Debunking Iran ‘Terror Plot’

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gareth Porter

2011-10-24T200930Z_1767819376_GM1E7AP0BPP01_RTRMADP_3_USA-SECURITY-IRANAt a press conference on October 11, the Obama administration unveiled a spectacular charge against the government of Iran: The Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, right in Washington, DC, in a place where large numbers of innocent bystanders could have been killed. High-level officials of the Qods Force were said to be involved, the only question being how far up in the Iranian government the complicity went.

The US tale of the Iranian plot was greeted with unusual skepticism on the part of Iran specialists and independent policy analysts, and even elements of the mainstream media. The critics observed that the alleged assassination scheme was not in Iran’s interest, and that it bore scant resemblance to past operations attributed to the foreign special operations branch of Iranian intelligence. The Qods Force, it was widely believed, would not send a person like Iranian-American used car dealer Manssor Arbabsiar, known to friends in Corpus Christi, Texas as forgetful and disorganized, to hire the hit squad for such a sensitive covert action.

But administration officials claimed they had hard evidence to back up the charge. They cited a 21-page deposition by a supervising FBI agent in the “amended criminal complaint” filed against Arbabsiar and an accomplice who remains at large, Gholam Shakuri. [1] It was all there, the officials insisted: several meetings between Arbabsiar and a man he thought was a member of a leading Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas, with a reputation for cold-blooded killing; incriminating statements, all secretly recorded, by Arbabsiar and Shakuri, his alleged handler in Tehran; and finally, Arbabsiar’s confession after his arrest, which clearly implicates Qods Force agents in a plan to murder a foreign diplomat on US soil.

A close analysis of the FBI deposition reveals, however, that independent evidence for the charge that Arbabsiar was sent by the Qods Force on a mission to arrange for the assassination of Jubeir is lacking. The FBI account is full of holes and contradictions, moreover. The document gives good reason to doubt that Arbabsiar and his confederates in Iran had the intention of assassinating Jubeir, and to believe instead that the FBI hatched the plot as part of a sting operation.

The Case of the Missing Quotes

The FBI account suggests that, from the inaugural meetings between Arbabsiar and his supposed Los Zetas contact, a Drug Enforcement Agency informant, Arbabsiar was advocating a terrorist strike against the Saudi embassy. The government narrative states that, in the very first meeting on May 24, Arbabsiar asked the informant about his “knowledge, if any, with respect to explosives” and said he was interested in “among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia.” It also notes that in the meetings prior to July 14, the DEA informant “had reported that he and Arbabsiar had discussed the possibility of attacks on a number of other targets,” including “foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country,” located “within and outside the United States.”

But the allegations that the Iranian-American used car salesman wanted to “attack” the Saudi embassy and other targets rest entirely upon the testimony of the DEA informant with whom he was meeting. The informant is a drug dealer who had been indicted for a narcotics violation in a US state but had the charges dropped “in exchange for cooperation in various drug investigations,” according to the FBI account. The informant is not an independent source of information, but someone paid to help pursue FBI objectives.

The most suspicious aspect of the administration’s case, in fact, is the complete absence of any direct quote from Arbabsiar suggesting interest in, much less advocacy of, assassinating the Saudi ambassador or carrying out other attacks in a series of meetings with the DEA informant between June 23 and July 14. The deposition does not even indicate how many times the two actually met during those three weeks, suggesting that the number was substantial, and that the lack of primary evidence from those meetings is a sensitive issue. And although the FBI account specifies that the July 14 and 17 meetings were recorded “at the direction of law enforcement agents,” it is carefully ambiguous about whether or not the earlier meetings were recorded.

The lack of quotations is a crucial problem for the official case for a simple reason: If Arbabsiar had said anything even hinting in the May 24 meeting or in a subsequent meeting at the desire to mount a terrorist attack, it would have triggered the immediate involvement of the FBI’s National Security Branch and its counter-terrorism division. The FBI would then have instructed the DEA informant to record all of the meetings with Arbabsiar, as is standard practice in such cases, according to a former FBI official interviewed for this article. And that would mean that those meetings were indeed recorded. 

