Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who is Israeli spy MEGA?

In an interview last week, Phil Giraldi told Scott Horton that he had heard that admitted Israeli spy Ben-Ami Kadish was to be finally sentenced last Friday, but, according to PACER, nothing has happened.

Let's hope that he is negotiating with the authorities to disclose the identity of Mega.

As some background, here is a snip from Giraldi's June 08 article, "The Spy Who Loves Us. Pay no mind to the Mossad agent on the line":
"The arrest revived suspicions that Israeli agents might still be operating inside the U.S., most particularly “Mega,” whose cover name was revealed in an NSA-intercepted conversation between two Israeli intelligence officers. “Mega” was clearly at the policymaker level, as Kadish and Pollard frequently sought files by name or number. Someone more senior in Washington appeared to be directing the Israeli handlers toward sensitive information. Whoever “Mega” was, he is still at large."
Scott Horton interviewed Giraldi at the time. I wrote up a transcript a while ago, but never published it. Here you go:
Scott Horton: Do me a favor, Phil, I was ten years old at the time. I barely know a thing about it, tell me and the audience about Jonathan Pollard and the giant spying case in the 1980s.

Phil Giraldi: Well, Jonathan Pollard was an Israeli spy, he spied for at least three years for them, he was receiving money. His motivation apparently was somewhat loyalty to Israel in a kind of generic way, but it was mostly money that he was interested in.

And he worked for the Defense Department and he was able to steal apparently an entire room full of highly sensitive documents, many of which related to security of communication systems and things like this, and capabilities of satellites and the kind of information that is of top-level interest to any intelligence service.

So he stole a whole room full of this type of classified information, gave it to Israel, and Seymour Hersh among others believes that a lot of this information wound up in Russia, where the Israelis exchanged it for Russian permission to let some Russian Jews leave the country. So this information wound up presumably in the US's principal enemy, so this was not a benign activity that wound up just in Israel to benefit the Israelis. It went far beyond that.

Scott Horton: Well now there's something that I do remember from 1986 - that the Soviet Union were the bad guys and had a bunch of nuclear missiles pointed at us.

Phil Giraldi: Yeah, that's the point. The defenders of Pollard often say that he really did nothing wrong, he was helping an ally; he was giving them information they needed for their defense and so on and so forth. That's nonsense, and the reason why Pollard has not been released from prison is the fact that everyone on the inside knows very well that Pollard gave them tons of information that had nothing to do with Israel, nothing to do with the Middle East, and in fact the information went on to the Russians, and benefited the Russians in their confrontation with us.

Scott Horton: Right, now just recently - a month and a half ago or so, it came out that there was another Israeli spy, actually an American citizen who was spying for Israel named Ben-Ami Kadish and, just from what I read in Newsweek, I think this sort of shed brand new light on the Jonathan Pollard case from 1986. How's that?

Phil Giraldi: Yes, it does indeed shed new light on it because when Pollard was caught and convicted, the Israelis privately agreed with the US government that they had been spying, and that they wouldn’t do it anymore, and they basically said that this was a rogue operation.

Well it turns out that it wasn’t a rogue operation, because there was another rogue out there, and also the NSA has intercepted communications that the Israelis had yet another more senior spy whom they referred to as MEGA - and there's been a lot of speculation as to who MEGA is. MEGA obviously is still out there.

Scott Horton: I want to hear some speculation as to who MEGA is!

Phil Giraldi: I don't think I'd better do that (laughs) - I know a few names that are being thrown around, I mean, even Henry Kissinger has been named as a possible MEGA, but there are a couple more that are quite plausible when one thinks about it, but I'd rather not name names.

Scott Horton: Geez. I'm trying to remember, because I know that James Bamford has talked about, or brought up, an old Washington Post story from 1997 or something like that where they talk about, whoever this guy MEGA was, he was in a position where he knew not just the file numbers, but even the super-duper top secret titles of intelligence reports and so forth, that he must be a very senior level person to have this kind of intelligence clearance, is that right?

Phil Giraldi: Yeah, that's the theory, because apparently both Pollard and Kadish were directed to request and steal specific intelligence reports or assessments, and they had the names, they had the numbers, and these names and numbers - because of the sensitivity of the reports - could only have come from someone who was at the very top level of the US government.

Scott Horton: At the very top level? So this would be, maybe not necessarily cabinet level, but say, someone like the head of counter-terrorism or something like that?

Phil Giraldi: I would say, yeah - you're looking basically at maybe the one or two or three top people in something like the FBI, something like the NSA, but more likely, the evidence seems to indicate that MEGA was a political player, so that would actually more likely be someone at the cabinet level, or somebody equivalent to that. So the speculation would be that it is someone maybe in the National Security Council structure - someone like that.

Scott Horton: Yeah, I guess that's what I was trying to get at with the counter-terrorism thing - somebody who is an executive agent, not necessarily a Secretary or something, but pretty high up - and I think one of the other qualifications for this MEGA is that they've had this level of clearance in multiple administrations, right?

Phil Giraldi: Yeah, the individual involved would have - so it seems - would have been in place during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Scott Horton: Alright. Interesting stuff!

Phil Giraldi: That narrows down the speculation as to who it might be...

Scott Horton: That's got to be less than a dozen people on your list though, right?

Phil Giraldi: Try about six!

Scott Horton: Try about six... half a dozen on Phil's short list there. Well I'm sure that there's a grand jury investigating this right now, right?

Phil Giraldi: Of course.

Scott Horton: (laughs) OK. Sorry. I'm sure that's actually not the case. Now this guy Ben-Ami Kadish apparently gave the Israelis information on F15s and I think even on nuclear weaponry - is that right?

Phil Giraldi: Yeah, my understanding is he gave them avionics information on F15s and F16s and also there was information that dealt with nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Scott Horton: Now, this is an old case, sort of a cold case. This guy is an old man, he's not going to be prosecuted for treason?

Phil Giraldi: Well, I would like to see him prosecuted for treason, but it is not likely. I'm quite surprised that they let him out on bail, and this is a case of treason if there ever was one, but he is out on bail. I would think that there is considerable risk of his fleeing to Israel, from which he would not be extradited. So, I'm quite confused by the signal that the US courts are sending on this.

Scott Horton: (Some snippage) Now, we've got to get to the neoconservatives, because, I don’t think it has been alleged, for at least a long, long time, that our household-name favorite neocons like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, are actually Israeli spies, but are clearly such Israeli partisans that their foreign policy seems to be all centered around the Clean Break plan that David Wurmser and Douglas Feith and Richard Perle wrote up for Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, and they've been described as agents of influence for Israel - what do you say about that?

Phil Giraldi: Well, first of all let me point out that all those people you've named have in fact been investigated, under suspicion of passing classified information to Israel, so it's not just pure speculation that these people would on occasion have indicated or demonstrated a willingness to go beyond what are the normal restraints to assist the Israelis as they see it. Whether they are agents of influence for Israel or not is a matter of semantics I think. These people are all deeply in love with Israel and have strong and continuing relationships, and very often business relationships.

Doug Feith as you know and Richard Perle both have had business interests in Israel that have enriched them greatly. So that's one side of it. But the point is that the neocons have been engaging in this con-job forever, which is essentially that, the way the see the world, Israel and the US are united and are virtually one entity, and everybody else is basically a shade of grey or a shade of black.
I have tried to reconstruct the org charts from way-back-when to see who was on the National Security Council during those administrations in an attempt to identify who is on Giraldi's short list for MEGA but didn't have much luck.

