AP CEO believes Bush is lying about Iraq journalist ?

AP president: US arrests journalist in Iraq to ‘control’ information

03/19/2008 @ 7:39 am

Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

Associated Press president Tom Curley says his news organization does not buy the government’s argument that one of its photographers arrested in Iraq was working on behalf of the enemy, and he alleged the US is rounding up journalists in an attempt to control information.

http://www.propeller.com/viewstory/2008/03/19/ap-president-us-arrests-journalist-in-iraq-to-control-information/?url=http%3A%2F%2Frawstory.com%2Fnews%2F2008%2FAP_President_chides_Bush_Admin_for_0319.html&frame=true

VETS BREAK SILENCE ON IRAQ WAR CRIMES

“The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership

have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don’t abide by the rule

 of law, we don’t respect international treaties, so when that

 atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity,” argues former

 U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from

2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.

  

  

Vets Break Silence on Iraq War Crimes

 

By Aaron Glantz, IPS News
Posted on March 7, 2008, Printed on March 11, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/78352/

U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in those countries.

“The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it,” said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. “That’s left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples,” as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation.”

“The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don’t abide by the rule of law, we don’t respect international treaties, so when that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity,” argues former U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.

Laituri told IPS that precedent of lawlessness makes itself felt in the rules of engagement handed down by commanders to soldiers on the front lines. When he was stationed in Samarra, for example, he said one of his fellow soldiers shot an unarmed man while he walked down the street.

“The problem is that that soldier was not committing a crime as you might call it because the rules of engagement were very clear that no one was supposed to be walking down the street,” he said. “But I have a problem with that. You can’t tell a family to leave everything they know so you can bomb the shit out of their house or their city. So while he definitely has protection under the law, I don’t think that legitimates that type of violence.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War is calling the gathering “Winter Soldier,” after a quote from the U.S. revolutionary Thomas Paine, who wrote in 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Organizers say video and photographic evidence will also be presented, and the testimony and panels will be broadcast live on Satellite TV and streaming video on ivaw.org.

Winter Soldier is modeled on a similar event held by Vietnam Veterans 37 years ago.

In 1971, over 100 members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with fellow citizens. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions.

“Initially even the My Lai massacre was denied,” notes Gerald Nicosia, whose book “Home to War” provides the most exhaustive history of the Vietnam veterans’ movement.

“The U.S. military has traditionally denied these accusations based on the fact that ‘this is a crazy soldier’ or ‘this is a malcontent’ — that you can’t trust this person. And that is the reason that Vietnam Veterans Against the War did this unified presentation in Detroit in 1971.”

“They brought together their bona fides and wore their medals and showed it was more than one or two or three malcontents. It was medal-winning, honored soldiers — veterans in a group verifying what each other said to try to convince people that these charges cannot be denied. That people are doing these things as a matter of policy.”

Nicosia says the 1971 Winter Soldier was roundly ignored by the mainstream media, but that it made an indelible imprint on those who were there.

Among those in attendance was 27-year-old Navy Lieutenant John Kerry, who had served on a Swift Boat in Vietnam. Three months after the hearings, Nicosia notes, Kerry took his case to Congress and spoke before a jammed Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Television cameras lined the walls, and veterans packed the seats.

“Many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia,” Kerry told the committee, describing the events of the Winter Soldier gathering.

“It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit — the emotions in the room, and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.”

In one of the most famous antiwar speeches of the era, Kerry concluded: “Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be — and these are his words — ‘the first president to lose a war.’ We are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Nicosia says U.S. citizens and veterans find themselves in a similar situation today.

“The majority of the American people are very dissatisfied with the Iraq war now and would be happy to get out of it. But Americans are bred deep into their psyches to think of America as a good country and, I think, much harder than just the hurdle of getting troops out of Iraq is to get Americans to realize the terrible things we do in the name of the United States.”

© 2008 IPS News All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/78352/

FBI DEPUTIZES PRIVATE CONTRACTORS WITH SHOOT TO KILL ORDERS

 

FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’

 

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on February 8, 2008, Printed on February 8, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/76388/

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law. InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.

“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

“We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility,” says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

“At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector,” the InfraGard website states. “InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.”

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website, http://www.infragard.net, which adds that “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.”

To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. At that time, the group had less than half as many members as it does today. “To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard,” he said. “From our perspective that amounts to 11,000 contacts . . . and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America.” He added a little later, “Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense.”

He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they “note suspicious activity or an unusual event.” And he said they could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers.”

In an interview with InfraGard after the conference, which is featured prominently on the InfraGard members’ website, Mueller says: “It’s a great program.”

