Archive for the ‘International News’ Category


Dictator Castro Calls Obama Opposition Racist

August 26, 2009

HAVANA (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is trying to make positive changes in the United States, but is being fought at every turn by right-wingers who hate him because he is black, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday.

In an unusually conciliatory column in the state-run media, Castro said Obama had inherited many problems from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and was trying to resolve them. But the “powerful extreme right won’t be happy with anything that diminishes their prerogatives in the slightest way.”

Obama does not want to change the U.S. political and economic system, but “in spite of that, the extreme right hates him for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country,” Castro wrote.

“I don’t have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost,” he said.

Castro, who writes regular commentaries for Cuba’s state-run media, has criticized Obama, complimented him occasionally and said that he is watching him closely to see if he means what he says about changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

His latest column comes during a visit to Cuba by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that has stirred speculation that he may try to push U.S.-Cuba relations forward.

Richardson has been a diplomatic trouble-shooter in nations with which the United States has poor relations. In 1996 he negotiated with Castro for the release of three Cuban political prisoners.

Obama has said he wants to end 50 years of hostilities between the United States and Cuba and has eased the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against the communist-led island.

But he has said the embargo will be lifted only if Cuba shows progress on political prisoners and human rights. Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is happy to discuss these issues but will make no unilateral concessions.

Obama has been criticized by anti-embargo groups for moving too slowly on Cuban policy.

Castro, 83, ran Cuba for 49 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution, but stepped down last year so Raul Castro, his younger brother, could succeed him.

He has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006, but still plays a behind-the-scenes role in government and maintains a high profile through his writings.

He appeared on Cuban television on Sunday for the first time in 14 months meeting with Venezuelan students.

He seemed in good health as he smiled and talked with the students in an appearance some experts believe was aimed at shoring up support for his brother and the government at a time when Cuba is in deep economic crisis.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Chris Wilson)

Posted by ben on August 26th, 2009 No Comments

China’s police-state

John Chan |

The Chinese regime’s ongoing police-military suppression of unrest in the north-western province of Xinjiang has created international tensions. While the US and other Western powers have largely remained silent, concerned that social and political instability in China could endanger the global economy, Turkey has stepped up its condemnations of China while Islamic extremists have threatened to attack Chinese interests overseas.

Beijing’s deployment of more than 20,000 heavily-armed troops to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, may have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of members of the Uighur minority. So far the official death toll is 192 (mostly Han civilians killed by Uighur rioters), with 1,721 wounded, and 331 shops and 627 vehicles burned. More than 1,400 people have been arrested.

The response of the security forces to any sign of resistance has been ruthless, in order to intimidate any opposition, especially from the working class. On Monday, soldiers shot and killed two Uighurs and wounded a third. While the Chinese authorities claimed that the shooting was necessary to prevent a crime, Zhang Ming, a construction worker at a nearby building site told the Associated Press (AP) that he saw three men with knives and sticks attack a group of paramilitary police officers, who then chased them, beat and shot them.

AP reported: “Photos show one policemen raising his rifle to strike a man. Lying at their feet, the man, who was wearing a blue shirt, had blood on his right leg. Police quickly formed a ring around him and raised their guns skyward towards surrounding buildings as if worried about retaliation. An armoured personnel carrier and paramilitary police arrived, and police waved their guns and shouted for people to get off the streets.”

Yesterday, the local chief prosecutor Hamsi Mamuti declared that new arrest warrants would soon be issued and threatened to “severely punish” the so-called violent elements involved in the protests. This threat of a new wave of arrests, which came after Xinjiang Communist Party secretary Wang Lequan had declared that most suspects had been arrested already, has created a tense atmosphere.

According to the AP report: “The fear of arrest was almost palpable in Uighur neighbourhoods, unlike last week when many agitated residents were eager to talk to foreign journalists… Small groups of paramilitary police gripping assault rifles with bayonets stood on special platforms on busy street corners and sidewalks Thursday in Uighur neighborhoods. They used metal barricades with spikes to block the main road into the biggest Uighur district of Er Dao Qiao.”

Foreign reporters have to wear photo identity cards and are not allowed to photograph the thousands of troops guarding the city. The Internet has not been restored since it was cut during the initial July 5 riots and journalists can still only file reports from the government-run media centre.

Far from resolving the ethnic and social tensions in Xinjiang, Beijing’s heavy-handed methods can only deepen the alienation among the oppressed minorities.

The virtual collective silence of the major Western powers indicates that they approve China’s police-state measures, despite small protests by Uighur groups outside Chinese embassies in Europe, North America and Australia.