Who is MEGA?

By the way, I know that times are tough economically, but Antiwar.com really should employ an intern to transcribe all/many of Scott Horton's interviews exist in print as well as audio. Scott is such an insanely great interviewer, and he gets such great interviews, and the long-format fleshes out such important detail. Unfortunately most of it disappears into the ether because Google can't (yet) search audio. For example, consider yesterday's Eric Margolis interview where Scott asks Eric to repeat his claims that the CIA sponsored and supported the Uighur terrorist movement. This is directly relevant to the third category of Sibel's Gallery of Rogues. If / when I get a chance I'll transcribe the relevant parts of this Margolis interview, and his previous interviews with Scott about the same issue - and I'll connect some dots - but this stuff is too important to be dependent on my availability / state of mind or whatever.

(Updated from the original)

Obama's State Secrets.

Obama was asked about State Secrets Privilege in his presser by Michael Scherer of Time. Here is the exchange:


Transcript:
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. During the campaign, you criticized President Bush's use of the state secrets privilege, but U.S. attorneys have continued to argue the Bush position in three cases in court. How exactly does your view of state secrets differ from President Bush's? And do you believe presidents should be able to derail entire lawsuits about warrantless wiretapping or rendition if classified information is involved?

Obama: I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified. I think right now it's overbroad.

But keep in mind what happens, is we come in to office. We're in for a week, and suddenly we've got a court filing that's coming up. And so we don't have the time to effectively think through, what exactly should an overarching reform of that doctrine take? We've got to respond to the immediate case in front of us.

There -- I think it is appropriate to say that there are going to be cases in which national security interests are genuinely at stake and that you can't litigate without revealing covert activities or classified information that would genuinely compromise our safety.

But searching for ways to redact, to carve out certain cases, to see what can be done so that a judge in chambers can review information without it being in open court, you know, there should be some additional tools so that it's not such a blunt instrument.

And we're interested in pursuing that. I know that Eric Holder and Greg Craig, my White House counsel, and others are working on that as we speak.
That comment should get some traction tomorrow. It appears as though Obama has changed his mind on this issue, and if he wants to use the excuse that he simply inherited the problem, I don't care much even if it is not true, as Wired's Threat Level notes:
Obama’s explanation has a nice ring to it, but ultimately falls flat.

Describing the Justice Department as essentially on auto-pilot when pushing for the blanket dismissal of warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition cases would be reasonable enough if this were Obama’s 14th day in office, instead of his 100th. When the administration first argued Bush’s state secrets position just two days after Obama was sworn in, really, only Threat Level complained.

But since then the Justice Department has unrelentingly continued to push the privilege, including making an argument before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the administration’s position on Tuesday.
Brain Beutler makes the same point at TPM:
But it's hard to square (Obama's excuse) with what the administration's actually done. DOJ lawyers haven't asked the courts for more time, or to withhold key pieces of information. Rather, they've argued that these cases--Jewel v NSA, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v Obama, and Mohammed v Jeppesen Dataplan--be tossed out entirely. And they've done that by invoking the state secrets privilege. In fact, in Jewel, the administration went so far as to claim "sovereign immunity" for the government from just about any lawsuit involving wiretapping. That position is even more radical than Bush's was.

It's hard to imagine Obama walking that claim back. But as far as state secrets go, now he's on the record.
There was also an NYT editorial yesterday re the Jeppesen ruling, The State-Secrets Privilege, Tamed:
Of the many ways that the Bush administration sought to evade accountability for its violations of the law and the Constitution under the cover of battling terrorism, one of the most appalling was its attempt to use inflated claims of state secrecy to slam shut the doors of the nation’s courthouses.

Sadly, the Obama administration also embraced this tactic, even though President Obama criticized the cult of secrecy while running for office, leaving it to the courts to stand up for transparency and accountability.
It appears that Obama didn't like stuff like this, not surprisingly. It is good to see that Obama is apparently willing to change his mind. Of course, we still need to see the results of the Craig/Holder review, and whether they will review previous cases as well. It's also somewhat interesting that Obama mentioned the DoJ review, but didn't mention the State Secrets Protection Act.

Hastert. a matter of public concern

Phil Giraldi in American Conservative:
"Justice Department records indicate that Hastert will now be “principally involved” on a $35,000-a-month contract providing representation for the Turkish government. He will work as a subcontractor for another former House speaker, Dick Gephardt, who runs the eponymous Gephardt Group.

As Hastert, a former wrestling coach, presumably knows little about the country paying him, his true role will be networking with Congress to block any legislation that Turkey considers to be not in its interest. In that capacity, Hastert would be just one more ex-congressman on the make. But his relationship may be more complicated. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds claimed that Hastert was investigated by the Bureau for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payments from Turkish lobbying groups in exchange for “political favors and information.” Edmonds’s claims have never been pursued, presumably because there are so many skeletons in both parties’ closets. She has been served with a state-secrets gag order to make sure that what she knows is never revealed, a restriction that the new regime in Washington has not lifted.

In Hastert’s case, it certainly should be a matter of public concern that a senior elected representative who may have received money from a foreign country is now officially lobbying on its behalf. How many other congressmen might have similar relationships with foreign countries and lobbying groups, providing them with golden parachutes for their retirement?"
Thank you Sir.

Harman/AIPAC on The Daily Show

Last week Phil Giraldi asked "So I have to ask, why isn’t the MSM interested in aggressively pursuing this (Harman/AIPAC) story?"

Jon Stewart is doing his bit to help out.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Your Government Not at Work - Jane Harman Scandal
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There was some great news today in the Jeppesen / State Secrets case brought by the ACLU. Glenn Greenwald has some of the major highlights, including a great interview with ACLU's lead counsel, Ben Wizner.

The appellate court ruling is here (pdf).

I'm not a lawyer, so I won't go into the details for fear of saying something silly - but as Wizner says, you should read the ruling, because it is (mostly) readable by non-lawyers, and it makes some very commonsense arguments.

Wizner also warns that this is only the beginning on this case, in that it simply means that the State Secrets Privilege (SSP) can't be used to nuke a case at the beginning, and that the government must actually defend and justify every claim of secrecy as it pertains to each and every piece of evidence.

Although I didn't hear anything about it today re Jeppesen, the Obama administration's next legal argument will undoubtedly center around the Mosaic Theory that has previously been used in Sibel's case:
It requires little reflection to understand that the business of foreign intelligence gathering in this age of computer technology is more akin to the construction of a mosaic than it is to the management of a cloak and dagger affair. Thousands of bits and pieces of seemingly innocuous information can be analyzed and fitted into place to reveal with startling clarity how the unseen whole must operate.
For today, however, let's celebrate the ACLU's win and congratulate Ben Wizner.

Wizner, of course, also worked on Sibel's case with Ann Beeson. In Kill The Messenger, he says:
What you have here is the Attorney General of the U.S saying: " The plaintiff can’t even set foot inside a court because the entire case is a state secret. "

The danger is that if the government succeeds in that really overbroad invocation of the ‘State Secret Privilege in this case, it will be a very easy tactic for the government in future cases to avoid accountability and to avoid responsibility.
In early April, Attorney General Eric Holder was interviewed by Katie Couric. The Washington Independent reported:
"During last night’s interview, Couric asked Holder whether he thought the state secrets doctrine had been abused by the Bush administration.