The ACLU is not so sanguine.

“There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” the ACLU warned in its August 2004 report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.

InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.

“The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented to non-InfraGard members,” the website states. “During interviews with members of the press, controlling the image of InfraGard being presented can be difficult. Proper preparation for the interview will minimize the risk of embarrassment. . . . The InfraGard leadership and the local FBI representative should review the submitted questions, agree on the predilection of the answers, and identify the appropriate interviewee. . . . Tailor answers to the expected audience. . . . Questions concerning sensitive information should be avoided.”

One of the advantages of InfraGard, according to its leading members, is that the FBI gives them a heads-up on a secure portal about any threatening information related to infrastructure disruption or terrorism.

The InfraGard website advertises this. In its list of benefits of joining InfraGard, it states: “Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards, and much more.”

InfraGard members receive “almost daily updates” on threats “emanating from both domestic sources and overseas,” Hershman says.

“We get very easy access to secure information that only goes to InfraGard members,” Schneck says. “People are happy to be in the know.”

On November 1, 2001, the FBI had information about a potential threat to the bridges of California. The alert went out to the InfraGard membership. Enron was notified, and so, too, was Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley. He notified his brother Gray, the governor of California.

“He said his brother talked to him before the FBI,” recalls Steve Maviglio, who was Davis’s press secretary at the time. “And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’ ”

Maviglio still sounds perturbed about this: “You’d think an elected official would be the first to know, not the last.”

In return for being in the know, InfraGard members cooperate with the FBI and Homeland Security. “InfraGard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases,” Schneck says. “What InfraGard brings you is reach into the regional and local communities. We are a 22,000-member vetted body of subject-matter experts that reaches across seventeen matrixes. All the different stovepipes can connect with InfraGard.”

Schneck is proud of the relationships the InfraGard Members Alliance has built with the FBI. “If you had to call 1-800-FBI, you probably wouldn’t bother,” she says. “But if you knew Joe from a local meeting you had with him over a donut, you might call them. Either to give or to get. We want everyone to have a little black book.”

This black book may come in handy in times of an emergency. “On the back of each membership card,” Schneck says, “we have all the numbers you’d need: for Homeland Security, for the FBI, for the cyber center. And by calling up as an InfraGard member, you will be listened to.” She also says that members would have an easier time obtaining a “special telecommunications card that will enable your call to go through when others will not.”

This special status concerns the ACLU.

“The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment,” says Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program. “There’s no ‘business class’ in law enforcement. If there’s information the FBI can share with 22,000 corporate bigwigs, why don’t they just share it with the public? That’s who their real ‘special relationship’ is supposed to be with. Secrecy is not a party favor to be given out to friends. . . . This bears a disturbing resemblance to the FBI’s handing out ‘goodies’ to corporations in return for folding them into its domestic surveillance machinery.”

When the government raises its alert levels, InfraGard is in the loop. For instance, in a press release on February 7, 2003, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General announced that the national alert level was being raised from yellow to orange. They then listed “additional steps” that agencies were taking to “increase their protective measures.” One of those steps was to “provide alert information to InfraGard program.”

“They’re very much looped into our readiness capability,” says Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “We provide speakers, as well as do joint presentations [with the FBI]. We also train alongside them, and they have participated in readiness exercises.”

On May 9, 2007, George Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 entitled “National Continuity Policy.” In it, he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security to coordinate with “private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency.”

Asked if the InfraGard National Members Alliance was involved with these plans, Schneck said it was “not directly participating at this point.” Hershman, chairman of the group’s advisory board, however, said that it was.

InfraGard members, sometimes hundreds at a time, have been used in “national emergency preparation drills,” Schneck acknowledges.

“In case something happens, everybody is ready,” says Norm Arendt, the head of the Madison, Wisconsin, chapter of InfraGard, and the safety director for the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. “There’s been lots of discussions about what happens under an emergency.”

One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation — and what their role might be. He showed me his InfraGard card, with his name and e-mail address on the front, along with the InfraGard logo and its slogan, “Partnership for Protection.” On the back of the card were the emergency numbers that Schneck mentioned.

This business owner says he attended a small InfraGard meeting where agents of the FBI and Homeland Security discussed in astonishing detail what InfraGard members may be called upon to do.

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out. But that’s not all.

“Then they said when — not if — martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

I was able to confirm that the meeting took place where he said it had, and that the FBI and Homeland Security did make presentations there. One InfraGard member who attended that meeting denies that the subject of lethal force came up. But the whistleblower is 100 percent certain of it. “I have nothing to gain by telling you this, and everything to lose,” he adds. “I’m so nervous about this, and I’m not someone who gets nervous.”