The fact that the FBI account does not include a single quotation from Arbabsiar in the June 23-July 14 meetings means either that Arbabsiar did not say anything that raised such alarms at the FBI or that he was saying something sufficiently different from what is now claimed that the administration chooses not to quote from it. In either case, the lack of such quotes further suggests that it was not Arbabsiar, but the DEA informant, acting as part of an FBI sting operation, who pushed the idea of assassinating Jubeir. The most likely explanation is that Arbabsiar was suggesting surveillance of targets that could be hit if Iran were to be attacked by Israel with Saudi connivance.

“The Saudi Arabia” and the $100,000

The July 14 meeting between Arbabsiar and the DEA informant is the first from which the criminal complaint offers actual quotations from the secretly recorded conversation. The FBI’s retelling supplies selected bits of conversation — mostly from the informant — aimed at portraying the meeting as revolving around the assassination plot. But when carefully studied, the account reveals a different story.

The quotations attributed to the DEA informant suggest that he was under orders to get a response from Arbabsiar that could be interpreted as assent to an assassination plot. For example, the informant tells Arbabsiar, “You just want the, the main guy.” There is no quoted response from the car dealer. Instead, the FBI narrative simply asserts that Arbabsiar “confirmed that he just wanted the ‘ambassador.’” At the end of the meeting, the informant declares, “We’re gonna start doing the guy.” But again, no response from Arbabsiar is quoted.

Two statements by the informant appear on their face to relate to a broader set of Saudi targets than Adel al-Jubeir. The informant tells Arbabsiar that he would need “at least four guys” and would “take the one point five for the Saudi Arabia.” The FBI agent who signed the deposition explains, “I understand this to mean that he would need to use four men to assassinate the Ambassador and that the cost to Arbabsiar of the assassination would be $1.5 million.” But, apart from the agent’s surmise, there is no hint that either cited phrase referred to a proposal to assassinate the ambassador. Given that there had already been discussion of multiple Saudi targets, as well as those of an unnamed third country (probably Israel), it seems more reasonable to interpret the words “the Saudi Arabia” to refer to a set of missions relating to Saudi Arabia in order to distinguish them from the other target list.

Then the informant repeats the same wording, telling Arbabsiar he would “go ahead and work on the Saudi Arabia, get all the information that we can.” This language does not show that Arbabsiar proposed the killing of Jubeir, much less approved it. And the FBI narrative states that the Iranian-American “agreed that the assassination of the Ambassador should be handled first.”  Again, that curious wording does not assert that Arbabsiar said an assassination should be carried out first, but suggests he was agreeing that the subject should be discussed first. 

The absence of any quote from Arbabsiar about an assassination plot, combined with the multiple ambiguities surrounding the statements attributed to the DEA informant, suggest that the main subject of the July 14 meeting was something broader than an assassination plot, and that it was the government’s own agent who had brought up the subject of assassinating the ambassador in the meeting, rather than Arbabsiar.

The government reconstruction of the July 14 meeting also introduces the keystone of the Obama administration’s public case: $100,000 that was to be transferred to a bank account that the DEA informant said he would make known to Arbabsiar. The FBI deposition asserts repeatedly that whenever Arbabsiar or the DEA informant mention the $100,000, they are talking about a “down payment” on the assassination. But the document contains no statement from either of them linking that $100,000 to any assassination plan. In fact, it provides details suggesting that the $100,000 could not have been linked to such a plan.

The FBI deposition states that the informant and Arbabsiar “discussed how Arbabsiar would pay [the informant],” but offers no statement from either individual even mentioning a “payment,” or any reason for transferring the money to a bank account. Furthermore, it does not actually claim that Arbabsiar made any commitment to any action against Jubeir at either the July 14 or 17 meetings. And when the informant is quoted in the July 17 meeting as saying, “I don’t know exactly what your cousin wants me to do,” it appears to be an acknowledgement that he had gotten no indication prior to July 17 that Arbabsiar’s Tehran interlocutors wanted the Saudi ambassador dead. The deposition does not even claim that Arbabsiar’s supposed handlers had approved a plan to kill Jubeir until after the Iranian-American returned to his native country on July 20.

Nevertheless, Arbabsiar is quoted telling the informant on July 14 that the full $100,000 had already been collected in cash at the home of “a certain individual.” Preparations for the transfer of the $100,000 had thus commenced well before the assassination plot allegedly got the green light.

The amount of $100,000 does not even appear credible as a “down payment” on a job that the FBI account says was to have cost a total of $1.5 million. It would represent a mere 6 percent of the full price. Bearing in mind that the DEA informant was supposed to be representing the demand of a ruthlessly profit-motivated Los Zetas drug cartel for a high-stakes political assassination well outside its purview, 6 percent of the total would represent far too little for a “down payment.”

