Sunday, 9. January 2011
A belated happy new year to all our readers and friends here at Boiling Frogs Post. As you can tell I am just coming up for air. The holiday season happens to be the busiest time for my part-time work which involves a retail business, and my full-time motherhood task which has gotten at least three-fold harder during this not-so-terrible-twos stage. You see I say harder, but I’ll never call it ‘terrible’ because despite the tasking aspect it still remains the best and most rewarding role I’ve ever had; ever. My daughter is now 2.5 years old, and I’m happy to report: she is outspoken, highly opinionated, and on her way to becoming a real activist. She is already stopping those engaged in littering in their tracks for an earful lecture, and orders them to stop, ‘Go home, time out, and take bath!’ I am sharing a few of her recent pictures here. Many of you know all about my ‘no venture into my private life’ over here at BFP…except for an occasional relevant experience(s), or, like these here and the ones from last year to mark a new year at Boiling Frogs Post. Again, Happy New Year.
For the past two months I’ve been collecting and saving lots of articles to share with you here at BFP. The collection kept getting larger, the list of links grew longer, and I kept falling behind and unable to post regular BFP Round Ups. Some of those articles were time sensitive so they got discarded as ‘stale and no longer relevant’. Some are still sitting on the list waiting for the addition of my comments and analyses. And here are a few important and interesting ones from the past few weeks without much need for added sound bites:
Obama’s Whistleblower-Hunt: Whistleblowers Long for Bush-Cheney Era Leniency?
You thought the Bush-Cheney administration was bad? Think again; especially if you happen to be a whistleblower. Despite its awful record, the current administration witch-hunt like pursuit of whistleblowers and truth-tellers has many whistleblowers and truth-telling advocates longing for the Bush era climate. After all, everything is relevant, right? There was the bad, now it is the worse, or probably worst ever. Despite all the threats and muscle-flexing not a single whistleblower, including myself, got arrested or even pursued criminally under the previous regime. With Obama the era of threats has changed into an era of Punishment-Imprisonment and in some cases even torture. Here is one of the latest:
Former CIA officer indicted for leaks to reporter
Peter Haldis, RCFP
A former CIA officer was indicted last month for allegedly providing a New York Times reporter with classified information. He is the latest in a string of leakers prosecuted by the Obama administration.
Jeffrey Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was indicted on 10 counts, including six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of obstruction of justice. He was arrested Thursday in St. Louis.Sterling was indicted Dec. 22, 2010, and the indictment was unsealed Thursday.
Sterling is the fifth leaker to be prosecuted by the Obama administration. The others include: former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who allegedly sent classified information to an unknown newspaper reporter; Stephen Kim, a former Department of State analyst who allegedly leaked an intelligence report to an unidentified reporter; Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private alleged to have leaked classified information to Wikileaks; and Shamai Leibowitz, a former FBI linguist who was convicted in May 2010 of charges related to the leaking of classified information to an unidentified blogger and sentenced to 20 months in prison.
‘Rent-A-Generals’ Consulting Firms: An Industry in Its Own
Last month I came across the following coverage at War Is Business by Corey Pein. This Monday Peter and I will be interviewing Mr. Pein, meanwhile if you haven’t seen this great website check it out now, and put it in your ‘Favorite’ list of websites. I am really looking forward to this interview, too many topics of interest to cover!
‘Rent-A-Generals’ & ‘the Militarization of Economy’
By Corey Pein, War Is Business
This man is William B Burdeshaw, a retired US Army Brigadier General and founder of what the Boston Globe, in its must-read investigation of rampant corruption in Pentagon procurement, calls “one of the oldest ‘rent-a-general’ consulting firms” in the country.
His company, Burdeshaw Associates Ltd, is essentially a fixer for corporations looking to land military contracts. The firm is apparently so good at this, its influential “associates”—mostly retired, high-ranking officers—can sell the Pentagon things it didn’t even know it needed.
