December 3, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) – After clashes with police in Bangkok and the taking of several government buildings, anti-regime protesters prepared for the next phase of their resistance – the protracted encampment of key governmental centers. Thousands of protesters are now permanently entrenched in an area winding for nearly a mile through the capital city. They have built up a city within a city at three main locations that are linked by the constant stream of protesters coming and going to and from the protest sites.
But who are these protesters and what do they want? Are they, as the Western media portrays them, anti-democratic elitists who refuse to to concede power to awakened rural masses? Or are they dangerously informed, socially and politically aware groups that are actively opposing the designs of foreign corporate-financiers and the proxy regime they have put into power in Thailand?
Who are Thailand’s Anti-Regime Protesters? Walking from one end of the protest to the other can become an all day affair. The sites are spaced out slightly, but occupy long stretches of road turned into permanent encampments complete with food, water, medical services, bathrooms, shower stalls, exhibition booths and support points, media centers, stages, and hawker stalls. There are thousands of permanently encamped protesters and thousands more who come and go – even at low points in the day.
The extensive infrastructure of these protest sites resemble a fair or an exhibition. While a single theme has brought them together, a large number of diverse groups have marshaled their resources to build the sprawling encampments. There of course is the main camp and stage set up by a group of political parties including the main opposition party, the Democrats, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, and the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand.
The “Yellow Shirt” People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) also maintains a camp, as does Santi Asoke, a group that practices the Thai-equivalent of organic farming, homesteading, and grassroots community development.
Images: Labor unions have a strong showing in the anti-regime camps. While the Shinawatra regime has hijacked the color red for his mobs as well as the socialist rhetoric that goes with it, real labor unions flying the color red actually engage in the protection of workers’ rights.
There are throughout the camps, smaller student groups from across Bangkok, and a large number of labor unions. Some of the bigger unions include those working for state enterprises, THAI Airways, and the country’s nationalized telecom company, CAT.
And despite the most vitriolic and perhaps even racist accusations leveled against the protesters is that they represent ethnic Chinese-Thais. While there certainly are a lot of Thais of Chinese descent at the rallies, mainly because they have called Bangkok their home for generations, still the vast majority of the protesters are ethnic Thais and include people drawn to the capital to find better lives from Thaksin Shinawatra’s northeast political stronghold.
What Do They Want?
We are told by the Western media that this is a “people’s coup,” an attempt to overthrow democracy. In reality, and entirely unlike Thaksin’s red shirts who simplistically demand “democracy,” the anti-regime protesters have a list of cogent demands. 1. No Amnesty - This refers to an amnesty bill designed by and for Thaksin Shinawatra to absolve himself of a decade of plundering, lying, and mass murder. While the government eventually backed off, it was only because massive street protests were mobilized. When the Constitution Court declared the bill unconstitutional, the ruling regime announced that it no longer recognized the authority of the court – even while using constitutionality to condemn the protests. Even though it is considered “dead,” Thaksin’s entire future depends on it eventually passing. Protesters feel the only way to truly kill this bill, is to remove entirely the regime attempting such an absurd abuse of power.
2. Rollback Article 190 - Article 190 of the Thai constitution requires that all treaties be approved by the parliament before they can be signed. In 2004, this mechanism had prevented Thaksin Shinawatra from unilaterally passing a US-Thai free trade agreement, and was one of many attempted circumventions of the law that led to his ouster in 2006. His nepotist-appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra, has now managed to amend it making it possible for her to unilateral approve treaties (specifically unpopular FTA’s). Protesters would like to see this reversed.
Image: Another issue protesters have is with the changing of article 190 which allows the regime to now unilaterally sign treaties without the parliament’s approval. This will be used specifically to pass through a series of extremely unpopular free trade agreements with the regime’s Western sponsors.
