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CIA admits to spying on Senate staffers

Originally published at The Guardian by Spencer Ackerman on 7/31/14

Image of CIA Director John Brennan

John Brennan

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, issued an extraordinary apology to leaders of the US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, conceding that the agency employees spied on committee staff and reversing months of furious and public denials.

Brennan acknowledged that an internal investigation had found agency security personnel transgressed a firewall set up on a CIA network, which allowed Senate committee investigators to review agency documents for their landmark inquiry into CIA torture.

Among other things, it was revealed that agency officials conducted keyword searches and email searches on committee staff while they used the network.

The admission brings Brennan’s already rocky tenure at the head of the CIA under renewed question. One senator on the panel said he had lost confidence in the director, although the White House indicated its support for a man who has been one of Barack Obama’s most trusted security aides.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd acknowledged that agency staff had improperly monitored the computers of committee staff members, who were using a network the agency had set up, called RDINet. “Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between [the committee] and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet,” he said.

Asked if Brennan had or would offer his resignation, a different CIA spokesman, Ryan Trapani, replied: “No.”

In March, the committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, accused the agency of violating… Continue reading

Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

Originally posted by Human Rights Watch on 7/21/14

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

Image of FBI agents taking Cromitie to prison

James Cromitie, center, is escorted from Federal Plaza, headquarters of the FBI in New York, by federal agents and police, early Thursday, May 21, 2009. Cromitie and three other men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y. (Michael Appleton/The New York Times)

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer… Continue reading

Number Of Ground Zero Cancer Cases Skyrocketing

Image of WTC Towers smoldering after plane impactsNEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There has been a dramatic increase in the number of 9/11 rescuers and responders with cancer in the past year, according to a published report.

The New York Post says that Mount Sinai Hospital’s World Trade Center Health Program reported 1,140 cancer cases last year. Now the number is up to more than 2,500.

Among the cancers being diagnosed at a much higher rate than the general population: prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia and multiple myeloma.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is expected to receive more claims by the Oct. 14 deadline. So far, there are 1,145 claims listing cancer.

CIA Director George Tenet Facilitated 9/11

Originally published at Dig Within by Kevin Ryan on 7/27/14

After becoming Director of the CIA (DCI) in 1997, George Tenet did what Louis Freeh had done after his appointment as FBI Director. He began to cultivate close personal relationships with the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Like Freeh, Tenet grew especially close to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Bandar and Tenet often met at Bandar’s home near Washington yet Tenet did not share information from those meetings with his own officers who were handling Saudi issues at the Agency. The CIA’s Saudi specialists only learned about Tenet’s dealings with the Saudi authorities inadvertently, through their Saudi contacts. It seems that Tenet was operating within a network that surpassed the interests of the American public. Therefore the unsolved crimes of 9/11, attributed largely to young men from Saudi Arabia, should be considered in light of Tenet’s actions.

As Deputy Director for the CIA, in 1996, Tenet had worked to install one of his closest friends and confidants, John Brennan, as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. Brennan is now the DCI but, in his previous role, Brennan often communicated directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. At the time, as an apparent favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts were discouraged from questioning Saudi relationship to Arab extremists.

The unusual relationship that both George Tenet and Louis Freeh had with Saudi intelligence (and George H.W. Bush) recalls the private network that was created in the mid-1970s to accomplish covert… Continue reading

Government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Originally published at the Guardian by Spencer Ackerman on 7/21/2014

Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the “direct involvement” of government agents or informants, a new report says.

FBISome of the controversial “sting” operations “were proposed or led by informants”, bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.

The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. It portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots.

“In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act,” the report alleges.

Out of the 494 cases related to terrorism the US has tried since 9/11, the plurality of convictions – 18% overall – are not for thwarted plots but for “material support” charges, a broad category expanded further by the 2001 Patriot Act that permits prosecutors to pursue charges with tenuous connections to a terrorist act or group.

In one such incident, the initial basis for a material-support case alleging a man provided “military gear” to al-Qaida turned out to be waterproof socks in his luggage.

Several cases featured years-long solitary confinement for… Continue reading

The Newburgh Sting

On May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, Newburgh Stingwere apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment. THE NEWBURGH STING delves deeply into this case — one of many cases across the country where people have been allegedly drawn into a plot with extreme consequences.

The Imam and assistant Imam of Mesjid al-Ikhlas, Newburgh mosque, recall their first encounters with Shahed Hussain – an undercover informant sent to Newburgh by the FBI in 2008 on a mission to find domestic terrorists. Representing himself as a businessman, Hussain drove expensive cars and made inflammatory statements about newburghwomen and jihad. Suspicious, the Imams told a few of their congregants to stay away from Hussain, but one man, James Cromitie, bought into his story. Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer… Continue reading

The 28 redacted pages challenge you to re-think everything

Originally published at Benswann.com by Joshua Cook on 7/16/14

In March Benswann.com reported that Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), , along with families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001, urged the president to declassify 28 pages from the 9/11 congressional investigation report, providing more information to the general public.

