Archive | January 29th, 2016

Visas for Al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World

NOVANEWS
Paris shootings 2
By Nikolai Gorshkov 

The New York Times has exposed a long-standing CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose latest endeavor is a program to arm Syrian rebels authorized by President Obama in early 2013. Under the “Timber Sycamore” program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.

The Saudi-CIA partnership dates back many years, and involves the British secret service. During the years when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahedeen as it fought Soviet forces, matching U.S. funding dollar for dollar. The mujahedeen funding was run through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland. Those accounts were said to be part of the “Al Yamamah” program, dating to 1985, in which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to create massive offshore “black” accounts, including in the Cayman Islands, to bankroll and arm a wide array of global insurgencies. These accounts provided a major source of funds in the Afghan war against the Soviets.

This revelation by NYT adds additional weight to the allegations made in a book by Mike Springmann, former head of the US visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from1987-1989. In Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World, Springmann details how, “during the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”

In an exclusive interview with Sputnik News, Springmann shared his first-hand experience of issuing US visas to would-be terrorists, a flagrant violation of US law.

“I know. I was there. I issued the visas,” Springmann told Sputnik News.

Upon his arrival at Jeddah, Springmann found that, as a visa officer, he was expected to winnow over a hundred applications a day, separating them into “issuances,” “refusals,” and what he later termed, “free passes for CIA agents.”

“One day,” Springmann recalls, “Eric Qualkenbush, the [then] CIA Base Chief, stopped me while I was walking on the consulate’s huge compound. He had a request. Could I issue a visa to one of his agents, an Iranian whose family owned an Oriental rug store? Eric said, ‘Mike, make it look good (wink, wink). We want him in Washington for consultations.’”

Springmann told Sputnik News he had almost daily battles with Jay Freres, the Consul General, along with several other CIA officials, who would consistently demand visas for people that law and regulation would ordinarily require him to refuse. He also had running fights with applicants who told him to approve their visas or they would complain to Freres, and have him overruled.

Most of these that Springmann now considers ‘unsavory types’ did, in fact, receive visas to go to the USA for training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as many regulations codified in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, says Springmann. As a purported guardian of US immigration principles, he objected to the blatant violations of law and regulation. His objections fell on deaf ears.

Springmann details that eventually he came to realize that his Consular Section job duty in Jeddah was primarily to secure visas for CIA agents, i.e., foreigners recruited by American case officers.

“As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.”

But why would the CIA rely on a “genuine” state department visa employee when they could have easily planted one of their own into the Consular Section? According to Springmann, “at Jeddah, to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.”

Ignorant Pawns

The explanation to the above question was simple if cynical, Springmann told Sputnik News : it had to be an arms-length operation, to avoid exposure of the CIA program and to blame visa violations, if they became known, on “incompetent” office clerks, including himself.

The Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated in sending innocent workers like Springmann to Jeddah, a location that handled some forty-five-thousand visa applications annually. If a visa officer processed the paperwork and didn’t ask awkward questions about the applicants, that officer would keep his job. If the visa officer strictly followed the law, resisting illegal pressure to overlook those who did not have a legitimate reason for traveling to the United States, that employee “wasn’t with the program” and could be exposed to dismissal as an incompetent, an occurrence that eventually happened to the author.

“My name was on the visa plate that stamped applications to enter the United States, making me personally responsible for my actions,” he said. “In our spook-ridden Jeddah consulate, I sometimes found it was a daily battle to do my job,” he remarked, offering examples of two such battles.

“Two Pakistanis came to me for a visa. According to their story, they were traveling on a Commerce Department– organized trade mission to an automotive parts exhibition in the United States. However, they couldn’t name the trade show or identify the city in which it would be held. I denied their visa request. Within sixty minutes, Paul Arvid Tveit called and demanded visas for these same Pakistanis. I explained the reasons for my refusal, citing § 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. Ignoring the law and regulation, Tveit went to Justice Stevens and the visas were issued.”

“Then, a political officer demanded a visa for a Sudanese who was a refugee from his own country and unemployed in Saudi Arabia. Following the letter and the spirit of the law, I refused. She immediately went to Justice, and a visa was issued. When I later asked Justice why he authorized a visa to someone with no ties to the Sudan or the kingdom, he replied simply ‘national security,’ a phrase without legal definition.”