It becomes abundantly clear why corporate media houses like the BBC, Reuters, AP, AFP, CNN, MSNBC, and Australia’s ABC have attacked the protesters as “anti-democratic,” “elitist,” and “violent.” They represent for them a population they cannot trick, manipulate, and have their way with. They would like to see it marginalized and removed from Thailand’s political landscape so they can grind Thailand into the ground like so many other nations across the developing world. Thailand’s anti-regime protesters are making their stand – those that support true freedom and progress should stand with them.
Lets just assume that these Sub hunting jets have been used for a while now – but a public announcement gets people’s attention and might get the China to ease back a bit. This has all the markings of WW3 and Obama as FDR. (Remember how we provoked the Japanese into attacking us?) Yikes!
**FILE** U.S. Navy FA-18 Hornets cram the flight deck of the USS George Washington during a joint military exercise with Japan in the Pacific Ocean near Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa on Nov. 28, 2013. The 13-day drill ended in the day as an air defense zone newly declared by China in the East China Sea has raised some tensions in the region. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
U.S. military authorities dispatched the first of six top-tech submarine-hunting jets to its Okinawa post near the disputed East China Sea, a move sure to ratchet up tensions among China and the United States.
The Navy plans to send in a total of six P-8 Poseidon patrol craft, aimed at bolstering the United States’ ability to root out submarines in the area, Reuters reported. The deployment was planned months ago, but nonetheless comes as China declared an air defense zone above islands that it’s fighting Japan to control.
President Obama, in response to the declaration, flew in two B-52 bombers into the so-called off-limits air space — a strong message that the United States would not abide China’s terms of designation. But Mr. Obama also said that U.S. businesses would obey China’s air zone declaration, and refrain from flying private craft into the zone without Beijing’s permission.
The White House said it is proceeding with previously forged plans to deliver six submarine-hunting jets to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The first was sent Sunday, with the remaining five to be delivered before the end of this month, a U.S. Navy official told Reuters.
The P-8 is capable of flying farther than other planes at the base, including the P-3, Reuters reported.
The first of the six jets arrived at the post just one day before Vice President Joseph R. Biden was set to arrive in Tokyo.
“In my office in Jerusalem, there’s an ancient seal. It’s a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there’s a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu.”
I always lose the election in the polls, and I always win it on election day. - Benjamin Netanyahu
In special conference on Geneva agreement, former PM slams Netanyahu over his public reaction to the nuclear deal with Iran, asking rhetorically: ‘Who will be our savior, Obama or Putin?’ Former MI chief says deal bad, but stress fact it is preliminary
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the Geneva agreement between world powers and Iran, and slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who according to him has declared war on the American administration (Bibi should be questioned as a conspirator on the “Benghazi” incident? ~ JB)
“We have declared war on the US… Will the savior in the Iranian matter be Putin, or Obama?” the former prime minister rhetorically asked, adding “We need to go against the American president? To ask questions, to argue, in closed door decisions, of course,” hinting criticism at Netanyahu’s public statements in regards to the Iranian deal.
Speaking at a special conference on the Geneva agreement held at the Institute for National Security Studies together with former Military Intelligence Chief (res.) Major General Amos Yadlin and MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud ), Olmeret added that “Until 2009 we managed in silence, after that our policy changed to screams and threats and financial outlays of more than NIS 10 billion ($2.83 billion).
Ehud Olmert at the INSS (Photo: Hagai Dekel)
According to Olmert, Israel should not lead talks with Iran. “Israel needs to be a partner in this process, but it cannot and should not lead this international struggle.
“During the last ten years the government has been dealing with this more and more. Two government, the one headed by Ariel Sharon (poisoned) and the one headed by myself, clearly stated Israel’s position: Israel will not and cannot accept a nuclear Iran, this is an existential threat on our country.”
“If we had used those warnings in the proper way, through the confidential backchannels which we had built for decades with the American administration, we would have made it easier for that administration to make the decisions we wanted.” (IE: You can catch more flies with sugar…)
MK Tzachi Hanegbi addressed the INSS (Photo: Hagai Dekel)
However, “In no way did we want the diplomatic discussions and contacts to become a matter of public disagreements between us and our allies. I never raised the idea, neither did my predecessor, of picking a fight with Israel’s number one ally and to incite the American congress against the president – a thing which is without precedent, and its dangers and damages are larger than we can estimate.”