“Well, I don’t know,” said Holder. “On the basis of the two, three cases we’ve had to review so far, I think that the invocation of the doctrine was correct. We - reversed - are in the process of looking at one case. But I think we’re very likely to reverse it.”

Presumably, the three cases he’s referring to are the Jewel, Al-Haramain and Jeppesen Dataplan. But Holder went on to say that there have been more than 20 such assertions in cases that are still open. He added that a report on the Justice Department’s use of the privilege is being prepared, and his “hope is to be able to share the results of that report with the American people.”"
I can't wait to see the 'results of that report.' Even though Sibel's case is not 'open' in any sense that I'm aware of, it would be difficult to imagine any review that does not consider the case, so I'll try to remain optimistic in the interim.

I'm certainly not on the side of those who argue that Obama is playing 11-dimensional chess, but if Holder does reverse one of the SSP claims of the Bush administration, when combined with today's Jeppesen ruling (against Obama), then perhaps there is some cause for optimism.

The Jeppesen ruling appears to completely undermine any reliance on Totten that the executive branch might use in Sibel's case, forcing them to rely entirely, and appropriately, on Reynolds.

Even then, the appellate court smacked down the Reynold's basis in today's ruling:
Even in Reynolds, avoidance of embarrassment—not preservation of state secrets—appears to have motivated the Executive’s invocation of the privilege. There the Court credited the government’s assertion that “this accident occurred to a military plane which had gone aloft to test secret electronic equipment,” and that “there was a reasonable danger that the accident investigation report would contain references to the secret electronic equipment which was the primary concern of the mission.”

In 1996, however, the “secret” accident report involved in that case was declassified. A review of the report revealed, not “details of any secret project the plane was involved in,” but “[i]nstead, . . . a horror story of incompetence, bungling, and tragic error.”
This reflects the same language that Senators Leahy and Grassley used when discussing Sibel's case:
"...We fear that the designation of information as classified in some cases [brought forth by Sibel Edmonds] serves to protect the executive branch against embarrassing revelations and full accountability... Releasing declassified versions of these reports, or at least portions or summaries, would serve the public’s interest, increase transparency, promote effectiveness and efficiency at the FBI, and facilitate Congressional oversight."
Senators Leahy and Grassley were aware of (at least some of) the real facts about Sibel's case when they wrote this - prior to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's illegal retroactive classification of that information.

The Jeppesen case has other parallels with Sibel's case. In the Jeppesen ruling today, the courts differentiated between 'facts' and 'evidence' - noting that, for example, even though the Fifth amendment offers the protection of self-incrimination, that doesn't preclude other evidence being presented which point to the same facts. Similarly, the ACLU argued that the whole world knows that the plaintiffs were transferred by Jeppesen to various locations where they would be tortured - whether or not the American courts wanted to acknowledge it (courts in other countries have accepted that.) Sibel has been in a similarly weird situation, as she has said:
Swanson: So I should ask, I guess, before I start, are you under any gag order? Are there things that you can and cannot talk about?

Edmonds: Well - that's a very interesting question, David, because when the government invoked the State Secrets Privilege, it was specifically for the court procedures, so there won't be any court hearings, and as far as the courts are concerned, my case is gagged and classified.
[...]
But I've never had a gag order placed on me as far as the public statements, or any other investigative procedures are concerned, but as you know they have declared everything in my case, including my languages, and what I did for the FBI, classified. Now the question is whether this classification that they're using is even legal, or justified. As you know the executive branch has complete control over the classification.
That is, to a large extent, the gag on Sibel is to keep her case outside of the courts, outside of an offical judication, outside of the discovery process that would prove her case. This is also why they were so determined to fight her FOIA cases so strenuously.

As Sibel explained:
They were not only doing it with (Turkey) - because that operation was the sister operation of another investigation that dealt with Israel, but the FBI was not (transfering) these from counter-intelligence to investigation units, and they were supposed to do that. They were supposed to transfer and let the counter-espionage unit in the FBI, and the criminal division handle it. But they were not (transferring these cases).

So this was another case that I reported internally - and I never got anywhere with it as far as the FBI was concerned - and later, of course, when Ashcroft came out and invoked the State Secrets Privilege, Ashcroft himself inadvertently explained it! There is a sentence there saying "The State Secrets Privilege is being invoked in order to protect certain sensitive diplomatic relations and business relations of the US" - this is an exact quote from Ashcroft, explaining why the State Secrets Privilege was invoked.
Today's Jeppesen ruling undermines Ashcroft's argument here. The Jeppesen ruling essentially reinforces the principles behind Reynolds. Jeppsesen's 'business relations' in the torture regime are not given a blanket exemption from exposure in today's ruling, and, similarly, nor should the 'business relations' in Sibel's case be given a free reign.

Sibel has always argued that: 1) none of the disclosures that she wants to make would breach any national security concerns, specifically that her disclosures wouldn't reveal any 'sources and methods,' and that 2) it is illegal to use classification to hide illegal activity.

Today's Jeppesen ruling gives us hope, despite the Obama regime, that maybe the courts are at least open to applying the law.

Maybe that is all we can ask for at this point.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why did CIA go after AIPAC and Harman and get away with it?

There's some push-back in various quarters about the charges against Jane Harman - mostly from pro-Israeli sources.

The main arguments as I understand them are: a) There's no there, there, and b) The CIA/Porter Goss is involved in some sort of vendetta against Harman.

Let's assume both of those are true.

The fascinating thing, then, is that the CIA/Goss is apparently willing to throw the Israel Lobby under the bus in their efforts to get Harman. That is some serious collateral damage!

Many of the Harman defenders are 'pro-Israel' - and curoiusly, much of the defense is Harman-specific. For some reason they don't seem to be arguing in defense of The Lobby/AIPAC. That is, apparently it is not surprising at all that The Lobby would try to turn Harman into an asset, but 'she didn't act on her promise!'. No crime here!

But even if Harman didn't act on her promise to the Israeli agent, and regardless of the definition of a 'completed crime,' surely there is news in the fact that an Israeli agent tried to place an 'asset' (or at a minimum, a prospective-asset) at the heart of US intelligence. (Of course, as a general matter, this is not surprising - but in this particular instance, it is still a significant crime, at the heart of the US government.)

Consider the counter-factual. Imagine, hypothetically, that an agent of Iran was caught offering a member of congress the Chair of House Intelligence. Imagine how different the reporting on this case would be. It appears as though all sides have simply accepted the fact that the Israel Lobby is engaged in this type of activity.

Perhaps that is why Goss et al were so comfortable in apparently throwing AIPAC under the bus in their atempts to harm Harman. It didn't even occur to them that any of this might reflect badly on AIPAC - and they were correct!


(As an aside, the Israeli Lobby seems to have decided on an interesting way to divert attention from the case. David Frum at the AEI, for example, writes:
"The story is almost insanely complicated."
No. It isn't. Not at all. And especially not to Frum, or to the audience he is writing for.)

-------------

The flipside to all of this is the Sibel Edmonds case. For some reason, nobody is shopping around the wiretaps of Hastert and others receiving bribes. Why not?

