Saturday, September 04, 2010

CIA's 'Red Cell' Hypocrisy on Terror By Robert Parry

The Central Intelligence Agency has scoffed at an internal memo that cites a few terrorist acts by some American citizens as possibly causing foreign nations to see the United States as an “exporter of terrorism.” The CIA notes that the paper came from its “red cell” analysts who are assigned to “think outside the box” to “provoke thought.”

However, what’s most striking about the secret three-page memo, dated Feb. 4 and disclosed by WikiLeaks last month, is how it reflects CIA self-censorship regarding the agency’s own long history of supporting acts of terror and protecting terrorists.

Cases of terrorism that implicate the CIA or its operatives, such as the blowing up of a Cubana airliner in 1976 or the arming of Nicaraguan contra rebels in the 1980s, are ignored by the “red cell” analysts even though many of the alleged perpetrators and their funders are still harbored in the United States – and include current and past U.S. government officials.

Yet, instead of citing these well-documented terrorism cases, the “red cell” memo references a few cases of individual Americans who have gone abroad and committed terrorist acts as well as some distant history of terrorism linked to U.S. immigrants.

The “red cell” memo notes that Irish-Americans have supported the Irish Republican Army back to the 19th Century. The analysis then skips to Zionist terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians as they prayed at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.

In sketching this background, the analysts jump over a lot of blood-soaked history of CIA-connected terrorism. Though assigned to “think outside the box,” the “red cell” analysts apparently knew better than to open a can of worms that they might have found inside CIA’s document vaults.

So, instead of noting the obvious truth – that other countries might view the United States as “an exporter of terrorism” because the U.S. government and particularly the CIA have had a long history of exporting terrorism – the “red cell” analysts confine their study’s frame to some individual Americans with no connection to the U.S. government or the CIA.

Thus, terrorists who have ties to Official Washington are left outside the frame.

For instance, there is no mention of Luis Posada Carriles, the alleged right-wing Cuban mastermind of the bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people, nor to any of the former Nicaraguan contras who slaughtered civilians as part of a bloody campaign to destabilize the leftist Sandinista government. Yet, Posada and many ex-contras still openly live in or visit Miami.

The CIA files are surely filled with data about Posada and the contras because the CIA worked closely with and provided material support for them.

Not that self-censorship by the “red cells” is all that surprising. It’s been practiced by U.S. government officials and the Washington news media for decades now.

Otherwise, the American people would have been confronted with the uncomfortable reality that many esteemed U.S. government officials, including Republican icon Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents, had their hands dipped in the blood of innocent victims of terrorism.

Double Standards

What if ex-President George W. Bush’s dictum – that a government that harbors or helps terrorists should be punished as severely as the terrorists themselves – were applied to the United States or even to his own family? Maybe the “red cell” should have asked that “out-of-the-box” question.

In other words, the U.S. political/media system – including these “red cell” analysts – continue to view the world through a cracked lens that focuses outrage on “enemy” regimes and groups while refracting away a comparable fury from similar actions by U.S. officials.

So, for instance, American officials, pundits and journalists rage against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for allegedly assisting Colombian guerrillas, but are getting ready for a year-long celebration of Reagan’s centennial birthday in 2011.

Yet, not only did Reagan arm the Nicaraguan contras, but he continued the covert war after the ruling Sandinistas won an election in 1984 that most outside observers praised as free and fair. He also wasn’t deterred by disclosures of the contras’ human rights abuses – kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering civilians – even when those acts were acknowledged by some senior contra leaders.

Reagan was well aware of the contras’ cruelty (he privately called them “vandals” in a conversation with CIA officer Duane Clarridge), while he hailed them publicly as “freedom fighters” and equated them with America’s “Founding Fathers.”

Reagan kept arming the contras even after Congress ordered him to stop and the World Court denounced the CIA’s secret mining of Nicaragua’s harbors.

Reagan also backed vicious rebel forces in Angola and Afghanistan (including foreign Islamic fundamentalists who later coalesced into al-Qaeda), and he supported state terror against civilian populations in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, killing hundreds of thousands.

By any stretch of the imagination – if any other country had so brazenly violated international law and human rights standards – that government would be condemned by civilized nations and would be treated as a terrorist pariah.

But the vast majority of Republicans and many Democrats view Reagan as a political hero. In a ceremony last year, President Barack Obama feted former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House for the signing of a special law to commemorate Reagan’s 100th birthday.

To suggest that the late President was a war criminal or a sponsor of terrorism is unthinkable within the U.S. political mainstream. [For details on Reagan’s war crimes, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Bush Family Terrorism

Similarly, it is unacceptable to note how the Bush Family has protected Cuban-American terrorists – from 1976 when George H.W. Bush ran the CIA to 2008 when George W. Bush balked at extraditing Posada to stand trial in Venezuela. At times, the hypocrisy was staggering.

On May 2, 2008, more than six years into Bush-43’s “war on terror,” there was a remarkable scene in Miami as Posada, then 80, was feted at a gala fundraising dinner. Some 500 supporters chipped in to his legal defense fund.

Posada arrived to thundering applause. Then, in a bristling speech against the Castro regime in Cuba, Posada told his supporters, “We ask God to sharpen our machetes.”

Venezuela’s Ambassador the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, protested the Bush administration’s tolerance of the dinner. “This is outrageous, particularly because he kept talking about [more] violence,” the ambassador said.

Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen who worked for Venezuela’s intelligence agency in the 1970s, masterminded the Cubana Airlines bombing in 1976, according to an overwhelming body of evidence compiled by the U.S. government and in South America.

Despite the strong evidence against Posada in U.S. government files, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made little effort to capture Posada when he sneaked into Miami in 2005. Posada was detained only after he held a news conference.

Then, instead of extraditing Posada to Venezuela to stand trial for a terrorist mass murder, the Bush administration engaged in a lackadaisical effort to have him deported for lying on an immigration form.

During a 2007 court hearing in Texas, Bush administration lawyers allowed to go unchallenged testimony from a Posada friend that Posada would face torture if he were returned to Venezuela. The judge, therefore, barred Posada from being deported there.

After that ruling, Ambassador Alvarez accused the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in the “war on terror.” As for the claim that Venezuela practices torture, Alvarez said, “There isn’t a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela.”

Different Rules

The kid-glove treatment of Posada and other right-wing Cuban terrorists stood in marked contrast to George W. Bush’s tough handling of Islamic militants. While Posada was afforded all U.S. legal protections and then some, suspected Islamic terrorists were locked away without trial at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a further ironic twist, the Bush-43 administration allowed Venezuela to be smeared about torture while Bush and his top aides were concealing the fact that they had authorized extensive torture on suspected Islamic “terrorists,” including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other brutal torture techniques at CIA “black sites.”

Posada also made no apologies for his long terrorist career. In 1998, in interviews with a New York Times reporter, Posada admitted a role in a wave of Havana bombings, citing a goal of frightening tourists away from Cuba.

Similarly, his alleged co-conspirator in the Cubana Airlines bombing, Orlando Bosch, showed no remorse for his violent past. In a TV interview with reporter Manuel Cao on Miami's Channel 41, Bosch justified the mid-air bombing that killed 73 people in 1976.

When Cao asked Bosch to comment on the civilians who died when the Cubana plane crashed off the coast of Barbados, Bosch responded, "In a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.”

“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?” Cao asked.

“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members of the Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.” [Officials tallies actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]

Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who was there? Our enemies…”

“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing team that had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth fencing competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”

Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. … She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant.

“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.”

[The comment about Santo Domingo was an apparent reference to a meeting by a right-wing terrorist organization, CORU, which took place in the Dominican Republic in 1976 and which involved a CIA undercover asset.]

“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.

“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.

Venezuela Case

Though Bosch and Posada have formally denied masterminding the Cubana Airlines bombing, Bosch’s incriminating statements and other evidence make the case of his and Posada’s guilt overwhelming.

Declassified U.S. documents show that soon after the Cubana plane was blown out of the sky on Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA, then under the direction of George H.W. Bush, identified Posada and Bosch as the masterminds of the bombing.