Read Globe reporter Bryan Bender describe how Burdeshaw cleverly wrung $109 million from the Pentagon for the firm’s client, Northrop Grumman, which wanted to build a remote-controlled helicopter called the Fire Scout.
The Army wouldn’t comment. Northrop Grumman wouldn’t comment. Burdeshaw’s chief executive, retired Army General William Hartzog, wouldn’t comment. Bender did a remarkable job of putting this story together despite such obstacles.
Clearly, no one gained from this episode—except Northrop Grumman, the third-largest US military contractor, and Burdeshaw Associates. The firm’s eponym seems to be doing well for himself. Burdeshaw and his wife, Monica, own a massive $2 million home near the Potomac River in Maryland. Give the size of his firm, his personal wealth is likely many times that amount.
In its conclusion, Bender explains the growing demand for rent-a-generals as a consequence of “the increasing importance of the military to America’s industrial base.” Retired Army General and former Presidential candidate Wesley Clark calls it “the militarization of the economy.”
Too see what the militarization of the economy looks like, visit a discount grocer in any American city and count how many people pay with food stamps. Then ponder William Burdeshaw’s mansion.
Too see the effects of a simultaneous process—the commodification of the military—look no farther than Afghanistan, where contractors outnumber uniformed soldiers.
Read the rest of this well-done coverage here.
A Great Example of Intentionally Awful Journalism by New York Times … Again
The following story, titled ‘Propping Up a Drug Lord, Then Arresting Him’ by the New York Times is another perfect example of purposefully awful journalism. For some reason we get to see this trend ‘awfully’ a lot in Times’ coverage of Afghan Heroin related topics (which they rarely cover). When you are reading it think of a badly made B grade movie by a bunch of amateurs (but in this case switch the amateurs with pretenders); think about some of those home-made films where bits and pieces are copied and pasted into a hodgepodge of a documentary with no beginning (it starts in the middle omitting the intro/history) ending with a never-kept promise of ‘to be continued;’ think about a bunch of main actors being taken out with their empty spots still hanging in the picture like big gaping holes, and think about sci-fi elements such as real-life people mixed with fiction characters making it neither a documentary nor a fiction film. Okay?
Now, why am I covering this intentionally awful junk? 1- The topic itself is EXTREMELY important; 2- The main character is a crucial key to many censored facts regarding our ‘real’ activities and operations; 3- Turkey is mentioned is passing (must be a major unintended slip by the Times’ stenographers); 4- Our readers here know how to read in between the lineJ So here it is [Emphasis in Bold are mine]:
Propping Up a Drug Lord, Then Arresting Him
By James Risen, New York Times
When Hajji Juma Khan was arrested and transported to New York to face charges under a new American narco-terrorism law in 2008, federal prosecutors described him as perhaps the biggest and most dangerous drug lord in Afghanistan, a shadowy figure who had helped keep the Taliban in business with a steady stream of money and weapons.
But what the government did not say was that Mr. Juma Khan was also a longtime American informer, who provided information about the Taliban, Afghan corruption and other drug traffickers. Central Intelligence Agency officers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents relied on him as a valued source for years, even as he was building one of Afghanistan’s biggest drug operations after the United States-led invasion of the country, according to current and former American officials. Along the way, he was also paid a large amount of cash by the United States.
At the height of his power, Mr. Juma Khan was secretly flown to Washington for a series of clandestine meetings with C.I.A. and D.E.A. officials in 2006. Even then, the United States was receiving reports that he was on his way to becoming Afghanistan’s most important narcotics trafficker by taking over the drug operations of his rivals and paying off Taliban leaders and corrupt politicians in President Hamid Karzai’s government.
By 2004, Mr. Juma Khan had gained control over routes from southern Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Makran Coast, where heroin is loaded onto freighters for the trip to the Middle East, as well as overland routes through western Afghanistan to Iran and Turkey. To keep his routes open and the drugs flowing, he lavished bribes on all the warring factions, from the Taliban to the Pakistani intelligence service to the Karzai government, according to current and former American officials.