Responding to the killing of two Uighurs on Monday, the US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly merely said: “As they [the Chinese authorities] work to restore order, we believe that it’s important that they respect the legal rights of all Chinese citizens.”

Beijing criticised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday over his comment last week that the Chinese repression was “like genocide”. He even threatened to take China to the UN Security Council over the issue.

Erdogan’s remarks inflamed a wave of anti-Chinese protests on the basis of pan-Turkic nationalism, which views Xinjiang or East Turkestan as an ancestral homeland for the Turks for over 1,500 years. In Istanbul on July 12, about 5,000 people turned out, holding Turkish flags and the flags of the short-lived East Turkestan republic that broke away from China in the 1930s. They called for a boycott of Chinese-made goods, a proposal made by Turkish industry and trade minister Nihat Ergun last week.

Turkey is an important base for exiled Uighur activists. The ideological components of pan-Turkic nationalism reflect the ambitions of the Turkish bourgeoisie to expand its political and economic influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus, especially in the Turkic-speaking states like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan that were established after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991.

While the Chinese government had not formally protested against Turkey, the state-controlled media has invoked Turkey’s own record of ruthlessly suppressing Kurdish separatist movements, including its military incursion into northern Iraq in 2007.

China Daily on Tuesday demanded that Erdogan withdraw his genocide remarks as “irresponsible and groundless”. The People’s Daily on July 14 reported that patriotic Internet users, a layer of middle-class nationalists cultivated by the Chinese regime, “feel insulted by Turkish actions and suggested that China should change its attitude towards the Kurdish Workers Party and support their appeal for independence, so as to make Turkey pay a heavy political price”.

The state media’s accusations of “biased and twisted” reporting by Western journalists has also mobilised Chinese patriotic “angry youth” for xenophobic attacks. The web site of the Turkish embassy in China was hacked earlier this week to post a letter warning Turkey not to interfere with China’s internal affairs.

The Turkish-based English daily, Hurriyet, warned on July 10 that Ankara’s support for Uighur nationalists would offend not only China, but its ally, Russia, which shares Beijing’s interests in suppressing separatist insurgencies in Central Asia. “If Turkey were to go beyond calls to respect human rights in the region, and appear to be supporting Uighur separatism, it is clear that this will rebound with China referring to the Kurdish issue and minority rights in this country,” the Hurriyet noted.

The Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement stressing its respect for China’s territorial integrity and denying any intention of interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs. “We expect China to provide the necessary environment of peace and security for Uighurs who constitute a bridge of friendship between China and Turkey,” it said.

Turkey is not in a position to challenge Russian and Chinese influence in the region. Russia and the four Central Asian member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) have publicly supported China’s actions in Xinjiang. Beijing also secured support from the two largest predominantly Muslim countries in Asia—Pakistan and Indonesia—which described its conduct as an “internal affair”.

The most reactionary response came from Algerian-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which called for attacks on the 50,000 Chinese workers in the country and Chinese personnel across northwest Africa. Three weeks ago, the group ambushed a convoy of Algerian security forces protecting Chinese engineers, killing 24 Algerians.

AQIM’s statement has been exploited by the Chinese regime to justify its claims that the Xinjiang protests were instigated by “three forces”—extremism, terrorism and separatism—from abroad. The state-run media has been saturated with reports linking the term “terror” to exiled leaders like Rebiya Kadeer in order to justify Beijing’s heavy-handed measures.

While groups like the US Congress-financed World Uighur Congress headed by Rebiya could be instigating protests as a means of pressuring Beijing for concessions, the protests are an expression of pent-up anger over ethnic discrimination, and above all, the deepening social inequality created by the intensifying capitalist exploitation in Xinjiang and other parts of China.

According to a Financial Times article on July 10, the income gap between the Uighur rural poor and Han urban residents in Xinjiang widened from 2.1 times in 1980 to 3.24 times in 2007. Southern Xinjiang, where more than 90 percent are Uighurs, is falling even further behind. The average income gap between the richest northern county and the poorest in the south was 6.28 times in 2005. It is obvious that Beijing’s push for oil and gas in Xinjiang and Central Asia has had little benefit for the Uighur masses, only a tiny Uighur elite connected with the Chinese Communist Party regime.

The Financial Times noted: “Xinjiang’s Blue Book, the government document measuring social and economic progress, warns that social problems give rise to a ‘severe threat’ of separatism and religious radicalism. The Communist party’s response is to speed up the attempt to transform Xinjiang into something more like the rest of China”. That means extending the cheap labour supply for employers in the industrially developed provinces.