But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President Gerald Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy Carter and the Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence scandals out of the newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept the lid on the investigations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Still, inside the U.S. government, the facts were well known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14, 1976, intelligence sources in Venezuela relayed information about the Cubana Airlines bombing that tied in Bosch, who had been visiting Venezuela, and Posada, who then served as a senior officer in Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP.

The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in Venezuela in late September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington ally who assigned his intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to protect and assist Bosch during his stay in Venezuela.”

On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and Posada, according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was held in Bosch’s honor. “A few days following the fund-raising dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a Cuban airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA report said.

“Following the 6 October [1976] Cubana Airline crash off the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed that it would be best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore, on 9 October, Posada and Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian border, where he crossed into Colombian territory.”

In South America, police began rounding up suspects. Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who got off the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that they had planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the architects of the attack.

A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents.

Posada and Bosch were charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines bombing, but the case soon became a political tug-of-war, since the suspects were in possession of sensitive Venezuelan government secrets that could embarrass President Andres Perez.

After President Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush took power in Washington in 1981, the momentum for fully unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist terrorist plots dissipated. The Cold War trumped any concern about right-wing terrorism.

Iran-Contra Role

In 1985, Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison, reportedly with the help of Cuban-Americans. In his autobiography, Posada thanked Miami-based Cuban activist Jorge Mas Canosa for the $25,000 that was used to bribe guards who allowed Posada to walk out of prison.

Another Cuban exile who aided Posada was former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, who was close to then-Vice President Bush. At the time, Rodriguez was handling secret supply shipments to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, a pet project of President Reagan.

After fleeing Venezuela, Posada joined Rodriguez in Central America and began using the code name “Ramon Medina.” Posada was assigned the job of paymaster for pilots in the White House-run contra-supply operation.

By the late 1980s, Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back in Miami. But Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent attacks, was facing possible deportation by U.S. officials who warned that Washington couldn’t credibly lecture other countries about terrorism while protecting a terrorist like Bosch.

But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In 1990, the lobbying paid dividends when Jeb's dad, President George H.W. Bush, blocked proceedings against Bosch, letting the unapologetic terrorist stay in the United States.

In 1992, also during the Bush-41 presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada about the Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ½ hours at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras. Posada filled in some blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in the secret contra operation.

According to a 31-page summary of the FBI interview, Posada said Bush’s national security adviser, former CIA officer Donald Gregg, was in frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.

“Posada … recalls that Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI summary said. “Posada knows this because he’s the one who paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the interview, the FBI agents let Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom. [For details, see Parry’s Lost History.]

[For more on how the senior George Bush also looked the other way on Chile’s international terrorism, see’s “When the Terrorists Were Our Guys.”]

The double standards on terrorism are now so deeply engrained in Official Washington that the well-established history of U.S. government officials collaborating with terrorists is not only kept “outside the box” of the city’s conventional wisdom but is ignored by the CIA's “red cell” analysts who are assigned to “think outside the box.”

So, the “red cell” analysts may take note of Irish-Americans filling coffee cans with cash for the IRA, dating back to the 1880s, and of individual Americans conducting outrages on their own, but the analysts know better than to look into their own agency’s files for the real reasons why foreigners might “see the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism.’”

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

Friday, September 03, 2010

LIFE IN TALIBANISTAN Married to the mob By Pepe Escobar

This is the conclusion of a three-part report.
PART 1: 'Throw these infidels in jail'
PART 2: The degree zero of culture

Ten years ago, Taliban Afghanistan - Talibanistan - was under a social, cultural, political and economic nightmare. Ten years ago, New York-based photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed Talibanistan. Those were the days. Bill Clinton was in the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar, and there was no hint of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, or the "war on terror", or the rebranding of the AfPak war.

We experienced Talibanistan in action, in close detail. This is both a glimpse of a long-lost world, and a window to a possible future in Afghanistan. Arguably, not much has changed. Or has it?
If schizophrenia defined the Taliban in power, US schizophrenia still rules.

Will the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reach a "Saigon moment" anytime soon - and leave? Not likely. As General David "I'm always positioning myself to 2012" Petraeus, like his predecessor General Stanley McChrystal, advances his special forces-led, maximum force Murder Inc. to subdue the Taliban, the same Petraeus - no irony intended - may tell Fox News, as he did last week, that the war's "ultimate goal" is the "reconciliation" of the ultra-corrupt Hamid Karzai government with the Taliban.

This in fact means that while "favorable" conditions are not created on the ground, government-sanctioned drug trafficking mafias and US defense contractors will continue to make - literally - a killing. As for the PR-savvy Petraeus, he will pull all stops to sell his brand of Afghan surge to Americans as some sort of "victory" - as he managed to sell the rebranded Iraq war. And as for the (rebranded) umbrella of fighters conveniently labeled "Taliban", who seem to eat surges for breakfast, they will bide their time, Pashtun-style, and trust Allah to eventually hand them victory - the real thing, and not a PR fantasy.

Now let's go back to the future again.

HERAT, SPINBALDAK, BALOCHISTAN - Arriving in Herat after a hellish journey from Kandahar, I thought I had smoked prime Afghan opium and was on a non-stop trip to Persian fantasy. I had met Scandinavian non-governmental organization women intellectuals stranded right in the middle of Taliban theocracy, but in Herat they seemed to be in the right place. Because Herat seemed to be absolutely impervious to tyranny.

The oasis of Herat - established 5,000 years ago - is the cradle of Afghan history and civilization. It boasts the richest soil in Central Asia; Herodotus dubbed it "Central Asia's granary". For centuries it was a crucial crossroads between the Turkish and Persian empires. The whole population was converted to Islam in the 7th century. When I entered the grand mosque - built in the 7th, rebuilt in the 12th century - I felt I was really in Persia.

During the Middle Ages, Herat was a great Sufi center - mystical and profoundly spiritual Islam. Not by accident the city's patron saint is Khawaja Abdullah Ansari, an 11th-century Sufi poet and philosopher. Genghis Khan conquered Herat in 1222 and spared only 40 of its 160,000 inhabitants. Less than two centuries later the city recovered its glory when Tamerlan's son and his wife - queen Gowhar Shad - transferred the capital of the empire from Samarkand to Herat.

Tamerlan's empire was the first to mix the nomadic culture of the Turkish steppe with the extreme sophistication of Persian culture. At the bazaar, septuagenarian traders told me - the first foreigner they had seen in almost two years - how at the beginning of the 15th century the city was as wealthy as Venice, producing the finest carpets, jewelry, weaponry and miniatures as well as mosques, madrassas, public baths, libraries and palaces.

Herodotus might be having a blast with the historical irony of the Taliban - with their pathological horror of the female sex - now ruling a Persian city where once reigned one of the most seductive humanists and feminists of Asia. Gowhar Shad - the female, Persian version of Lorenzo de Medici - used to marry her "ruby-lipped" ladies-in-waiting with the Taliban of their time.

The queen built a fabulous complex including mosque, madrassa and her own tomb in the outskirts of Herat. The tomb - blue Persian tiles with floral decoration, a blue dome decorated with vertiginous Koranic inscriptions - is unanimously recognized by art historians as one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. The inscription on the tomb is a simple "the Bilkis of her time"; "bilkis" stands for "Queen of Sheba".

What is left of the complex are five elegant minarets, a few marble slabs and something from Gowhar Shad's tomb. The British Empire demolished almost everything by the end of the 19th century and the Soviets mined the area during the 1980s to repel the mujahideen. Heratis would comment that when the Soviets bombed the city in 1979, they wreaked more havoc than Genghis Khan.

The Taliban had no idea of the prodigious cultural, literary and political history of Herat. What mattered for them was Herat as a golden goose - the crossroads through which passed the non-stop smuggling of second-hand vehicles, consumer electronics and computers from Dubai and Bandar Abbas on the way to Pakistan. The taxes paid by the hundreds of lorries crossing Herat every day fed the Taliban central bank and financed the war to conquer the north of Afghanistan still escaping their control.

