Author Archives: 1rex22

Spies in Africa’s Skies: New Contractors for the Pentagon

 

by Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch Blog
June 18th, 2012

In 1994, a Turkish couple named Fatih and Emren Ozmen, bought up a nondescript company named Sierra Nevada Corporation in the small town of Sparks, just outside of Reno, Nevada.

Just over a decade later, on the other side of the country, in Eatontown, New Jersey, Scott Crockett and David Lewis, two African-American communications officers who were deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, started up a company called R-4, Inc.

Today these two companies are now at the forefront of the covert war in Africa, where they operate small Swiss aircraft to spy on behalf of the U.S. Special Operations Command. They help support secret missions all over the continent, working most closely with AfriCom, the U.S. command for Africa, run out of Stuttgart, Germany.

The Ozmens company and R-4 work for Operation Tusker Sand, run out of Entebbe, Uganda. A similar mission using private pilots named Operation Creek Sand is run out of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A Washington Post series by Craig Whitlock, with help from ace researcher Julie Tate, has unmasked some of the key details of the African spying operation that includes covert U.S. bases in Arba Minch, Ethiopia; Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Manda Bay, Kenya; Nzara, South Sudan and Victoria, Seychelles.

The Ozmens have grown from a 20 person operation in 1994 to a 2,100 employee outfit today. Their pilots fly Pilatus PC-12s, small Swiss turboprop planes which are “(e)quipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles,” according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper says that contractors have been hired to fly as much as 150 hours a month. Also outsourced to the private sector were sensor operators, intelligence analysts, mechanics and linguists. (One of the companies that supplied linguists to the Pentagon in Africa was Mission Essential Personnel)

The road to growth for the Ozmens might have something to do with the fact that they are close friends with Jim Gibbons, the former governor of Nevada, and his wife Dawn Gibbons, whom they took on a holiday in Turkey in 2000. Gibbons was a member of the U.S. Congress at the time and the Las Vegas Review Journal notes that in mid-2004 “he helped Sierra Nevada get a $2 million no-bid federal contract for helicopter landing technology. Throughout that year, the company was paying Dawn Gibbons $2,500 a month as a public relations consultant.” That year the Ozmens company won $42 million in Pentagon contracts.

In 2007, when Gibbons became governor, the federal government investigated how the Ozmens won their classified Pentagon contracts. Dawn Gibbons was unapologetic. “Sierra Nevada got a bargain for the work I did. … Believe me, they got their money’s worth,” she told the Associated Press.

What was their company selling at the time? A system called Force 4 which “offers real-time video, individual emergency response tracking, two-way voice and message traffic with command center interaction for terrorism preparedness and response.”

Today Sierra Nevada is one of the key contractors in the drone war around the world. They sell Tactilink, a voice and data relay system for drones, they support Gorgon Stare, a multi-camera video suite touted for its ability to spy on whole cities at once and they make landing gear for the Predator drones that the Central Intelligence Agency uses in Pakistan and Yemen to kill “terrorists” from the sky.

The Pentagon and the CIA have long used private contractors for covert wars. Air America and Air Asia were the front companies used to bomb Cambodia and Laos for president Lyndon Johnson. Bigger, more established companies, like Northrop Grumman were used to spy in Colombia under president Bill Clinton

So it seems only appropriate that the next major Democratic president, Barack Obama, would adopt the same strategy of clandestine private contractors like Sierra Nevada and R4 for covert wars, this time in Africa.

 


Shale gas: Halliburton’s weapon of mass devastation

 

Across the United States the exploitation of gas and oil from shale rocks using Halliburton’s hydraulic fracturing technology continues amid rising disasters.

Unregulated drilling practices, rendered legal by the “Halliburton Loophole” engineered in 2005 by Vice President Dick Cheney, have had staggering health and environmental effects.

Lured by the prospect of reducing oil dependence, President Obama has adopted an ambivalent approach, which ultimately yields ground to industry.

With the same expectancy, countries all around the world have joined the shale-gas craze, arguing that if the U.S. has been “fracking” it must be safe. Energy independence would undoubtedly represent a game changing opportunity for many countries, but at what cost?