Though Schneck says that FBI and Homeland Security agents do make presentations to InfraGard, she denies that InfraGard members would have any civil patrol or law enforcement functions. “I have never heard of InfraGard members being told to use lethal force anywhere,” Schneck says.

The FBI adamantly denies it, also. “That’s ridiculous,” says Catherine Milhoan, an FBI spokesperson. “If you want to quote a businessperson saying that, knock yourself out. If that’s what you want to print, fine.”

But one other InfraGard member corroborated the whistleblower’s account, and another would not deny it.

Christine Moerke is a business continuity consultant for Alliant Energy in Madison, Wisconsin. She says she’s an InfraGard member, and she confirms that she has attended InfraGard meetings that went into the details about what kind of civil patrol function — including engaging in lethal force — that InfraGard members may be called upon to perform.

“There have been discussions like that, that I’ve heard of and participated in,” she says.

Curt Haugen is CEO of S’Curo Group, a company that does “strategic planning, business continuity planning and disaster recovery, physical and IT security, policy development, internal control, personnel selection, and travel safety,” according to its website. Haugen tells me he is a former FBI agent and that he has been an InfraGard member for many years. He is a huge booster. “It’s the only true organization where there is the public-private partnership,” he says. “It’s all who knows who. You know a face, you trust a face. That’s what makes it work.”

He says InfraGard “absolutely” does emergency preparedness exercises. When I ask about discussions the FBI and Homeland Security have had with InfraGard members about their use of lethal force, he says: “That much I cannot comment on. But as a private citizen, you have the right to use force if you feel threatened.”

“We were assured that if we were forced to kill someone to protect our infrastructure, there would be no repercussions,” the whistleblower says. “It gave me goose bumps. It chilled me to the bone.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/76388/

BLACKWATER: Tale of an Insider

Blackwater and me: A love story it ain’t

By Robert Bateman

October 12, 2007

I know something about Blackwater USA. This opinion is both intellectually driven as well as moderately emotional. You see, during my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-oped1012contractoroct12,0,3712980,print.story

Bush is tightening the last screws to the souls of our children and grandchildren.

By the way, if you have AT & T and Verizon  phone and service, get rid of it please. There are other options. Go to www.alternet.org  and check out their ideas. Or, keep feeding Satan. Up to you.

http://business.verizon.net/News/default.aspx?id=7657419  Go see who runs Verizon. And, of course, you know that there are more Mormons in the CIA and FBI than you care to know about.  And while I’m at it, you realize Bush doesn’t give a crap about the environment. He chose former Utah Gov, Mike Leavitt to head the EPA.

Now for the post:

Bush Issues Signing Statement on Defense Act, Waiving Ban on Permanent Iraq Bases
Posted by Amanda Terkel, Think Progress on January 29, 2008 at 2:07 PM.

President Bush yesterday signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after initially rejecting Congress’s first version because it would have allegedly opened the Iraqi government to “expensive lawsuits.”

Even though he forced Congress to change its original bill, Bush’s signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:

One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.

In his “Memorandum of Justification” for the waiver, Bush cited his Nov. 26 “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” between Iraq and the United States. This agreement has been aggressively opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as not only unprecedented, but also potentially unconstitutional because it was enacted without the agreement of the legislation branch.

Today on CNN, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) voiced concern that this declaration may indefinitely commit U.S. troops to fighting Iraq’s civil wars:

Read the rest of the post on the flip side »

Military Bloggers begging for Ron Paul ? Is anyone listening?

The New Republican Litmus Test
Jan 29, 2008

“It doesn’t matter if you’ll seize our freedom and money like a foaming-at-the-mouth fascist…as long as you’ll stay the course in Iraq.  That is the message the Republican party of 2008 has sent to its possible presidential nominees this primary election season, and we’ve all heard it loud and clear.”

http://www.military.com/blog/midnight

List of Prominent Repubs: Military Service Records

Military Service Records, prominent Republicans

       MITT ROMNEY DID NOT SERVE.  NOR DID HIS SONS SERVE.

  • Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
  • Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
  • Tom Delay: did not serve.
  • Roy Blunt: did not serve.
  • Bill Frist: did not serve.
  • Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
  • Rick Santorum: did not serve.
  • Trent Lott: did not serve.
  • John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
  • Jeb Bush: did not serve.
  • Karl Rove: did not serve.
  • Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. “Bad knee.” The man who attacked Max Cleland’s patriotism.
  • Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
  • Vin Weber: did not serve.
  • Richard Perle: did not serve.
  • Douglas Feith: did not serve.
  • Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
  • Richard Shelby: did not serve.
  • John Kyl: did not serve.
  • Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
  • Christopher Cox: did not serve.
  • Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
  • Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
  • George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
  • Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
  • B-1 Bob Dornan: Enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
  • Phil Gramm: did not serve.
  • John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
  • Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
  • John M. McHugh: did not serve.
  • JC Watts: did not serve.
  • Jack Kemp: did not serve. “Knee problem,” although continued in NFL for 8 years.
  • Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
  • Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
  • George Pataki: did not serve.
  • Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
  • John Engler: did not serve.
  • Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

Pundits & Preachers

  • Sean Hannity: did not serve.
  • Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a ‘pilonidal cyst.’)
  • Bill O’Reilly: did not serve.
  • Michael Savage: did not serve.
  • George Will: did not serve.
  • Chris Matthews: did not serve.
  • Paul Gigot: did not serve.
  • Bill Bennett: did not serve.
  • Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
  • John Wayne: did not serve.
  • Bill Kristol: did not serve.
  • Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
  • Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
  • Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
  • Ralph Reed: did not serve.
  • Michael Medved: did not serve.
  • Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
  • Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don’t shoot back.)

[Cross-posted at Radical Writ. Major hat-tip to Pam’s House Blend.]

Why is it ok for Romney’s sons to stay home and make money, while John McCain’s son serves in the military?

Is it just me, or has America lost IT’S FREAKING MIND !!!!

How dare these REPUBLICANS, who got us into this illegal war to begin with, VOTE for the man whose sons are sitting fat and happy on mounds of cash, while Dad invests in IRAN, and while McCain’s son serves in the militay !

IN SATAN’S BIBLE – IS THIS MOMENT.

 May (your) Gods save your souls anyway.

Another NeoCon Attempt to frame Iran fails

 

Another Neocon Attempt to Frame Iran Falls Apart

 

By Gareth Porter, The Nation
Posted on January 26, 2008, Printed on January 27, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/74331/

Research for this article was supported by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

Although nukes and Iraq have been the main focus of the Bush Administration’s pressure campaign against Iran, US officials also seek to tar Iran as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. And Team Bush’s latest tactic is to play up a thirteen-year-old accusation that Iran was responsible for the notorious Buenos Aires bombing that destroyed the city’s Jewish Community Center, known as AMIA, killing eighty-six and injuring 300, in 1994. Unnamed senior Administration officials told the Wall Street Journal January 15 that the bombing in Argentina “serves as a model for how Tehran has used its overseas embassies and relationship with foreign militant groups, in particular Hezbollah, to strike at its enemies.”

This propaganda campaign depends heavily on a decision last November by the General Assembly of Interpol, which voted to put five former Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader on the international police organization’s “red list” for allegedly having planned the July 1994 bombing. But the Wall Street Journal reports that it was pressure from the Bush Administration, along with Israeli and Argentine diplomats, that secured the Interpol vote. In fact, the Bush Administration’s manipulation of the Argentine bombing case is perfectly in line with its long practice of using distorting and manufactured evidence to build a case against its geopolitical enemies.

After spending several months interviewing officials at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires familiar with the Argentine investigation, the head of the FBI team that assisted it and the most knowledgeable independent Argentine investigator of the case, I found that no real evidence has ever been found to implicate Iran in the bombing. Based on these interviews and the documentary record of the investigation, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the case against Iran over the AMIA bombing has been driven from the beginning by US enmity toward Iran, not by a desire to find the real perpetrators.

A ‘Wall of Assumptions’

US policy toward the bombing was skewed from the beginning by a Clinton Administration strategy of isolating Iran, adopted in 1993 as part of an understanding with Israel on peace negotiations with the Palestinians. On the very day of the crime, before anything could have been known about who was responsible, Secretary of State Warren Christopher blamed “those who want to stop the peace process in the Middle East”–an obvious reference to Iran.

William Brencick, then chief of the political section at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and the primary Embassy contact for the investigation, recalled in an interview with me last June that a “wall of assumptions” guided the US approach to the case. The primary assumptions, Brencick said, were that the explosion was a suicide bombing and that use of a suicide bomb was prima facie evidence of involvement by Hezbollah–and therefore Iran.

But the suicide-bomber thesis quickly encountered serious problems. In the wake of the explosion, the Menem government asked the United States to send a team to assist in the investigation, and two days after the bombing, experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrived in Buenos Aires along with three FBI agents. According to an interview the head of the team, ATF explosives expert Charles Hunter, gave to a team of independent investigators headed by US journalist Joe Goldman and Argentine investigative journalist Jorge Lanata, as soon as the team arrived the federal police put forward a thesis that a white Renault Trafic van had carried the bomb that destroyed the AMIA.