Consider Giraldi's recent pieces on Harman but substitute Hastert for Harman, and (maybe) substitute Israel for Turkey:
As a former intelligence officer who has himself recruited agents of influence, I can tell you that Harman was the fruit of a high level Israeli covert action.
[...]
The Israeli on the phone was committing espionage against the United States by trying to influence the actions of a government official and Harman was committing a number of possible crimes by agreeing to cooperate in return for her own personal advancement.

Please take my word for it that the quid pro quo is precisely how an intelligence officer recruits an agent. You ask for a favor and give a favor in return. As both the favor and the reward are illegal and the agreement itself can be used to blackmail the target of the operation, the target henceforth will be obligated to do what the intelligence officer wants or risk exposure.
Consider that Hastert (and others) received legal campaign donations, then illegal campaign donations, then suitcases full of cash. It is exactly that cascading level of criminality that Giraldi speaks of. It is impossible to get rid of the skeleton in the closet, so the 'victim' of the original crime might as well profit from it along the way. There's plenty of money to share around.

Monday, April 27, 2009

CQ: Hastert knew of AIPAC infiltration

Jeff Stein has a new brain-twister of an article in CQ titled 'CIA “Whistleblower” Told Hastert About Suppression of Harman Wiretap.'

The premise of the article is that in 2006, ODNI Negroponte, apparently at the behest of Attorney General Gonzales, blocked DCI Porter Goss from following protocol and informing the House leadership, Hastert and Pelosi, about the Harman wiretaps. In May 2006, Michael Hayden replaced Goss as DCI, but still there was no briefing for Hastert and Pelosi.

In the Fall of 2006, someone from CIA HQ, either under orders or freelancing, 'blew the whistle' to Hastert, 'incensed' that the protocols had been breached, then wrote a letter to Attorney General Gonzales demanding to be briefed. Gonzales ignored the request for weeks, but eventually told Hastert that there was nothing in the files to warrant a briefing.

By this time, the 'whistleblower' was becoming "agitated" about the lack of movement on the case. Fearing that the whistle blower might release the wiretap transcripts to the media - which would expose the operation against AIPAC and "unfairly 'smear' Harman as a foreign agent," (who they knew to be "highly respected") - Hastert's staff told Pelosi's staff about the wiretap on Harman in 'early October' 2006. Pelosi's Chief of Staff “remembers a conversation about it with (Hastert's Chief of Staff ), but that’s all.”

Kudos to Jeff Stein for getting Hastert on the record about this, and continuing to chase the story - and I'm sure that the 'facts' presented here are (mostly) accurate, but the combination of narrative & spin presented here doesn't make much sense. I'm not criticizing Stein here - but there's much more going on here than Stein offers in this piece.

Hastert
For starters, Hastert was most likely not really concerned about separation-of-power arguments, nor about following protocol. His demand for a briefing was much more likely because he desperately wanted to know the status of the 'sister investigation' that caught him on wiretaps in the years leading up to 1999, and probably since then.

Similarly, Hastert's efforts to inform Pelosi were intended to appease the so-called whistleblower from the CIA so that the news of the investigation didn't get exposed in public, because that would be very bad for Hastert and his cronies.

For some reason, Hastert thought that telling Pelosi would assuage the 'agitated' CIA 'whistleblower,' and stop him from going to the media. But as Jeff Stein reported last week, a CIA official independently told Pelosi. "She knew. We made sure she knew," said one of the former officials, chuckling."

(As an aside, from the pieces of Hastert's statements that Stein published, Hastert seems keen to emphasize two points: a) that the wiretap was a "legally authorized wiretap related to an espionage investigation" and b) that he "instructed (his) staff in early October 2006." I'm not exactly sure of the significance of either of those yet, but they are interesting details.)

Goss and the CIA
We also don't know the motivations of the CIA 'whistleblower.' Was Porter Goss really worried about the protocol of informing the House Leadership? Was he really worried that there might be a mole in their midst? Goss himself was Chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 1997 to 2005, so he was well aware that Hastert himself, and others in the House, had been compromised by Israeli and Turkish surrogates.

Perhaps the CIA 'whistleblower' actually was freelancing, and was legitimately concerned about the possibility that Harman would become Chair of House Intelligence. In that case, they only needed to tell Pelosi, but they told Hastert too, under the guise that the protocol dictated that both Hastert and Pelosi should know this information.

Regardless, at the same time that the CIA 'whistleblower' was telling Hastert, he was apparently exposing the issue in the media regardless of Hastert's efforts.

Hastert instructed his "staff in early October 2006 to tell Leader Pelosi" about the wiretaps, but the Time article detailing the essence of the story was published on Oct 20, 2006 anyway.

In a ridiculed op-ed in the New York Times in early 2006 called Loose Lips Sink Spies, Goss wrote:
I take seriously my agency's responsibility to protect our national security. Unauthorized disclosures undermine our efforts and abuse the trust of the people we are sworn to protect. Since becoming director, I have filed criminal reports with the Department of Justice because of such compromises. That department is committed to working with us to investigate these cases aggressively...

Our enemies cannot match the creativity, expertise, technical genius and tradecraft that the C.I.A. brings to bear in this war. Criminal disclosures of national security information, however, can erase much of that advantage. The terrorists gain an edge when they keep their secrets and we don't keep ours.
Your choice, Mr Goss: A) Did you file a criminal report with the DoJ in this case? Or B) Was this an 'authorized disclosure'?

Pelosi
The incurious Nancy Pelosi is apparently befuddled about these events.

In May 2006, according to LA Weekly, Harman "had some major contributors call Pelosi to impress upon her the importance of keeping Jane in place. According to these members, this tactic, too, hasn't endeared Harman to Pelosi."

The Harman thing was obviously on her radar, then - both privately and in the press - at a time when "Pelosi had soured on her California colleague."

At some point, apparently in the early Fall of 2006, the CIA officials unofficially told Pelosi:
that Harman had been overheard on a wiretap agreeing to intercede with Justice Department officials to try to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
However, Pelosi only has some vague recollection of this. Now she says that she can not remember exactly who told her, but "she thought it was the FBI."

But again, according to the 'whistleblowers':
"She knew. We made sure she knew," said one of the former officials, chuckling."
But according to Pelosi, they apparently didn't 'make sure' that she really knew.

And again, in "early October," Hastert briefed Pelosi on the matter, in a highly irregular meeting, that Harman was on the wiretaps. This meeting presumably included the fact that Hastert was 'incensed' at the breach of protocol, that Gonzales was blocking the whole thing, and that CIA officials from headquarters had decided to circumvent their chain of command, yet Pelosi's firewall Chief of Staff "remembers a conversation about it... but that’s all.”

And this was all during the time when there was a large battle taking place - in public and behind closed doors - about who Pelosi would appoint to Chair the House Intelligence Committee (Reyes was appointed in December 2006)

Yet apparently this was all eminently forgettable to Pelosi.

(Compare and contrast Hastert's level of detail with Pelosi's haziness. I suspect that Hastert's apparent clarity of recollection is due to Hastert doing some CYA - both then and now. And I suspect that Pelosi's haziness is due to same.)

Why It Matters
As Phil Giraldi said in his interview with Scott Horton last week, if not for the wiretap:
(Y)ou might have had someone who was - essentially - an Israeli agent either heading the House Permanent Intelligence Committee - or heading the CIA, which was another job that Jane Harman had a shot at.
At his blog on Saturday, Giraldi said:
As a former intelligence officer who has himself recruited agents of influence, I can tell you that Harman was the fruit of a high level Israeli covert action.