On Friday Rep. Massie commented on his Facebook page:

“Before we involve ourselves in #Iraq, Congressmen and their constituents need to know more about the events leading up to 9/11. Understanding what enabled this tragedy to occur is fundamental to drafting a strategy for the Middle East.

That’s why I joined families of 9/11 victims and Congressman Walter Jones and Congressman Stephen Lynch at a press conference to promote the release of 28 classified pages from an official 9/11 report. Based on my reading of the documents, I am confident that making these 28 pages public would not damage our national security.”

During a press conference in March Rep. Massie said, “As I read it, and we all had our own experience, I had to stop every couple of pages and just sort of try to absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history. “It challenges you to re-think everything. I think the whole country needs to go through that.”

 

 

 

Editor’s Note:
There has long been a call for the release of the 28 redacted pages. The little bit we do know about the contents of the redacted pages challenges… Continue reading

A Review of The Phoenix Program

Originally published at WashingtonsBlog by Kevin Ryan on 6/26/14

Douglas Valentine’s The Phoenix Program is vital for understanding the history of terrorism and its role in political warfare. Few other historical accounts provide as much detail on how the U.S. government and the CIA began to use programs for counterterrorism to implement political policy through secretive, coldblooded actions. Understanding such history is critical to making sense of what is happening in our world today.

Cover image of The Phoenix ProgramAlthough implemented as a means of countering terrorism, Valentine shows how the Phoenix Program was in practice a CIA-controlled campaign of terror in Vietnam. Hidden behind terms like pacification and neutralization, Phoenix implemented a program of terror and psychological warfare against the civilian population. Under the guise of counterterrorism, tens of thousands of civilians were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.

Valentine explains how the purpose of Phoenix was to terrorize the people into submission, not only causing them to fear any possible association with the enemy but also as a means to crush dissent. Unfortunately for many Vietnamese peasants, they were caught in a world in which they were terrorized by both sides in the long-lasting conflict. Using psychological warfare techniques, Phoenix promised to protect the people from terrorism while simultaneously terrorizing them.

The book describes the history of the program well. Phoenix and its precursor ICEX aligned the CIA-supported Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) with police and paramilitary programs to create a system for capturing or killing suspects in targeted ways. Once captured and brought in for… Continue reading

Supreme Court turns away 9/11 suit against alleged Al Qaeda supporters

Originally published at CSMonitor by Warren Richey on 6/30/14

Lawyers for 9/11 victims sought to pursue what they said were the ‘principal financial and operational supporters of al Qaeda.’ But lower courts dismissed much of their lawsuit, and the US Supreme Court declined to get involved.

Thousands of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks have lost their bid to revive a class-action lawsuit against various banks, financial officials, and members of Osama bin Laden’s family for allegedly providing material support to Al Qaeda.

Supreme CourtThe US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case examining whether lower courts properly dismissed a significant portion of their lawsuit.

The high court took the action without comment.

The justices had asked the Obama administration for its views on the case. US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in a filing last month that the court should reject the case.

Lawyers for those killed or injured or who suffered property damage in the hijack-terror operation sought to pursue what they said were the “principal financial and operational supporters of al Qaeda” during the period leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

They included several Saudi banks, Islamic charities, three financial institutions in Liechtenstein, four of Mr. bin Laden’s half brothers, and the family construction business, the Saudi Binladin Group.

A federal judge and a federal appeals court dismissed much of the case, ruling that the plaintiffs’ lawyers had failed to show evidence that actions taken by the alleged Al Qaeda… Continue reading

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance

Originally published at AP by Jack Gillum and Eileen Sullivan on 6/12/2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned.

Image of Berkshire Manor neighborhoodCiting security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment.

Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.

One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners’ account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company’s tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances… Continue reading

Fisa court grants extension of licence for bulk collection of US phone records

Originally published at The Guardian by Dan Roberts on 6/20/14

Reauthorisation is fifth since the Guardian revealed existence of Section 215 telephony metadata program in June last year.

The Fisa court has granted a 90-day extension of the licence that allows the NSA to collect metadata.

NSA ShieldUS intelligence agencies have made a fifth attempt to extend their bulk collection of American telephone records – more than a year after the controversial practice was first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Despite repeated calls from Congress and President Obama for the mass gathering of private US phone records to be banned, a court has approved the request in secret, allowing the NSA to continue collecting metadata until 12 September 2014.

In a joint statement released late on Friday afternoon, the justice department and director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said it was necessary to continue seeking such legal extensions because the Congressional reform process supported by Obama was not yet complete.

