Blog Archives

White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:11pm EDT

(Reuters) – Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.

The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.

The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Benghazi assault, which President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials ultimately acknowledged was a “terrorist” attack carried out by militants with suspected links to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.

Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film.

While officials did mention the possible involvement of “extremists,” they did not lay blame on any specific militant groups or possible links to al Qaeda or its affiliates until intelligence officials publicly alleged that on September 28.

There were indications that extremists with possible al Qaeda connections were involved, but also evidence that the attacks could have erupted spontaneously, they said, adding that government experts wanted to be cautious about pointing fingers prematurely.

U.S. intelligence officials have emphasized since shortly after the attack that early intelligence reporting about the attack was mixed.

Spokesmen for the White House and State Department had no immediate response to requests for comments on the emails.

MISSIVES FROM LIBYA

The records obtained by Reuters consist of three emails dispatched by the State Department’s Operations Center to multiple government offices, including addresses at the White House, Pentagon, intelligence community and FBI, on the afternoon of September 11.

The first email, timed at 4:05 p.m. Washington time – or 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time, 20-30 minutes after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission allegedly began – carried the subject line “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” and the notation “SBU”, meaning “Sensitive But Unclassified.”

The text said the State Department’s regional security office had reported that the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was “under attack. Embassy in Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”

The message continued: “Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four … personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support.”

A second email, headed “Update 1: U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi” and timed 4:54 p.m. Washington time, said that the Embassy in Tripoli had reported that “the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi had stopped and the compound had been cleared.” It said a “response team” was at the site attempting to locate missing personnel.

A third email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”

The message reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president’s secure command post.

Other addressees included intelligence and military units as well as one used by the FBI command center, the source said.

It was not known what other messages were received by agencies in Washington from Libya that day about who might have been behind the attacks.

Intelligence experts caution that initial reports from the scene of any attack or disaster are often inaccurate.

By the morning of September 12, the day after the Benghazi attack, Reuters reported that there were indications that members of both Ansar al-Sharia, a militia based in the Benghazi area, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of al Qaeda’s faltering central command, may have been involved in organizing the attacks.

One U.S. intelligence official said that during the first classified briefing about Benghazi given to members of Congress, officials “carefully laid out the full range of sparsely available information, relying on the best analysis available at the time.”

The official added, however, that the initial analysis of the attack that was presented to legislators was mixed.

“Briefers said extremists were involved in attacks that appeared spontaneous, there may have been a variety of motivating factors, and possible links to groups such as (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia) were being looked at closely,” the official said.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jim Loney)

Source

Texas (Austin): Yassine Brothers Funneled Money To Hezbollah

image

Owners of some of Austin’s most lucrative nightclubs were dealing in drugs, laundering the money through the clubs then funneling it to a family member with ties to a terrorist group in the Middle East, according to federal authorities.

During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein “Mike” Ali Yassine and Mohammed “Steve Austin” Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.

Authorities say he is associated with Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon.  The U.S. Department of State lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

The Yassines, their brother, Hadi Ali Yassine and seven business associates were arrested last week on narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearm charges.

Yassine Enterprises owns nine nightclubs — Pure, Stack, Fuel, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Hyde, Roial, Malaia and Treasure Island.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has temporarily shut down the clubs.

Tuesday Hussein Ali Yassine and Mohammed Ali Yassine were denied bond.  Four were granted bond — Hadi Yassine, Marisse “Madi” Marthe Ruales, Amar Thabet Araf and Sami Derder.  No decision has been made on bond requests for Nizar “Nino” Hakiki, Karim Faiq, Edgar Orsini and Alejandro Melendrez.

During three hours of testimony, Assistant U. S. Attorney Gregg Sofer questioned Randall Gillette, special agent with the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency and James Neff, criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service.

The agents explained its undercover sting operation in which a confidential source was used to arrange two sales of cocaine between Steve Yassine and Nizar Hakiki.  The agents testified the proceeds from the deals were then funneled through Yassine`s nightclubs and Famous Vodka, owned by Hadi Yassine, the third brother.