The Xinhua news agency reported on July 15 that Xinjiang had exported 1.87 million “surplus agricultural labourers” in 2008—many of them poor nomads and farmers-turned workers in the busy assembly lines of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province. A local manager at Huizhou told the agency that compared to other migrants, Xinjiang workers were “more hardworking and durable, with strong working discipline, very responsible and very stable”.

The Chinese authorities are forcing poor minorities to work as cheap labour for ruthless sweatshop owners. According to the New York Times yesterday, Uighur poor in and around the city of Kashgar were told to join the exodus to the east or face a penalty of up to six months’ income. Abdul, whose 18-year-old sister is being recruited for a factory in Guangzhou, explained: “If asked, most people will go, because no one can afford the penalty.”

At the Hong Kong-owned Early Light Toy Factory in Shaoguang, the introduction of 800 Uighur workers, amid rising local unemployment, led to a brawl in which two Uighurs were bashed to death last month. It was this incident that directly ignited the protests in Urumqi, thousands of kilometres away.

Posted by ben on July 20th, 2009 No Comments

Drone Strikes Kill 45 in Pakistan

08 July 2009

Map of Pakistan

Suspected U.S. drones have launched two missile attacks on Taliban targets in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 45 suspected militants.

Intelligence officials say missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft hit a convoy of vehicles carrying Taliban militants in South Waziristan. At least 35 militants were killed.

Earlier Wednesday, a separate strike on a Taliban training camp killed as many as 10 militants. On Tuesday, a similar attack killed 14 foreign and Pakistani militants in the region.

South Waziristan is a longtime militant stronghold and home to Baitullah Mehsud, a top Taliban commander wanted by both the Pakistani and U.S. governments.

Meanwhile, Pakistani military officials say the commander of the Taliban in the northwestern Swat Valley has been wounded.

A military spokesman said Wednesday there is credible information that Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah was hurt during a recent airstrike. Officials gave no details about his condition.

Pakistan’s military has been fighting Taliban militants throughout the country’s northwest for more than two months. Recently, the operations have included airstrikes against militant targets in South Waziristan, including Baitullah Mehsud.

The militant commander is blamed for scores of suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks against government and civilian targets, and is believed to be a key facilitator for al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan.

Also Wednesday, police in the northwestern city Peshawar say a suicide bomber detonated an explosive on a busy road killing himself and wounding several others.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

Posted by ben on July 8th, 2009 No Comments

Robert McNamara deceived LBJ on Gulf of Tonkin, documents show

By Gareth Porter

Official government documents reveal new side of defense secretary’s legacy

Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1967, took many secrets with him when he died Monday at 93. But probably no secret was more sensitive politically than the one that would have changed fundamentally the public perception of his role in Vietnam policy had it been become widely known.

The secret was his deliberate deceit of President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 4, 1964 regarding the alleged attack on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Documents which have been available for decades in the LBJ Library show clearly that McNamara failed to inform Johnson that the U.S. naval task group commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, had changed his mind about the alleged North Vietnamese torpedo attack on U.S. warships he had reported earlier that day.

By early afternoon Washington time, Herrick had reported to the Commander in Chief Pacific in Honolulu that “freak weather effects” on the ship’s radar had made such an attack questionable. In fact, Herrick was now saying, in a message sent at 1:27 pm Washington time, that no North Vietnamese patrol boats had actually been sighted. Herrick now proposed a “complete evaluation before any further action taken.”

These documents were reviewed by this reporter in researching my book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.

McNamara later testified that he had read the message after his return to the Pentagon that afternoon. But he did not immediately call Johnson to tell him that the whole premise of his decision at lunch to approve McNamara’s recommendation for retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam was now highly questionable.

In fact, no call from McNamara to Johnson was recorded until 3:51 pm – 7 minutes after Johnson called him from his private quarters. Had Johnson been accurately informed about the Herrick message, he might have demanded fuller information before proceeding with a broadening of the war. Johnson had fended off proposals from McNamara and other advisers for a policy of bombing the North on four separate occasions since becoming President.

But when McNamara called Pacific Admiral Grant Sharp shortly after speaking with Johnson, it was not to order a full investigation or to seek more detailed information. In fact, McNamara didn’t even bring up the Herrick report. Instead, he seemed determined to obtain a statement from Sharp that would make it unnecessary to wait for further investigation. “There isn’t any possibility there was no attack, is there?” asked McNamara.