Whomever Harman spoke to, she was surely aware that she was in contact with someone empowered to promise her rewards from Israel and the Israeli lobby. The threat to withhold contributions from the Democratic Party if Harman were not to be named chairman is significant, as it indicates that it was all part of a careful plan.

The Israeli on the phone was committing espionage against the United States by trying to influence the actions of a government official and Harman was committing a number of possible crimes by agreeing to cooperate in return for her own personal advancement.

Please take my word for it that the quid pro quo is precisely how an intelligence officer recruits an agent. You ask for a favor and give a favor in return. As both the favor and the reward are illegal and the agreement itself can be used to blackmail the target of the operation, the target henceforth will be obligated to do what the intelligence officer wants or risk exposure.

This whole transaction is particularly important in the context of Jane Harman and what she might have represented to the Israelis. She was chairman presumptive of the House Intelligence Committee and subsequently was spoken of as being on the short list for Obama’s Director of Central Intelligence. If she had obtained either position, which would have happened if the FBI had not been privy to the transaction, she would have had complete access to all of America’s secrets and would have been involved in policy making. She would also have been working for Israel. So I have to ask, why isn’t the MSM interested in aggressively pursuing this story?

Jeff Stein
Again, kudos to Jeff Stein for pushing this story so hard. And congratulations to him for continuing to get people on the record and advancing the story. He has said that he was completely taken by surprise by the traction that this story has received. And at the same time, Giraldi is also correct that the MSM needs to agressively push it further.

Update:
Giraldi has a new article. Read the whole thing, but this excerpt was maybe the juiciest:
"Once you are on the hook in an intelligence relationship, there is no getting off it. Had Harman done a favor for the Israelis and been rewarded in return, it would have been a skeleton in her closet forever. The Israelis might also have taped the incriminating conversations, presumably unaware that the FBI was also on the line. The Israelis would surely remind her of her crime whenever they need a favor, and she would be forced to pay the piper whenever called upon. What could have been better for Israel than owning the director of central intelligence or the head of the House Intelligence Committee? What could have been worse for the United States?"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

AIPAC Trial

There was an odd article on March 5 titled "The ‘AIPAC Two’ aren’t the only ones on trial" by Douglas M. Bloomfield. Bloomfield "spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC."

Bloomfield's lede was:
"Trials can be dangerous things. And not just for the accused. They can make or break prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges. And even a vaunted lobby.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its leaders could be the biggest losers in a case that threatens to expose the group’s inner secrets."
Bloomfield closed with this:
"Will the organization want to go through discovery, depositions, interrogatories, subpoenas, and compelled testimony under oath about all the elements of this case? That could be the key to very generous out-of-court settlements for Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.

That will leave unanswered the biggest question of all: Why was this case brought in the first place?"
Grant F. Smith, who has done great work on this case, calls these "not-so-subtle public threats." He adds, in an article titled "Why Steve Rosen is Suing AIPAC" (from April 8):
"The seemingly defeatist maneuvers of this circular firing squad partially mask Rosen’s real strategy. Millions of dollars would do him little good behind bars or preserve AIPAC’s reputation if he prevails. What Rosen needs most is for AIPAC to pull him ‘out from under all this’ as soon as possible. Otherwise AIPAC and the rest of the lobby will face the full wrath of Rosen’s accumulated arsenal: access to damning AIPAC internal information and a multitude of allies who follow the credo that “divided we fall.” "
On April 22, (with the Jane Harman/AIPAC story in the near-background) the Washington Post published "U.S. Might Not Try Pro-Israel Lobbyists":
"The U.S. government may abandon espionage-law charges against two former lobbyists for a pro-Israel advocacy group, officials said yesterday, as a prominent House lawmaker denied new allegations that she offered to use her influence in their behalf."
Was Bloomfield's threat effective?

(By the way - Grant Smith has apparently been alone, for months, in noting that Larry Franklin is not currently in jail.)





For the record, at the end of that second video, Sibel says:
"Other operations were shut down in 2000 and 2001 because they ended up going to higher levels and involving way too many people. I’m talking about individuals who are breaking the law, misusing the trust and abusing their power, and in some cases I would even say engaging in treason."
Interestingly, I just tested that youtube in two different browsers and on two different computers, and the audio goes silent when Sibel says "engaging in treason." I've never noticed that before. I can only presume that was an error on my part when I uploaded the interview.

Obama: Armenian genocide

McClatchy:
Obama marks Armenian tragedy but doesn't say 'genocide'

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday broke a campaign pledge but mollified Turkey by formally remembering the mass killings of Armenians without using the diplomatically loaded term "genocide."
[...]
Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush broke similar pledges. President Bill Clinton, too, leaned on congressional leaders not to pass genocide commemoration measures.

In 2000, only minutes before debate was set to start in the House of Representatives, then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert yielded to Clinton's request not to bring the genocide resolution, authored by Radanovich, up for a vote.

Hastert is now a lobbyist with the firm Dickstein Shapiro, one of a number that Turkey hired to press its cause on Capitol Hill. Turkey pays $35,000 a month for help from Hastert and his team, Justice Department foreign-agent filings show. Turkey is paying former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's firm, DLA Piper, $100,000 a month, filings have shown.
For the record, Gephardt is another first-I-was-against-it genocide denier too.

Poltico is running this youtube of Samantha Powers today



Kudos to Jonathon Schwarz who ran this six weeks ago.

BTW: I knew that Marc Grossman, William Cohen and Joe Ralston had a "strategic alliance" with DLA Piper via the Cohen Group, but I (think I) only recently learned that all three are actually "Senior Advisers" to DLA Piper directly.

BTW2: Note in the following youtube how Hastert's 'official spokesman' says "The Speaker does not have any connections to American-Turkish interests." That statement is no longer operative.



Also interesting is the spokesperson's statement/rebuttal that 'the reporter does not have a transcript of any wiretap conversations that we know of' - which is reminiscent of the current outbreak of the Harman/AIPAC outrage.

* Update: In a post worth reading (as usual) , Mizgin says:
"If any of these Deep Staters had even the slightest nano-particle of honor, they'd blow their own brains out.

I'm just saying."
For what it is worth, I'd consider any reports of suicide as suspicious. I think we are both on the same page.

Scott Horton, Phil Giraldi & Jane Harman

Scott Horton interviewed Phil Giraldi - about the Jane Harman story and some other things.

Giraldi says that he knows a journalist who has the transcript, and that the source of the transcript was the Justice Department. Giraldi also says that the name of the other person on the phone call with Harman is blacked out, and he says that this is often what happens when the other person is co-operating with the US officials.

Giraldi also notes that the fact that Harman and the Israeli operative were talking so freely about this qui-pro-quo indicates that Harman was probably an Israeli 'asset' (in the sense that she had crossed the line previously) before this call.

See here and here for Giraldi's recent blog posts about Harman.

A partial transcript follows:

Phil Giraldi: My source has seen a copy of the (Harman) transcript, and there are apparently a couple of copies floating around in various places, and he's been able to confirm that what the New York Times and other sources have been reporting about some of the actual words used and some of the quotes are alleged to have been made in this conversation are completely accurate.