Neff also stated in the hearing that the business was reporting income of $1 to $2 million when it actually was taking in between $7 and $10 million.

According to testimony, the Texas Comptroller‘s Office has frozen Mike Yassine’s accounts.  It was also revealed that he has bank accounts in Switzerland and Lebanon.

Several of the defendants are under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Source

Report: Obama Administration Is Giving Away 7 Strategic Islands to Russia

image

Posted by Jim Hoft on Saturday, February 18, 2012, 12:32 PM

May 1881 US explorers approached Jeannette Island and Henrietta Island and claimed them for the United States. According to some US individuals, including the group State Department Watch, eight Arctic islands currently controlled by Russia, including Wrangel Island, are claimed by the United States. However, according to the United States Department of State no such claim exists. The USSR/USA Maritime Boundary Treaty, which has yet to be approved by the Russian Duma, does not address the status of these islands nor the maritime boundaries associated with them.

The Obama Administration is reportedly giving away Wrangell, Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta islands in Alaska to Russia. The federal government drew the line to put these seven Alaskan islands on the Russian side

Former senatorial candidate Joe Miller broke this story at World Net Daily:

The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab nations over to the Muslim Brotherhood. Iraq is distancing itself from the U.S. And everyone recognizes that Iran, whose crude supplies are critical to the European economy, will do anything it can to frustrate America’s strategic interests. In the face of all of this, Obama insists on cutting back U.S. oil potential with outrageous restrictions.

Part of Obama’s apparent war against U.S. energy independence includes a foreign-aid program that directly threatens my state’s sovereign territory. Obama’s State Department is giving away seven strategic, resource-laden Alaskan islands to the Russians. Yes, to the Putin regime in the Kremlin.

The seven endangered islands in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea include one the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The Russians are also to get the tens of thousands of square miles of oil-rich seabeds surrounding the islands. The Department of Interior estimates billions of barrels of oil are at stake.

The State Department has undertaken the giveaway in the guise of a maritime boundary agreement between Alaska and Siberia. Astoundingly, our federal government itself drew the line to put these seven Alaskan islands on the Russian side. But as an executive agreement, it could be reversed with the stroke of a pen by President Obama or Secretary Clinton.

The agreement was negotiated in total secrecy. The state of Alaska was not allowed to participate in the negotiations, nor was the public given any opportunity for comment. This is despite the fact the Alaska Legislature has passed resolutions of opposition – but the State Department doesn’t seem to care.

The imperiled Arctic Ocean islands include Wrangell, Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta. Wrangell became American in 1881 with the landing of the U.S. Revenue Marine ship Thomas Corwin. The landing party included the famed naturalist John Muir. It is 3,000 square miles in size.

Source

The Anti-Jobs President

image

Obama rejects the Keystone XL pipeline and blames Congress.

The central conflict of the Obama Presidency has been between the jobs and growth crisis he inherited and the President’s hell-for-leather pursuit of his larger social-policy ambitions. The tragedy is that the economic recovery has been so lackluster because the second impulse keeps winning.

Yesterday came proof positive with the White House’s repudiation of the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada‘s $7 billion shovel-ready project that would support tens of thousands of jobs if only it could get the requisite U.S. permits. Those jobs, apparently, can wait.

Unless the President objected, December’s payroll tax deal gave TransCanada the go-ahead in February to start building the pipeline, which would travel 1,661 miles from Alberta to interconnections in Oklahoma and then carry Canadian crude to U.S. refiners on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department, which presides over the Keystone XL review because it would cross the 49th parallel, claimed yesterday that the two-month Congressional deadline was too tight “for the President to determine whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.” The White House also issued a statement denouncing Congress’s “rushed and arbitrary deadline,” which merely passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

This is, to put it politely, a crock.

Keystone XL has been planned for years and only became a political issue after the well-to-do environmental lobby decided to make it a station of the green cross. TransCanada filed its application in 2008, and State determined in 2010 and then again last year that the project would have “no significant impacts” on the environment, following exhaustive studies. The Environmental Protection Agency chose to intervene anyway, and the political left began to issue ultimatums and demonstrate in front of the White House, so President Obama decided to defer a final decision until after the election.