Sharp insisted, however, that the commander on the scene was saying “the situation’s in doubt” and suggested that McNamara “hold this execute” – meaning the strike order to CINCPAC and Seventh Fleet — “until we have a definite indication that this happened….” Sharp said he believed he could get a “definite indication” that the event had occurred within two hours.

But McNamara rejected Sharp’s proposal to wait for confirmation of the attack. Instead he said, “[I]t seems to me we ought to go ahead on that basis: get the pilots briefed, get the planes armed, get everything lined up to go. Continue the execute order in effect, but between now and 6 o’clock get a definite fix and you call me directly.”

McNamara didn’t claim that he had authority from Johnson to make that decision.

After the conversation with Sharp, McNamara didn’t call LBJ to report on what Sharp had told him or what they had agreed on, according to White House phone logs. Instead he went ahead on his own to issue the execute order at 4:49 pm.

The next phone call, which came just one minute after that order was sent, did not come from McNamara but from LBJ. That brief phone conversation, which was not recorded, was followed moments later by a call from McNamara to Johnson in which he the Secretary said the story had already been broken by wire services that a meeting at the White House that night would brief congressional leaders about a second attack on U.S. warships.

McNamara urged Johnson to authorize a statement by the Pentagon about the attack. He’d somehow found the time during the previous hour to draft a statement reaffirming the attack, which he read to Johnson. It said two U.S. warships had been attacked by patrol boats, but that the North Vietnamese boats had been “driven off.” It concluded, “We believe several of the patrol boats were sunk. Details won’t be available till daylight.”

Neither McNamara nor Johnson alluded in that conversation to Admiral Sharp’s seeking confirmatory evidence – a matter that would surely have been on LBJ’s mind if McNamara had told him about it.

The record of phone McNamara-Johnson conversations on the afternoon of Aug. 4, 1964 thus shows a President who was blissfully unaware that the original reports of an attack were now in doubt and that the Commander-in-Chief of Pacific forces was still seeking to obtain confirmation of the attack.

Ultimately, National Security Council documents declassified in 2005 (PDF) would reveal that no attack on US warships had taken place.

It “is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night,” they said. “In truth, Hanoi’s navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on August 2.”

Reporter confronted McNamara in 2004

This writer confronted McNamara with that record in a phone conversation with him on Feb. 24, 2004. His response was that telephone calls were not the only way he had to communicate with Johnson and that he could have told Johnson about the military’s unresolved doubts at the National Security Council meeting which took place that night at 6:15 pm.

Unfortunately for McNamara’s alibi, detailed official notes of that Council meeting taken by NSC staffer Bromley Smith, marked “Top Secret Sensitive, For the President’s Eyes Only,” show that McNamara again asserted unequivocally that the attack had indeed taken place.

After USIA Director Carl Rowan asked, “Do we know for a fact that the North Vietnamese provocation took place?” McNamara said, “We will know definitely in the morning.”

When I read those quotes to McNamara over the phone, he suggested that the notes were “not complete.” But McNamara was admitting, in effect, that he did not inform LBJ that afternoon about the Herrick report or about Sharp’s plea to hold off the execute order until confirming evidence had been obtained.

The records of the Tonkin Gulf crisis in the LBJ library also include documentation showing LBJ wanted to get the truth about what McNamara knew and when he knew it.

Even before the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was approved by the Senate Aug. 7, LBJ ordered a full account of the communications between the commanders of U.S. Pacific forces and the Pentagon on Aug. 4 and 5. The requested study was referred to as the “inquiry,” according to a handwritten note on a draft chronology prepared at the Pentagon. It was to be based on the original tapes of all such communications, which were tracked down and transcribed.

McNamara altered transcripts of calls

The clearest evidence that McNamara was afraid of what the inquiry would reveal about his maneuvering on Aug. 4 is that the chronology produced under his personal guidance — where numerous changes were made on previous drafts in McNamara’s own handwriting — deliberately suppressed the most damning words from the transcript of his conversation with Sharp.

Not only did the official Defense Department chronology change the wording of McNamara’s question to Sharp so that it was no longer obviously a leading question, it also failed to mention Sharp’s revelation that Herrick considered the “whole situation” to be “in doubt” and was calling for “daylight recce” — or reconnaissance.

In addition, the McNamara’s chronology portrayed him as agreeing with Sharp that the execute order should be delayed until definite evidence of an attack was obtained. It reports, “McNamara says that even if definite confirmation of an attack is not forthcoming for another 2 hours, an hour would still remain and the execute order could then be issued.”

But McNamara had not said that the executive order could be issued after getting confirmation of an attack. He had said the opposite: “Continue the execute order in effect, but between now and 6 o’clock get a definite fix and you call me directly.” So that crucial sentence was omitted from the chronology.