Unlike the rest of Talibanistan, there was no mass poverty in Herat. Pakistani Pashtun moneychangers insisted business was great. In two sprawling bazaars, eight-year-old kids crammed in small rooms were weaving for 12 hours a day the carpets that would flood all Asian markets (not anymore; now they are synthetic, or made in China). Before curfew, at 10pm, the bazaars were booming, as well as the juice and ice-cream shops.

Intellectually, this miniature of Persia was buried when the Taliban conquered it in 1995; the painters, poets and professors crossed the border to Iran. The Taliban locked all women behind closed doors; forbade visits to Sufi sanctuaries; imposed the degree zero of education closing down all schools; segregated hospitals; closed down public baths; and banished women from the bazaar.

They rebelled. Every day, from 8am to 11am, for the past three years, Latifah - a graduate of Herat's Medical Institute - had been conducting her own, homemade primary school, teaching math, Persian, Pashto, English, biology, physics, chemistry and Koranic studies. This was a two-year course, with a month's holiday. Officially, this school "didn't exist". But "they know", she would tell me. There had been no repression. But she was very anxious about the future.

For her beloved students, Latifah - one of the six daughters of an upper-middle-class Herati family - was none other than a reincarnation of Gowhar Shad. Her father, an engineer trained in the former Soviet Union, used to make thousands of dollars a month before the Taliban. Latifah was part of a sprawling west Afghan network of underground resistance - confiding that there was practically "one school in every street" and a few hundred teachers, although they never tried to communicate with each other.

Apart from teaching, she gave medical attention to anyone who needed it, and had worked for a de-mining organization. She used to say that when she got married, she would want "a person like me, who gives me permission to teach". That's what she may be doing in Herat nowadays.

By that time I had crossed Talibanistan from east to west. It was enough to share two certainties. For all that I saw, the tribalization of urban Afghanistan did not seem inevitable - even though it was accelerated by the rustic Taliban theocracy. And the talibanization of the whole of Central Asia - so much feared by Washington, Moscow and Beijing - also was a non-starter. Because of the strength of spirit of people like Latifah, Gowhar Shad, the indomitable humanist, would certainly give it the seal of approval with her ruby lips.

Free trade, here we come!
A horizontal canyon of containers fries in the Balochistan desert, casually watched over by a turbaned army. Inside, a Babel of conspicuous consumption, from Japanese video cameras to English knickers, from Chinese silk to computer parts from Taiwan.

In this Taliban version of Ali Baba's cave you can buy anything - cash; no major credit cards accepted. A few yards away, monster hauls of heroin, Eastern European Kalashnikov replicas and Iranian oil converge in an apotheosis of free trade. Yes, because 10 years ago "free trade" was not in the World Trade Organization in Geneva; it was here, in Spinbaldak - a ringside seat to the largest smuggling ring on the planet, involving the Taliban, Pakistani smugglers, drug lords, tribal chiefs owning transport mafias, bureaucrats, politicians, the police and selected army officials.

This low-tech version of the Silk Road - where lorries replaced 5,000-camel caravans - was the Taliban's real golden goose. The Silk Road linking China to Europe via Afghanistan and Central Asia was controlled by the same tribal chiefs and nomads who today roll in Mercedes.

This free-trade boom could only be a consequence of the interminable civil war in Afghanistan - linked to the expansion of the drug business and the overwhelming corruption in Pakistan. At the same time, this far west coincided with a consumer boom all across Central Asia.

Drug and transport mafias - all across what today the Pentagon calls AfPak - united in merry convergence. The Taliban, since taking power in 1996, were encouraged by transporters to open roads for mass smuggling. It was the Quetta (Balochistan's capital) transport mafia that forced the Taliban to capture the Persianized Herat, and thus totally control the way to Turkmenistan. What a Pakistani diplomat had told me in Islamabad still rings true to this day; "It's this mafia that ultimately controls the fate of governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

The border "control" between Chaman, in Balochistan, and Spinbaldak, in Afghanistan, was a joke (and remains so to this day); a monster frat party drenched in endless cups of green tea. Everybody knows everybody else. Up to 400 trucks and lorries used to cross the border every day. Most of the Bedford and Mercedes trucks were stolen - with fake license plates. There was no invoice for anything inside them. The drivers would have crossed as many as six international borders with a fake driver's license, no road permit and no passport. Nobody paid customs or taxes of any kind.

Obviously, this was not a recommend spot for Westerners. We were met with accusations of being "UN spies". Only after a handful of altercations in Urdu were we "adopted" by some clans - who immediately started to peddle their wares. I could have bought a Toyota Corolla 92 for only $3,000, a Nihonkkai Japanese fire truck for less than $5,000, a Toyota Land Cruiser 96 for $10,000 or a Yamaha bike as good as new for only $700.

Abdul Qadir Achkazi was a key figure in the family of a terribly influential local warlord. He was a cosmopolitan - he'd been to Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai and had a "martyr" bother in the anti-USSR jihad. Reclined on a cushion over the dusty carpet inside his container office, serving the umpteenth cup of green tea, he laid down the free-trade law.

All this stuff came by ship from Yokohama to Bandar Abbas in Iran, via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The transport of a container full of dodgy goods was $4,000, maximum. In Bandar Abbas, the container paid a harbor tax. From Bandar Abbas, it crossed the Iran-Afghan border and arrived in Spinbaldak on top of a lorry. Entering Afghanistan, the importer paid the Taliban up to $7,000 in taxes per container, or $3,000 if these were toys. For each imported Toyota, the Taliban got a cool $1,000. From Bandar Abbas to Spinbaldak, transport expenses would run to $600, paid before entering Herat - the Taliban's golden goose.

Abdul told me that all clients in this free-trade special were Pakistanis. And almost all traders had double nationality. Best-sellers at the time were cassette players, CDs and computers (nowadays it must be iPhones).

The absolute majority of traders confirmed that most deliveries were in Quetta - but they could deliver wherever the client wanted; after all they controlled their own transport networks. In this case, there would be an extra of 30%. If the merchandise was apprehended by police, the client would get all his money back. But anyway in Spinbaldak, as Abdul said, "Everything is legal. There's no Taliban interference because all taxes have been paid." In front of a container selling a pile of good old Sony Trinitrons, a group told me, "We fought the Russians. Today we support the Taliban."

The border with Iran, in Islam qila, a wasteland battered by endless sandstorms worked in the same register. Iranian lorries got rid of their containers, immediately lugged on to Afghan trucks that inevitably would fall prey to the sandstorms. The layout of Afghan "customs" was a row of transportation companies' offices. Faced with a few questions, the Iranian officials were as polite as a mortal Pasdaran enemy of still living Saddam Hussein.

It was only in 2000 that Pakistan actually woke up to the billions of dollars in taxes it was losing in this free-for-all. The informal economy at the time was 51% of gross domestic product (not much has changed). Smuggling was - and remains - an immense network trespassing Central Asia, Iran and the Persian Gulf (that's one of the reasons why sanctions against Iran will never work).

Already in 2000 it was pure wishful thinking to believe that powerful tribal lords could not live without Pakistan - to which they were and remain interlinked by trade and property they bought outside of the tribal areas. Tribal chiefs raved about this huge, illegal duty-free corridor - and they still profit from it.

The porosity of Pakistan's borders - from the Khyber pass to Balochistan - benefited the Afghan mujahideen during the anti-USSR jihad, but at the same time allowed the infiltration all across Pakistan of the Kalashnikov culture. The Hindu Kush as much as the Durand Line, natural or human barriers, nothing has prevented a continuous flux of horrors to flow from Central Asia to South Asia.

So what was the purpose of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan? Well, I did learn that Talibanistan was conditioned by three "values": war, trade and pious morality. The Taliban did manage to recreate in almost the whole country the mindset of a madrassa.