There is a global rush to embrace a new source of extracting hydrocarbons from the Earth. From Germany to Poland and France, from China and above all in the USA where the technique of hydraulic fracturing of shale rocks is most developed, governments and major oil companies are producing huge volumes of gas.

A number of energy importing countries around the world are planning a major investment in extracting natural gas from their shale rock formations. The most ambitious plans are coming from China and from Poland in the EU.

The US Government’s Department of Energy together with a Washington energy consultancy has just released a mammoth global report estimating resources of shale gas. Significantly, the report estimates that the largest untapped shale gas reserves worldwide lie in China. The study puts Poland and France at the top of the shale gas list in the EU. The rest of Europe they estimate simply lacks the geology where substantial shale rock is present. [1]

Even in Germany some cash-strapped states are seriously looking at Shale gas. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company is planning major projects in the densely-populated North-Rhein Westphalia region. The company’s head for Central Europe, Gernot Kalkoffen in a recent interview stated, “Germany is most definitely an interesting market. We cannot achieve the energy strategy shift without gas.”

ExxonMobil estimates shale gas is potentially available in six of Germany’s 16 states. [2] The US Energy Department estimates that Germany could have some 8 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas, three years’ total consumption. Citizen protest groups and Parliamentary skepticism about health and safety of shale gas so far is braking a German shale gas bonanza. [3] Not only ExxonMobil but also BASF’s Wintershall, Gaz de France, BNK Petroleum from the US and a daughter of Britain’s Royal Dutch Shell are salivating over German shale gas prospects.

The Polish government is in a state of near euphoria over the prospects of exploiting its shale gas resources. Prime Minister Donald Tusk calls shale gas Poland’s “great chance,” because it could cut its dependence on Russian gas, create tens of thousands of jobs and fill state coffers. In tests at one well in northern Poland done last August, the Polish Geological Institute claimed that Hydraulic fracturing didn’t affect the quality or quantity of surface and ground water and didn’t cause tremors that would pose a threat to buildings or other infrastructure. The US oilfield services giant Schlumberger did the fracking. [4] Of course one test in one well is hardly conclusive, though the Tusk government doesn’t seem to care as they push Brussels to launch a major Polish shale gas exploitation program.

In China, shale gas looks about to take off as a major new focus for the country’s enormous energy requirements. The governing State Council has recently approved shale gas as an “independent mineral resource” and the Ministry of Land and Resources will conduct an appraisal of shale gas resources this year to expedite discovery and development of China shale deposits.

Until now China’s rough mountainous terrain and lack of shale gas fracking know-how has kept it out of the shale gas, with coal far the major source of electric power. The French oil giant, Total, has just signed a deal with China’s Sinopec to produce shale gas in China. China has around 31 trillion cubic meters of natural gas trapped in shale, some 50% greater than the United States according to the US Department of Energy estimate. [5] These are volumes to make the head of any respectable state official spin.

One exception to the shale gas rush is Germany where the Federal Government just decided to prohibit ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, from fracking in the eastern part of the country, stating they were “very skeptical” of industry claims it would not poison ground water or cause earthquake damage. [6]
Myth and reality: The Halliburton Loophole

Fracking techniques have been around since the end of World War II. Why then suddenly is the world going gaga over shale gas hydraulic fracking? One answer is the record high oil and gas prices of the recent few years have made the costly fracking profitable. The second reason is the advance of various horizontal underground drilling techniques that allow companies like Schlumberger to enter a large shale rock formation and inject substances to “free” the trapped gas.

But the real reason for the recent explosion of fracking in the country where it has most been applied, the United States, is the passage of legislation in 2005 by the US Congress that exempts the oil industry’s hydraulic fracking activity from regulatory supervision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials — unchecked — directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies. [7]

The law is known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” That’s because it was introduced on massive lobbying pressure from the company that produces the lion’s share of chemical hydraulic fracking fluids—Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton. When he became Vice President under George W. Bush in early 2001, Bush immediately gave Cheney responsibility for a major Energy Task Force to make a comprehensive national energy strategy. Aside from looking at Iraq oil potentials as documents later revealed, Cheney’s task force used Cheney’s considerable political muscle and industry lobbying money to win exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. [8].

