she says, she never heard from him again.
Shukrijumah’s mother adamantly denies her son is directing al Qaeda attacks. But when asked about Faisal Shahzad — who has pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges in the attempted car bomb attack in Times Square in May — she says that sometimes “you have to do something very alarming for the people to wake up.”
“It’s not because you hate them or you want to destroy them or you want to hurt them,” she says.
When asked if she has a message to send her son, she says she has nothing to say.
“He [has] his own guide in his own heart,” she says.
For the FBI, it’s all about staying one step ahead. Where will al Qaeda — and their alleged chief of operations — strike next?
“He’s definitely focused on attacking the United States and other western countries,” LeBlanc says.
The FBI believes Shukrijumah is likely in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of Waziristan.
Shukrijumah moved up the ladder after two others who directed outside operations for al Qaeda were killed in suspected U.S. drone attacks, the FBI says.