“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program,” said the joint statement.

The 90-day blanket licence granted by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or Fisa court, is the fifth such extension that has been requested, and granted, since the Guardian first revealed the existence of the Section 215 program on 5 June 2013.

Similar 90-day reauthorisations were subsequently… Continue reading

Let’s Not Forget Duane Andrews and SAIC

Originally published at Dig Within by Kevin Ryan on 6/4/14

Both before and after 9/11, one private company had a greater impact on counterterrorism programs in the United States than any other. That company, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), also profited more from the events of 9/11 than any other. Its chief operating officer (COO), Duane Andrews, was a man who had expertise-level knowledge of the vulnerabilities that were exploited on 9/11. He also just happened to be a long-time, close colleague of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

SAIC feeds on terrorism, having won many of its record number of government contracts through the national security state that has arisen via the War on Terror. Through its numerous contracts and employee security clearances, it has become a private business that cannot be distinguished from a permanent form of government. In short, SAIC is “the fraternal twin of the intelligence establishment.”[1]

With regard to 9/11, SAIC’s impact cannot be overstated as the company:

  • Created the national databases that tracked and identified terrorists
  • Supplied U.S. airports with terrorism screening equipment
  • Predicted and investigated terrorist attacks against U.S. infrastructure including national defense networks and the World Trade Center (WTC)
  • Helped create the official account for what happened at the WTC both in 1993 and after 9/11
  • Was a leader in research on thermitic materials like those found in the WTC dust[2]
  • Employed the leader of the robotics team that scoured the pile at Ground Zero, using equipment capable of eliminating explosives
  • Provided the… Continue reading

War Crimes and 9/11: Why Dick and Don Are Suspects

Originally published at Washingtonsblog.com by Kevin Ryan on 6/4/14

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official, has recently come out suggesting that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld should be charged with war crimes. Unfortunately, media outlets reporting this story have failed to examine Clarke’s long relationship to Cheney and Rumsfeld and his record of having prevented the capture of Osama bin Laden. These omissions highlight that, although Cheney and Rumsfeld undoubtedly are guilty of post-9/11 war crimes, suspicions that they helped create the pretext for those crimes go unreported.

Clarke’s history is regularly misrepresented in the media. It’s often said that he started in his counterterror position under Clinton when he was, in fact, appointed to it by George H.W. Bush in 1992. Clarke is a right wing hawk who had close ties to Cheney and Rumsfeld going back at least another decade with his selection for a secret Reagan Administration project. Clarke, Cheney and Rumsfeld were among a small group that spent nearly 30 years practicing to takeover the United States government in the Continuity of Government (COG) program. Their secretive COG plan was implemented only once—on the morning of 9/11.

Image of Bush, Cheney and RumsfeldConsidering the media’s treatment of Clarke, it’s no surprise that most people have little or no understanding of his relationship to Cheney and Rumsfeld. It’s also not surprising that some people don’t know why these men are primary 9/11 suspects, despite the many reasons to consider that Cheney and Rumsfeld were behind the attacks. Much… Continue reading

Press Release: World Trade Center Bldg. 7’s Controlled Demolition: 9/11 Consensus Panel Releases New Evidence from Witness Testimonies and Architectural Drawings

Originally published at Consensus911.org

Image of WTC 7 before controlled demolitionJune 2, 2014 – The 24-member 9/11 Consensus Panel – which includes physicists, chemists, engineers, commercial pilots, attorneys and lawyers – today announced three new studies confirming the controlled demolition of World Trade Center 7.

The studies scientifically refute the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claim that, for the first time in history, fire caused the sudden and complete collapse of a large, fire-protected, steel-framed building on 9/11.

(Note that whereas the Consensus Panel uses a scientific methodology to peer-review its work, the NIST report was not peer-reviewed.)

The first Panel study deals with the NIST computer simulations, which purported to show that fire-induced thermal expansion caused a girder to be pushed off its seat at Column 79, thereby initiating a global collapse of the entire 47-storey building at 5:21 in the afternoon. 

However, a recent FOIA request has produced WTC 7 architectural drawings showing that the NIST simulations omitted basic structural supports that would have made this girder failure impossible.

The second Consensus Panel study deals with NIST’s claim that it did not recover any steel from this massive steel-frame skyscraper.

This is extraordinary, given the need to understand why a steel-frame building would have completely collapsed for the first time in history from fire alone, and to thereby prevent a recurrence.