On a state visit to Rome, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly responded to Olmert’s comments: “Unlike others, when I see vital Israeli security interests in danger – I won’t shut up. It’s very easy to be quiet and to bow your head, but I have obligations to the security of my people and the future of my State.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that “Olmert’s comments do little to improve Israel’s security, and it would have been more appropriate that they would have not been said. With things like security it is better to present a unified front,” Bennett said.
Head of the INSS and the former Military Intelligence Chief (res.) Major General Amos Yadlin also commented on the temporary agreement reached with Iran, and said that “Iran is one breakthrough away from the bomb. It’s sad, but it’s the fact.”
However, he noted that “we must remember that this is only an initial agreement, not a final one. The fact that Iran is on the threshold of nuclear capabilities is not the result of this agreement, but because the Iranians were hard at work on these capabilities for many years and no one has been able to stop them.”
Regarding the public debate over the agreement and a nuclear Iran, Yadlin said “during the last three years has moved to the forefront of the public debate. This is the result of the initiative of Israel’s leaders. But the majority of the public is still awkward and without the proper tools to formulate an educated opinion.”
MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) addressed the nuclear deal at saying “The West agreed that the final agreement will allow Iran to enrich uranium in her facilities. If this is not a moral defeat, what is a moral defeat? If this isn’t surrender, what is surrender? The time frame that Iran needs to get a nuclear weapon is no longer than a few months.” (Been saying that for over 10 years!)
According to Hanegbi, “The Israeli position needs to be sharper. We must demand the removal of all of the enriched uranium. If Israel stutters or flatters, all the other voices will weaken as well. Netanyahu clarified that Israel is not party to the deal that was reached. We are the first who want a diplomatic agreement.”
“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. ”Control food and you control the people.”
Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.
Profits Before Populations
According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.
Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.
The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.
Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.
A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.
Roundup’s Insidious Effects
Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in foods are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.
Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.
Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.
GENEVA – The United States said Saturday it was “deeply concerned” and committed to defending Japan after China announced an air zone in the East China Sea that covers disputed islets.
In a move that U.S. ally Japan branded as “very dangerous,” China said it was setting up an “air defense identification zone” over islands administered by Tokyo to “guard against potential air threats.”
In similar statements, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the moves by China, which also scrambled jets to carry out a patrol in the newly declared zone.
“This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” Kerry said.
“Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” the top U.S. diplomat said from Geneva, where he was taking part in talks on reaching an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.
Kerry said that the United States has urged China to “exercise caution and restraint,” and warned Beijing against implementing its new zone.
“We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing,” Kerry said.
Hagel repeated that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands — which the Chinese and Taiwanese claim as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively — are covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty, meaning the U.S. would defend its ally if the area is attacked.
“We are in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region, including Japan. We remain steadfast in our commitments to our allies and partners,” Hagel said.
The defense chief made clear that the United States, which stations more than 70,000 troops in Japan and South Korea, will not respect China’s declaration of control over the zone.
“This announcement by the People’s Republic of China will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region,” Hagel said.
The outline of the zone, which is shown on the Chinese Defense Ministry website and a state media Twitter account (pic.twitter.com/4a2vC6PH8O), covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes airspace above the disputed islets.
Japan last year nationalized some of the islets and has vowed not to cede sovereignty or even to acknowledge a dispute with China, accusing its growing neighbor of trying to change the status quo through intimidation.
China and Taiwan both claim the islets, which are near potentially energy-rich waters.
The United States says that it has no position on the islets’ ultimate sovereignty but believes that they are currently under Japanese administration.
“Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability and security in the Pacific,” Kerry said.
He called for a “more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific.”
The U.S. , for its part, does not ask foreign aircraft to identify themselves if they are not intending to enter U.S. airspace.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a greater focus on Asia in light of China’s rise and plans to shift the majority of U.S. warships to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
Obama plans to visit Asia, reportedly including Japan, in April. Kerry, who has invested much of his time on the Middle East, will travel to Asia in the coming weeks.
The protests was led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is led by Imran Khan, a former international cricketer now turned politician.
They were supported by their allies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and they were also joined by the Jamaat -i-Islami (JI) and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad (AJIP) political parties.
“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told reporters.
“We are here to give a clear message that now Pakistanis cannot remain silent over drone attacks,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior member of the PTI, addressing the protesters.
Imran Khan has been a fierce critic of US drone attacks, arguing that they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Khan said that the Pakistani government is doing nothing to stop drone attacks except for issuing statements of condemnation and that the protest would continue indefinitely.
Khan stressed that NATO supplies would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly called North-West Frontier Province, and added that the province’s PTI-led government had the mandate to block NATO trucks from passing through its territory.
Earlier Imran Khan had warned that NATO supply routes will be blocked if continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan threaten the country’s peace talks with the Taliban.
Activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) shout slogans as they arrive to attend a protest rally in Peshawar on November 23, 2013 (AFP Photo / A Majeed)
An attack on November 1 killed the former leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to peace talks. Officials said they were enraged by the attacks, although the Pakistani government is known to have supported some of the drone attacks in the past.
Party workers from the PTI and the JI travelled to Peshawar from across Pakistan and an estimated 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests. The protesters shouted anti US slogans such as “Stop drone attacks” and “Down with America”.
“I am participating in today’s sit-in to convey a message to America that we hate them since they are killing our people in drone attacks. America must stop drone attacks for peace in our country,” Hussain Shah, a 21 year old university student, told Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.
American drones are performing regular extrajudicial killings of Islamist leaders, accompanied by the collateral damage of many civilian casualties.
Strict security measures were in place Saturday, with 500 police personnel on duty. Trucks were directed to use an alternative route, although Tahir Khan, a government official, said there was normally little NATO traffic Saturday as most of the trucks arrive by Friday night to clear the border crossing.
However, protesters said that they would begin to stop trucks carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Sunday night, which could spark conflict with the federal government in Pakistan.
The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment
Activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) gather during a protest rally in Peshawar on November 23, 2013 (AFP Photo / A Majeed)
A NATO supply truck driver waits for a security check at the NLC check point in Quetta (AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)
ED. Note: Before you jump to the conclusion that all of these “animals” were at GITMO because the were guilty of Terrorism… do your research. Many of the people there were picked up through round ups, guilt by association, and for rewards.
Shaker Aamer speaks from prison cell for first time in interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes show
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay – where he has been incarcerated for the past eleven years despite protests from the British government – has spoken from his prison cell for the first time.
“Tell the world the truth … Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace – or tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what’s happening,” Aamer told CBS’s 60 Minutes show.
Aamer added: “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal.”
Reprieve, the legal charity and human rights group acting for Aamer, said the unique recording, broadcast on Sunday night, probably survived because the US military authorities were concerned that the consequences of censoring America’s most powerful news programme would outweigh the embarrassment of allowing him to speak.
Aamer has been held in Guantánamo since 2002 but has not been charged with any offence. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, has many times raised the case with the US administration with no success.
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay, told CBS: ‘Tell the world the truth … Please, we are tired.’ Photograph: Getty Images
A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Monday night: “Mr Aamer’s case remains a high priority for the UK government and we continue to make clear to the US that we want him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency. The prime minister raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Obama during the G8 in Northern Ireland in June”.
The spokesperson added: “The prime minister later wrote to President Obama reaffirming the importance the UK places on the request for Mr Aamer’s release. The deputy prime minister went on to raise Mr Aamer’s case with vice-president Biden in September. We are confident that the US Government understands the seriousness of the UK’s request for Mr Aamer’s release. Any decision regarding Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States Government.”