The missed economic opportunity was spelled out Tuesday by Mr. Obama’s own Jobs Council, which released a report that endorsed an “all-in approach” on energy, including the “profound new opportunities in shale gas and unconventional oil.” The 27 members handpicked by the President recommended that he support “policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects,” and they warned that failing to do so “would stall the engine that could become a prime driver of U.S. jobs and growth in the decades ahead.”

Only last week the White House issued a “jobs” report praising domestic energy production, but that now looks like political cover for this anti-jobs policy choice.

State did give TransCanada permission to reapply using an alternate route, timetable indefinite. The construction workers, pipefitters, mechanics, welders and electricians who might otherwise be hired for the project—well, they must be thrilled with this consolation prize. Not to mention all the other Americans who might fill “spin-off” jobs on the pipeline’s supply chain like skilled manufacturers and equipment suppliers, or still others who might work in oil refining and distribution.

Environmentalists seem to think they can prevent the development of Canada’s oil-rich tar sands, and that their rallies against Keystone XL will keep that carbon in the ground. They can’t, and it won’t. America’s largest trading partner will simply build a pipeline to the Pacific coast from Alberta and sell its petroleum products to Asia instead, China in particular.

Such green delusions are sad, and Mr. Obama’s pandering is sadder, though everything the country stands to lose is saddest. If Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates have any political wit, they’ll vindicate the Keystone’s “national interest” and make Mr. Obama explain why job creation is less important than the people who make a living working for the green anti-industrial complex.

Source

U.S. slaps sanctions on China state oil trader over Iran

image

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on China’s state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, which it said was Iran’s largest supplier of refined petroleum products, as it sought to impress on Beijing and Tehran its resolve to increase economic pressure over Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also imposed sanctions on Singapore’s Kuo Oil Pte Ltd and FAL Oil Company Ltd, an independent energy trader based in the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said in a notice.

The State Department said the move was part of a broadening international effort to target Iran’s energy sector and persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear ambitions.

“The sanctions announced today are an important step toward that goal, as they target the individual companies that help Iran evade these efforts,” the statement said.

The sanction bar all three companies from receiving U.S. export licenses, U.S. Export Import Bank financing or loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions, the department said, stressing that the sanctions apply only to the companies and not to their governments or countries.

The U.S. announced the decision after China’s rebuff this week of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who traveled to Beijing to press China on U.S. demands it do more to help curb Iran’s oil revenues.

A Zhenrong spokeswoman and China’s Foreign Ministry both said they had no immediate comment.

‘SHOT ACROSS THE BOW’

Analysts said the U.S. move was largely symbolic, given that Zhenrong was unlikely to have much U.S. business exposure.

But the move will send a signal to Beijing and its state-run oil giants such as China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec Corp) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. , they said.

These companies have invested billions of dollars in the U.S. energy sector, and are much more exposed to the impact of potential sanctions.

“It’s a good shot across the bow and signals the U.S. is serious about vigorous sanctions enforcement,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington pressure group that favors stronger sanctions on Iran.

“This could be the beginning of a cascade of more sanctions on Chinese companies if China doesn’t curtail its Iranian trade.”

Zhuhai Zhenrong – one of four dominant Chinese state oil traders – brokered the delivery of over $500 million in gasoline to Iran between July 2010 and January 2011 in contravention of U.S. sanctions law, the State Department said.

While the U.S. move targeted Zhenrong for its gasoline sales, the Chinese company has a broader role in Beijing’s energy dealings with Iran.

It has been a major buyer of Iranian oil since at least 1995, typically selling the oil to Sinopec and PetroChina, the country’s two dominant refiners.

Zhenrong has been buying about 240,000 barrels per day for several years, representing about 5 percent of China’s imports. Sources last week said China would cut crude imports from Iran for a second month in February.

In mid-2010, Zhenrong joined Chinese state energy giants in filling a void left by Western oil companies and trading houses that had halted sales of gasoline to Iran because of toughening U.S. sanctions.