The $100,000 wire transfer must have been related to an understanding that had been reached on something other than the assassination plan. Yet it has been cited by the administration and reported by news media as proof of the plot — and key evidence of Iran’s complicity therein. [2]

The Qods Force Connection

The FBI account of the July 17 meeting shows the DEA informant leading Arbabsiar into a statement of support for an assassination. The informant, obviously following an FBI script, says, “I don’t know what exactly your cousin wants me to do.” But the deposition notes “further conversation” following that invitation for a clear position on a proposal coming from the informant, indicating that what Arbabsiar was saying did not support the administration’s allegation that assassination plot was coming from Tehran.

After the FBI evidently sought again to get the straightforward answer it was seeking, however, Arbabsiar is quoted as saying: “He wants you to kill this guy.” The informant then presents a fanciful plan to bomb an imaginary restaurant in Washington where Arbabsiar was told the Saudi ambassador liked to dine twice a week and where many “like, American people” would be present. “You want me to do it outside or in the restaurant?” asks the informant, to which question the Iranian-American replies, “Doesn’t matter how you do it.” At another point in the conversation, Arbabsiar goes further, saying, “They want that guy done. If the hundred go with him, fuck ‘em.”

These statements appear at first blush to be conclusive evidence that Arbabsiar and his Iranian overseers were contracting for the assassination of Jubeir, regardless of lives lost. But there are two crucial questions that the FBI account leaves unanswered: Was Arbabsiar speaking on behalf of the Qods Force or some element of it? And if he was, was he talking about a plan that was to go into effect as soon as possible or was it understood that they were talking about a contingency plan that would only be carried out under specific circumstances?

The deposition includes several instances of Arbabsiar’s bragging about a cousin who is a general, out of uniform and involved in covert external operations, including in Iraq — clearly implying that he belongs to the Qods Force. Arbabsiar is said to have claimed that the cousin and another Iranian official gave him funds for his contacts with the drug cartel. “I got the money coming,” he says. Subsequently, in one of the most extensive quotations from the recorded conversations, Arbabsiar says, “This is politics, so these people they pay this government…he’s got the, got the government behind him…he’s not paying from his pocket.” The FBI narrative identifies the person referred to here as Arbabsiar’s cousin, a Qods Force officer later named as Abdul Reza Shahlai, but again, there is not a single direct quotation backing the claim. And the reference to “these people” who “pay this government” suggests that “he” is connected to a group with illicit financial ties to government officials.

This excerpt could be particularly significant in light of press reports quoting a US law enforcement official saying that Arbabsiar had offered “tons of opium” to the drug cartel and that he and the informant had discussed what the New York Times called a “side deal” on the Iranian-held narcotics. [3] If these reports are accurate, it seems possible that Arbabsiar approached Los Zetas on behalf of Iranians who control a portion of the opium being smuggled through Iran from Afghanistan, while seeking to impress the drug cartel operative with his claim to have close ties to the Qods Force through Shahlai. But if the DEA informant then pressed him to authenticate his Qods Force connection, he may have begun discussing covert operations against Iran’s enemies in North America.

The only alleged evidence that Arbabsiar was speaking for Shahlai and the Qods Force is Arbabsiar’s own confession, summarized in the criminal complaint. But, at minimum, that testimony was provided after he had been arrested and had a strong interest in telling the FBI what it wanted to hear.

The deposition makes much of a series of three phone conversations on October 4, 5 and 7 between Arbabsiar and someone who Arbabsiar tells his FBI handlers is Gholam Shakuri, presenting them as confirmation of the involvement of Qods Force officers in the assassination scheme. But the FBI apparently had no way of ascertaining whether the person to whom Arbabsiar was talking was actually Shakuri. After the October 4 call, for example, the FBI account merely records that Arbabsiar “indicated that the person he was speaking with was Shakuri.”

On their face, moreover, these conversations prove nothing. In the first of the three calls, the person at the other end of the line, whom Arbabsiar identifies to his FBI contact as Shakuri but whose identity is not otherwise established, asks, “What news…what did you do about the building?” The FBI agent again suggests, “based on my training, experience and participation in this investigation,” that these queries were a “reference to the plot to murder the Ambassador and a question about its status.”