Those taxes over free trade filled their coffers. And an internal jihad - against Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras - justified the regime. The legitimacy of the state and politics was absolutely zero; that is, any notion of citizenship or freedom was also absolutely zero. Only belief and obedience were legitimate. Ten years later, I still think this is a demented, (non)political experiment for the history books.

Well, we finally hit the Balochistan border, between pyramids of multinational tires and a traffic jam of donkey carts piled up with stereos. The Taliban control post was a small, fly-infested room. The official was asleep. When he awoke, he asked for exist visas. We improvised – showing him a letter from the Foreign Ministry in Kabul. It took him an eternity not to read our letter. But he eventually stamped our passports. We hit the main street like Gary Cooper in High Noon. A black-turbaned Taliban passed by. I couldn't resist; "Welcome home." We grabbed a Mad Max cab and burned rubber in the dust of this 7th-century black hole - and the time-machine brought us back to the year 2000.

Where's my refugee Buddha?
"Oh, I have Buddhas from Bamiyan."

The news - as cool, calm and collected as a Taliban rocket launch - took a while to sink in. The Cousin of the Mine King of Balochistan was still smiling. We had been in Quetta, frontier capital of the Pakistani side of Balochistan, only for a few hours.

In Afghanistan, we had been arrested (twice), menaced with a trial by a military court, accused of being UN spies. We were exhausted, and as far as Bamiyan was concerned, frustrated. Taliban officials in Kabul had denied us a visa do visit Bamiyan, allegedly because of "security reasons". At the time I lived in Buddhist Thailand. Apart from trying to understand what makes a warped madrassa worldview tick in the beginning of the Third Millennium, I had always longed to see the Bamiyan Buddhas.

But I never made it to Bamiyan. Instead, Bamiyan came to me.

At the Quetta Serena Hotel - a plush compound straight from Santa Fe, New Mexico - the Cousin of the Mine King showed up in style: chauffeur-driven in a Toyota Hi-Lux. This could only foment our paranoia: Toyotas Hi-Lux constituted the entire Taliban motorized Walhalla, and when we were arrested by the religious police in Kabul stadium in the middle of a soccer match for (not) taking photos, we were taken to interrogation in the back seat of a Toyota Hi-Lux. But the Cousin of the Mine King had other plans.

"Let's go meet some nomads."

A few hours later, we were in a tent sipping tea with a family of Balochistan borderland nomads. Compared to the destitute Ghazni nomads we had seen in Afghanistan, fleeing from the worst drought in the past 30 years, these ones were positively de luxe. The head of the family even tried to sell me a falcon: customers from the United Arab Emirates were snatching them at the time for as much as 1 million rupees.

The head nomad reveals himself to be an Afghan trader in the Punjab. His take on Afghanistan is extremely self-assured: the Taliban are falling apart, and the country has now split into three factions. All of them are responsible for the widespread destruction, as much as the whole population.

Back in Quetta, after the nomad warm-up, we are taken through a mud-brick labyrinth to a house in the middle of a desert wasteland. Kids swarm in the dusty "streets". One of them disappears inside a shack and emerges with a statue. And another. And then another. We are now contemplating the private collection of the Cousin of the Mine King. It features astonishing Greco-Buddhist boddhisatvas, hellenic arhats with their ribs protruding, and even part of a frieze. Some could be 3rd or 4th century, some even older. They are all pre-Bamiyan Buddhas.

The Cousin of the Mine King is naturally evasive. He would love to sell his collection to a Western museum - but can't get it out of the country. The Guimet Museum of Asian Arts in Paris had recently reopened after lavish restoration work worth $50 million; they would kill for this "private collection". He "obtained most of the statues from the Bamiyan valley". Some of them "came from the Kabul museum". The methods were effective: "We just went there and took them".

With the boddhisatvas still in our minds, the Cousin of the Mine King take us to meet the Great Man himself. We are ushered into his living room, decorated with a silk Qom almost the size of a tennis court, and worth the gross domestic product of whole Afghan provinces. The Mine King is a Baloch from the borderlands - a member of the Sanjirani tribe. He controls coal, onyx, marble and granite mines. And he goes straight to the point.

"Afghanistan is a tribal society. We should leave it like that." For him, the only solution for the country would be the return of King Zahir Shah: "But that was already proposed in the early 1990s. Now itดs too late." The Mine King regards the Taliban as "very nice people". But he worries about the future, considering the vast amount of weapons in the country: "If there is a total collapse in Afghanistan, the ashes will be coming straight to Pakistan" (how prophetic was he, 10 years ago?)

The Mine King waves us goodbye, dreaming of enjoying New York City nightlife. Then a few months passed. I always thought that somewhere in the wasteland outskirts of Quetta, a few Afghan Buddhas were still sleeping half-buried in the sand. Then in March 2001 I knew for sure they had escaped the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas, bombed to ashes by the Taliban. But as the Mine King himself remarked, these ashes, brought by the winds, headed straight into Pakistan.

Ten years ago, and even by March 2001, not many people were fully aware that a geopolitical New Great Game was already unraveling in Central Asia. The Taliban were - and remain - just one of the (minor) players. They could obliterate Buddhist art that predates Islam itself. But Buddhism teaches us that everything is impermanent.

Ten years ago the Cousin of the Mine King could be the target of a few accusations; a few months later, he could be seen as a man who saved a significant part of the world heritage from the Taliban smashing orgy. And more impermanence: considering Central Asian volatility, the bombers themselves, sooner rather than later, were reduced to ashes in the New Great Game.

Or were they? Ten years later, they seem to be stronger than ever. Against all the firepower of the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, they seem to believe they may even get their Talibanistan back. General Petraeus, go back to the future and eat your heart out.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Cold War-style global "spy games" a return to the past

Recent events indicate that there has been a return to global "spy wars" not seen since the heyday of the Cold War.

According to WMR's MI-6 sources, there is a fear that Government Communications Headquarters officer Gareth Williams, whose body was found stuffed in a sports bag in an MI-6 safehouse near the spy agency's Vauxhall headquarters in London and left unattended for some two weeks, may have been involved in an "off-the-books" operation or a non-sanctioned rogue operation.

The latest reports from London are that Williams's body was padlocked inside the sports bag when it was discovered. That, in addition to Williams's cell phones and SIM cards being laid out nearly in his safehouse flat in Pimlico, suggest that his murder was a professional hit. Although two autopsies have been performed on Williams's body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition, no cause of death has yet been determined by medical examiners in London.

MI-6 is now worried that the hit was accomplished by a foreign intelligence agency, however, the reason for his murder remain murky at best. There also have been rumors advanced by some outlets of the British media, but rejected as scurrilous by Williams's family and colleagues, that Williams was involved in gay and bizarre sexual trysts. Gay magazines and photographs were reportedly strewn around Williams's flat, however, such operations have been conducted in the past in order to embarrass the next-of-kin of British agents and politicians from asking too many questions about the circumstances of deaths.

Williams, who worked for GCHQ in Cheltenham and who had, in the past, visited the U.S. National Security Agency station at Menwith Hill, from which signals intelligence operations have been launched against British government officials, including members of the royal family, was on loan to MI-6 and had traveled frequently to the United States, including NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, on unspecified missions. It is those missions that have MI-6 concerned that one or more operations involving Williams, sanctioned or unsanctioned, may have provided him with knowledge that also placed him on a target list for murder.

WMR has previously reported on BP's video and audio bugging of a Washington, DC condominium owned by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and allegedly used separately by then-Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and then-Senator Barack Obama for gay trysts. There are close links between former MI-6 agents, as well as British Special Air Service (SAS) personnel, and BP. The private military contractor, Defense Systems, Ltd. (DSL), which had offices near Buckingham Palace and eventually morphed into ArmorGroup in 1997, conducted special services for BP. DSL counted a number of former MI-6 and SAS personnel among its ranks. WMR previously reported that Williams was also an SAS commando before going to work for GCHQ.