Hunter quickly identified major discrepancies between the car-bomb thesis and the blast pattern recorded in photos. He wrote a report two weeks later noting that in the wake of the bombing, merchandise in a store immediately to the right of the AMIA was tightly packed against its front windows and merchandise in another shop had been blown out onto the street–suggesting that the blast came from inside rather than outside. Hunter also said he did not understand how the building across the street could still be standing if the bomb had exploded in front of the AMIA, as suggested by the car-bomb thesis.

The lack of eyewitness evidence supporting the thesis was just as striking. Of some 200 witnesses on the scene, only one claimed to have seen a white Renault Trafic. Several testified they were looking at the spot where the Trafic should have been when the explosion occurred and saw nothing. Nicolasa Romero, the wife of a Buenos Aires policeman, was that lone witness. She said she saw a white Renault Trafic approach the corner where she was standing with her sister and her 4-year-old son. But Romero’s sister testified that the vehicle that passed them was not a white Trafic but rather a black-and-yellow taxi. Other witnesses reported seeing a black-and-yellow taxi seconds before the explosion.

Argentine prosecutors argued that pieces of a white Trafic embedded in the flesh of many of the victims of the explosion proved their case for a suicide bomb. But that evidence was discredited by Gabriel Levinas, a researcher for AMIA’s own legal team. Levinas is a member of a leading Jewish family in Buenos Aires who had published a human rights magazine during the dictatorship (his uncle’s car was used to kidnap war criminal Adolf Eichmann and spirit him off to Israel for trial in 1982.)

He discovered that the manufacturer of the white Trafic had been sent fragments of the vehicle recovered by the police for analysis and had found that none of the pieces had ever been put under high temperature. That meant that these car fragments could not have come from the particular white Trafic that police had identified as the suicide bomb car–since that vehicle was known to have once caught fire before having been recycled and repaired.

Yet despite the lack of eyewitness testimony and the weakness of the forensic evidence, the State Department publicly embraced the suicide-bomb story in 1994 and 1995.

The Problem of Motive

Independent investigators have also long puzzled over why Iran would have carried out an action against Argentine Jews while its Hezbollah allies were embroiled in armed struggle with the Israeli military in Lebanon. In their 2006 indictment of several Iranian nationals in the bombing, Argentine prosecutors argued that Iran planned the AMIA attack because Carlos Menem’s administration had abruptly canceled two contracts for the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran.

But the indictment actually provides excerpts from key documents that undermine that conclusion. According to a February 10, 1992, cable from Argentina’s ambassador in Iran, the director of the American Department of Iran’s foreign ministry had “emphasized the need to reach a solution to the problem [of nuclear technology transfer] that would avoid damage to other contracts.” Iran thus clearly signaled its hope of finding a negotiated solution that could reactivate the suspended contracts and maintain other deals with Argentina as well.

On March 17, 1992, a bomb blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires–an incident for which the Argentine prosecutors also held Iran responsible. The indictment, however, quotes a top official of INVAP, an Argentine nuclear firm that dominated the National Commission on Atomic Energy, as saying that during 1992 there were “contacts” between INVAP and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran “in the expectation that the decision of the national government would be revised, allowing the tasks in the contracts to be resumed.” The same official confirmed that negotiations surrounding the two canceled projects continued from 1993 to 1995–before and after the AMIA explosion. Those revelations suggest that the Iranian attitude toward Argentina at the time of the bombing was exactly the opposite of the one claimed in the indictment.

The Hezbollah motive for involvement in the AMIA bombing, according to the indictment, was revenge against the Israeli bombing of a Hezbollah training camp in the Bekaa Valley in early 1994 and the Israeli kidnapping of Shiite leader Mustapha Dirani in May. That theory fails to explain, however, why Hezbollah would choose to retaliate against Jews in Argentina. It was already at war with the Israeli forces in Lebanon, where the group was employing suicide bomb attacks in an effort to pressure Israel to end its occupation. Hezbollah had a second easy retaliatory option available, which was to launch Katyusha rockets across the border into Israeli territory.

That is exactly what Hezbollah did to retaliate for the Israeli killing of some 100 Lebanese civilians in the town of Qana in 1996. That episode inspired greater anger toward Israel among Hezbollah militants than any other event in the 1990s, according to Boston University Hezbollah specialist Augustus Richard Norton. If Hezbollah responded to this Israeli provocation with Katyusha rockets on Israeli territory, it hardly makes sense that it would have responded to a lesser Israeli offense by designing an ambitious international attack on Argentine Jews with no connection to the Israeli occupation.