During Cheney’s term as vice president he moved to make sure the Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would give a green light to a major expansion of shale gas drilling in the US. In 2004 the EPA issued a study of the environmental effects of fracking. That study has been called “scientifically unsound” by EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson.

In March of 2005, EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley found enough evidence of potential mishandling of the EPA hydraulic fracturing study to justify a review of Wilson’s complaints. The Oil and Gas Accountability Project conducted a review of the EPA study which found that EPA removed information from earlier drafts that suggested unregulated fracturing poses a threat to human health, and that the Agency did not include information that suggests “fracturing fluids may pose a threat to drinking water long after drilling operations are completed.” [9]

The Halliburton Loophole is no minor affair. The process of hydraulic fracking to extract gas involves staggering volumes of water and of some of the most toxic chemicals known. During the uproar over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama Administration and the Energy Department formed an advisory commission on Shale Gas. Their report was released in November 2011. It was what could only be called a “whitewash” of the dangers of shale gas.

The commission was headed by former CIA director John Deuss. Deuss sits on the board of Citigroup, one of the world’s most active energy industry banks, tied to the Rockefeller family. He also sits on the board of Schlumberger, along with Halliburton, the major company doing hydraulic fracking. In fact, of the seven panel members, six had ties to the energy industry. Little surprise that the Deuss report called shale gas, “the best piece of news about energy in the last 50 years.” Deuss added, “Over the long term it has the potential to displace liquid fuels in the United States.” [10]

In the US oil industry people have forgotten the scare about oil and gas depletion, popularly known as the Peak Oil theory in their new euphoria over huge new volumes of gas and also oil obtained by fracking of shale and coal beds. Now even the Obama Administration is talking about a renaissance in domestic oil production.

The reason is the dramatic rise in domestic extraction of gas from hydraulic fracking of shale, using new fracking techniques first developed by Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton, made financially lucrative with the advent of $100 a barrel oil since 2008. Reportedly under pressure from then Vice President Cheney, chemical or hydraulic fracking of shale rock and coal beds has been left unregulated under what has become known as the Halliburton Loophole in the 2005 US National Energy Bill. [11]

To access the gas, the shale needs to be fractured using a mixture of hot water, sand and chemical additives, some of which are highly poisonous. Attempts by citizen organizations and individual litigants to force oil services company disclosure of the composition of chemicals used in hydraulic fracking have met a stone wall of silence. The companies argue that the chemicals are proprietary secrets and that disclosing them would hurt their competitiveness.

They also insist the process is “basically safe and that regulating it would deter domestic production.” [12] This legal sleight of hand lets the fracking lobby have their cake and eat it too. They claim it is safe, refuse to say what chemicals are used and insist it be free from the Environmental Protection Administration rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act. If they are right about how safe their chemical fracking fluids are why are they afraid of regulation like other chemical companies?

To understand what is going on, in a typical shale gas fracturing operation, a company drills a hole several thousand meters below surface; then they drill a horizontal branch perhaps one kilometer in length. As one expert described the fracking, once the horizontal drilling into the shale formation is done, “you send down a kind of subterranean pipe bomb, a small package of ball-bearing-like shrapnel and light explosives. The package is detonated, and the shrapnel pierces the bore hole, opening up small perforations in the pipe. They then pump up to 7 million gallons of a substance known as slick water to fracture the shale and release the gas. It blasts through those perforations in the pipe into the shale at such force—more than nine thousand pounds of pressure per square inch—that it shatters the shale for a few yards on either side of the pipe, allowing the gas embedded in it to rise under its own pressure and escape.” [13]

The shale rock in which the gas is trapped is so tight that it has to be broken in order for the gas to escape. Therein come the problems. A combination of sand and water laced with chemicals — including benzene — is pumped into the well bore at high pressure, shattering the rock and opening millions of tiny fissures, enabling the shale gas to seep into the pipeline.