Aamer has British residency, and his British wife and their four children all live in south London. The US has repeatedly threatened to send Aamer to his birthplace, Saudi Arabia.
Aamer has described how he was tortured at the infamous Bagram jail in Afghanistan in between being questioned by US and British intelligence officials there. According to leaked alleged confessions, while he was in London Aamer was “assessed to be a key member of the UK-based al-Qaida network with multiple associations to senior al-Qaida members”. Shaker has denied the claims made about him.
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, said: “CBS’s show gives a very rare and very shocking glimpse inside Guantánamo Bay. Everyone in the prison – the guards and the men – is suffering horribly, day after day. Obama must fulfil his promise to close the prison and Shaker Aamer must come home to his family in the UK, which is what David Cameron has said he wants.”
A US court for the first time has allowed an independent medical and mental health expert of Aamer’s choice to have access to the prisoner.
“We’re glad the US government agreed in the end that Shaker should be able to see a doctor of his choice after more than a decade in indefinite captivity. We’re now looking into next steps,” Ramzi Kassem, Aamer’s US lawyer, told the Guardian.
Or at least that is the cover story? CIA loves them some Plausible Deniability!
Addicted to cocaine and crashing Lamborghinis?
Blackwater founder Erik Prince personifies the hidden hand in America’s terror wars.
His company secretly armed and maintained drones in Pakistan, trained CIA hit teams and collected $2 billion as a U.S. government security contractor.
Mr. Prince said he looks back on that adventure as “13 lost years.” The billions of dollars are gone now, and he blames the U.S. government.
After a series of federal investigations, government contract battles and critical congressional hearings, Mr. Prince sold Blackwater in 2010. In the wake of continued controversy over his most recent pursuits while based in Abu Dhabi, Mr. Prince has returned to Virginia to write a new chapter of his life—as an entrepreneur buying oil, land and minerals in Africa.
In interviews, Mr. Prince and former Blackwater officials provided previously unreported details of the company’s dealings with the CIA and its former director, Leon Panetta. Blackwater’s fortunes, which dimmed as the Iraq war dragged on, sank markedly when President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and sought distance from President George W. Bush’s war policies.
A chief target of Mr. Prince’s ire is Mr. Panetta, who in 2009 shut down the covert training operation for CIA “hit teams” that former Blackwater officials said took place on Mr. Prince’s Virginia property.
At the time, former Blackwater officials said, the company also was working on America’s clandestine drone program. Former company officials said that a few dozen Blackwater employees, taking the place of American military forces, maintained drones armed with Hellfire missiles in Pakistan. The company didn’t fly them, but prepared them to launch attacks.
When that information became public in 2009, right after Mr. Panetta canceled the Blackwater hit-team training, the CIA director ended the company’s role in maintaining the drones.
Mr. Prince said he is convinced that Mr. Panetta outed him as a CIA “asset” at a closed congressional hearing that year, adding that it was unthinkable for a CIA director to reveal the real name of a covert operative to lawmakers.
“No one was out to scapegoat anyone in the relationship with Blackwater, but there were some issues that arose that prompted a serious look at contracts with the company,” said one former CIA official involved in the discussions. “There was a perception that they were trying to run some of their own operations untethered from agency oversight.”
Along with its clandestine work, Blackwater had a much more public role providing security for American diplomats and CIA personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater guards were caricatured as war-zone cowboys.
Blackwater convoys were feared in Iraq. The drivers were under State Department orders to do everything necessary to protect the department’s workers—directives that Mr. Prince alleges forced Blackwater to use aggressive tactics.
The State Department didn’t comment on the allegation.
Paul Bremer, the Neo-Con American diplomat who oversaw the U.S. government’s early invasion in Iraq liked them. “Their job was to keep me alive,” said Mr. Bremer. “I can say they never fired a shot in my presence, so they weren’t a bunch of cowboys running around shooting at people.”