The Frame-up

The keystone of the Argentine case was Carlos Alberto Telleldin, a used-car salesman with a record of shady dealings with both criminals and the police–and a Shiite last name. On July 10, 1994, Telleldin sold the white Trafic the police claimed was the suicide car to a man he described as having a Central American accent. Nine days after the bombing Telleldin was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice to the crime.

The police claimed they were led to Telleldin by the serial number on the van’s engine block, which was found in the rubble. But it would have been a remarkable lapse for the organizers of what was otherwise a very professional bombing to have left intact such a visible identification mark, one that any car thief knows how to erase. That should have been a clue that the attack was likely not orchestrated by Hezbollah, whose bomb experts were well-known by US intelligence analysts to have been clever enough, in blowing up the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983, to avoid leaving behind any forensic evidence that would lead back to them. It should also have raised questions about whether that evidence was planted by the police themselves.

It is now clear that the Menem government’s real purpose in arresting Telleldin was to get him to finger those they wanted to blame for the bombing. In January 1995, Telleldin was visited by retired army Capt. Hector Pedro Vergez, a part-time agent for SIDE, the Argentine intelligence agency, who offered him $1 million and his freedom if he would identify one of five Lebanese nationals detained in Paraguay in September 2004–men the CIA said might be Hezbollah militants–as the person to whom he had sold the van. After Telleldin refused to go along with the scheme, an Argentine judge found that there was no evidence on which to detain the alleged militants.

The Buenos Aires court, which threw out the case against Telleldin in 2004, determined that a federal judge, Luisa Riva Aramayo, met with Telleldin in 1995 to discuss another possibility–paying him to testify that he had sold the van to several high-ranking figures in the Buenos Aires provincial police who were allies of Menem’s political rival, Eduardo Duhalde. In July 1996, Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who was overseeing the investigation, offered Telleldin $400,000 to implicate those police officers as accomplices in the bombing. (A videotape made secretly by SIDE agents and aired on television in April 1997 showed Galeano negotiating the bribe.) A month after making the offer to Telleldin, Galeano charged three senior Buenos Aires police officials with having involvement in the bombing, based on Telleldin’s testimony.

“The Whole Iran Thing Seemed Kind of Flimsy”

In an interview last May James Cheek, Clinton’s Ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, told me, “To my knowledge, there was never any real evidence [of Iranian responsibility]. They never came up with anything.” The hottest lead in the case, he recalled, was an Iranian defector named Manoucher Moatamer, who “supposedly had all this information.” But Moatamer turned out to be only a dissatisfied low-ranking official without the knowledge of government decision-making that he had claimed. “We finally decided that he wasn’t credible,” Cheek recalled. Ron Goddard, then deputy chief of the US Mission in Buenos Aires, confirmed Cheek’s account. He recalled that investigators found nothing linking Iran to the bombing. “The whole Iran thing seemed kind of flimsy,” Goddard said.

James Bernazzani, then the head of the FBI’s Hezbollah office, was directed in October 1997 to assemble a team of specialists to go to Buenos Aires and put the AMIA case to rest. Bernazzani, now head of the agency’s New Orleans office, recalled in a November 2006 interview how he arrived to find that the Argentine investigation of the AMIA bombing had found no real evidence of Iranian or Hezbollah involvement. The only clues suggesting an Iranian link to the bombing at that time, according to Bernazzani, were a surveillance tape of Iranian cultural attache Mohsen Rabbani shopping for a white Trafic van and an analysis of telephone calls made in the weeks before the bombing.

Shortly after the bombing, the biggest Buenos Aires daily newspaper, Clarin, published a story, leaked to it by Judge Galeano, that Argentine intelligence had taped Rabbani shopping for a white Trafic “months” before the bombing. A summary of the warrants for the arrest of Rabbani and six other Iranians in 2006 continued to refer to “indisputable documents” proving that Rabbani had visited car dealers to look for a van like the one allegedly used in the bombing. In fact, the intelligence report on the surveillance of Rabbani submitted to Galeano ten days after the bombing shows that the day Rabbani looked at a car dealer’s white Trafic was May 1, 1993–fifteen months before the bombing and long before Argentine prosecutors have claimed Iran decided to target AMIA.

In the absence of any concrete evidence, SIDE turned to “link analysis” of telephone records to make a circumstantial case for Iranian guilt. The SIDE analysts argued that a series of telephone calls made between July 1 and July 18, 1994, to a mobile phone in the Brazilian border city of Foz de Iguazu must have been made by the “operational group” for the bombing–and that a call allegedly made on a cellphone belonging to Rabbani could be connected to this same group. The FBI’s Bernazzani told me he was appalled by SIDE’s use of link analysis to establish responsibility. “It can be very dangerous,” he told me. “Using that analysis, you could link my telephone to bin Laden’s.” Bernazzani said the conclusions reached by the Argentine investigators were merely “speculation” and said that neither he nor officials in Washington had taken it seriously as evidence pointing to Iran.