McNamara did not want LBJ to know that he had rejected Sharp’s proposal to hold the execute order until the situation was clarified and had not even informed him.

There is more evidence in the presidential tapes at the LBJ Library that Johnson believed that McNamara had misinformed him about what had happened in the Tonkin Gulf. Six weeks later, McNamara and then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk went to Johnson with yet another claim that North Vietnamese boats had attacked a U.S. warship in the Tonkin Gulf and again urged a retaliatory bombing of the North.

This time Johnson expressed skepticism and complained about McNamara’s claim of an attack on Aug. 4. “You just came in a few weeks ago and said they’re launching an attack on us – they’re firing at us,” Johnson tells McNamara on the tape recording of the conversation, “and we got through with the firing and concluded maybe they hadn’t fired at all.”

Whether or not Johnson understood the seriousness of McNamara’s deception Aug. 4, he seemed to become even more resistant to McNamara’s views on Vietnam after the incident. That fall, during the presidential election campaign, Johnson began to challenge McNamara for his advocacy of bombing North Vietnam, even referring to his proposal as “your bombing bullshit,” according to accounts given by Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton to Daniel Ellsberg, his then-assistant (who later leaked what would be known as the Pentagon papers).

McNamara’s deception was one of many maneuvers aimed at pulling Johnson into an escalated war in Vietnam. But it is perhaps the only one in which McNamara’s role shifted from tough bureaucratic in-fighting to usurping presidential authority, in effect, on an issue involving the use of military force.

On the following audio file from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Johnson can be heard telling McNamara that he had misinformed him about the alleged attack:

Download audio

A pdf file of the McNamara/Sharp transcript can be accessed at this link.

A pdf file of the chronology of events that McNamara prepared for Johnson can be accessed at this link.

Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who covered the Vietnam War as Saigon Bureau Chief for Dispatch News Service International in 1970-71 and taught international studies at the City College of New York and American University from 1982 to 1990. His book Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, documents US policymaking on Vietnam during the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He has a doctorate in Southeast Asian politics from Cornell University, and currently covers diplomatic and military affairs for Inter Press Service.

Posted by ben on July 8th, 2009 No Comments

CIA rehired, then fired, contractors involved in torture

John Byrne
The Raw Story
June 15, 2009

Weeks after President Barack Obama took office, the Central Intelligence Agency renewed a contract with a firm that helped orchestrate the torture of American-held detainees during the Bush Administration, The New Yorker revealed Sunday.

Two months later, according to the magazine, the agency fired them.

The contractors’ firings came in April, around the time the Senate Armed Services Committee fingered the role of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing “countermeasures to defeat” detainees’ resistance in interrogations. It raises questions of whether the terminations only came after the contractors’ role was exposed.

“Mitchell and Jessen, who run the firm, had worked on a Pentagon program that taught U.S. service members how to survive harsh enemy interrogation methods,” veteran Washington Post intelligence reporter Walter Pincus wrote Monday. “They relied on elements of that training in proposing an interrogation program for the CIA. It included methods such as sleep deprivation and other actions based on “theories of ‘learned helplessness,’” according to the New Yorker.

The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer wrote: “In April, [Obama CIA Director Leon] Panetta (above right) fired all the C.I.A.’s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of “learned helplessness” that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm’s principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. “We saved some money in the deal, too!” Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)”

Panetta told Mayer he “didn’t support these methods that were used, or the legal justification for why they did it.”

Remarkably, Panetta also claims in the article that he “at one time” supported a truth commission to investigate Bush administration abuses — but that he reversed his position after President Obama indicated he wouldn’t support such a move.

He “didn’t want to spend a lot of time dealing with the past and what mistakes were made,” Mayer writes.

“Most of the individuals who managed the secret interrogation program have since left the agency,” she adds, “though CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes, whom Panetta told senators in February would be his “full partner,” held at least a nominal role in oversight of the program.”

Read Mayer’s full New Yorker story here

Posted by ben on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

ACLU hits Obama hard over torture controversies

The American Civil Liberties Union had strong words on Friday for the Obama administration’s efforts to block the release of torture photos and its attempts to end a lawsuit over extraordinary rendition.

The ACLU criticized the White House’s deal with Congress, struck on Thursday, which eliminated a provision in a military financing bill that would have blocked the release of torture photos — but only after President Barack Obama promised to “use every legal and administrative remedy” available to keep the photos from the public.