Derek Scissors, an expert in the Chinese economy at the Heritage Foundation think tank, said the action against Zhenrong would send a message to other Chinese state oil majors.

“We don’t want to be taking action against Sinopec, CNPC and CNOOC. They are huge, and politically powerful,” he said.

“But Zhenrong is close enough to them, and won’t really do that much harm beyond sending the signal.”

TARGETING COMPANIES

The U.S. announcement followed Western moves to tighten the economic noose on Tehran through unilateral sanctions.

President Barack Obama has signed a U.S. law imposing sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank, its main clearinghouse for oil exports, while the European Union is expected soon to agree to a new ban on Iranian oil imports.

Washington has sought to impress on friends and foes that it means business, sending U.S. officials around the world to warn of the dangers of dealing with Iran.

A senior Obama administration official stressed that the purpose of sanctions was to draw Iran back to the negotiating table to discuss curbing its nuclear ambitions, the other half of the ‘two-track’ U.S. policy of pressure and engagement.

“The theory of the case here is that these two tracks will ultimately converge and Iran will make a decision that it is important to come to the table to try to remove some of these sanctions, to improve their economy,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The other two companies listed by the State Department, both well-known names in the Asian oil trading world, are smaller, private trading firms that typically specialize in shipping bunker fuel or heavy residual products but, like Zhenrong, had also begun doing deals to sell gasoline to Iran.

The State Department said Kuo Oil had provided over $25 million in refined petroleum to Iran between late 2010 and early 2011, while FAL provided over $70 million in refined petroleum to Iran over multiple shipments in late 2010.

Kuo had no immediate comment, a senior official said.

In all cases, individual deliveries were worth significantly more than the $1 million threshold under U.S. law and the total value of the transactions was well above the $5 million threshold for sanctionable activities within a 12-month period, the State Department said.

Source

U.S. making nice with the Muslim Brotherhood?

The highest-level meeting between a U.S. diplomat and Muslim Brotherhood officials will take place today in Cairo, Egypt.

image

U.S. deputy secretary of state, William Burns, will meet officials of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing in the highest-level meeting yet between the two sides. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. has long shunned Egypt‘s Muslim Brotherhood, accusing it of links to terrorists. Looks like that is about to change.

The State Department‘s number two diplomat, William Burns, will meet with leaders of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which just won roughly 40 percent of the seats in parliament, AFP reports. (Final results of Egypt’s recent legislative elections have not yet been released).

The meeting marks part of a shift towards rapprochment from a decades-old U.S. policy of hostility toward the Brotherhood, who many in the U.S still fear will pose a threat to Israel and boost support for more extreme Islamists.

Still, the rise of Islamists, moderate and extreme, is a new reality in post-Mubarak Egypt. See Middle East highlights in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills from Jul. 2012, when the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved an amendment to limit the Secretary of State from using funds to support the Muslim Brotherhood.

Source

XL Pipeline Delay Costs the United States $70,000,000 Daily

image

The XL Pipeline will be essential to securing the future of oil security in the United States. According to the US State Department, the pipeline will deliver 700,000 barrels of oil daily to consumers. This will generate enormous revenue in local communities and create 20,000 American jobs. With the current price of WTI crude hovering at the $100 mark, the pipeline will deliver $70,000,000 worth of oil every single day, helping the United States grow and prosper.

However, the Obama administration has delayed its decision on the pipeline until after the election. According to Bloomberg, this means that the pipeline will not be completed until at least 2015. Had the pipeline been given the green light this November, thousands of valuable construction jobs would have been immediately created and in 2013 the pipeline would have come on stream. But instead this administration prefers to export jobs and US dollars overseas, squandering $70,000,000 per day.

image

Obama’s Crude Chutzpah

image

By Aaron Goldstein

Our president’s ideological and intellectual laziness is a job killer.

Over the weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Coperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, President Obama raised a few eyebrows when he criticized a lack of ingenuity on the part of Americans in attracting foreign investment:

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.