GCHQ has also worked with BP to ensure its communications are secure from the prying ears and eyes of foreign intelligence services, including those of France. It is also known that MI-6 has routinely shared intelligence with nearly every major British firm, including BP. The May 11, 1996, "Weekend Australian" provided a germane quote on such cooperation from an MI-6 agent, "We are a trading nation so our service will do anything we can to help Great Britain Pty Ltd." Intelligence between British intelligence and companies like BP are usually conducted through the Joint Intelligence Committee, however, in overseas locations such cooperation is often done directly. The deal does not come without a price for British companies. As the "Weekend Australian" reported, "British businessmen abroad are expected to pass on to British intelligence anything they come across that they think might be useful."

Sitting on the board of Russia's Alfa Group's Altimo telecommunication subsidiary is Sir Francis Richards, a former director of GCHQ. Also on the board is Lord Douglas Hurd, a former British Foreign Secretary who was in charge of GCHQ and MI-6 operations while serving as Britain's chief diplomatic official. Also on the Altimo board is Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress and the Council for World Jewry. Alfa Group is a 25 percent owner of the joint Russian-Anglo and British Virgin Islands-registered TNK-BP oil firm. Former BP CEO Tony Hayward, fired from the top post after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is now in charge of BP's operations with TNK-BP in Russia.

Although the NSA and CIA, which have both been involved in the investigation of Wlliams's murder, have separate missions, they combine their operations in a super-secret Special Collection Service (SCS) or F-6, headquartered in Beltsville, Maryland. The SCS conducts "black bag" operations against foreign embassies and missions, as well as private homes and offices. In order to avoid running afoul of domestic laws against such operations without a court order, the UK-USA signals intelligence allies often use the agents from their partners to conduct operations against their own citizens. Canadian and British agents have been used for such purposes in the United States and Americans and Canadians for similar operations in Britain.

Just days after the death of Williams, the Attorney General of the United Kingdom, Dominic Grieve, has ordered the production of the sealed Hutton Inquiry files pertaining to the suspicious "suicide" in July 2003 of Dr. David Kelly, the British Ministry of Defense's leading expert on weapons of mass destruction. Hutton had ordered the files sealed for 70 years but the review of them by Grieve has fueled speculation that a full inquest on Kelly's death may soon be conducted by British government officials. Kelly was the source for a BBC report that the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction, weapons that turned out not to exist but were used as a pretext for Britain's participation in the invasion of Iraq.

There is a belief by many in the British intelligence community that Kelly was murdered by professional intelligence agents to ensure his silence from revealing any more about the bogus intelligence used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. WMR previously reported that the murder of Kelly involved members of U.S. special forces covert forces. On November 3, 2007, WMR reported: "On July 17, 2003, Kelly was found dead in a wooded area in his home village of Southmoor. The death was ruled a suicide but this editor was informed by intelligence sources in Paris, where I was the night Kelly was found dead, that he was murdered by 'wet affairs' operatives working for the Blair and Bush interests. Liberal Democratic Member of Parliament Norman Baker, after a one year investigation, also recently concluded that Kelly was murdered." On February 28, 2008, WMR followed up on the report with the following: "WMR has learned from a former British Defense Ministry source that the assassination team that dispatched Diana and Dr. Kelly were not MI-6 but a US Navy SEAL team that operates abroad to target individuals who have been sanctioned for assassination. It should also be noted that Blackwater USA was largely formed by ex-US Navy SEAL personnel."

The Williams affair and the re-opening of the investigation of Dr. Kelly's death come after a spate of espionage scandals, including the arrest and expulsion of alleged Russian agents in the United States and the murder by Israel's Mossad of a Hamas official in Dubai. The Israelis were using forged and altered passports from a number of nations, including Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, and Australia.

The use of "wet affairs" by intelligence agencies is on a steep increase. The deaths of Williams and Kelly in Britain and, possibly, unknown others around the world, points to a renewed "Cold War" in the intelligence game.

Update 1x: WMR has also been informed by British intelligence sources that Douglas Hurd's son, Thomas Hurd, a member of the British diplomatic service, actually works for MI-6.

The intelligence dark games continue with the August 6 suspicious death of the deputy head of the Russian GRU military intelligence service, Major General Yuri Ivanov while reportedly swimming off the Syrian coast. His body later washed ashore on the Turkish coast. The Israeli paper Yediot Ahronoth reported that Ivanov was killed while on an official visit to Syria to meet with his Syrian counterparts. The meeting took place in Tartus, the site of a Russian naval installation. Ivanov, according to the Israeli paper, was assassinated in Tartus and his body dumped in the Mediterranean Sea. The killers were apparently trying to warn the Russians from establishing closer military links with Syria.

Continuity of Government: Coup d'Etat Authority in America - by Stephen Lendman

This article reviews the historical roots and America's current Continuity of Government authority, initially planned and developed by Ronald Reagan. More on that below.

On March 1, 2002, Washington Post writers Barton Gellman and Susan Schmidt headlined, "Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret," saying:

"President Bush has dispatched a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work secretly outside Washington, activating for the first time longstanding plans to ensure survival of federal rule after a catastrophic attack on the nation's capital."

Shortly after 9/11, a classified "Continuity of Operations Plan" (aka "continuity of government") was implemented. Legal documents were then drafted, creating a shadow government in case of a catastrophe, George Bush saying:

"We take the continuity of government issue seriously because our nation was under attack. Until this country has routed out terrorists wherever they hid, we're not safe."

In other words, the plan, like the "war on terror," is open-ended, in violation of the Constitution's Separation of Powers, the document George Bush called "just a goddamn piece of paper," and governed accordingly throughout his tenure, a practice Obama continues. More on that below.

On April 4, 2007, the Bush administration issued a combined White House/Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Security/Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20, extending for one year the 9/11 emergency for the sixth time, and establishing Continuity of Government (COG) procedures under Catastrophic Emergency conditions, defined as:

"any incident (such as a terrorist attack), regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the US population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."

COG is then defined as:

"a coordinated effort within the Federal Government's executive branch to ensure that National Essential Functions continue to be performed during a Catastrophic Emergency."

The combined directive gave the president and DHS unprecedented police state powers to declare martial law without congressional approval, and be able to rule extrajudicially, free from constitutional constrains. It also let the vice-president assume dictatorial powers, George Bush left a figurehead by clever wording, saying:

NSPD 51 "shall be implemented in a manner that is consistent with, and facilitates effective implementation of, provisions of the Constitution concerning succession to the Presidency or the exercise of its powers, and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (3 U.S.C. 19), with consultation of the Vice President and, as appropriate, others involved. Heads of executive departments and agencies shall ensure that appropriate support is available to the Vice President and others involved as necessary to be prepared at all times to implement those provisions."

Related to this was Dick Cheney's 2005 "Contingency Plan" in case of another 9/11 type attack, authorizing preemptive measures, including war, against suspected terrorists, individuals and/or sponsor states, depending on who's designated.

COG authority is renewed annually. Thus, on September 10, 2009, the White House extended the Bush administration's 9/11 national emergency, a press release saying:


Consistent with sections 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.

Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2009. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency the former President declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress."

On September 14, 1982, Ronald Reagan's (secret) National Security Decision Directive/NSDD 55 established a National Program Office (NPO), tasked with ensuring the federal government's survive in case of a national emergency, specifically a nuclear attack.

Reporting to Vice President Bush, NPO developed and coordinated secret plans with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), CIA, and Departments of State and Defense to maintain large underground bunkers, high-tech software, and procedures to let government function under emergency conditions - originally in case of nuclear attack, now terrorist ones or any "emergency," including natural disasters.

In 1988, Reagan's Executive Order 12656 authorized a COG response, including full-scale militarization in case of a "national security emergency," defined as:

"Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States."

The policy remained largely in place under GHW Bush's April 1990 National Security Directive (NSD) 37, June 1992 NSD 69 (both titled Enduring Constitutional Government), and Bill Clinton's October 1998 Presidential Decision Directive/National Security Council (PDD/NSC) 67, titled Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations, stating:

It "relates to enduring constitutional government, continuity of operations (COOP) planning, and continuity of government (COG) ensure survival of a constitutional form of government and the continuity of essential Federal functions."