We know now that some of the steel was recovered.  Photographs recently obtained by researchers show the strange curled-up paper-thin WTC 7 steel, with a NIST investigator pointing it… Continue reading

Donald Rumsfeld and the Demolition of WTC 7

Originally published at Washingtonsblog by Kevin Ryan on 5/22/14

When former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked about World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7), he claimed that he had never heard of it. This was despite the unprecedented destruction of that 47-story building and its relationship to the events of 9/11 that shaped Rumsfeld’s career. Although not hit by a plane, WTC 7 experienced free fall into its own footprint on the afternoon of 9/11—through the path of what should have been the most resistance. The government agency charged with investigating the building’s destruction ultimately admitted that it had been in free fall during a portion of its descent. That fact makes explosive demolition the only logical explanation. Considering how WTC 7 might have been demolished leads to some interesting facts about Rumsfeld and his associates.

The one major tenant of WTC 7 was Salomon Smith Barney (SSB), the company that occupied 37 of the 47 floors in WTC 7. A little discussed fact is that Rumsfeld was the chairman of the SSB advisory board and Dick Cheney was a board member as well. Rumsfeld had served as chairman of the SSB advisory board since its inception in 1999. According to the financial disclosures he made in his nomination process, during the same period Rumsfeld had also been a paid consultant to the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. Rumsfeld and Cheney had to resign from their CIA and SSB positions in 2001 when they were confirmed as… Continue reading

Still silent about Atta and Alomari in Portland Maine

Originally posted at Portland Press Herald on 3/31/14 by Tom Bell

At least 10 people in the Portland area encountered Mohamed Atta and his partner the night before the attacks, but only one is willing to be interviewed.

A producer for the National Geographic Channel is coming to Portland this week hoping to interview people who encountered Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, the al-Qaida terrorists who spent about 12 hours in Portland before joining the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

Image of documentary producer Erickson and Terry McDermott

Producer Robert Erickson, right, who will travel to Portland on Wednesday to do interviews for a documentary on the 24 hours before the Sept. 11 attacks, talks with Terry McDermott, author of “Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It.” Photo by Wes Dorman

But there’s one problem with the project: There’s hardly anyone in Portland to interview.

With the exception of one retired ticket agent who lives in Scarborough, nobody else will come forward to talk about any encounters with the terrorists, said Erik Nelson, president of Creative Differences, a Los Angeles production company that is producing the film for National Geographic.

“We have one guy,” he said. “But where is everybody else? It’s like they dropped off the face of the Earth.”

The Portland footage will be part of a two-hour documentary focusing on the 24 hours prior to the moment the first plane crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center in New York City. It will air in September.… Continue reading

FBI found ‘many connections’ between Sarasota family and 9/11

Image of Prestancia home

Many of the documents are thought to contain information about a Prestancia home where federal agents have linked phone calls to known 9/11 suspects, the Bulldog has reported. The calls were made to, or received from, alleged terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta and 11 other terrorist suspects, the Bulldog has reported.

Originally posted at the Herald-tribune by , last updated 5/14/14

When the FBI investigated a Saudi Arabian family that abruptly left Sarasota weeks before the 9/11 terror attacks, it found “many connections between the (redacted) family and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.”

The description, included in documents released Friday as part of a federal lawsuit against the agency, comes as the FBI is working to comply with a federal judge’s order to produce 27 boxes of materials.

To date, the agency said it has moved the boxes to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Florida, and spent many hours trying to delineate for U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch which documents are top secret by inserting 822 page markers into the boxes.

The agency also explained an earlier discrepancy that resulted in four additional boxes of documents. David M. Hardy, the FBI’s section chief in charge of records management, said the agency used a smaller box size to comply with the order. That and the marker pages resulted in more boxes overall.

“An 80,266 page file was received from Tampa, and the 80,266 page file was produced,” Hardy wrote.

The FBI also shipped a CD… Continue reading

Post-9/11 foreign policy

Originally posted at Foreign Policy Blogs by Maxime H.A. Larivé on 5/6/14

Image of the global war on terror

Let’s be honest, foreign policy making has never been democratic. The label of national security has offered governments around the world the power to hide information from their citizens. Aside from this statement, the making of American foreign policy has completely shifted since 9/11. Not only this shift was abrupt and made under intense emotional stress, but it has also created a precedent in the way the U.S. engages in the world. Additionally, American foreign policy has become much more militarized than in the past. A series of recent articles (here and here), documentaries (here and here), and radio show (here) have been produced looking back at the way the U.S. has conducted itself these last 13 years on the international stage.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has been fighting “evil” – to adopt a very Bushian expression – with evil. The U.S. has used a wide array of instruments considered by international law as illegal such as: rendition, torture — known as an “enhanced interrogation technique” — use of force against countries without legal jurisdiction, drone strikes in countries wherein the U.S. is not at war, mass snooping on American and world citizens, cover-up operations, and so forth. The “Global War on Terror” has been the longest war in American history. Since 2001, the U.S. has invaded two countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – launched an undisclosed numbers of drone strikes in countries with which the U.S. is not… Continue reading