Then, in 2000, one more defector surfaced with a new tale of Iranian responsibility. Abdolghassem Mesbahi, who claimed he was once the third-ranking man in Iran’s intelligence services, told Galeano the decision to bomb the AMIA had been made at a meeting of senior Iranian officials, including President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on August 14, 1993. But Mesbahi was soon discredited. Bernazzani told me American intelligence officials believed that by 2000, Mesbahi had long since lost his access to Iranian intelligence, that he was “poor, even broke” and ready to “provide testimony to any country on any case involving Iran.”

A Questionable Informant

Bernazzani admitted to me that until 2003, the case against Iran was merely “circumstantial.” But he claimed a breakthrough came that year, with the identification of the alleged suicide bomber as Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Lebanese Hezbollah militant, who, according to a Lebanese radio broadcast, was killed in a military operation against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon in September 1984, two months after the AMIA bombing. “We are satisfied that we have identified the bomber based on the totality of the data streams,” Bernazzani told me, citing “a combination of physical and witness evidence.” But the Berro identification, too, was marked by evidence of fabrication and manipulation.

The official story is that Berro’s name was passed on to SIDE and the CIA by a Lebanese informant in June 2001. The informant claimed he had befriended a former Hezbollah chauffeur and assistant to top Hezbollah leaders named Abu Mohamad Yassin, who told him that a Hezbollah militant named “Brru” was the suicide bomber. That story is suspicious on several counts, the most obvious being that intelligence agencies almost never reveal the name, or even the former position, of an actual informant.

The September 2003 court testimony of Patricio Pfinnen, the SIDE official in charge of the AMIA bombing investigation until he was fired in January 2002, casts serious doubt on the informant’s credibility. Pfinnen testified that when he and his colleagues went back to the informant with more questions, “something went wrong with the information, or they were lying to us.” Pfinnen said his team ultimately discarded the Berro theory because the sources in Lebanon had “failed and were not certain.” He concluded, “I have my doubts about [Berro] being the person who was immolated.”

After Pfinnen was fired in a power struggle within the intelligence agency, SIDE named Berro as the suicide bomber in a secret report. In March 2003, just after that report was completed, Ha’aretz reported that the Mossad had not only identified the bomber as Berro but possessed a transcript of Berro’s farewell telephone call to Lebanon before the bombing, during which he told his parents that he was going to “join” his brother, who had been killed in a suicide bombing in Lebanon. When the 2006 indictment was released, however, it became clear that no evidence of such a call existed.

In September 2004, a Buenos Aires court acquitted Telleldin and the police officials who had been jailed years earlier, and in August 2005 Judge Galeano was impeached and removed from office. But Galeano’s successors, prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos, pressed on, hoping to convince the world that they could identify Berro as the bomber. They visited Detroit, Michigan, where they interviewed two brothers of Berro and obtained photos of Berro from them. They then turned to the only witness who claimed she had seen the white Trafic at the scene of the crime–Nicolasa Romero.

In November 2005, Nisman and Burgos announced that Romero had identified Berro from the Detroit photos as the same person she had seen just before the bombing. Romero, on the other hand, said she “could not be completely certain” that Berro was the man at the scene. In court testimony, in fact, she had said she had not recognized Berro from the first set of set of four photographs she had been shown or even from a second set. She finally saw some “similarity in the face” in one of the Berro photographs, but only after she was shown a police sketch based on her description after the bombing.

Bernazzani told me that the FBI team in Buenos Aires had discovered DNA evidence that was assumed to have come from the suicide bomber in an evidence locker, and Nisman took a DNA sample from one of Berro’s brothers during his visit in September 2005. “I would assume, though I don’t know, that once we got the brother’s DNA, they compared them,” he said. But Nisman claimed to a reporter in 2006 that samples had been contaminated. Significantly, the Argentine indictment of the Iranians makes no mention of the DNA evidence.

Despite a case against Iran that lacked credible forensic or eyewitness evidence and relied heavily on dubious intelligence and a discredited defector’s testimony, Nisman and Burgos drafted their indictment against six former Iranian officials in 2006. However, the government of Néstor Kirchner displayed doubts about going forward with a legal case. According to the Forward newspaper, when American Jewish groups pressed Kirchner’s wife, Christina, about the indictments at a UN General Assembly in New York in September 2006, she indicated that there was no firm date for any further judicial action against Iran. Yet the indictment was released the following month.

Both the main lawyer representing the AMIA, Miguel Bronfman, and Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who later issued the arrest warrants for the Iranians, told the BBC last May that pressure from Washington was instrumental in the sudden decision to issue the indictments the following month. Corral indicated that he had no doubt that the Argentine authorities had been urged to “join in international attempts to isolate the regime in Tehran.”

A senior White House official just called the AMIA case a “very clear definition of what Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism means.” In fact, the US insistence on pinning that crime on Iran in order to isolate the Tehran regime, even though it had no evidence to support that accusation, is a perfect definition of cynical creation of an accusation in the service of power interests.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist. His most recent book is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005).

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/74331/

Hemmorrhaging $2 Billion a week in Iraq as our economy tanks.

The President’s plan—tax breaks for corporations and rebate checks for the well-off—isn’t just morally wrong. It’s based on discredited “trickle down” theories and it won’t work.1

But there’s tremendous pressure on Democrats to accept the President’s priorities just to get something passed. Negotiations are happening right now, and Congress needs to hear from you right away!

We need to demand a progressive stimulus package—one that puts money into the hands of people who are feeling the squeeze (who, incidentally, will spend it fastest). One that funds public infrastructure projects that will create new jobs, make our economy more competitive, and reduce our dependence on oil. One that will actually solve the problem.

Can you sign our petition to Congress? Clicking here will add your name:

http://pol.moveon.org/fairstimulus/

The petition reads: “Congress must quickly pass a stimulus package that helps those who need it the most and will spend it the fastest. And it should include public investments that will create jobs and move us toward a 21st century, clean energy economy.”

A leading economist at NYU says “We’re facing the risk of a systemic financial crisis.”2 The mortgage, credit card, and auto loan industries are all in trouble. The stock market is tanking as we speak. On top of all that, we’re hemorrhaging $2 billion a week in Iraq.3

The “Iraq Recession” is here.

Yet Bush’s proposal is just another kind of trickle-down economics. His plan gives little or no help to people who make less than $40,000 a year, and families of four making less than $24,950 would get nothing—even though those are the very folks who would spend a little extra cash in their pockets.

According to a top economic think tank, the Republican plan would do nothing to help about 65 million Americans. “This approach fails on two counts. It omits or partly omits those who need the help. And it omits the tens of millions of people who are living paycheck to paycheck and who would be most likely to quickly spend every dollar they can get.”4

Bush’s own Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that “putting money into the hands of households and firms that would spend it in the near term” would be more effective than other short-term fixes or tax rebates for the wealthy.5

We need to get help into the hands of those who need it. That means making sure tax rebates go to working people, not millionaires, extending unemployment benefits, sending money to the states so they don’t have to cut back programs for average people, and fully funding energy assistance programs for the low-income families struggling to heat their homes as oil prices rise.6

And, with skyrocketing oil prices driving the recession, we need public infrastructure investments that create jobs in the short-term, and move us toward a 21st century, clean energy economy in the long-term. We should invest in energy efficiency, mass transit, and a Clean Energy Corps, putting hundreds of thousands of people to work rebuilding our economy.

And of course, we need to end the war that has already cost us $1 trillion.

This economic stimulus package will cost about $150 billion. Just think what we could do if all that money was invested in big, smart, sustainable ways. Or we could just try the same old, failed, trickle-down economics.

Congress is moving fast, and will make a decision as early as this week about what the plan will include. Clicking here will add your name to our emergency petition:

http://pol.moveon.org/fairstimulus/

Thank you for all you do.

–Noah, Eli, Wes, Justin, and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
  Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Sources:

1. “Administration Stimulus Plan Fails Tests for Achieving Most Effective Stimulus, Gives Less Favorable Treatment to Families Under $40,000,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 18, 2008. http://www.cbpp.org/1-17-08tax-stmt.htm

2. “No Quick Fix to Downturn,” New York Times, January 13, 2008. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3335&id=11947-5049911-H5QhW9&t=641

3. “Cost of War Nearly $2 Billion a Week,” Boston Globe, September 28, 2006. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3336&id=11947-5049911-H5QhW9&t=642

4.”Tax Rebate or Payment? A Policy Debate Begins,” New York Times, January 20, 2008. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3337&id=11947-5049911-H5QhW9&t=643

5. “Bush, Bernanke call for a stimulus plan,” CNN, January 17, 2008. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3334&id=11947-5049911-H5QhW9&t=644

6. “The President’s Economic Stimulus Plan Is Only a Start,” Center for American Progress, January 18, 2008.
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3333&id=11947-5049911-H5QhW9&t=645

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