The dubious games played by the CIA in the name of “national security” are common in many Foreign Service posts, Springmann contends. “In a subsequent conversation with Celerino Castillo, a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, I learned that the CIA’s involvement in the visa process was a successful program of long-standing in Latin America, he stated, adding that, it was also “I presume, a model for Saudi Arabia. South of the border the Agency would slip passports and applications from its contacts into packages sent to the local US consulate or embassy by travel agents. Sandwiched between legitimate applications, ‘Agency assets’ would not be carefully examined by consular officers and would thus get a free ride to the United States.”

A Visa for the Blind Sheikh

Likewise, Springmann says, it was a CIA “consular officer” at Khartoum in Sudan who issued a tourist visa to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The “blind” Sheikh had been on a State Department terrorist watch list when he was issued the visa, entering the United States by way of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan in 1990.

Springmann believes the sheikh attempted to obtain a US visa from him via a proxy. The author states that he turned the application down.

The former state department employee pointed out to his superiors that, according to US law, passport and visa crimes are federal offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum prison sentence is increased to 15 years if the offense is connected to drug trafficking, and to 20 years if connected to terrorism.

In a chance meeting, Joe Trento, a journalist at the Public Education Center in Washington, DC, put into perspective for Sprigmann what had been really going on with the CIA in Jeddah.

“It wasn’t a garden variety visa fraud as I had once thought, but something much more serious: it was a ‘visas for terrorists program,’ set up to recruit and train (in the United States) murderers, war criminals, and human rights violators for combat in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. These men became the founding members of al-Qaeda, the Arab-Afghan Legion.”

“Former President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, began the campaign to assemble these goons to engage in blowing things up and shooting things down, preferably with Soviet soldiers inside.”

But the Saudis and other regional players in the “jihad” did not want those “saddle-tramps” on their soil, fearing that they would eventually use their newly acquired skills to promote “regime change” at home. That explains the reason many of these recruits were sent to the US, Springmann says, where there were up to 52 induction and training centers, the primary one in Brooklyn, New York City.

During his two years in Jeddah, Springmann says, he wrangled daily with intelligence officers who staffed and ran the US consulate.

“These were the people who arranged for recruiting and training what were then the mujahedeen, who later became al-Qaeda, who then transformed themselves into ISIS. I saw, but didn’t recognize, their start at Jeddah. We’ve all seen their later development and what happens when the intelligence services control foreign policy and diplomacy: the people they assembled aided the breakup of Yugoslavia, the destruction of Iraq, the collapse of Libya, and the savaging of Syria.”

Springmann attempted to protest the illegal visa practices at the highest levels of government for over 20 years, but was repeatedly stonewalled. During that time, he says, the Arab-Afghan Legion, created by the CIA to undermine the Soviet Union, has been marching from strength to strength.

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Historic Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

NOVANEWS

David Cameron’s Spurious Defence of British Veterans

By Lesley Docksey 

The PM is right to draw a line in the sand, to protect the freedom with which the military has to operate…

— General Lord Dannatt, ex-Chief of Staff

Prime Minister David Cameron is getting himself all wound up about the nasty slurs on ‘our brave boys’; ‘our brave servicemen and women who fought in Iraq’; ‘the people who risk their lives to keep our country safe’; the veterans of Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq.  Of course, they must ‘act within the law’ etc…  Except they didn’t.

The said ‘brave servicemen’ are in danger of being taken to court over their abusive treatment, and in some cases murder, of Iraqi detainees during the invasion of Iraq.  Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) which was investigating between 1300-1500 cases.  Many are simple complaints of ill treatment during detention, but some are far more serious:

  • Death(s) while detained by the British Army
  • Deaths outside British Army base or after contact with British Army
  • Many deaths following ‘shooting incidents’

According to Cameron, ‘Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards…’  One wonders what standards he’s thinking of, seeing that it has been proved more than once that the UK military has not complied with international humanitarian law.  Britain has a long and ignoble history of practicing torture, as documented by Ian Cobhain in his book Cruel Britannia.

Curiously, or perhaps not, just two days after Cameron launched his assault, IHAT announced it was dropping no less than 58 inquiries into unlawful killings by army veterans.  And while so many rushed to the defence of the soldiers accused of abuse, absolutely no one has mentioned another example of the culture of violence within the armed forces which resurfaced just a few days earlier: the ‘notorious’ Deepcut Barracks.

The two law firms pursuing the claims on behalf of Iraqis and their families, Public Interest Lawyers, and Leigh Day, have been labelled ‘ambulance chasers’ and ‘tank chasers’ by much of the loud, right-wing media.  Other insults include ‘money-grubbing or grabbing lawyers’.  Naturally, goes the refrain, they want to get as many cases into court as possible so they can make a fortune in lawyers’ fees.  It’s what you do if you’re defending humanitarian law.