The scale of his drug organization grew to stunning levels, according to the federal indictment against him. It was in both the wholesale and the retail drug businesses, providing raw materials for other drug organizations while also processing finished drugs on its own.
While the C.I.A. wanted information about the Taliban, the drug agency had its own agenda for the Washington meetings — information about other Afghan traffickers Mr. Juma Khan worked with, as well as contacts on the supply lines through Turkey and Europe.
One reason the Americans could justify bringing Mr. Juma Khan to Washington was that they claimed to have no solid evidence that he was smuggling drugs into the United States, and there were no criminal charges pending against him in this country.
The following is a decent piece by Spiegel on the US courtship of Azerbaijan’s corrupt regime:
By Gregor Peter Schmitz, Spiegel
Azerbaijan is rife with corruption and comparisons to European feudalism in the Middle Ages are hardly a stretch. But with vast reserves of oil and natural gas at stake, the US is willing to risk the embarrassment that comes with courting the country.
Azerbaijan, which lies in the Caspian basin and has a population of 9 million, is one of the US’s strategic energy partners, despite being located within Russia’s sphere of influence. The country boasts proven energy reserves of roughly 7 billion barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Millions of barrels of these natural resources flow to the West each year via a pipeline connecting the Azerbaijani capital with Ceyhan, a Turkish port on the Mediterranean Sea.
The “Great Game” is what the 19th century battle between the British and the Russians over Central Asian influence was called. These days, the Americans are also on the frontlines of this battle — and the potential rewards are much larger. Unfortunately, as the State Department’s classified documents make clear, the price that American diplomats have to pay is also much greater.
Like the other oil-producing countries around the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is an embarrassing partner to have. The country’s corrupt institutions are unable to deal with the oil boom and the billions of dollars it brings into the county, while the average annual growth rate of almost 15 percent is a much higher priority than enforcing and improving law and order. Independent media outlets are restricted, and dissidents are violently suppressed. Shortly before his death, Heydar Aliyev, the dictator who ruled Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003, naturally handed over power to his son Ilham, who does things exactly the way his father did.
While a few Azerbaijani clans are getting richer and richer, thanks to all the dollars pouring into the country, the rest of the population is barely scraping by. Over 40 percent of the country’s inhabitants are living in poverty; the average monthly income is just €24. As Lala Shevkat, the leader of the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, says: “Oil is our tragedy.”The Americans, however, have not let such problems frighten them away. On the contrary, they are even pushing for greater cooperation on security. Following the visit of an American envoy to Baku, one diplomat noted with satisfaction that he “underscored to President Aliyev the value that the US government attached to the relationship with Azerbaijan.”
The following two pieces are related to our continuing ‘Police State’ series:
Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post
A year after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials say they have made it easier to add individuals’ names to a terrorist watch list and improved the government’s ability to thwart an attack in the United States.
The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government’s system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab’s father had told U.S. officials of his son’s radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person’s name on the watch list.
Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.
But civil liberties groups argue that the government’s new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation’s security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.
“They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they’re on,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Officials insist they have been vigilant about keeping law-abiding people off the master list. The new criteria have led to only modest growth in the list, which stands at 440,000 people, about 5 percent larger than last year. The vast majority are non-U.S. citizens.
A Nation of Paranoids?
Florida Professor Arrested for Having a “Suspicious” Bagel on a Plane
By Todd Wright, NBC-Miami
A Florida professor was arrested and removed from a plane Monday after his fellow passengers alerted crew members they thought he had a suspicious package in the overhead compartment.
That “suspicious package” turned out to be keys, a bagel with cream cheese and a hat.
Ognjen Milatovic, 35, was flying from Boston to Washington D.C. on US Airways when he was escorted off the plane for disorderly conduct following the incident.
Monday’s incident is another example of other passengers essentially becoming the authority on terrorist activity on planes.