But Arbabsiar is said to have claimed in his confession that he was instructed by Shakuri to use the code word “Chevrolet” to refer to the plot to kill the ambassador. In a second recorded conversation, Arbabsiar immediately says, “I wanted to tell you the Chevrolet is ready, it’s ready, uh, to be done. I should continue, right?” After further exchange, the man purported to be “Shakuri” says, “So buy it, buy it.” Despite the obvious invocation of a code word, it remains unclear what Arbabsiar was to “buy.” “Chevrolet” could actually have been a reference to either a drug-related deal or a generic plan having to do with Saudi and other targets.

In a third recorded conversation on October 7, both Arbabsiar and “Shakuri” refer to a demand by a purported cartel figure for another $50,000 on top of the original $100,000 transferred by wire earlier. But there is no other evidence of such a demand. It appears to be a mere device of the FBI to get “Shakuri” on record as talking about the $100,000. And here it should be recalled that the account in the deposition shows that the transfer of the $100,000 had been agreed on before any indication of agreement on a plan to kill the ambassador.

The invocation of a fictional demand for $50,000, along with the dramatic difference between the first conversation and the second and third conversations, suggests yet another possibility: The second and third conversations were set up in advance by Arbabsiar to provide a transcript to bolster the administration’s case.

Terrorist Plot or Deterrence Strategy?

Even if Qods Forces officials indeed directed Arbabsiar to contact the Los Zetas cartel, it cannot be assumed that they intended to carry out one or more terrorist attacks in the United States. The killing of a foreign ambassador in Washington (not to speak of additional attacks on Saudi and Israeli buildings), if linked to Iran, would invite swift and massive US military retaliation. If, on the other hand, the Qods Force men instructed Arbabsiar to conduct surveillance of those targets and prepare contingency plans for hitting them if Iran were attacked, the whole story begins to make more sense.

Iran lacks the conventional means to deter attack by a powerful adversary. In its decades-long standoffs with the United States and Israel, amidst recurrent talk of “preemptive” strikes by those powers, Iran has relied on threats of proxy retaliation against US and allied state targets in the Middle East. [4] The Iranian military support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in particular, is widely recognized as prompted primarily by Iran’s need to deter US and Israeli attack. [5]

In one case in 1994-1995, Saudi Arabian Shi‘i militants carried out surveillance of potential US military and diplomatic targets in Saudi Arabia, in a way that was quickly noticed by US and Saudi intelligence. [6] Although the consensus among US intelligence analysts was that Iran was preparing for a terrorist attack, Ronald Neumann, then the State Department’s intelligence officer for Iran and Iraq, noted that Iran had done the same thing whenever US-Iranian tensions had risen. He suggested that Iran could be using the surveillance for deterrence, to let Washington know that its interests in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere would be in danger if Iran were attacked. [7]

Unfortunately for Iran’s deterrent strategy, however, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda was also carrying out surveillance of US bases in Saudi Arabia, and in November 1995 and again in June 1996, that group bombed two facilities housing US servicemen. The bombing of Khobar Towers in June 1996, which killed 19 US soldiers and one Saudi Arabian, was blamed by the Clinton administration’s FBI and CIA leadership on Iranian-sponsored Shi‘a from Saudi Arabia, with prodding from Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, despite the fact that bin Laden claimed responsibility not once but twice, in interviews with the London-based newspaper, al-Quds al-‘Arabi. [8]

Hani al-Sayigh, one of the Saudi Arabian Shi‘a accused by the Saudi and US governments of conspiring to attack the Khobar Towers, admitted to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dubelier, who interviewed him at a Canadian detention facility in May 1997, that he had participated in the surveillance of US military targets in Saudi Arabia on behalf of Iranian intelligence. But, according to the FBI report on the interview, al-Sayigh insisted that Iran had never intended to attack any of those sites unless it was first attacked by the United States. And when Dubelier asked a question later in the interview that was based on the premise that the surveillance effort was preparation for a terrorist attack, al-Sayigh corrected him. [9]

With threats of an Israeli or US bombing attack on Iran, with Saudi complicity, mounting since the mid-2000s, a similar campaign of surveillance of Saudi and Israeli targets in North America would fit the framework of what the Pentagon has called Iran’s “asymmetric warfare doctrine.” If Arbabsiar spoke of such a campaign in his initial meeting with the DEA informant, he certainly would have piqued the interest of FBI counter-terrorism personnel. And this scenario would also explain why the series of meetings in late June and the first half of July did not produce a single statement by Arbabsiar that the administration could quote to advance its case that the Iranian-American was interested in assassinating Adel al-Jubeir or carrying out other acts of terrorism.