The earlier notion of "enduring" or "continuity" of government became changing it extrajudicially under George Bush, ideas secretly plotted in the 1980s and 1990s by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other neocon extremists (so-called Project 908), implemented on 9/11.

According to the 9/11 Commission, it was without elaboration, but consider what followed - an array of police state actions by Executive Orders (EOs), National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives, legislation, and other disturbing measures, targeting designated domestic and foreign adversaries, dissent, civil liberties, human rights, and other democratic freedoms, including an assault on the Bill of Rights. What followed included:

-- the October 8, 2001 Executive Order (EO) 13228 establishing two Executive agencies: the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) "to develop and implement a national strategy to coordinate federal, state, and local counterterrorism efforts to secure the country from and respond to terrorist threats or attacks;" and the Homeland Security Council (HSC) "to advise the President on homeland security matters, mirroring the role the National Security Council (NSC) plays in national security;"

-- the October 2001 USA Patriot Act, eroding First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment protections, including free association, due process, freedom from illegal searches and seizures, and privacy; the crime of "domestic terrorism" was also established, thereafter targeting animal and environmental activists and other US citizens; in February 2010, Obama extended the law with little notice;

-- the November 2001 Military Order Number 1, authorizing the president to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest non-citizens (and later citizens) anywhere in the world for any reason, and detain them indefinitely without charge, evidence, due process or judicial fairness protections of law;

-- in April 2002, the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was established, militarizing the homeland for the first time, authorizing federal troops in American communities in case of emergencies, including terrorist attacks and civil unrest;

-- the November 2002 Homeland Security Act (HSA), creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), combining previously separate federal agencies under one authority to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies and give Washington new police state powers; the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is its largest investigative and enforcement arm, targeting suspected criminal and terrorist threats, including undocumented immigrants by their presence, treating them repressively like common criminals;

-- the October 2006 Military Commissions Act authorized torture and sweeping unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, and prosecute alleged suspects and collaborators (including US citizens), detain them indefinitely in military prisons, and deny them habeas and other legal protections;

-- in October 2006, provisions in Sections 333 and 1076 of the FY 2007 Defense Authorization Act amended the 1807 Insurrection Act and 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, prohibiting federal or National Guard troops use for law enforcement unless congressionally authorized in emergencies like an insurrection; now the president can claim a public emergency, declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and deploy military forces on US streets, including to suppress dissent;

-- extrajudicial domestic surveillance became institutionalized;

-- a vast, secret offshore gulag was established, besides the few known ones at Guantanamo, in Iraq, and Afghanistan;

-- indefinite preventive detentions were authorized for persons who can't be prosecuted, yet are claimed (without evidence) to endanger America;

-- torture became official policy;

-- In January 2009, HR 645: National Emergency Centers Establishment Act was introduced, referred to committee, but thus far not passed "To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish national emergency centers on military installations," six in major regions, modeled on Guantanamo, militarizing FEMA to run them; and

-- various other measures were enacted, hardening repressive domestic rule, heading for extrajudicial martial law to quell expected or ongoing civil disturbances.

Historical Roots of COG Authority

COG roots go back to the June 1947 National Security Act (as amended) that merged the Departments of War and Navy into the National Military Establishment (NME), including a separate Department of the Air Force headed by a Secretary of Defense - in August 1949, NME renamed the Department of Defense.

NSA also established the CIA, National Security Resources Board (NSRB), and National Security Council (NSC) to advise the president on domestic, foreign, and military policies at the onset of the Cold War.

In the early 1950s, Truman approved construction of a massive 200,000 square foot underground facility along the Maryland - Pennsylvania border, 65 miles north of Washington. Officially called the Alternate Joint Communications Center (Site-R at Raven Rock), it was one of 96 Federal Relocation Centers (or Federal Relocation Arc) around the nation's capital for government and Pentagon use in case of nuclear war.

Later, they became the "backbone" for COG operations, where Cheney and other top officials went after (or perhaps hours before) 9/11.

On December 1, 1950, Truman's EO 10186 established the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) within the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), to oversee federal emergency planning.

On December 16, 1950, EO 10193 created the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM), to mobilize civilians, industries, and government agencies to defend the nation in an emergency. Other measures followed to establish procedures under emergency conditions if the country was attacked.

On April 17, 1952, Truman's EO 10346 ordered the FCDA to coordinate "continuity" plans within the federal government in case of nuclear war.

On July 1, 1958, Reorganization Plan No. 1 merged the FCDA and ODM into the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM), to ensure continuation of essential government and industry functions under national emergency conditions.

On October 28, 1969, Nixon's EO 11490 directed government officials to ensure the continuation of "essential functions" in case of an emergency. It also directed department heads to develop succession of office plans, overseen by the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) - called a thin line between government and dictatorship, according to some.

In 1970, future Reagan administration FEMA head, Louis O. Giuffrida, advocated martial law in case of mass civil unrest, specifically recommending placing millions of "American negroes" in "assembly centers or relocation camps."

On May 5, 1972, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) became the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) to "provide preparedness assistance planning in all areas of civil defense and natural disasters."

In March 1976, The Progressive published an article about Mount Weather, a secret underground facility, 50 miles north of Washington, to house a parallel executive branch ready to take over government under emergency conditions.

On April 1, 1979, FEMA was established to oversee federal planning for natural disasters, including nuclear and terrorist attacks. Purportedly to help victims, it, in fact, serves federal authorities, including administering continuity measures if needed. Its Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is the "Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions."

Measures in the 1980s and 1990s were reviewed above. On May 8, 2001 (four months before 9/11), George Bush established the Office of National Preparedness under FEMA - empowering Dick Cheney to oversee a "coordinated national effort" to integrate Washington's response to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack.

On 9/11, from 9:45 - 9:56AM EDT, NSC counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke activated COG, ordering all federal agencies "to activate an alternative command post, an alternative headquarters outside of Washington, DC, and to staff it as soon as possible."

In addition, key officials went to secure locations, including Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and other Republican and Democrat leaders, after which a "shadow government" was formed, perhaps still in ready to be reactivated under emergency conditions.

On July 27, 2009, The New York Times reported that its activation remained intact under Obama, saying:

White House officials draw "no distance between their own policies and those left behind by the Bush administration." The White House said only that current policy is "settled." The full article can be accessed through the following link:

A Final Comment

Under the 1947 Presidential Succession Act, the Vice President becomes Chief Executive if a President dies, followed by the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and 11 other cabinet officers in line of succession according to when their office was established, Secretary of Homeland Security the newest in 2001.

Key is who's empowered, not inaugurated - authority given Dick Cheney under George Bush's NSPD 51 as explained above. Most worrisome is if COG subverts constitutional protections, ends democratic freedoms, and makes America another banana republic ruled by wealthy, unelected, despotic, corrupted elites - a status largely descriptive of present day conditions.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

The State and Local Bases of Zionist Power in America

Any serious effort to understand the extraordinary influence of the Zionist power configuration over US foreign policy must examine the presence of key operatives in strategic positions in the government and the activities of local Zionist organizations affiliated with mainstream Jewish organizations and religious orders.

There are at least 52 major American Jewish organizations actively engaged in promoting Israel’s foreign policy, economic and technological agenda in the US (see the appendix). The grassroots membership ranges from several hundred thousand militants in the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to one hundred thousand wealthy contributors, activists and power brokers in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In addition scores of propaganda mills, dubbed think tanks, have been established by million dollar grants from billionaire Zionists including the Brookings Institute (Haim Saban) and the Hudson Institute among others. Scores of Zionist funded political action committees (PAC) have intervened in all national and regional elections, controlling nominations and influencing election outcomes. Publishing houses, including university presses have been literally taken over by Zionist zealots, the most egregious example being Yale University, which publishes the most unbalanced tracts parroting Zionist parodies of Jewish history.1 New heavily funded Zionist projects designed to capture young Jews and turn them into instruments of Israeli foreign policy includes “Taglit-Birthright” which has spent over $250 million dollars over the past decade sending over a quarter-million Jews (between 18-26) to Israel for 10 days of intense brainwashing.2 Jewish billionaires and the Israeli state foot the bill. The students are subject to a heavy dose of Israeli style militarism as they are accompanied by Israeli soldiers as part of their indoctrination; at no point do they visit the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem.2 They are urged to become dual citizens and even encouraged to serve in the Israeli armed forces. In summary, the 52 member organizations of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations which we discuss are only the tip of the iceberg of the Zionist Power Configuration: taken together with the PACs, the propaganda mills, the commercial and University presses and mass media we have a matrix of power for understanding the tremendous influence they have on US foreign and domestic policy as it affects Israel and US Zionism.