He further indicated to me that the original leak of this information came from an official at the Department of Justice - where of course these transcripts would be on file. So that’s kind of interesting in and of itself, because it raises the question of why this is happening right now, and how did this happen. Is there some political motivation behind it?
[…]
There are a couple of things to look at here. The first thing to look at, of course, is what would have been the potential consequences of this - and one of the potential consequences is that you might have had someone who was - essentially - an Israeli agent either heading the House Permanent Intelligence Committee - or heading the CIA, which was another job that Jane Harman had a shot at.

Scott Horton: A couple of things here. Let me start with that - and suggest that what you are saying here is hyperbole. I don’t know, you're a former intelligence agent, a covert operative, not an analyst, but on the covert side of the CIA. If you recruit someone in another country, that makes them an agent, or an asset?

PG: That makes them your asset, because, you see the line you try to get a potential agent to cross is to do something illegal for you, and once they cross that line, there's no going back, because they will always have that skeleton in their closet, and that skeleton is always going to be there. And all you have to do is go back and tweak them and say 'Hey - remember that conversation we had, and that favour we did for you, and the favour you did for us? Well, we remember that, and we have another favour to ask you' - and that's the way it works, that's how you recruit spies, and that's how you run spies.

SH: ... So what you're saying here is that a foreign power almost had their agent as the head, the Chair, of the House Intelligence Committee, and then also she was runner-up for Director of Central Intelligence, or Director of CIA, in the new Obama administration?

PG: That's right. She could have conceivably had either position, and indeed if the scheme that they had worked out where the Israeli lobby and the Israeli interests were going to weigh in with Nancy Pelosi to make sure that she got the job, it would have happened.

And there's no reason to assume that it wouldn’t have happened except of course that both the Israeli and Jane Harman were not aware that (the conversation) was being taped while this conversation was going on, and Nancy Pelosi was later briefed on the call.
[…]
But the fact is that the idea was a sound one, that the Israeli lobby had enough influence, and certainly if you combine it with the money issue, to make sure that Harman got the job. But the problem for Pelosi was that once the investigation got opened by the FBI this becomes a matter of public record, in a sense, and Pelosi could not take the risk of appointing her to the job.

SH: That's a really good point. I guess it is fair speculation that if Pelosi didn’t have any idea, and this was the normal course of events, she probably would have gone along, and that's the normal course of events in that city.

PG: Sure, because Jane Harman was mentioned as the likely candidate. If you think back to that time, it was a big surprise when Reyes got the job instead of her, and everybody was wondering what has happened here, and now this kind of fills out the story.
[…]

SH: Now, your source, I know you can't name names, but can you say whether this is a journalist friend of yours, or a current or former intelligence agent, or who this is that saw the transcript?

PG: It is a journalist who saw it.

SH: So, I guess I'm going to understand that the name on the transcript other than Harman is blacked out or what? How come we don't know - of all the leaks all over the place about this - how come we still don't know the name of the alleged Israeli spy here?

PG: Yeah, that's correct - it's an interesting question, and in fact the journalist I talked to - the transcript he saw did indeed have the name missing, and - now, this is interesting - because that is often a deliberate way of handling a source that is co-operating with you. So this might mean that the FBI already had a hook into this guy.
[…]

SH: Somebody in the comments section at antiwar.com/radio blog mentioned that Jane Harman had done this major flip-flop and there was a link to a youtube video of the Armenian lobby group - a lot of you people protesting quite loudly calling her genocide denier. Apparently she was a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide Recognition Resolution - or what ever it was - while at the same time it was discovered that she had written a letter to Tom Lantos to scotch the thing.


SH: So that reminded me of course of Dennis Hastert because I believe the story goes that, according to Vanity Fair, and Daniel Ellsberg and people familiar with the Sibel Edmonds case, which I know you've written about, that this was something that Hastert got a direct cash pay-off for - thousands of dollars - in order to thwart the Armenian Genocide resolution, in order to protect America, and apparently Israel's relationship with Turkey. Can you expand on that?

PG: Yeah, I think that you hit it right at the end there. I think that what she was doing... she's a congresswoman from Los Angeles and she has a strong constituency of Armenians who are wealthy and politically motivated, and so she was indeed one of the co-sponsors, but the Israel lobby, and Israel, decided that they didn’t really want this to go ahead, for a couple of reasons. The relationship with Turkey being the most important one, and a lot of congressmen as a result of the shift on the part of the Israeli interests also shifted those votes. So she was one of them. Tom Lantos of course was involved in this too. Nancy Pelosi did a shift on it as you know. So a lot of it goes back to Israel.

SH: ... I want to really focus on this distinction between, as you said, Israel's covert operations against the US government - and I think anybody tuning in to this story will say 'Wait a minute. A congresswoman being bought off by an Israeli spy to intervene in a trial of other Israeli spies? What is going on here? It seems like this must not be taking place in a vacuum. There's a bigger picture here to understand about the extent of Mossad or whatever influence inside the US.' Can you give us a reasonable picture of what we're looking at here?

PG: Well, I guess it is what the Greeks would call Hubris, and the Israelis would call chutzpah. It's a sense that the Israelis have, because of the power of their lobby, have basically come to the point of view that they can do anything and get away with it. And essentially this point of view has been supported by reality. You know, why should an Israeli intelligence officer, or a surrogate of an Israeli intelligence officer be able to call up a congressman and even make one of these proposals in a credible way? It's kind of astonishing. You or I couldn’t do it.

The Israelis act as you might think back to the article I wrote last year for the American Conservative about Israeli spying. The Israelis are amongst the most active spies against the US, and a big part of this espionage operation is what they call covert actions, or influencing operations where you influence the policies of the countries that you are targeting. The objective of all of this is to do it in a covert way - as the name implies - so that your hand is not revealed, and this is precisely what we're seeing in this phone call where the Israeli intelligence officer is presumably using a surrogate to make the call, someone who has access to Jane Harman and he makes his proposal and his proposal is an attractive one, and as I said earlier, once you are on the hook for this, you are on the hook for ever. And once you're on the hook forever, whatever they ask you to do within the realm of possibility, you have to do. And that's basically how an intelligence operation of this sort works.

SH: Well, that's pretty outrageous. Is it just crazy to think that somewhere in any intelligence agency they would think 'Wait a minute - I think going for the Chair of the Intelligence Committee is a bit too high. This might be more trouble than it is worth' or something like that? Would basically any covert operator try to rig a situation like that?

PG: Well you always go for risk-versus gain assessment on any operation in intelligence, but this one is a gold medal one. You get the big star for catching the person at the top of the pile, and certainly if she had this conversation with this person on the phone, clearly it was somebody she had been talking to before about things that kind of were maybe similar, because otherwise she would have probably been unwilling to even talk to him about these kinds of things, so they kind of had a feeling that she would be inclined to look at this thing positively before they even made the proposal, and they threw some very strong incentives into the hopper. They hit the money button in terms of money for the Democratic Party and they also hit her own personal ambition in terms of turning her into the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

SH: So that's where we really get into Bizarro World here... You have Larry Franklin, the case that started all of this thing, the top Iran analyst in the policy shop at the Pentagon, he wanted a promotion to the National Security Council, so apparently the way he judged his risk/benefit, the idea of going to Rumsfeld and asking for a recommendation was out of the picture. He decided instead the best route to the White House was through Israeli spies, and apparently this is the same way that Jane Harman assesses the balance sheet as well: If I want a promotion, I need to get the government of Israel to intervene on my behalf! That's really through the Looking Glass at this point isn’t it?