A plan to conduct surveillance and be ready to act on contingency plans would also explain why someone as lacking in relevant experience and skills as Arbabsiar might have been acceptable to the Qods Force. Not only would the mission not have required absolute secrecy; it would have been based on the assumption that the surveillance would become known to US intelligence relatively quickly, as did the monitoring of US targets in Saudi Arabia in 1994-1995.

The Qods Force officials were certainly well aware that the Drug Enforcement Agency had penetrated various Mexican drug cartels, in some cases even at the very top level. US court proceedings involving Mexican drug traffickers who were highly placed in the Sinaloa drug cartel between 2009 and early 2011 reveal that the US made deals with leaders of the cartel to report what they knew about rival cartel operations in return for a hands-off approach to their drug trafficking. [10] Further underlining the degree to which the cartels were honeycombed with people on the US payroll, the DEA informant in this case was not merely posing as a drug trafficker but is reportedly an actual associate of Los Zetas with access to its upper echelons, who has been given immunity from prosecution to cooperate with the DEA. [11]

When Did Arbabsiar Become Part of the Sting?

The Obama administration’s account of the alleged Iranian plot has Arbabsiar suddenly changing from terrorist conspirator to active collaborator with the FBI upon his September 29 arrest at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. He is said to have provided a confession immediately upon being apprehended, after waiving his right to a lawyer, and then to have waived that right repeatedly again while being interviewed by the FBI. Then Arbabsiar cooperated in making the series of secretly recorded phone calls to someone he identified as Shakuri.

For someone facing such serious charges to provide the details with which to make the case against him, while renouncing benefit of counsel, is odd, to say the least. The official story raises questions not only about what agreement was reached between Arbabsiar and the FBI to ensure his cooperation but about when that agreement was reached.

One clue that Arbabsiar was brought into the sting operation well before his arrest is the DEA informant’s demand in a September 20 phone conversation with Arbabsiar in Tehran that he either come up with half the $1.5 million total fee or come to Mexico to be the guarantee that the full amount would be paid.

Yet the FBI account of that conversation shows Arbabsiar telling the informant, without even consulting with his contacts in Tehran, “I’m gonna go over there [in] two [or] three days.” Later in the same evening, he calls back to ask how long he would need to remain in Mexico. Even if Arbabsiar were as feckless as some reports have suggested, he would certainly not have agreed so readily to put his fate in the hands of the murderous Los Zetas cartel — unless he knew that he was not really in danger, because the US government would intercept him and bring him to the United States. Making the episode even stranger, Arbabsiar’s confession claims that when he told Shakuri about the purported Los Zetas demand, Shakuri refused to provide any more money to the cartel, advised him against going to Mexico and warned him that if he did so, he would be on his own.

Further supporting the conclusion that Arbabsiar had become part of the sting operation before his arrest is the fact there was no reason for the FBI to pose the demand — through the DEA informant — for more money or Arbabsiar’s presence in Mexico except to provide an excuse to get him out of Iran, so he could provide a full confession implicating the Qods Force and be the centerpiece of the case against Iran.

The larger aim of the FBI sting operation, which ABC News has reported was dubbed Operation Red Coalition, was clearly to link the alleged assassination plot to Qods Force officers. The logical moment for the FBI to have recruited the Iranian-American would have been right after the FBI recorded him talking about wiring money to the bank account and casually approving the idea of bombing a restaurant and before his planned departure from Mexico for Iran. The only way to ensure that Arbabsiar would come back, of course, would be to offer him a substantial amount of money to serve as an informant for the FBI during his stay in Iran, which he would receive only upon returning. If Arbabsiar had already been enlisted, of course, it would also mean the keystone of the case — the wiring of $100,000 to a secret FBI bank account — was a part of the FBI sting.

FBI Trickery in Terrorism Cases

FBI deceit in constructing a case for an Iranian terror plot should come as no surprise, given its record of domestic terrorism prosecutions based on sting operations involving entrapment and skullduggery. Central to these stings has been the creation of fictional terrorist plots by the FBI itself. In 2006 the “Gonzales Guidelines” for the use of FBI informants removed previous prohibitions on actions to “initiate a plan or strategy to commit a federal, state or local offense.” [12]

Perhaps the most notorious of all these domestic terrorism sting operations is the case in which Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, leaders of their Albany, New York mosque, were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for allegedly laundering profits from the sale of a shoulder-launched missile for a Pakistani militant group that was planning to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York City.