Not only does it liberate gas or in the case of Bakken, oil. It floods the shale formation with millions of gallons of toxic fluids. A study conducted by Theo Colburn, PhD, director of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Paonia, Colorado, identified 65 chemicals that are probable components of the fracking fluids used by shale gas drillers. These chemicals included benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All of those chemicals have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high. [14] Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, D. C. Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, who has researched fracture mechanics for more than 30 years, has said that drilling and hydraulic fracturing “can liberate biogenic natural gas into a fresh water aquifer.” [15]

Not only possibly poisoning the fresh water underground aquifers, hydraulic fracking is done with such force that it has been known to cause earthquakes. In the UK, Cuadrilla was doing shale gas drilling in Lancashire. They suspended their shale gas test drilling in June 2011, following two earthquakes—one tremor of magnitude 2.3 hit the Fylde coast on 1 April, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May. [16] A UK Government study of the earthquakes, released in April concluded that the fracking drilling operations had caused the quakes. [17] Earthquake activity in fracking regions across the US have also been reported.

READ MORE

 


Afghanistan, the Taliban and the Bush Oil Team

 

SOURCE

According to Afghan, Iranian, and Turkish government sources, Hamid Karzai, the interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, was a top adviser to the El Segundo, California-based UNOCAL Corporation which was negotiating with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Karzai, the leader of the southern Afghan Pashtun Durrani tribe, was a member of the mujaheddin that fought the Soviets during the 1980s. He was a top contact for the CIA and maintained close relations with CIA Director William Casey, Vice President George Bush, and their Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Service interlocutors. Later, Karzai and a number of his brothers moved to the United States under the auspices of the CIA. Karzai continued to serve the agency’s interests, as well as those of the Bush Family and their oil friends in negotiating the CentGas deal, according to Middle East and South Asian sources.

When one peers beyond all of the rhetoric of the White House and Pentagon concerning the Taliban, a clear pattern emerges showing that construction of the trans-Afghan pipeline was a top priority of the Bush administration from the outset. Although UNOCAL claims it abandoned the pipeline project in December 1998, the series of meetings held between U.S., Pakistani, and Taliban officials after 1998, indicates the project was never off the table.

Quite to the contrary, recent meetings between U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain and that country’s oil minister Usman Aminuddin indicate the pipeline project is international Project Number One for the Bush administration. Chamberlain, who maintains close ties to the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan (a one-time chief money conduit for the Taliban), has been pushing Pakistan to begin work on its Arabian Sea oil terminus for the pipeline.

Meanwhile, President Bush says that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for the long haul. Far from being engaged in Afghan peacekeeping — the Europeans are doing much of that — our troops will effectively be guarding pipeline construction personnel that will soon be flooding into the country.

Karzai’s ties with UNOCAL and the Bush administration are the main reason why the CIA pushed him for Afghan leader over rival Abdul Haq, the assassinated former mujaheddin leader from Jalalabad, and the leadership of the Northern Alliance, seen by Langley as being too close to the Russians and Iranians. Haq had no apparent close ties to the U.S. oil industry and, as both a Pushtun and a northern Afghani, was popular with a wide cross-section of the Afghan people, including the Northern Alliance. Those credentials likely sealed his fate.

When Haq entered Afghanistan from Pakistan last October, his position was immediately known to Taliban forces, which subsequently pinned him and his small party down, captured, and executed them. Former Reagan National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who worked with Haq, vainly attempted to get the CIA to help rescue Haq. The agency claimed it sent a remotely-piloted armed drone to attack the Taliban but its actions were too little and too late. Some observers in Pakistan claim the CIA tipped off the ISI about Haq’s journey and the Pakistanis, in turn, informed the Taliban. McFarlane, who runs a K Street oil consulting firm, did not comment on further questions about the circumstances leading to the death of Haq.

