Cartoon by “Chip” Bok
May 6th 2012
A section of the draft of contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder is dedicated to explaining how Fast & Furious branches off into different departments within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
While most know about the operation being based in Phoenix, the strategy was actually developed in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) in Washington, DC. The ODAG decided it would be brilliant to concentrate on identifying the members of the trafficking network instead of seizing the firearms right away.
The goal was to capture the big fish of the cartels. The ATF Phoenix Field Office decided to use this strategy in Fast & Furious. But that wasn’t good enough for them and in late January 2010 the office “applied for Fast and Furious to become an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case.” In order to do that the agents had to tell all about their investigative strategy, i.e. gunwalking. It was approved and was given new funding. Also, since it became a prosecutor-led OCDETF Strike Force case, other departments would come in. Those include FBI, DEA, IRS, and ICE under the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. Fast & Furious came to the attention of ATF headquarters on December 8, 2009. The ATF’s Office of Strategic Information and Intelligence (OSII) told senior personnel about the operation, especially about recoveries of weapons in Mexico. But the more statistics they received, the more concerned they became about the operation.
Deputy ATF Director Billy Hoover called for an exit strategy in March 2010. He received one in May, but we all know it didn’t happen. The office continued to delay the indictments and ATF headquarters never demanded them to arrest the straw purchasers. Operation Wide Receiver, a gun tracking operation during the George W. Bush administration, is often brought up to deflect from Fast & Furious. Most people on the other side want to prosecute that case instead. Well, as it turns out, the DOJ’s Criminal Division sent prosecutors to Arizona to help the US Attorney to prosecute cases, including Wide Receiver. Indeed, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer was very interested in the operation. James Trusty, senior official in the Criminal Division’s gang Unit, said Mr. Breuer was very interested in the case and wanted to be briefed on it. A briefing on March 5, 2010, “highlighted the large number of weapons the gun trafficking ring had purchased and discussed recoveries of those weapons in Mexicio.” Steve Martin, Deputy Assistant Director in ATF’s Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information, said everyone knew the guns were being linked to the cartels. However it’s the wiretaps that prove how deeply involved the Criminal Division was with Fast & Furious. It shouldn’t come to anyone’s shock that the DOJ hasn’t handed over the applications to the Committee. After all, the top dogs signed them: Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals Jason Weinstein, Kenneth Blanco, and John Keeney. It’s more than obvious the DOJ can say this was just a local issue. There’s more than enough evidence to prevent them from continuing to brush it off as a rogue field office mistake.
- Is Fast and Furious the Next Watergate? (mb50.wordpress.com)
Egypt has denied licenses to eight US-based non-profit groups, saying they violated the country’s sovereignty. Many states are concerned that foreign government-backed NGOs are really agents for their sponsors, rather than independent action groups.
Among the organizations banned from continuing their work in Egypt are the Carter Center for Human Rights, set up by former US President Jimmy Carter, Christian group The Coptic Orphans, Seeds of Peace and other groups.
Egyptian authorities warned that if the NGOs try to work without a license, Cairo would “take relevant measures”.
Local media speculate that the rejection may be temporary, and licenses could be granted later, after the presidential election due on May 23 and 24.
Monday’s move revives a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on foreign-funded NGOs, which recently provoked a serious diplomatic row with long-term ally US. In late December 2011, security forces raided offices of a number of groups suspected of receiving money in violation of Egyptian legislation.
In February, prosecutors charged 43 people with instilling dissent and meddling in domestic policies following last year’s mass protests, which resulted in the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Among them were citizens of the US, Germany, Serbia, Norway and Jordan.
In March, an Egyptian court revoked the travel ban for 17 indicted Americans following Washington’s threat to withdraw $1.3 billion annual military aid to Cairo. The decision provoked a wave criticism of the ruling military council in Egypt. Many activists accused them of betraying national interests under American pressure.
But shortly after the suspected Americans left the country, Cairo’s prosecutors decided to target more people allegedly involved in the case, who were not in Egypt when the charges against their colleagues were made. Egypt asked Interpol to issue “red notices” for 15 NGO workers, including 12 Americans, two Lebanese and a Jordanian.