One of the law firms involved, Leigh Day, is now the subject of an intended action by the government, who want to sue it for failing to supply documents to the al-Sweady inquiry, documents which ‘proved that alleged innocent victims (of abuse by UK armed forces) were actually enemy insurgents.’

But Cameron, like other occupants of Number 10, refuses to acknowledge that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was illegal.  And as UK armed forces were in Iraq illegally, any Iraqis who fought them were not ‘enemy’ insurgents, but citizens legally resisting the invaders of their country.  Thus, ‘enemy insurgents’ could be, and in this case were, also innocent victims of illegal treatment, treatment that did not comply with international law.

International law covering ‘enemy’ soldiers (in uniform) or insurgents (in any old clothing) ensures proper, humane treatment of any prisoners.  No beating, no slapping about,  no prevention of sleep by using loud noise, no withholding of food or water, no forced stress positions, no sandbags over their heads, no deliberate extremes of temperature, all techniques which British soldiers were witnessed employing.

Even worse, despite these practices having been banned more than once by Parliament, they were, as evidence at the Baha Mousa inquiry demonstrated, being taught to soldiers and encouraged to use them in Iraq by the Ministry of Defence. Only one soldier ended up with any kind of a sentence after the killing of Baha Mousa (Corporal Donald Payne, one year in prison and dismissal from the Army), but when the inquiry into Mousa’s death was held the evidence that came out was utterly damning.

General Lord Dannatt, once Chief of Staff, is one of those backing Cameron’s stance.  Appearing on the BBC’s Today programme on January 22, he defended the high standards of our wonderful army, and spoke of the greed of “lawyers with less integrity than others”.  Of course, British forces should “act within the law”, he said, but many of these claims are “spurious and cannot be substantiated”.  Not, of course, until they have been tested in court, a point that seems to have escaped the noble lord.

One lawyer with real integrity defending the legal action being taken on behalf of abused Iraqis is Lt Colonel Nick Mercer who, at the time of the invasion, was the Army’s chief legal officer in Iraq.  He was out in Basra, he saw the abuse, he complained to his superiors and he gave strong and disturbing evidence to the Baha Mousa Inquiry. As he said, “It was my job to protect British commanders and make sure they kept to the right side of the law.”  But the MoD was ‘resistant to human rights’.

The MoD’s view was that the government position prevailed over Mercer’s interpretation of international law.  In 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that the advice he had tried to give the MoD in 2003 was correct.  But it was not until 2010 that UK military intelligence interrogators were trained in international law and human rights.  Whether that has made any real difference to their standards of practice is as yet unknown.  In 2011 the MoD was hit by more claims of mistreatment, when Iraqi victims won the right to an inquiry in the Court of Appeal.

Again and again the MoD had tried to gag Mercer, threatening to report him to the Law Society, and in 2007 he was suspended for conducting a case in Cyprus in a way that disagreed with MoD views.  He has now left the Army and is an Anglican priest, his principles and defence of the law as strong as ever.  He has come out fighting in defence of Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers, saying it was beyond doubt that British soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners.

He emphasises that he and others raised their concerns at the time the mistreatment of prisoners was going on; that the International Committee of the Red Cross had raised their concerns with the government; that the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights has also raised its concerns – with the International Criminal Court.  This is not just about ‘money-grabbing lawyers’ against the rest of the nation.  There are too many others who were and are concerned about the abuse that have no financial motives, says Mercer, and it was wrong to try and polarise the debate in this way.

He points to the fact that the MoD has already paid out £20 million in compensation for 326 cases.  “Anyone who has fought the MoD knows they don’t pay out for nothing, so there are 326 substantiated claims with almost no criminal proceedings to accompany that.  And you have to ask why.”

Lord Dannatt said that only 3 of all these cases have been proven – another point he seems to have missed: that the MoD paying compensation prevented the cases coming to court.  Dannatt’s version of this is that the MoD “opted on the side of generosity rather than try to fight these cases in court”.

Cameron says these allegations of abuse are ‘spurious legal claims’ that must be stopped, ‘spurious’ being a word that is now used by all those on the MoD’s side.  Cameron is a master of spurious claims.  He produces one or two almost every week in Parliament, during Prime Minister’s Questions.  A recent example, which earned him a great deal of ‘non-credibility’, came during the parliamentary debate on whether the UK should bomb Syria.