While all their activity is dedicated first and foremost in ensuring that US Middle East policy serves Israel’s colonial expansion in Palestine and war aims in the Middle East, what B’nai B’rth euphemistically calls a “focus on Israel and its place in the world”, many groups ‘specialize’ in different spheres of activity. For example, the “Friends of the Israel Defense Force” is primarily concerned in their own words “to look after the IDF”, in other words provide financial resources and promote US volunteers for a foreign army (an illegal activity except when it involves Israel). Hillel is the student arm of the Zionist power configuration claiming a presence in 500 colleges and universities, all affiliates defending each and every human rights abuse of the Israeli state and organizing all expenses paid junkets for Jewish student recruits to travel to Israel where they are heavily propagandized and encouraged to ‘migrate’ or become ‘dual citizens’.
Method: Studying Zionist Power:

There are several approaches for measuring the power of the combined Zionist organizations and influential occupants of strategic positions in government and the economy. These include (a) reputational approach (b) self claims (c) decision-making analysis (d) structural inferences. Most of these approaches provide some clues about Zionist potential power. For example, newspaper pundits and journalists frequently rely on Washington insiders, congressional staff and notables to conclude that AIPAC has the reputation for being one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. This approach points to the need to empirically examine the operations of AIPAC in influencing Congressional votes, nomination of candidates, defeating incumbents who do not unconditionally support the Israeli line. In other words analyzing the Congressional and Executive decision-making process is one key to measuring Zionist power. But it is not the only one. Zionist power is a product of a historical context, where media ownership and wealth concentration and other institutional levers of power come into play and shape the current decision-making framework. Cumulative power over time and across institutions creates a heavy bias in the political outcomes favorable to Israel’s organized agents in America. Once again the mere presence of Jews or Zionists in positions of economic, cultural and political power does not tell us how they will use their resources and whether they will have the desired effect. Structural analysis, the location of Zionists in the class structure, is necessary but not sufficient for understanding Zionist power. One has to proceed and analyze the content of decisions made and not made regarding the agenda of Israel’s backers operating in the USA. The 52 major Zionists organizations are very open about their claims to power, their pursuit of Israel’s agenda and their subservience to each and every Israeli regime.

Those who deny Zionist power over US Mid East foreign policy are left-Zionists namely Noam Chomsky and his acolytes. They never analyze the legislative process, executive decision-making, the structures and activity of the million member Zionist grassroots and the appointments and background of key policy makers deciding strategic policies in the Middle East. Instead they resort to superficial generalizations and political demagogy, imputing policy to “Big Oil” and the “military-industrial complex” or “US imperialism”. Categories devoid of empirical content and historical context about real existing policy making regarding the Middle East.

The Making of Zionist Power in the US Government

To understand US submission to Israeli war policies in the Middle East one has to look beyond the role of lobbies pressuring Congress and the role of political action committees and wealthy Zionist campaign contributions. A much neglected but absolutely essential building block of Zionist power over US foreign economic, diplomatic and military policy is the Zionist presence in key policy positions, including the Departments of Treasury and State, the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the White House.

Operating within the top policymaking positions, Zionist officials have consistently pursued policies in line with Israel’s militarist policies, aimed at undermining and eliminating any country critical of the Jewish States’ colonial occupation of Palestine, its regional nuclear monopoly, its expansion of Jews only settlements and above all its strident efforts to remain the dominant power in the Arab East. The Zionist policymakers in Government are in constant consultation with the Israeli state, ensuring coordination with the Israeli military (IDF) command, its Foreign Office and secret police (MOSSAD) and compliance with the Jewish State’s political line. Over the past 24 months not a single Zionist policymaker has voiced any criticism of Israel’s most heinous crimes, ranging from the savaging of Gaza to the massacre of the humanitarian flotilla and the expansion of new settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. A record of loyalty to a foreign power which even exceeds the subservience of the Stalinist and Nazi fellow travelers in Washington during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Zionist policymakers in strategic positions depend on the political backing and work closely with their counterparts in the “lobbies” (AIPAC) in Congress and in the national and local Jewish Zionist organizations. Many of the leading Zionist policymakers rose to power through a deliberate strategy of infiltrating the government to shape policy promoting Israel’s interest over and above the interests of the US populace. While a degree of cohesion resulting from a common allegiance to Tel Aviv can account for suspected nepotism and selection, it is also the case that the powerful Jewish lobbies can play a role in creating key positions in Government and ensuring that one of their own will occupy that position and pursue Israel’s agenda.

Stuart Levey: Israel’s Foremost Operative in the US Government

In 2004, AIPAC successfully pressured the Bush Administration to create the office of Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (UTFI) and to name its protégé Princeton graduate Stuart Levey to that position. Before, but especially after his appointment, Levey was in close collaboration with the Israeli state and was known as an over the top Zionist zealot with unbounded energy and blind worship of the Israeli state.

Within the confines of his Zionist ideological blinders, Levey applied his intelligence to the singular task of turning his office into the major foreign policy venue for setting US policy toward Iran. Levey more than any other appointed official in government or elected legislator, formulates and implements policies which profoundly influence US, European Union and UN economic relations with Iran. Levey elaborated the sanctions policies, which Washington imposed on the EU and the Security Council. Levey, organizes the entire staff under his control at Treasury to investigate trade and investment policies of all the world’s major manufacturing, banking, shipping, petroleum and trading corporations. He then criss-crosses the US and successfully pressures pension funds, investment houses, oil companies and economic institutions to disinvest from any companies dealing with Iran’s civilian economy. He has gone global, threatening sanctions and blackballing dissident companies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America which refuse to surrender economic opportunities. They all understood Levey operated at the behest of Israel, services Levey has proudly performed.

Levey coordinates his campaign with Zionist leaders in Congress. He secures sanctions legislation in line with his campaigns. His policies clearly violate international law and national sovereignty, pressing the limits of extra territorial enforcement of his administrative fiats against a civilian economy. His violation of economic sovereignty parallels Obama’s announcement that US Special Forces would operate in violation of political sovereignty on four continents. For all intents and purposes, Levey makes US policy toward Iran. At each point he designs the escalation of sanctions, and then passes it on to the White House, which shoves it down the throats of the Security Council. Once new sanctions approved by Levey and staff are in place they are there to enforce them: identifying violators and implementing penalties. Treasury has become an outpost of Tel Aviv. Not a single leftist, liberal or social democratic publication highlights the role of Levey or even the terrible economic pain this Old Testament fanatic is inflicting on 75 million Iranian civilian workers and consumers. Indeed like Israel’s Judeo-fascist rabbis who preach a “final solution” for Israel’s enemies, Levey announces new and harsher “punishment” against the Iranian people.3 Perhaps at the appropriate moment the Jewish State will name a major avenue through the West Bank for his extraordinary services to this most unholy racist state.

The Strategic Role of Local Power

The Israel Lobby Archive recently released declassified documents of the American Zionist Council (AZC) subpoenaed during a US Senate investigation between 1962-63. The documents reveal how the Israeli state through its American Jewish conduits – the mainstream Zionist organizations – penetrated the US mass media and propagated its political line, unbeknownst to the American public. Stories written by a host of Jewish Zionist journalists and academics were solicited and planted in national media such as The Readers Digest, The Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post among others, including regional and local newspapers and radio stations.4 While the national Zionist organizations procured the journalists and academic writers and editors, it was the local affiliates who carried the message and implemented the line. The level of infiltration the Senate subpoenaed Zionist documents in the 1960’s reveal has multiplied a hundred fold over the past 50 years in terms of financing, paid functionaries and committed militants and above all in structural power and coercive capability.