On Monday, Interpol’s French headquarters announced that the Egyptian request had been turned down, because it contradicted rules that strictly forbid the organization “to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”
Not so non-government
There may be a good reason why national governments in troubled countries mistrust US-funded NGOs. For instance, NATO’s intervention in Libya was partially justified by exaggerated reports of human rights organizations alleging that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces committed crimes against humanity and breached international law in other ways, reports RT’s Maria Portnaya. After the war some of them admitted to giving ungrounded reports.
Powerful NGOs like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are supposed to be objective monitors and not take sides, but in reality they “enter into an excessively cozy relationship with for example the United States government, but also other powerful Western allies, over Libya and over other issues,” John Laughland from the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation told RT.
This is what happened in Libya and is now happening in Syria, he added.
“The equivalent, if you like, of the Libyan League of Human Rights, which is called the Damascus Centre for Human Rights, has played exactly the same role. They’ve alleged crimes against humanity. They’ve called for safe havens, and armed intervention in that country. And they are quite clear political lobbyists, who are trying to secure a military intervention against Syria along the lines of the one approved last year against Libya,” Laughland explained.
Another example is the group behind the Kony 2012 initiative. The California-based NGO Invisible Children is calling to stop the use of child soldiers and is promoting peace in the Ugandan civil war. But the same organization provided Uganda’s authorities with intelligence that led to the arrest of several regime opponents, as a US embassy cable published by WikiLeaks revealed.
“I’m willing to believe that was not the one time that Invisible Children provided information to the Ugandan authorities. What else do we not know, in terms of their relations with the Ugandan Government?” asks Milton Allimadi, Editor-in-chief of the Black Star News.
The viral video calling on a campaign to stop Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army appeared just months after President Obama decided to send 100 US military advisors to the region to help local governments remove Kony “from the battlefield”. Some human rights organizations criticized the move, saying among those receiving American aid is South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, which is known to exploit child soldiers just like Kony does.
NGOs are not currently held accountable for the information they publish, no matter how much collateral damage false facts may cause. Critics say some of those organizations actually pave the way for conflict rather than advocating peaceful solutions.
- Egypt Denies 8 US NGOs Permission to Operate in Country (voanews.com)
- Breaking news: the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – MEA 2012 nominee (thoolen.wordpress.com)
- US is inciting Unrest through NGOs working under the cover of Human rights & Democracy in Egypt (jafrianews.com)
- US warns Egypt over detained NGO workers – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
The website Interpol.int was unreachable for a half hour on Wednesday, Forbes reports. Access was later restored, although the loading time remains slow. The attack appears to have been conducted using a botnet. Anonymous Twitter accounts tweeted “interpol.int seems to be #TangoDown. We can’t say that this surprises us much,” and “Looks like interpol.int is having some traffic issues. Now who would have expected that?”
The attacks came as Interpol announced the arrests of 25 suspected Anonymous members, aged between 17 and 40, who it alleges planned coordinated cyber-attacks against Colombia’s defense ministry and presidential websites, Chile’s Endesa electricity company and national library, among other targets. The arrests were part of Operation Unmask, during which police in Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Spain seized computers, mobile phones, credit cards and cash at 40 locations in 15 cities.
Among the 25 under arrest are four Anonymous hackers detained by police in Spain earlier on Tuesday under claims that they conducted attacks on Spanish political parties’ websites. The Spanish National Police also said two servers in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic had been blocked as part of Operation Unmask, and that a manager of Anonymous’ operations in Spain and Latin America, known by the aliases “Thunder” and “Pacotron,” was among those arrested.
- Interpol swoop nets 25 suspected ‘Anonymous’ hackers (dokmz.wordpress.com)
- Spain, South America arrest 25 in Anonymous crackdown, with Interpol assist (boingboing.net)
- Spain Arrests 4 Suspected Anonymous Hackers (cosmicconnection.wordpress.com)
Published: 15 February, 2012, 04:26
A number of prominent US politicians, including President Barack Obama, are refusing to comply with a federal court order that they return donations from a known Ponzi scheme. The funds amount to $1.8 million in losses for the bilked investors.