While Haq was not part of the Bush administration’s GOP (Grand Oil Plan) for South Asia, Karzai was a key player on the Bush Oil team. During the late 1990s, Karzai worked with an Afghani-American, Zalmay Khalilzad, on the CentGas project. Khalilzad is President Bush’s Special National Security Assistant and recently named presidential Special Envoy for Afghanistan. Interestingly, in the White House press release naming Khalilzad special envoy, no mention was made of his past work for UNOCAL. Khalilzad has worked on Afghan issues under National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, a former member of the board of Chevron, itself no innocent bystander in the future CentGas deal. Rice made an impression on her old colleagues at Chevron. The company has named one of their supertankers the SS Condoleezza Rice.

Khalilzad, a fellow Pashtun and the son of a former government official under King Mohammed Zahir Shah, was, in addition to being a consultant to the RAND Corporation, a special liaison between UNOCAL and the Taliban government. Khalilzad also worked on various risk analyses for the project.

Khalilzad’s efforts complemented those of the Enron Corporation, a major political contributor to the Bush campaign. Enron, which recently filed for bankruptcy in the single biggest corporate collapse in the nation’s history, conducted the feasibility study for the CentGas deal. Vice President Cheney held several secret meetings with top Enron officials, including its Chairman Kenneth Lay, earlier in 2001. These meetings were presumably part of Cheney’s non-public Energy Task Force sessions. A number of Enron stockholders, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, became officials in the Bush administration. In addition, Thomas White, a former Vice Chairman of Enron and a multimillionaire in Enron stock, currently serves as the Secretary of the Army.

A chief benefactor in the CentGas deal would have been Halliburton, the huge oil pipeline construction firm that also had its eye on the Central Asian oil reserves. At the time, Halliburton was headed by Dick Cheney. After Cheney’s selection as Bush’s Vice Presidential candidate, Halliburton also pumped a huge amount of cash into the Bush-Cheney campaign coffers. And like oil cash cow Enron, there were Wall Street rumors in late December that Halliburton, which suffered a forty per cent drop in share value, might follow Enron into bankruptcy court.

Assisting with the CentGas negotiations with the Taliban was Laili Helms, the niece-in-law of former CIA Director Richard Helms. Laili Helms, also a relative of King Zahir Shah, was the Taliban’s unofficial envoy to the United States and arranged for various Taliban officials to visit the United States. Laili Helms’ base of operations was in her home in Jersey City on the Hudson River. Ironically, most of her work on behalf of the Taliban was practically conducted in the shadows of the World Trade Center, just across the river.

Laili Helms’ liaison work for the Taliban paid off for Big Oil. In December 1997, the Taliban visited UNOCAL’s Houston refinery operations. Interestingly, the chief Taliban leader based in Kandahar, Mullah Mohammed Omar, now on America’s international Most Wanted List, was firmly in the UNOCAL camp. His rival Taliban leader in Kabul, Mullah Mohammed Rabbani (not to be confused with the head of the Northern Alliance Burhanuddin Rabbani), favored Bridas, an Argentine oil company, for the pipeline project. But Mullah Omar knew UNOCAL had pumped large sums of money to the Taliban hierarchy in Kandahar and its expatriate Afghan supporters in the United States. Some of those supporters were also close to the Bush campaign and administration. And Kandahar was the city near which the CentGas pipeline was to pass, a lucrative deal for the otherwise desert outpost.

While Clinton’s State Department omitted Afghanistan from the top foreign policy priority list, the Bush administration, beholden to the oil interests that pumped millions of dollars into the 2000 campaign, restored Afghanistan to the top of the list, but for all the wrong reasons. After Bush’s accession to the presidency, various Taliban envoys were received at the State Department, CIA, and National Security Council. The CIA, which appears, more than ever, to be a virtual extended family of the Bush oil interests, facilitated a renewed approach to the Taliban. The CIA agent who helped set up the Afghan mujaheddin, Milt Bearden, continued to defend the interests of the Taliban. He bemoaned the fact that the United States never really bothered to understand the Taliban when he told the Washington Post last October, “We never heard what they were trying to say… We had no common language. Ours was, ‘Give up bin Laden.’ They were saying, ‘Do something to help us give him up.’ ”

There were even reports that the CIA met with their old mujaheddin operative bin Laden in the months before September 11 attacks. The French newspaper Le Figaro quoted an Arab specialist named Antoine Sfeir who postulated that the CIA met with bin Laden in July in a failed attempt to bring him back under its fold. Sfeir said the CIA maintained links with bin Laden before the U.S. attacked his terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in 1998 and, more astonishingly, kept them going even after the attacks. Sfeir told the paper, “Until the last minute, CIA agents hoped bin Laden would return to U.S. command, as was the case before 1998.” Bin Laden actually officially broke with the US in 1991 when US troops began arriving in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Bin Laden felt this was a violation of the Saudi regime’s responsibility to protect the Islamic Holy Shrines of Mecca and Medina from the infidels. Bin Laden’s anti-American and anti-House of Saud rhetoric soon reached a fever pitch.

The Clinton administration made numerous attempts to kill Bin Laden. In August 1998, Al Qaeda operatives blew up several U.S. embassies in Africa. In response, Bill Clinton ordered cruise missiles to be launched from US ships in the Persian Gulf into Afghanistan, which missed Bin Laden by a few hours. The Clinton administration also devised a plan with Pakistan’s ISI to send a team of assassins into Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden. But Pakistan’s government was overthrown by General Musharraf, who was viewed as particularly close to the Taliban. The CIA cancelled its plans, fearing Musharraf’s ISI would tip off the Taliban and Bin Laden. . The CIA’s connections to the ISI in the months before September 11 and the weeks after are also worthy of a full-blown investigation. The CIA continues to maintain an unhealthy alliance with the ISI, the organization that groomed bin Laden and the Taliban. Last September, the head of the ISI, General Mahmud Ahmed, was fired by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for his pro-Taliban leanings and reportedly after the U.S. government presented Musharraf with disturbing intelligence linking the general to the terrorist hijackers.

General Ahmed was in Washington, DC on the morning of September 11 meeting with CIA and State Department officials as the hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Later, both the Northern Alliance spokesman in Washington, Haron Amin, and Indian intelligence, in an apparent leak to The Times of India, confirmed that General Ahmed ordered a Pakistani-born British citizen and known terrorist named Ahmed Umar Sheik to wire $100,000 from Pakistan to the U.S. bank account of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker.

When the FBI traced calls made between General Ahmed and Sheik’s cellular phone – the number having been supplied by Indian intelligence to the FBI – a pattern linking the general with Sheik clearly emerged. According to The Times of India, the revelation that General Ahmed was involved in the Sheik-Atta money transfer was more than enough for a nervous and embarrassed Bush administration. It pressed Musharraf to dump General Ahmed. Musharraf mealy-mouthed the announcement of his general’s dismissal by stating Ahmed “requested” early retirement.

Sheik was well known to the Indian police. He was arrested in New Delhi in 1994 for plotting to kidnap four foreigners, including an American citizen. Sheik was released by the Indians in 1999 in a swap for passengers on board New Delhi-bound Indian Airlines flight 814, hijacked by Islamic militants from Kathmandu, Nepal to Kandahar, Afghanistan. India continues to believe the ISI played a part in the hijacking since the hijackers were affiliated with the pro-bin Laden Kashmiri terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Mujaheddin, a group only recently and quite belatedly placed on the State Department’s terrorist list. The ISI and bin Laden’s Al Qaeda reportedly assists the group in its operations against Indian government targets in Kashmir.

The FBI, which assisted its Indian counterpart in the investigation of the Indian Airlines hijacking, says it wants information leading to the arrest of those involved in the terrorist attacks. Yet, no move has been made to question General Ahmed or those U.S. government officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who met with him in September. Clearly, General Ahmed was a major player in terrorist activities across South Asia, yet still had very close ties to the U.S. government. General Ahmed’s terrorist-supporting activities – and the U.S. government officials who tolerated those activities – need to be investigated.