“Keeping the photos secret while letting the high level perpetrators off the hook cannot be tolerated if we are to get an America we can be proud of again,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. ”This information is necessary to create an accurate historical record and to force an increasingly recalcitrant Justice Department to undertake a criminal investigation of those who authorized and implemented the Bush administration’s torture program.”

On Thursday the Obama administration won a reprieve from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the White House could keep the photos under wraps, at least temporarily, until a Supreme Court review.Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Friday to block a lawsuit brought by five victims of the U.S. government’s extraordinary rendition program. Five men, who claim they were kidnapped and tortured for information, are suing Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan over its role in transferring them to overseas facilities.

“The Obama administration has now fully embraced the Bush administration’s shameful effort to immunize torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their actions,” said Ben Wizner, an ACLU lawyer representing the five men, in a press release. “The CIA’s rendition and torture program is not a ’state secret;’ it’s an international scandal. If the Obama administration has its way, no torture victim will ever have his day in court, and future administrations will be free to pursue torture policies without any fear of liability.”

The lawsuit stirred controversy on both sides of the Atlanic Ocean last month, when the Obama administration threatened to cut Britain off from sensitive information if the U.K. government released information regarding Binyam Mohamed, a resident of Britain and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Some commentators have speculated that the Obama administration’s reluctance to allow the suit to go forward may be the result of Boeing’s influence in Washington.

The full text of the ACLU’s press release on the rendition trial can be found here.

Posted by ben on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Military accepting neo-Nazis, white supremacists, probe finds

The US military has effectively adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning white supremacists and neo-Nazis in an effort to bolster recruiting and retention, an article published Monday says.

Numerous articles have detailed the Army’s recruiting woes in the wake of two ongoing US wars abroad. Soldiers are less likely to enlist — or re-enlist — when faced with possible death overseas, though recruiting has gotten easier during the current recession.

But the Army’s recruiting difficulties have opened the floodgates to those who’d otherwise be turned away: neo-Nazis, white supremacists and gang members.

Writing in Salon, reporter Matt Kennard says the decision to open the military’s doors has had “drastic consequences.”

“Some neo-Nazis have been charged with crimes inside the military, and others have been linked to recruitment efforts for the white right,” Kennard writes. “Many white supremacists join the Army to secure training for, as they see it, a future domestic race war. Others claim to be shooting Iraqis not to pursue the military’s strategic goals but because killing ‘hajjis’ is their duty as white militants.”

“Soldiers’ associations with extremist groups, and their racist actions, contravene a host of military statutes instituted in the past three decades,” he adds. “But during the “war on terror,” U.S. armed forces have turned a blind eye on their own regulations. A 2005 Department of Defense report states, ‘Effectively, the military has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy pertaining to extremism. If individuals can perform satisfactorily, without making their extremist opinions overt … they are likely to be able to complete their contracts.’”

Kennard profiles one servicemember in particular – Iraq war veteran Forrest Fogarty, in Tampa, pictured above right.

“I was 14 when I decided I wanted to be a Nazi,” Fogarty says in the piece. “I became obsessed.”

In Tampa, Fogarty says he was expelled from high school after taunting African Americans.

“On the first day, this bunch of niggers, they thought I was a racist, so they asked, ‘Are you in the KKK?’” he says. “I said, ‘Yeah,’ and it was on.”

After his expulsion, he did odd jobs and started his own Neo-Nazi rock group, “Attack.” He also made friends in the largest neo-Nazi group in the country, which has called for a “long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America.”

Despite having obvious racist tattoos, as well as a long and colorful neo-Nazi background, the military allowed Fogarty to enlist.

“They just told me to write an explanation of each tattoo, and I made up some stuff, and that was that,”

He joined the 3rd Infantry Division in Georgia — and went off to Iraq — but not before his ex-girlfriend tried to get him kicked out for racism by sending photographs of him participating in white supremacist rallies and performing with his Nazi band.

“They hauled me before some sort of committee and showed me the pictures,” Fogarty remarked. “I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch… They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I’m a great soldier.”

“I hate Arabs more than anybody, for the simple fact I’ve served over there and seen how they live,” he added. “They’re just a backward people. Them and the Jews are just disgusting people as far as I’m concerned. Their customs, everything to do with the Middle East, is just repugnant to me.”


Posted by ben on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Fidel Castro’s son tricked in Internet love sting

A man posing as a woman carried out an eight-month Internet flirtation with Fidel Castro’s son — and found out the famed security protecting Cuba’s leaders is not as tight as it’s believed to be.

One of Fidel Castro’s sons carried on an eight-month flirtation over the Internet with a person he believed was a Colombian woman. Surprise! The woman was actually a Miami man.