PG: Well, it's not through the Looking Glass, because obviously they felt that that was the way to go. And, you know, there are a lot of other people that see the US in the same way. For example, let's go back to our Turkish example. Why are the Turks so cozy with Israel? Do they have any real community of interest? You know, they have some common enemies in the area and so forth, but the big reason is that being chummy with the Israelis is a big plus for the Turks vis-a-vis the US. So a lot of people have seen our foreign policy as having this kind of key in the door which is the Israeli relationship, the Israeli connection, and clearly this was very plausible that the Israelis would be able to make these things happen. And even a canny operator in the political sphere like Jane Harman was convinced that it would work.

SH: I guess the message here is that the American people are just not responsible enough to maintain a world empire, because the incentive for the leaders of every other country to exert extraordinary influence in order to try to influence this empire apparently outmatches the American people every time.

PG: And our politicians are so corrupt and so motivated by their own interest that it makes it easy to manipulate them. I suspect that's a big part of it too. But you know this whole Israeli thing has been going on for so long, and they've been so successful at it, that they just kind of feel that at certain levels they are bullet-proof, and they can do what they want, they can manipulate the situation to satisfy their own needs. And I think, in this case, I think the story has real legs and I think this is something that maybe is not going to go away no matter how hard Fox News and some of the others try to make it go.
[…]

SH: I want to get to the NSA thing because that connects to this story in a couple of important ways, and I guess the Ben-Ami Kadish theft of nuclear secrets cuts perhaps into the same thing. I'm having trouble figuring out exactly who is investigating what and under what authority but it seems like there has been one big FBI counter-intelligence operation against Israel spying inside the US since about 1998 or 1999, and that this one investigation seems to interact with all these different things - whether it is the leaking of secrets to Ahmed Chalabi who then passed them onto Iran, or whether it is the Sibel Edmonds story talking about the Turkish lobby, the neocons or Israeli spies in the Pentagon or paying off people in the Pentagon to steal secrets for them. It all sort of seems like - perhaps even this Jane Harman investigation - or would-have-been investigation-that-never-happened - is still kind of part of this one big counter-intelligence operation. Am I guessing anything close to right there? What do you think is going on?

PG: Well, I think that the key here is that this is all part of one huge, co-coordinated intelligence effort by the Israelis, and once you make that assumption, you realize that what the FBI is doing is they've been nibbling at the edges of this for a long time, and they've been discovering increasingly that a lot of the pieces come together. And we really shouldn’t be surprised at that. I would also throw in a lot of the phony intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, a lot of the phony intelligence that we've seen more recently trying to blacken the Iranians. This is all part of a scheme that is basically coordinated by Israeli intelligence, but has a lot of fellow travelers in the US, particularly the people we were seeing up until recently at the Pentagon, that basically are part of this scheme. And I think what the problem is for the investigators at the FBI is that they get a lot of names, they get a lot of information, but a lot of these people turn out to be Jane Harmans. They turn out to be people that basically are in very sensitive positions in the government and it becomes a political issue where to go with this kind of investigation, and the result is that most of these investigations are, as in the case of the Jane Harman investigation, they are squashed.

SH: It really goes to show, I guess, that you can even understand their point of view. That to really make the change and say for example really let the FBI off the leash and try to bring cases and let the Justice Department try to bring cases against as much Israeli spying and corruption and that kind of thing as they can, in this whole interconnected web of neocons and criminals... It would be 'horribly destabilising,' in their words, right. We'd be talking about taking two thirds of Washington DC and putting them in prison.

PG: Yeah, that's one way to look at it. The thing is that if the FBI and DoJ ever went after all the people who ever gave classified information to Israel or did things that amounted to malfeasance or criminal activity on behalf of Israel there would be a lot of people running through the system, and you'd have people like Abe Foxman screaming 'Anti-semitism!'

So yeah, there's a political dimension to everything but this is one kind of festering sore that has been there for a long time, and to lance it now would be an enormous political problem for any administration, Democratic or Republican.
[…]

SH: Let's talk about heroin.

PG: Sure

SH: Part of the Sibel Edmonds case is that, and again, this is like a giant onion with all of these different layers, but she basically describes nuclear secrets being sold on the black market, in one big market basically that includes basically the terrorists' underground economy and money laundering obviously, and heroin running from Central Asia through the Turkic countries and into Europe. Now, my basic assumption going into these matters has got to be that the CIA is running the whole thing, and I wouldn't know why anybody in America participating in such a thing would really be in such a bad way if it's all given a wink-nod but the US government anyway. But maybe I'm assuming too much. What do you say?

PG: Well, I have no evidence that the CIA is involved with these things. I think that there are a lot of this is private enterprise. These are people who are a Turkish General, or retired CIA officers of whom I could name a couple but I won't, who are involved in... let's call it commodities trading - in Central Asia, in the Middle East, and getting stuff into Europe and into Russia and stuff like that. Russian Generals, warlords in Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officers, there's a whole community of people out there, and they're all kind of involved in these same ventures.

And once you set up a mechanism that is good for shipping drugs and getting it into a certain market you can use the same mechanism, in reverse, to sell weapons. So that I think is the bottom line of Sibel's story - that there are just a whole lot of complex relationships that have been set up in the Middle East and Central Asia - Israelis are in the middle of a lot of these, there are Turks involved, but there are Americans involved too.

You can listen to the whole interview here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Merchant Bank exposed

A partial transcript of Sibel's recent interview is now up at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak.

The most interesting news involves First Merchant Bank (FMB) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The TRNC is only recognized by one country, Turkey.

In August 2004, US Treasury blacklisted First Merchant Bank because:
Pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, FinCEN (Treasury) found First Merchant Bank to be of primary money laundering concern based on a number of factors, including:
(1) it is licensed as an offshore bank in the TRNC, a jurisdiction with inadequate anti-money laundering controls, particularly those applicable to its offshore sector; (2) it is involved in the marketing and sale of fraudulent financial products and services;
(3) it has been used as a conduit for the laundering of fraudulently obtained funds; and
(4) the individuals who own, control, and operate to launder criminal proceeds.
All of which is apparently true. The problem is that this was all publicly known at least as far back as 1997, when a member of the Susurluk Commission said that First Merchant Bank was being used to launder money and finance terrorism for the "Susurluk Gang."

In fact, Treasury essentially admitted that they knew all this when they blacklisted First Merchant Bank in 2004:
Domestic and foreign newspapers and magazines report that First Merchant Bank has been used for illicit transactions since its founding in 1993. Apparently, First Merchant Bank was established, at least in part, to facilitate the movement of funds between organized crime rings and corrupt politicians. The earliest indicators of illicit activity on the part of First Merchant Bank or its principals involved the original shareholders or partners of the Bank.

One of the original partners of First Merchant Bank is reported to be a former KGB employee identified as Vladimir Kobarel, who allegedly involved First Merchant Bank in transferring underground money to Russian banks. Another original partner, Tarik Umit, was a former Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) member who was believed killed in connection with a well-known Turkish investigation into links between the Turkish mafia, the MIT, and right wing politicians (the Susurluk scandal).

First Merchant Bank, Tarik Umit, and Dr. Hakki Yaman Namli are alleged to have been involved with the laundering of $450 million in narcotics proceeds for the ``Susurluk gang.''

The Susurluk scandal began with an automobile accident in Susurluk, Turkey, on November 3, 1996. Four people occupied the automobile: The deputy police chief of Istanbul; an alleged "extreme nationalist hit man'' previously convicted of heroin trafficking and wanted for terrorism; the hit man's girlfriend...; and a member of the Turkish Parliament, whose private militia had helped the army fight Kurdish militants.... The trunk of the car was full of weapons.

The incident received national notoriety and served as the basis for Parliamentary investigations into links among politicians, the arms trade, and organized crime.
Despite this, it took the US Government until 2004 - 3 years after 9/11 - to shut down First Merchant Bank.

It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact that, according to the Wall Street Journal, Al Qaeda was known to be using the TRNC to launder money.

It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact that the FBI knew that the bank was being used for these purposes by early 2002 at the latest.

It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact "the criminal Turkish networks" had "direct and indirect role and ties" to 9/11.

It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank, despite the fact that, as Sibel has noted, "After 911, the US Government engaged in mock investigations and shut down many small Islamic charities and organizations, giving the appearance of action in the so-called 'War on Terror.'"

Why would the US government be slow to act when it came to shutting down First Merchant Bank?

There are some clues in the recent interview. Sibel states that, based on information that she has first-hand knowledge of, First Merchant Bank was used by "US government agencies," "certain US government people," "certain non-profit organizations in the US," "certain US institutions including banking institutions," and "certain US-based organizations" to launder and distribute money.

Some of the money was undoubtedly sent back to the US. Some of this money went to finance various Turkish/Israeli 'lobbying' efforts, including the American Turkish Council, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, and the Turkish American Cultural Alliance. Some of this money financed various 'lobbying' groups including ex-House Speaker Bob Livingston's The Livingston Group and ex-congressman Stephen Solarz's various lobbying companies. Some of this money was shovelled into "campaign contributions – legal and illegal, declared and undeclared" for congress members, including Roy Blunt, Tom Lantos, and Dan Burton. Some of this money was simply stuffed into suitcases for ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and presumably others. And of course, most of this money simply went into personal bank accounts via First Merchant Bank's correspondent banks "including JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Doha Bank, Mizuho, Riyad Bank, and UBS."

But not all of the money was sent to the US. As Sibel says in the interview:
"This bank was also used, actively, by certain government agencies in the US, with certain operations dealing with Central Asia"
Sibel doesn't elaborate on this point, probably because she can't without facing severe repercussions, but the idea that US government agencies were using a terrorist-financing, money-laundering bank for 'certain operations' in Central Asia is cause for much concern. Of even greater concern is the possibility that the US government might be 'forced' to ignore evidence in some particularly egregious crimes in order to cover up their involvement in other nefarious activity.

Sibel has often noted that the US government has been busy establishing military bases in Central Asia, and that there are "certain entities (involved) within other countries - such as Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan - many Central Asian countries... it's not necessarily only governmental" - and that the US government, particularly the Pentagon and State Departments, have "absolutely covered up the involvement of certain entities."

Similarly, Sibel says that both the Pentagon and State Department intervened to prevent relevant counter-intelligence information being transferred to the FBI's counter-terrorism division, and elsewhere, where it could be acted upon "involving money laundering tied to some terrorist activities, by let's say, Turkish individuals, or some Pakistani individuals, or entities here in the US (whether official governmental related entities, or others.)"

Which "certain operations" in Central Asia could Sibel be talking about that could possibly justify turning a blind eye (or worse) to all this? I wrote about one possibility in 2008 :
"(An) illegal, covert, CIA operation involving the intentional Islamization of Central Asia. This operation has been ongoing since the fall of the Soviet Union in an ongoing Cold War to control the vast energy resources of the region - Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - estimated to be worth $3 trillion"
For that article, Sibel said:
"You've got to look at the big picture. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the super powers began to fight over control of Central Asia, particularly the oil and gas wealth, as well as the strategic value of the region.

Given the history, and the distrust of the West, the US realized that it couldn't get direct control, and therefore would need to use a proxy to gain control quickly and effectively. Turkey was the perfect proxy; a NATO ally and a puppet regime. Turkey shares the same heritage/race as the entire population of Central Asia, the same language (Turkic), the same religion (Sunni Islam), and of course, the strategic location and proximity.

This started more than a decade-long illegal, covert operation in Central Asia by a small group in the US intent on furthering the oil industry and the Military Industrial Complex, using Turkish operatives, Saudi partners and Pakistani allies, furthering this objective in the name of Islam."
Sibel added that, during this time, the US government 'harbored, supported and resourced' a multi-billion dollar enterprise, which established madrassas and mosques throughout Central Asia and the Balkans. Was First Merchant Bank used to finance this Central Asian project?

Sibel does say in the latest interview that family members of the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan also used First Merchant Bank - presumably to either launder money or make illegal payments. Sibel says that the brother of one of the Turkish presidents, S├╝leyman Demirel was an owner of the bank. Mizgin says (update: see here) that is Murat Demirel (although the Washington Post identifies Murat as the nephew of the president.) Turkish prosecutors wanted "a record 4,727 years in prison" for Murat's role in embezzling money from another bank that he owned. He is said to have laundered the money though "offshore banks in northern Cyprus," which may very well include First Merchant Bank.

Were certain "US government agencies" also paying off government officials in Central Asia , up to and including their presidents, via First Merchant Bank? If so, why? Was it to gain access via bribes to the massive oil and gas concessions available in Central Asia? Were there illegal payments made to ensure the establishment of military bases in the region? Or perhaps these certain US agencies were helping to fund the Susurluk gang, and/or other similar gangs, involved in "Strategy of Tension" activities throughout the region.

In fact, Sibel notes in the interview that two of the main people involved in her case, Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman and the Defense Intelligence Agency's Lt. Col Douglas Dickerson, were both prematurely pulled out of Turkey in the aftermath of the Susurluk scandal. Furthermore, Sibel has frequently noted that the particular FBI counter-intelligence operation that she worked on was opened at the end of 1996 (the trigger event for the Susurluk scandal, the car crash in Susurluk, was in November 1996.) It is certainly possible that the Susurluk event triggered the FBI's investigation.

In the interview, Sibel says that "Just a simple check on the Dickersons would have brought out so much information and the stuff that they are considering State Secrets Privilege," adding that at the end of 2001, Dickerson "started working for Douglas Feith's office, dealing with certain Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Well, nobody ever looked, or wanted to look, or wanted to see this."

(Dickerson tried to 'recruit' Sibel to conduct espionage in 2001 when she worked as a translator for the FBI, alongside his wife, Melek Can Dickerson, who is reported to work for Turkish intelligence. The Dickersons were forced to flee the country when Sibel reported them. They went to Belgium to work for NATO, then Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Douglas Dickerson is now back in the US to finish an MBA at Fuqua at Duke University.)

One other interesting part of the interview, highlighted by Mizgin, is that indicted spy Larry Franklin was working with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith at the ATC way back in 1994. According to Sibel, Franklin was "one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001." Despite many media reports to the contrary, Larry Franklin is not currently in jail, and it is not clear what will happen to him if the trial of Rosen & Weissman from AIPAC doesn't proceed as planned in June.


(Speaking only for me)