While the national leaders in close consultation with Israeli officials receive instructions on which issues are of high priority, the implementation follows a vertical route to regional and local leaders, politicians, and notables who in turn target the local media and religious, academic and other opinion leaders. When national leaders ensure publication of pro Israeli propaganda, the locals reproduce and circulate it to local media and non-Zionist influentials on their “periphery”. Letter campaigns orchestrated at the top are implemented by thousands of militant Zionist doctors, lawyers and businesspeople. They praise pro-Israel scribes and attack critics; they pressure newspapers, publishing houses and magazines not to publish dissidents. The national and local leaders promote hostile reviews of books not promoting the Israeli line, influence library decisions to pack their shelves with pro Israeli books and censor and exclude more balanced or critical histories. Local militants in co-ordination with Israeli consuls saturate the public with thousands of public meetings and speakers targeting Christian churches, academic audiences and civic groups; at the same time local Zionist militants and, especially millionaire influentials, pressure local venues (university administrators, church authorities and civic associations) to disinvite any critic of Israel and their supporters from speaking. In the last resort, local Zionists demand that a pro-Israel propagandist be given equal time, something unheard of when an Israel apologist is scheduled to speak.

Local Zionist organizations make yeoman efforts to recruit mayors, governors, local celebrities, publishers, church people and promising young ethnic and minority leaders by offering them all expenses paid propaganda junkets to Israel and then to write or give interviews parroting what they were fed by Israeli officials. Local leaders mobilize thousands of militant activist Zionists to attack anti-Zionist Jews in public and private. They demand they be excluded from any media roundtables on the Middle East.

Local Zionist functionaries form rapid response committees to visit and threaten any local publisher and editorial staff publishing editorials or articles questioning the Israeli party line. Local leaders police (“monitor”) all local meetings, speaker invitations, as well as the speeches of public commentators, religious leaders and academics to detect any “anti-Zionist overtones’ (which they label “covert anti-Semitism”). Most of the major Jewish religious orders are lined up as the clerical backbone of local Israeli fundraising, including the financing of new “Jews only” settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

Local functionaries are in the forefront of campaigns to deny independent Middle East specialists and public policy academics, appointments, tenure or promotion, independently of the quality of their scholarship. On the other hand, academic hacks who toe the pro-Israel line, by publishing books with blanket attacks on Israeli critics among Christians and Muslims and countries like Turkey, Iran or whoever is a target of Israeli policy, are promoted, lauded and put on the best seller list. Any book or writer critical of Zionist Power or Israel is put on a local and national ‘index’ and subject to an inquisition by slander from a stable of Jewish Torquemadas.


The power of Israel in the US does not reside only in the influence and leadership of powerful Washington based “pro-Israel lobbies”, like AIPAC. Without the hundreds of thousands of militant locally based dentists, podiatrists, stockbrokers, real estate brokers, professors and others, the “lobby” would be unable to sustain and implement its policy among hundreds of millions of Americans outside the major metropolises. As we have seen from the Senate declassified documents, over a half-century ago, local Zionist organizations began a systematic campaign of penetration, control and intimidation that has reached its pinnacle in the first decade of the 21st century. It is no accident or mere coincidence that University officials in Northern Minnesota or upstate New York are targeted to exclude speakers or fire faculty members critical of Israel. Local Zionists have computerized databanks operating with an index of prohibited speakers, as the Zionists themselves admit and flaunt in contrast to “liberal” Zionists who are prone to label as “anti-Semitic” or “conspiracy theorists” writers who cite official Zionist documents demonstrating their systematic perversion of our democratic freedoms.

Over the decades, the distinction between Zionist power exercised by a “lobby” outside the government and operatives “inside” the government has virtually vanished. As we have seen, in our case study, AIPAC secured the undersecretary position in Treasury, dictated the appointment of a key Zionist operative (Stuart Levey) and accompanies his global crusade to sanction Iran into starvation and destitution. The planting of operatives within key Middle East positions in government is not the simple result of individual career choices. The ascent of so many pro-Israel Zionist to government posts is part of their mission to serve Israel’s interest at least for a few years of their careers. Their presence in government precludes any Senate or Congressional investigations of Zionists organizations acting as agents of a foreign power as took place in the 1960’s.

As the major Zionist organizations and influentials have accumulated power and abused the exercise of power on behalf of an increasingly bloody racist state, which flaunts its dominance over US institutions, public opposition is growing. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is gaining strength even in the US (see Harvard divestment in Israeli companies). US public support for Israel, by all measures, has dropped below 50%, while polls in Western Europe show a marked increase in hostility to Israel’s ultra-rightist regime. Anti-Zionist Jews are growing in influence especially among young Jews who are appalled by the Israeli slaughter in Gaza and assault on the humanitarian flotilla. Equally important the presence of anti-Zionist Jews on panels and forums has given courage to many otherwise intimidated non-Jews who heretofore were fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic”.

The Zionist power configuration rests on a declining population base: most young Jews marry outside the confines of the ethno-religious Jewish-Israeli nexus and many of them are not likely to form the bases for rabid campaigns on behalf of a racist state. The Zionist leadership’s high intensity and heavily endowed effort to fence in young people of Jewish ancestry via private schools, subsidized “summer programs” in Israel etc. are as much out of fear and recognition of the drift away from clerical chauvinism as it is an attempt to recruit a new generation of Israel First militants.

The danger is that the US Zionist support for the ultra-rightist and racist regime in Israel is leading them to join forces with the far right in the US. Today Jewish and Christian Manhattan rednecks are fermenting mass Islamic hatred (the so called “Mosque controversy”) as a distraction from the economic crises and rising unemployment. Zionist promotion of mass Islamofobia, so near to Wall Street, where many of their fat cats who profit from plundering the assets of America operate, is a dangerous game. If the same enraged masses turn their eyes upward toward the wealthy and powerful instead of downward to blacks and Muslims, some unpleasant and unanticipated surprises might rebound against, not only Israel’s operatives, but all those wrongly identified as related to a misconstrued Jewish Motherland.

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Member Organizations

1. Ameinu
2. American Friends of Likud
3. American Gathering/Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
4. America-Israel Friendship League
5. American Israel Public Affairs Committee
6. American Jewish Committee
7. American Jewish Congress
8. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
9. American Sephardi Federation
10. American Zionist Movement
11. Americans for Peace Now
12. AMIT
13. Anti-Defamation League
14. Association of Reform Zionists of America
15. B’nai B’rith International
16. Bnai Zion
17. Central Conference of American Rabbis
18. Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
19. Development Corporation for Israel/State of Israel Bonds
20. Emunah of America
21. Friends of Israel Defense Forces
22. Hadassah, Women’s Zionist Organization of America
23. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
24. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
25. Jewish Community Centers Association
26. Jewish Council for Public Affairs
27. The Jewish Federations of North America
28. Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
29. Jewish Labor Committee
30. Jewish National Fund
31. Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
32. Jewish War Veterans of the USA
33. Jewish Women International
34. MERCAZ USA, Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement
36. MCSK” Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia
37. National Council of Jewish Women
38. National Council of Young Israel
39. ORT America
40. Rabbinical Assembly
41. Rabbinical Council of America
42. Religious Zionists of America
43. Union for Reform Judaism
44. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
45. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
46. WIZO
47. Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
48. Women of Reform Judaism
49. Workmen’s Circle
50. World ORT
51. World Zionist Executive, US
52. Zionist Organization of America

  1. Financial Times book review section August 28/29 2010. []
  2. Boston Globe August 26, 2010. [] []
  3. Stuart Levey, “Iran’s New Deceptions at Sea Must be Punished” FT 8/16/2010, p. 9. []
  4. Israel Lobby Archive, August 18, 2010. []

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.