Blackwater guards were involved in a series of deadly shooting incidents that alienated Iraqi citizens and the government. In September 2007, they killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Last month, the Justice Department renewed the prosecution of four Blackwater guards involved in the shooting, which still generates anger in Iraq.
“On balance, I think [Blackwater] operated in irresponsible ways which led to a lot of hostility toward our country,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who grilled Mr. Prince during a 2007 hearing. “They were overpaid for their work, and there was little, if any, accountability to the U.S. or the Iraqi governments.”
Following the Nisour Square shooting, the U.S. tightened its oversight and training of contractors to try to prevent another such incident, said Alex Gerlach, a State Department spokesman.
After the Obama administration cut most ties with Blackwater, Mr. Prince sold the company and moved to Abu Dhabi, where he quickly became embroiled in further controversy. Mr. Prince said he served as an adviser in setting up a privately trained antipiracy security force in Somalia that was accused of violating a United Nations arms embargo. And he was a consultant on a failed effort to set up a security force in Abu Dhabi made up largely of former Colombian soldiers.
In August 2012, Blackwater – now called Academi – paid a $7.5 million fine relating to allegations of arms smuggling when Prince was in charge.
Now, Mr. Prince said, he is done working for the U.S. government. He has invested millions in setting up Frontier Resource Group, a private-equity firm that operates in more than a dozen African countries. The company raised $100 million to invest in infrastructure Africa in conjunction with Chinese companies.
The firm is building an oil refinery in South Sudan, owns a cement factory in the Democratic Republic of Congo, conducts aerial gas and oil surveys across the continent, and is looking at taking over idle oil wells damaged by insurgents in Nigeria, he said.
“Africa is so far the most unexplored part of the world, and I think China has seen a lot of promise in Africa,” Prince, who served with SEAL Team 8 in Haiti and the Balkans, said during a visit to Hong Kong, later telling the South China Morning Post: “The problem is if you go alone, you bear the country risk on your own. You have to get support and maintenance there.”
Which means exactly what? Well, no one really seems to know. Prince’s objectives in Africa are obscured, while FRG’s goals are vague and convoluted.
“The view of his new company is very limited, and very opaque. If you look at his website it seems like a front for funding and training local security forces to provide security for resource projects in African nations, particularly for the Chinese,” Geoffrey Ingersoll, a former member of the Marine Corps and a Military and Defense reporter for Business Insider, told Guyism.com.
Will FRG’s new business partners care how the company achieves its goals? Not really, no.
“The Chinese are cut-throat capitalists. They’re much more concerned with their workers not getting kidnapped, and with making money. the over-arching concern is that they want to dominate Africa, geopolitically and economically,” Ingersoll said.
“What I think he wants to do is bring in contractors to employ and train organic security forces. That way, you only need a handful of former SEALs to command 200 men, and those 200 men you can pay small salaries because they’re from sub-Saharan Africa. The tactic is called a ‘force multiplier’ – and comes straight out of the Marine Corps ‘small wars’ manual.”
FRG could face competition from… Blackwater.
“Academi is supposedly moving it’s operation to Africa, because the Americans have grown tired of their uncontrollable, heavily subsidized child acting like a rich kid addicted to cocaine and crashing Lamborghinis,” Ingersoll said.
U.S. Army soldiers with Charlie Company, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division set up a supportive position during a mission near Command Outpost Pa’in Kalay in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province in February.
KABUL – While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.
The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
The document outlines what appears to be the start of a new, open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan in the name of training and continuing to fight al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be ending, but renewed under new, scaled-down U.S.-Afghan terms.
“The Parties acknowledge that continued U.S. military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end,” the draft states.
According to a document obtained by NBC News, the war in Afghanistan may not be over for years to come. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.
The 25-page “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors.
The bilateral security agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by around 2,500 village elders, academics and officials in a traditional Loya Jirga. While the Loya Jirga is strictly consultative, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he won’t sign it without the Jirga’s approval.
The copy of the draft — the full text is available here – is dated July 25, 2013. As a working draft, it is particularly revealing because it shows the back and forth negotiations, as U.S. and Afghan officials added words and struck out paragraphs. The changes are marked by annotations still revealed in the text. The document is a work in progress. US officials say there have been more changes since July. The draft, however, does indicate the scope of this possible agreement with major implications for Washington, Kabul, U.S. troops and the continuation of America’s longest war.
Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan’s large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and “shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.” It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.
There is however what U.S. officials believe is a contradiction in the July draft, which would effectively ask American troops to provide training and confront al-Qaeda from the confines of bases. While it says operations against al-Qaeda may be necessary, it also says US troops will not be allowed to make arrests or enter Afghan homes.
“No detention or arrest shall be carried out by the United States forces. The United States forces shall not search any homes or other real estate properties,” it says.
“[The contradiction] was a matter of serious consternation at the highest levels” of the Obama administration over the weekend, according to one senior defense official. “It is the one remaining issue that could ultimately kill the deal.” However, US officials believe that in a more recent draft, which was circulated among key Pentagon officials and US lawmakers on Monday, the US has won its position on this point.
The document doesn’t specifically say how many U.S. and NATO troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan officials tell NBC News they hope it will be 10 to 15 thousand. U.S. officials tell NBC News the number is closer to seven to eight thousand, with an additional contribution from NATO. Factoring in troop rotations, home leave, and breaks between deployments, the service of tens of thousands of American troops would be required to maintain a force of seven to eight thousand for a decade or longer. The anticipated costs would likely run into the billions quickly.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council did not comment on the draft version of the agreement, but said that “the President is still reviewing options from his national security team and has not made a decision about a possible U.S. presence after 2014.”
The agreement circulating this week is unlikely to be the last. It first must pass through the Loya Jirga, then go onto parliament for final approval. “We’re looking at 60-days or more” before the US and Afghanistan sign any agreement, defense officials said.
Here are highlights of the July draft of the bi-lateral agreement:
American bases While the document specifically says the United States would not seek “permanent bases” in Afghanistan, the US military would have “access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas.” Some of these areas would be for the “exclusive use” of US troops.
“Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to exercise all rights and authorities within the agreed facilities and areas that are necessary for their use, operation, defense, or control, including the right to undertake new construction works,” the document says.
US troops would be allowed to carry weapons, wear uniforms and guard the perimeter of those areas. The agreement does not say how many “exclusive use” sites there would be in Afghanistan. The United States also would also be permitted to keep vehicles and aircraft in Afghanistan, take off and land from Afghan soil, and fly though Afghan airspace. The facilities would be provided the US government “rent free,” but significant costs would mount in other ways.
U.S. payments The draft agreement says the Afghan government should “eventually” pay for all of its defense and security personal. But until then, “so long as the strategic partnership agreement so provides, the United States shall have an obligation to seek funds on a yearly basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), so that Afghanistan can independently secure and defend itself against internal and external threats, and help ensure that terrorists never again encroach on Afghan soil and threaten Afghanistan, the region, and the world.” The specific amount of payment is not stated. The money would be “managed by relevant Afghan institutions.”
The document shows a long and hard series of negotiations, particularly on the issue of legal jurisdiction. The draft initially insisted that U.S. military personnel be subject to Afghan laws and, if accused of a crime, be tried in Afghan courts. This section in the July draft is crossed out. Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the jurisdiction dispute appears to have been overcome, with U.S. troops only being subject to American laws.
The document suggests Afghan negotiators want a long-term U.S. presence, with U.S. forces and contractors providing intelligence, training and funding, but also to keep American forces as confined as possible. It shows Afghans want to keep their U.S. partners, but on their terms. It also suggests the United States is not confident that without a long-term commitment, the Afghan government can bring stability or effectively fight terrorism.
Anonymous hacktivist told court FBI informant and fellow hacker Sabu supplied him with list of countries vulnerable to cyber-attack
The Anonymous hacktivist sentenced on Friday to 10 years in federal prison for his role in releasing thousands of emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor has told a Manhattan court that he was directed by an FBI informant to break into the official websites of several governments around the world.