The Taliban visits to Washington continued up to a few months prior to the September 11 attacks. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s South Asian Division maintained constant satellite telephone contact with the Taliban in Kandahar and Kabul. Washington permitted the Taliban to maintain a diplomatic office in Queens, New York headed by Taliban diplomat Abdul Hakim Mojahed. In addition, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca, who is also a former CIA officer, visited Taliban diplomatic officials in Islamabad. In the meantime, the Bush administration took a hostile attitude towards the Islamic State of Afghanistan, otherwise known as the Northern Alliance. Even though the United Nations recognized the alliance as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, the Bush administration, with oil at the forefront of its goals, decided to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and curry favor with the Taliban mullahs of Afghanistan. The visits of Islamist radicals did not end with the Taliban. In July 2001, the head of Pakistan’s pro-bin Laden Jamiaat-i-Islami Party, Qazi Hussein Ahmed, also reportedly was received at the George Bush Center for Intelligence (aka, CIA headquarters) in Langley, Virginia.

According to the Washington Post, the Special Envoy of Mullah Omar, Rahmatullah Hashami, even came to Washington bearing a gift carpet for President Bush from the one-eyed Taliban leader. The Village Voice reported that Hashami, on behalf of the Taliban, offered the Bush administration to hold on to bin Laden long enough for the United States to capture or kill him but, inexplicably, the administration refused. Meanwhile, Spozhmai Maiwandi, the director of the Voice of America’s Pashtun service, jokingly nicknamed “Kandahar Rose” by her colleagues, aired favorable reports on the Taliban, including a controversial interview with Mullah Omar.

The Bush administration’s dalliances with the Taliban may have even continued after the start of the bombing campaign against their country. According to European intelligence sources, a number of European governments were concerned that the CIA and Big Oil were pressuring the Bush administration not to engage in an initial serious ground war on behalf of the Northern Alliance in order to placate Pakistan and its Taliban compatriots. The early-on decision to stick with an incessant air bombardment, they reasoned, was causing too many civilian deaths and increasing the shakiness of the international coalition.

The obvious, and woefully underreported, interfaces between the Bush administration, UNOCAL, the CIA, the Taliban, Enron, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, the groundwork for which was laid when the Bush Oil team was on the sidelines during the Clinton administration, is making the Republicans worried. Vanquished vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman is in the ironic position of being the senator who will chair the Senate Government Affairs Committee hearings on the collapse of Enron. The roads from Enron also lead to Afghanistan and murky Bush oil politics.

UNOCAL was also clearly concerned about its past ties to the Taliban. On September 14, just three days after terrorists of the Afghan-base al Qaeda movement crashed their planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, UNOCAL issued the following statement: “The company is not supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in any way whatsoever. Nor do we have any project or involvement in Afghanistan. Beginning in late 1997, Unocal was a member of a multinational consortium that was evaluating construction of a Central Asia Gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan [via western Afghanistan]. Our company has had no further role in developing or funding that project or any other project that might involve the Taliban.”

The Bush Oil Team, which can now rely on the support of the interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, may think that war and oil profits mix. But there is simply too much evidence that the War in Afghanistan was primarily about building UNOCAL’s pipeline, not about fighting terrorism. The Democrats, who control the Senate and its investigation agenda, should investigate the secretive deals between Big Oil, Bush, and the Taliban.

 


12% of Children Sexually Abused in Government Custody

Daniel Tencer | Raw Story
Friday, January 8th, 2010

Some 12 percent of minors held in government custody are sexually abused, and in some facilities the rate reaches a stunning one in three children, says a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The first-ever National Survey of Youth in Custody found that no less than 10 percent of the 26,550 juveniles being held in detention facilities in the US are abused by staff at the facility, while another 2.6 percent report abuse at the hands of other inmates.

Among the facilities studied were six identified to have rates of sexual abuse as high as three in 10. According to the Associated Press, those six facilities are Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana; Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Texas; Backbone Mountain Youth Center in Swanton, Maryland; Samarkand Youth Development Center in Eagle Springs, North Carolina.; Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in Pennsylvania; and the Culpeper Juvenile Correctional Center, Long Term, in Mitchells, Virginia.

“The widespread sexual abuse of children in juvenile facilities shows that public officials either aren’t paying attention or can’t be bothered to do the right thing,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch. “The high rates of victimization are powerful testimony to the failure of governments to safeguard the boys and girls in their care.”