He said that there were 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria – a claim that the MoD reportedly asked to have removed from his statement.  His ministers are masters of the spurious as well, constantly being corrected for their statements that the government has done this or that, given extra funding for this or that, when, for instance, the ‘extra funding’ turns out to be less than the amount they cut a Ministry’s budget the year before.

But Britain has to face the fact that not only do we have a spurious* government, but that ‘our brave soldiers’ have consistently broken both UK and international law, have been encouraged to do so by their masters and that the government will fight tooth and nail to prevent them being taken to court.  For the sake of all of those abused, here and abroad, it is time there was a full and independent inquiry into the MoD’s non-compliance with international humanitarian law.

Posted in Iraq1 Comment

IRA behind 1993 Belfast bombing was ‘MI5 informant’ – leaked documents

NOVANEWS

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Aftermath of the Shankill Road Bombing © Wikipedia

Northern Ireland’s police watchdog is investigating allegations that the IRA operative who planned the 1993 Shankhill Road bombing was an MI5 informant who gave intelligence that could have helped security forces stop the atrocity.

Nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the attack on a fish shop in Belfast’s loyalist heartland in 1993. The bombing became one of the most notorious atrocities of The Troubles, prompting a wave of sectarian revenge murders in its wake.

Inside job?

Some 23 years after the attack, allegations have surfaced that sensitive documents stolen by the Irish Republican Army in a 2002 raid on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) headquarters in Castlereagh show that the IRA who planned the bombing was a British intelligence agent codenamed “AA.”

Excerpts of the stolen files indicate that AA had extensively briefed his Special Branch or MI5 handlers on the objective and timing of the bombing, which had been designed to stoke sectarian anger by murdering the leader of loyalist terror group the Ulster Defense Association (UDA).

UDA chiefs had planned to meet above the fish shop on the day of the attack, but postponed at short notice. Although they escaped the blast unharmed, it killed Protestant shoppers and one of the bombers, IRA member Thomas Begley.

The initial plan had been to light a fuse just long enough for civilians to be evacuated from the site and for the bombers, who were disguised as delivery men, to flee. But the bomb exploded as Begley approached the shop’s counter amid a group of customers.

Establishing a motive

The allegations concerning AA, which were first reported by the Belfast-based newspaper Irish News, raise the question of precisely what British intelligence officers knew in the run-up to the atrocity.

Observers suggest UK intelligence officers either allowed a botched bombing of civilians to play out or failed to intervene quickly enough to stop the atrocity.

The police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire, has confirmed he is examining the allegation.

“We have received a complaint. It centers on two concerns: Did the RUC have information which would have allowed them to prevent the bombing and was the subsequent investigation compromised; [and] did the police ‘fail to deliver justice to the families of those who lost their lives in the bombing?’” he said.

“We will seek to establish if this is something we should investigate, and if so, when we could begin this work.”

History of collusion

The police ombudsman’s inquiry began after relative of one of the Shankill Road bombing’s victims approached the watchdog, asking about AA.

The Castlereagh documents are believed to reveal that AA was passing information back to his handlers on details of the IRA plot to target senior UDA members, including the location and date of the bombing.

The documents stolen by the IRA in its raid on the RUC Castlereagh offices gave the codenames of British agents inside Republican groups, and a year later the IRA “stood down” one of its operatives, which it identified as AA after comparing the RUC documents with its own intelligence.

Investigators examining the case will look to ascertain whether information from the British agent could have been given to the UDA leadership to make sure their meeting was rescheduled and whether there is evidence to show British intelligence operatives allowed the attack to go ahead to protect AA as their source.

Relatives of the bombing’s victims have called for a full investigation.

Charlie Butler, who lost three relatives in the Shankill Road bombing, said he and other families would be “devastated” if the allegations are accurate.

“Collusion is not a nice word for anyone but when it is collusion with innocent people losing their lives to protect someone else there has to be a line drawn to say that is wrong,” he told BBC News.

“[The security forces] were there to do a job, to protect people. If they knew about [the bombing] then they should pay.”

The claims are the latest in a long line of allegations of collusion between terror groups and security forces on both sides of The Troubles.

In addition to the case involving AA, Northern Ireland’s police watchdog is investigating murders in the 1980s and 1990s of at least 20 alleged IRA informers whose family members believe they were used as scapegoats to cover the tracks of the security forces’ prominent IRA agents.

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