The then-freshly inaugurated President Obama had received $4,600 for his campaign from Stanford Financial Services. Obama’s campaign then donated the sum to charity in February 2009, just days after Stanford was taken over by the US government following charges of massive fraud. Republican and Democratic national fundraising committees, along with the campaign funds of various Senators, Representatives and the President himself, all received donations from the Houston financier Allan Stanford, who is currently facing charges of masterminding the second-largest Ponzi scheme in history – totaling $7 billion, second only to Bernard Madoff‘s estimated $50 billion fraud.
Obama is now catching criticism for refusing the court’s demand that the recipients return the donated money to the defrauded investors. Kevin Sadler, a lead counsel for the investors entitled to repayment, compared the move by Obama’s campaign to taking money from “a guy who goes into a Seven Eleven and robs the store.”
Following Stanford’s arrest in 2009, his Stanford Financial Group was placed under the management of a receiver. The receiver was charged with compensating investors – some of whom lost over half a million dollars in savings. The problem was that a large portion of the money had been donated to the campaign funds of high-profile politicians.
Other notable politicians owing money to the receivership include Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). The total amount of money owed by party committees on both sides of the aisle is over $1.5 million that, so far, these committees have refused to pay back.
But some Senators and Representatives complied with the demands and returned the money they had received from Stanford. These include Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). However, the $154,000 recovered from these politicians is a mere fraction of the $1.8 million owed to Stanford’s investors.
A scarcity of legal precedents and the difficulty to prove that the money received by a campaign was known to be illicit remain major hurdles in recovering the money.
- Obama To Alleged Ponzi Schemer: You’re Not Getting This Money Back (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mitt Romney Entwined with Players In Stanford Ponzi Scheme (crooksandliars.com)
A US family has been arrested with the help of a Predator drone, after a search for a missing cow did not go to plan.By “drone” we do mean military reconnaissance and assault flying machine used by the US Army and the CIA, mostly abroad.
This is the first time in American history that an unmanned aircraft has been used to assist police in making an arrest on US soil. To be precise, this is the same Predator drone that the US army uses in military missions across Afghanistan, Pakistan and any other theater of US-inspired conflict.
The drone was called to the rescue when… six cows went missing in North Dakota.
Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went searching for them on the Brossart family farm, armed with a warrant. Next thing he knew, he was chased off by three armed men – Alex, Thomas and Jacob Brossart.
Next thing they knew – a mini army and a Predator B drone have been called in.
State Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulance, deputy sheriffs from three other counties and a drone arrived at the scene, reports the Los Angeles Times. The drone was on its way back to its hangar from a mission on the US-Canadian border, and since it had fuel left in its tank, the pilot agreed to send it to the farm.
The drone circled the farm while Janke and other officers watched live thermal images from the comfort of their van. Once the suspects had been spotted and it was confirmed that they were not armed, police moved in and arrests were made. A property search turned up two rifles, two shotguns, assorted bows and a samurai sword, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The missing cows have been found too.
A total of five people were arrested – Rodney Brossart, his sons Alex, Thomas and Jacob and their sister Abby. All face a total of 11 felony charges. Later they were all released on bail.
Earlier this year, Janke attended a briefing on how Customs and Border Protection drones can assist police, and when an opportunity presented itself, he called for the unmanned aircraft.
In November, the Federal Aviation Administration had been considering rules that would bring the controversial aircraft into the country.And voilà! Here they are.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, the government has already been using drones domestically for several years, but mostly keeps mum on their missions, saying only that they are regularly used for “support of disaster relief efforts.”
But with missile-equipped drones causing thousands of deaths overseas, the introduction of a drone program Stateside could be detrimental to America as it would mean the government considered its own territory a war zone.
“It’s going to happen,” Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Association, toldthe Times. “Now it’s about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace.”
- You: Predator drone spy plane used in civilian arrests (latimes.com)
- Report: US drones helping local police (usnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Ethics inquiry targets chief of drone program (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- DHS Doesn’t Want Its New Spy Drones (wired.com)
- Ex-CIA chief acknowledges open secret: Drones (vancouversun.com)