The study was mandated by a 2003 law, the National Prison Rape Elimination Act, which also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Human Rights Watch notes that six months ago the commission set out “comprehensive, effective standards for the prevention, detection, and punishment of prison rape,” but the Justice Department has yet to act on those recommendations.

“Every day Attorney General Eric Holder fails to promulgate national prison rape elimination standards is another day in which kids and adults are being abused behind bars,” Fellner said. “The attorney general already has on his desk proposed standards that reflect the best thinking and effective practices to end this widespread scourge. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or to delay moving forward.”

The survey found that gay youth were at higher risk than heterosexual youth, with one in five reporting abuse at the hands of a staffer or fellow inmate. Males were more likely to report being abused than females (10.8 percent to 4.7 percent). And 95 percent of those abused by staff reported that the abuser was female. But that number may be influenced by the fact that 91 percent of youth in custody are male.

The AP reports:

Although advocates said the level of abuse wasn’t surprising, the prevalence of sexual abuse by staff, particularly female workers, was shocking, said Linda McFarlane, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, which fights to end sexual abuse of those who are detained.

“Many of these are already the most vulnerable and traumatized youth from all of our communities and they’re placed for custody because they’re considered to be a danger,” she said. “If sexually abused in those very institutions that are supposed to help them prepare for life in the community, then it’s just an incredible travesty.”

The Associated Press also notes that sex abuse by staffers was higher in state-run facilities than in privately-run or municipal detention centers, and smaller facilities appear to have lower abuse rates than larger ones.

The study investigated a 12-month period, and was carried out from June, 2008, to April, 2009.

SOURCE: Shock Study: 12% of Children Sexually Abused in Government Custody


Nigeria: Where Are Halliburton’s Accomplices?

 


SOURCE

Penultimate week, Albert Jack Stanley, a former chief executive officer of Kellogg Brown & Root Incorporated, an engineering subsidiary of Halliburton Company, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by a Texas, USA court. The previous day, it was the turn of Wojciech Chodan, a 74-year-old retired sales executive from Somerset, United Kingdom, who got jailed for two years. Their crime was paying bribes to Nigerian politicians and government officials to secure construction contracts worth $6 billion for the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Bonny Island in contravention of the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the massive decade-long bribery scheme, huge sums of money totalling $180 million were stuffed in briefcases and ferreted to Nigeria as kickbacks. Sadly, the Nigerian politicians and government officials who were similarly indicted in the scam have not been successfully prosecuted.

In spite of the sustained public outcry for all those involved in the Halliburton bribery scandal to be prosecuted by the Nigerian authorities, especially since the dirty secrets were exposed by the high-powered panel led by ex-Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro. At the height of the controversy, all the indicted persons and corporate bodies were billed to face prosecution, including former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who at one time led Halliburton in the bribery scheme. In an unprecedented global compromise, the charges were dropped, after Halliburton agreed to pay a $35 million settlement. Foreign court trials and convictions notwithstanding, the Nigerian government keeps vacillating on the trial of Halliburton’s accomplices in this country.

The closest we came to seeing justice served was the arraignment of Mr Sunday Bodunde Adeyanju, an aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2010. However, EFCC’s prosecution was nothing but a charade devoid of diligence. At the worst of times, Nigeria’s then attorney-general, Michael Aondoaaka, entered a nolle prosequi under Section 174 (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution, thus ensuring that the foreigners involved never faced prosecution. This cast a pall of insincerity on the trial.

While it may be argued that the payment of fines by these major companies represents an implicit acknowledgement of guilt by the affected firms (and so constitutes a gesture of remorse), we shudder at why the government cannot go the whole hog to bring the perpetrators to book. The recent sentencing of Stanley and Chodan should inspire Nigerian authorities to reignite the staid war against corruption. It is in the wider interest of the society for the rich and powerful to be punished for the crimes they commit.

It is only when the federal government rids the country of economic crimes that the much-desired foreign direct investment can come from viable and credible companies in countries where trans-border graft is severely punished.

The veil on the Nigerian criminals indicted in the scandal should be lifted by the EFCC and a wholehearted prosecution effected.

 


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