The trickster said the prank, broadcast on a Miami TV station, showed it’s possible to get around Cuba’s security.

”Guess where I am and I will make love to you without stopping,” Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, Fidel’s son and physician for the Cuban national baseball team, reportedly wrote ”Claudia” during a January trip to Russia with his uncle Raúl.

But ”Claudia” turned out to be Luis Domínguez, a Cuban-born Miamian who unveiled the sting on Americateve TV Channel 41 in Miami, saying it was designed to ”shatter the myth of an impenetrable” security system.

”Claudia’s” cyber-boyfriend never revealed any state secrets and made no mention of Fidel during their more than 20 Internet chats. But he sent her what he said were his phone number and home address in Havana, wrote that he had no bodyguards and gave advance notice of a trip to Mexico — all breaches of the tight secrecy that has always surrounded Fidel Castro’s family life.

And when rumors swept Miami in mid-January that Fidel Castro had died, Domínguez said, he assured Americateve that the rumors were likely false because Antonio was keeping up his regular chats with his cyber-girlfriend.

The man who used the Canada-based e-mail address ”” also provided ”Claudia” with details of a life far richer than the grind of the average Cuban — weekends in Varadero beach, Lacoste shirts and belt buckles, a personal Apple computer and a BlackBerry with Internet access, Domínguez’s files showed.

”While everyday Cubans were banned from using the Internet cafes in Havana hotels, this guy had a BlackBerry and unlimited access to the Web,” said Domínguez, 46, a security company employee who runs a website featuring reports on Cuba’s armed forces and security services —

Domínguez provided The Miami Herald with computer files containing chats between ”Claudia” and ”tonycsport,” and photos of Antonio Castro from what Domínguez said were videocam chats. Americateve producer Miguel Cossio said key details of Domínguez’s tale were independently confirmed. Castro did not answer Miami Herald e-mails seeking his comments.

According to Domínguez, the sting grew out of his visit to a 2006 baseball tournament in Cartagena, Colombia, that included the Cuban team. ”Antonio was like a rock star, everyone asking to take photos with him — and especially beautiful women,” he recalled. “That’s where I got the idea that we could get close to him by posing as one of those women.”

First, he worked out a profile of the kind of woman the 42-year-old Castro apparently prefers. Domínguez looked at photos of Castro’s current and former girlfriends, then created a ”virtual woman” to fit the mold — Claudia Valencia (very common names in Colombia), a 26-27 year old brunette with blond highlights and a sports journalist who, like Antonio, follows soccer and technology.

Then last summer, e-mailed ”tonycsport” that they had met in Cartagena, and they became ”friends” on the Tagged social networking site. Their online chats began in October, according to Domínguez.

Tonycsport sent Claudia photos of himself — easily recognizable as Antonio Castro — at the Beijing Olympics and in Moscow. When Tonycsport asked for photos of Claudia, Domínguez said, he e-mailed back what he would only describe as a ”virtual photo” of Claudia. And when Tonycsport asked if she had a webcam, Claudia replied that her webcam was broken.

Some of the chats lasted just a few minutes, but the longest was for five hours, Domínguez said. And, as time passed, they grew from simply friendly to amorous.

”You know something, I want something more with you,” Tonycsport wrote in one chat. ”I have a desire to kiss you,” he offered in another. In a third, he wrote that he wanted to “kiss you, love you and make love to you.”

The chats dropped off after the Cuban team was knocked out of the Baseball Classic tournament in the semifinals played in March in California.

Domínguez approached Americateve with his story about three months ago, Cossio said, and the two worked to turn it into two reports for the nightly A Mano Limpia program hosted by Oscar Haza.

”This is journalism because the BlackBerry, the computers, the travels, in any country that would be common and normal, but in the case of Cuba, he lives in a world like no other Cuban. We’re showing the audience the two Cubas,” Cossio said. “That supposed revolutionary morality, Antonio does not live it.”

A Mano Limpia broadcast the first report on Thursday, June 4. By Saturday afternoon, when The Miami Herald first interviewed Domínguez, most of Tonycsport’s several e-mail addresses had been disabled. The phone number he gave Claudia was not enabled to receive international calls.

But when Domínguez signed on to the ”Claudiacartagena82” account on Yahoo to show The Miami Herald the record of the chats and photos, ”her” page showed that Tonycsport was also signed on to his account.

”Wow. That can be a trap by Cuban intelligence,” said a smiling Domínguez. “No way I am going there.”