President Obama’s choice of words was at best peculiar and at worst pedantic. Forty-eight hours earlier, the Obama Administration delayed approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline until after the 2012 election. The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the oil sands in northern Alberta into the United States as well as U.S. domestic oil, is being built by TransCanada, which is based in Calgary. The last time I checked Canada is a foreign country. Ergo this would constitute foreign investment. Apparently, President Obama’s appetite for foreign investment isn’t as insatiable as he would have us believe. Talk about chutzpah in its crudest form.

The Keystone XL is actually an extension of the existing Keystone Pipeline that went into operation in 2008. The extension would have been twofold. First, the pipeline that currently ends in Oklahoma would be extended into the Gulf Coast of Texas. Second, the pipeline would be extended from its starting point in Hardisty, Alberta, and run through Montana and South Dakota before joining up with the existing pipeline in Nebraska.

The pipeline extension faced opposition from environmentalists, many of whom took their protest to the White House. Most of the opposition to the extension of the pipeline is centered in Nebraska where there are concerns that the pipeline could contaminate the groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer that encompasses the Nebraska Sandhills. However, a report produced by the State Department back in August concluded the extension of the pipeline would have little environmental impact. But in facing a difficult bid for re-election next year, Obama dismissed reason and chose to placate the passions of the environmentalists. For its part, TransCanada has pledged to work with the State Department in looking at alternate routes for extending the pipeline but emphasizes that time is of the essence:

Keystone XL is shovel-ready. TransCanada is poised to put 20,000 Americans to work to construct the pipeline — pipe fitters, welders, mechanics, electricians, heavy equipment operators, the list goes on. Local businesses along the pipeline route will benefit from the 118,000 spin-off jobs Keystone XL will create through increased business for local restaurants, hotels and suppliers.

However, some believe this “delay” represents the death knell of the pipeline extension. Christopher Helman of Forbes writes:

So the Obama administration rejected Keystone XL. Oh sure, they want us to think it’s just a delay, a kicking of the Keystone can down the road. Officially, the state department just sent TransCanada back to the drawing board to look at a variety of other pipeline routes that do their best to avoid the Sandhills in Nebraska and areas overlaying the Ogawalla Aquifer. But don’t be fooled. This is a rejection plain and simple.

In the process of selecting the proposed route, TransCanada plotted and studied 14 different pipeline paths and submitted 10,000 pages of environmental studies. They’ve already studied this thing to death. So when the state department says this new review could be done by early 2013, can we really expect any different outcome than more delays?

All of which brings me back to President Obama. Consider what he had to say at a Democratic Party fundraiser in San Francisco last month:

Anybody been to Beijing Airport lately? Or driven on high-speed rail in Asia or Europe? What’s changed? Well, we’ve lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.

Who does President Obama think he’s kidding? As Thomas Purcell points out, it took more than fifteen years for the Golden Gate Bridge to be built largely because of stonewalling on the part of the federal government:

Construction did not go as smoothly as planned. It takes another FIVE years for the government and the architects to come to agreement on the design. Furthermore, Federal contractor unions wanted the contracts to build the bridge and stalled the government on the issue, demanding they take action to halt construction unless they got the contract. Fortunately, local authorities insisted that as part of the contract only local labor would be used instead of Federal union contracts, insuring the area had work during Depression era unemployment.

And at the risk of conjuring up the image of Rachel Maddow wearing a hard hat, there is no way on God’s green earth the Hoover Dam would have be built in Barack Obama’s America. If there was a proposal on the table to divert the Colorado River, you could be sure that Robert Redford, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Darryl Hannah would be there to oppose it faster than you could say, “Splash!” As the Economist recently put it:

It was hard enough back then to overcome the rivalries of the seven states involved, but at least nobody gave a fig for the down-river rights of the south-western Indians, let alone the Mexicans, or the creatures whose habitats were eradicated when the river was damned. Today a rampart of federal legislation, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, would block the way.

At the risk of being crude, if President Obama was just a little less lazy about his economic policies and his knowledge of American history, then perhaps we wouldn’t find ourselves in this sorry state of affairs.

Source

%d bloggers like this: