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Investigating intelligence takes real intelligence

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

This week’s Washington Post story on the outsourcing of intelligence continues to reverberate. One of the co-writers of the series, Bill Arkin, is interviewed on Democracy Now! A shadowy world of massive privatised madness since 9/11. More than half a trillion dollars is being spent annually on services that even many elements within government don’t know about.

But key questions are emerging, not least the fact that alternative media outlets and reporters have been writing about these issues for years but received no credit or acknowledgment. Take Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. His latest, exclusive report is here.

The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill is also skeptical. His headline perhaps gives away the game: “Corporate Media Discover Private Spies. In Other News, No WMD in Iraq”:

What is perhaps most telling about the Post series is how little detail is provided on the most sensitive operations performed by contractors: assassinations, torture, rendition and operational planning.

How to show dedication to Israel the “liberal” way

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

New neo-con group Emergency Committee for Israel recently produced a TV ad slamming the supposedly suspect politician Joe Sestak. Now, more liberal Zionist lobby J Street has released a counter attack that shows how much Sestak in fact loves Israel.

Seriously, if this is the way to move the debate forward in the US, we’re in deep trouble:

Comparing Murdoch to the tobacco business

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

Murdoch’s News Limited is a multinational, bullying monster that routinely escapes serious scrutiny. Its size convinces too many to remain silent.

But there are brave exceptions:

The [Australian Rugby team] Storm’s former chairman, Rob Moodie, has launched a withering attack on the club’s owners, News Ltd, comparing their ”intimidating” tactics to those of multinational tobacco firms.

Dr Moodie, who has battled with tobacco companies in his position as one of Australia’s foremost preventive health experts, told the Herald: ”Coming up against News Ltd isn’t easy. From my experience in health I’d compare their tactics to those of a tobacco company – they are just so powerful, they have so many resources and they can be very intimidating.

”I have been shocked by their approach to ethics.”

US food store begins BDS against Israel

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

US grocery store Olympia Food Co-op has become the first shop of its kind in America to institute a boycott of Israeli goods:

Co-op board member Rob Richards explained, “My hope is that by being the first in the US to adopt the boycott we act as a catalyst for other co-ops to join in. Each additional organizational entity that joins may have a very small effect on the big picture, but drop by drop fills the tub.”

Why didn’t these people slam the Iraq war before it happened?

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

A litany of voices are now pouring out to claim the Iraq war was a mistake and a disaster. Would these same establishment figures be so honest if Iraq hadn’t become such a basket-case?

British and U.S. intelligence had no credible evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States before the 2003 Iraq invasion, the ex-head of Britain’s domestic spy agency told the country’s inquiry into the war Tuesday.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, director of the MI5 between 2002 and 2007, said that nothing to connect the attacks to Baghdad was discovered ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ex-spy chief also said the war caused allies to lose focus on the al-Qaida threat in Afghanistan, emboldened Osama bin Laden and led to the radicalization of a generation of homegrown British extremists.

Manningham-Buller said those pushing the case for war in the United States gave undue prominence to scraps of inconclusive intelligence on possible links between Iraq and the 2001 attacks, singling out the then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“There was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA,” she told the inquiry. “It was not a judgment that found favor with some parts of the American machine.”

She suggested the dispute led Rumsfeld to disregard CIA intelligence in favor of work produced by his own department.

“It is why Donald Rumsfeld started an alternative intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment,” said Manningham-Buller, who was a frequent visitor to the U.S. as MI5 chief. “To my mind, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and I have never seen anything to make me change my mind.”

Can we please have a grown-up conversation about Afghanistan?

Posted: 20 Jul 2010

So let me get this straight. Years of futile fighting, tens of thousands dead and now a realisation that the “enemy” must be engaged?

The White House is revising its Afghanistan strategy to embrace the idea of negotiating with senior members of the Taliban through third parties – a policy to which it had previously been lukewarm.

Negotiating with the Taliban has long been advocated by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the British and Pakistani governments, but resisted by Washington.

The Guardian has learned that while the American government is still officially resistant to the idea of talks with Taliban leaders, behind the scenes a shift is under way and Washington is encouraging Karzai to take a lead in such negotiations.

“There is a change of mindset in DC,” a senior official in Washington said. “There is no military solution. That means you have to find something else. There was something missing.”

That missing element was talks with the Taliban leadership, the official added.

The American rethink comes in the aftermath of the departure last month of General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama, apparently frustrated at the way the war is going, has reminded his national security advisers that while he was on the election campaign trail in 2008, he had advocated talking to America’s enemies.

America is reviewing its Afghanistan policy which is due for completion in December, but officials in Washington, Kabul and Islamabad with knowledge of internal discussions said feelers had been put out to the Taliban. Negotiations would be conducted largely in secret, through a web of contacts, possibly involving Pakistan and Saudi Arabia or organisations with back-channel links to the Taliban.

“It will be messy and could take years,” said a diplomatic source.

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