Posted by ben on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Cheney almost wishing US was attacked, Panetta says

By Daniel Tencer

Dick Cheney’s attitude towards the Obama administration’s national security policies suggests the former vice president secretly wishes the US was attacked, says Leon Panetta, the U.S. director of central intelligence.

In an interview published in the latest issue of the New Yorker, the head of the CIA expresses frustration at Cheney’s speech last month, on the same day that President Obama outlined his national security strategy in a separate speech.

“Dangerous politics”

“It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics,” Panetta told the New Yorker. “When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

Since Obama’s inauguration in January, Cheney has become a far more visible public figure than he was as vice president, repeatedly hammering Obama on national security and the torture controversy. Cheney has said repeatedly he believes Obama’s policies are making America less safe.

From the New Yorker:

Since January, the C.I.A. has become the focus of almost daily struggle, as Obama attempts to restore the rule of law in America’s fight against terrorism without sacrificing safety or losing the support of conservative Democratic and independent voters. So far, he has insisted on trying to recalibrate the agency’s policies without investigating past mistakes or holding anyone responsible for them. Caught in the middle is Panetta, who is seventy years old and has virtually no experience in the intelligence field.

The article goes on to say that an essay Panetta penned during the Bush administration decrying  America’s descent “from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers” was instrumental in Obama’s decision to make him the head of the CIA.

On CNN’s State of the Union, Vice President Joe Biden was asked if he agreed with Panetta’s assessment of Cheney’s motives. The vice-president skirted the issue, saying it’s “dangerous” to question anyone’s personal motives.

Posted by ben on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Obama administration supports Saudi immunity in 9/11 lawsuit

Brief seeking to deny Americans access to court remedies for attack

Editor’s Note: The following report is excerpted from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium online newsletter published by the founder of WND. Subscriptions are $99 a year or, for monthly trials, just $9.95 per month for credit card users, and provide instant access for the complete reports.

President Obama bowing to Saudi king at London’s G20 summit meetings in 2009

The Obama administration has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to protect Saudi Arabia and four of its princes from being held accountable for their alleged role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States that killed almost 3,000 Americans, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Through its solicitor general, Elena Kagan, the Obama administration has asked that the Saudis be held immune under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA, even though there is ample U.S. evidence of complicity by the Saudi government and the named princes in support of al-Qaida’s attack.

While the FSIA generally protects a sovereign state, there are exceptions under which its provisions can be invoked. Such interpretations are left largely to the courts to determine.

Families of the 9/11 victims, however, have expressed outrage over the Obama administration’s filing. They regard the action as undermining the continuing fight against terror.

In its recent friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in “Federal Insurance Co. vs. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Obama administration asked the court to deny a petition for a “writ of certiorari,” or higher court hearing, by the families of the victims of 9/11 in their effort to sue Saudi Arabia and its princes.

In the original case filed in 2006, the families of the 9/11 victims allege Saudi Arabia and four Saudi princes acting in their capacity as high-level government officials and as individuals made donations to charitable organizations with the knowledge that the charities were diverting funds to al-Qaida. In response, the Saudi government invoked the FSIA as a basis to preclude a lawsuit by the 9/11 victims’ families.

In August 2008, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey in dismissing the claim against Saudi Arabia. The dismissal covered the four princes, a Saudi banker and a Saudi charity. In addition, the appeals court said that the exceptions to immunity didn’t apply since the State Department had not designated Saudi Arabia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

There appears, however, to be a possible conflict in what the FSIA allows and a portion of a U.S. statute [28USC1605(a)] which states, in effect, that a foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts if the attack and funding for it occurred in the U.S.

“Although the United States disagrees in certain respects with the analysis of the court of appeals, further review by this Court to determine the best legal basis for that immunity is unwarranted,” Kagan wrote.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked U.S. aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia and were affiliated with al-Qaida. Intelligence and past actions link the Saudi government and the four princes with al-Qaida.

“In effect, the U.S. Government announced its opposition to allowing 9/11 victims and their families full access to the U.S. legal system in (the government’s) effort to protect Saudi Arabia and its princes from being held accountable for their role in the attack on the United States,” said Peter Leitner, who has assisted terror victims’ families successfully in suing terrorist organizations for the past 12 years.

“As power of Attorney for the family and estate of John P. O’Neill, former FBI (counter-terrorism) expert, I find it disgusting that the Obama administration has spat in the faces of these victims just as (Obama) prepares to leave for Egypt and Saudi Arabia while advocating for the closing of (the U.S. Guantanamo prison in Cuba) and giving full access to the U.S. court system to the terrorists currently imprisoned there,” he said.

Posted by ben on June 2nd, 2009 No Comments