Jeremy Hammond, 28, told a federal court for the southern district of New York that a fellow hacker who went under the internet pseudonym “Sabu” had supplied him with lists of websites that were vulnerable to attack, including those of many foreign countries. The defendant mentioned specifically Brazil, Iran and Turkey before being stopped by judge Loretta Preska, who had ruled previously that the names of all the countries involved should be redacted to retain their secrecy.
Within a couple of hours of the hearing, the three countries had been identified publicly by Forbes, the Huffington Post and Twitter feeds serving more than a million followers. “I broke into numerous sites and handed over passwords and backdoors that enabled Sabu – and by extension his FBI handlers – to control these targets,” Hammond told the court.
The 28-year-old hacker has floated the theory in the past that he was used as part of an effective private army by the FBI to target vulnerable foreign government websites, using the informant Sabu – real name Hector Xavier Monsegur – as a go-between. Sabu, who was a leading figure in the Anonymous-affiliated hacking group LulzSec, was turned by the FBI into one of its primary informants on the hacker world after he was arrested in 2011, about six months before the Stratfor website was breached.
Referring to the hacking of foreign government websites, Hammond said that in one instance, he and Sabu provided details on how to crack into the websites of one particular unidentified country to other hackers who then went on to deface and destroy those websites. “I don’t know how other information I provided to [Sabu] may have been used, but I think the government’s collection and use of this data needs to be investigated,” he told the court
He added: “The government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story. I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?”
Hammond’s 10-year federal prison service makes it one of the longest punishments dished out for criminal hacking offences in US history. It joins a lengthening line of long jail terms imposed on hackers and whistleblowers as part of the US authorities’ attempt to contain data security of government agencies and corporations in the digital age.
Preska also imposed a three-year period of probationary supervision once Hammond is released from jail that included extraordinary measures designed to prevent him ever hacking again. The terms of the supervision state that when he is out of prison he must: have no contact with “electronic civil disobedience websites or organisations”; have all his internet activity monitored; subject himself to searches of his body, house, car or any other possessions at any time without warrant; and never do anything to hide his identity on the internet.
Hammond’s 10-year sentence was the maximum available to the judge after he pleaded guilty to one count of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) relating to his December 2011 breach of the website of the Austin, Texas-based private intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc. Delivering the sentence, Preska dismissed the defendant’s explanation of his motivation as one of concern for social justice, saying that he had in fact intended to create “maximum mayhem”. “There is nothing high-minded and public-spirited about causing mayhem,” the judge said.
She quoted from comments made by Hammond under various internet handles at the time of the Stratfor hack in which he had talked about his goal of “destroying the heart, hoping for bankruptcy, collapse”. She criticised what she called his “unrepentant recidivism – he has an almost unbroken record of offences that demonstrate an almost total disrespect for the law.”
Before the sentence came down, Hammond read out an outspoken statement to court in which he said he had been motivated to join the hacker group Anonymous because of a desire to “continue the work of exposing and confronting corruption”. He said he had been “particularly moved by the heroic actions of Chelsea Manning, who had exposed the atrocities committed by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. She took an enormous personal risk to leak this information – believing that the public had a right to know and hoping that her disclosures would be a positive step to end these abuses.”
In his own case, he said that as a result of the Stratfor hack, “some of the dangers of the unregulated private intelligence industry are now known. It has been revealed through Wikileaks and other journalists around the world that Stratfor maintained a worldwide network of informants that they used to engage in intrusive and possibly illegal surveillance activities on behalf of large multinational corporations.”
Margaret Kunstler, Hammond’s lead defence lawyer, told the Guardian after the sentencing that the maximum punishment was “not a great surprise”. She said that Preska had turned Hammond’s own comments in web chats against him, “but I think she doesn’t understand the language that’s used in chat rooms and the internet – for her to have used such language against him and not understand what his comments meant seemed piggy to say the least.”