In fact, there was no such terrorist plot, and the alleged crime was the result of an elaborate FBI scam directed against two innocent men. [13] It began when an FBI informant pretending to be a Pakistani businessman insinuated himself into Hossain’s life and extended him a $50,000 loan for his pizza parlor. Only months after the informant had begun loaning the money did he show Hossain a shoulder-launched missile, and suggest that he was also selling arms to his “Muslim brothers.” It was a devious form of entrapment; the prosecutors later argued that Hossain should have known the loan could have come from money made in the sale of weapons to terrorists and was therefore guilty of money laundering.

The FBI approach to entrapping Hossain’s friend Aref was even more underhanded. Aref was never even made aware of the missile or the phony story of the illegal arms sale. But on one occasion, when he was present to witness the transfer of loan money, what was later said to have been the missile’s trigger system was left on a table in the room. Prosecutors then argued the theory that Aref had seen the trigger, which looks much like a staple gun, and thus had become part of a conspiracy to “assist in money laundering.”

Many other domestic terrorism cases have involved deceptive tactics and economic inducements deployed by the FBI to involve American Muslims in fictional terrorist plots. The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University’s Law School found more than 20 terrorism cases that involved some combination of “paid informants, selection of investigation based on perceived religious identity, [and] a plot that was created by the government.” [14] This history makes it clear that the Justice Department and FBI are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to fabricate terrorism cases against targeted individuals, and that misrepresenting these individuals’ intentions and actual behavior has long been standard practice. The trickery and deceit in past “counter-terrorism” sting operations provides further reason to question the veracity of the Obama administration’s allegations in the bizarre case of Manssor Arbabsiar.

Endnotes

[1] The full text of the “amended criminal complaint” is online at: http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=a334ea94-9f4f-4364-8…
[2] See New York Times, October 12, 2011 and Reuters, October 12, 2011.
[3] See New York Times, October 12, 2011 and Bloomberg, October 12, 2011.
[4] For an official US recognition of Iran’s “assymetric warfare doctrine” as a tool of deterrence of “any would-be invader,” see Department of Defense, Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran, April 2010, p. 1.
[5] See, for example, Michael Young, “Another Israel-Hezbollah War?” Middle East Security at Harvard, National Security Study Program, February 28, 2008: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/02/another_israel_hezbollah_war/
[6] See Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1997 and Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 276.
[7] Gareth Porter, “US Officials Leaked a False Story Blaming Iran,” Inter Press Service, June 24, 2009.
[8] Gareth Porter, “FBI Ignored Compelling Evidence of Bin Laden Role,” Inter Press Service, June 25, 2009.
[9] Gareth Porter, “US May Have Concealed Deterrent Aim of Iranian Plan,” Inter Press Service, October 21, 2011.
[10] New York Times, October 24, 2011.
[11] So said ProPublica reporter Sebastian Rotella in his podcast of October 18, 2011, online at: http://www.propublica.org/podcast/item/podcast-sebastian-rotella-on-the-…
[12] Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the “Homegrown Threat” in the United States (New York, 2011), p. 14.
[13] This account of the case is drawn from Petra Bartosiewicz, “To Catch a Terrorist,” Harper’s (August 2011).
[14] Targeted and Entrapped, pp. 50-52, fn 17.

13-46

Questions Abound over Iran “Plot” to Kill Saudi Envoy

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alistair Lyon

2011-10-12T013728Z_261663125_GM1E7AC0QST01_RTRMADP_3_USA-SECURITY-IRAN

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir speaks to the media at the Mideast Peace Conference in Annapolis, in this November 27, 2007 file photo. The United States accused Iran on October 11, 2011 of backing a plot to kill al-Jubeir, escalating tensions with Tehran and stirring up a hornet’s nest in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia and Iran have long jostled for power.                    

REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files

LONDON (Reuters) – You couldn’t make it up — or could you?

U.S. allegations that an Iranian spy outfit attempted to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington in a convoluted plot involving a U.S. informant posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel seem bizarre to say the least.

Still, Washington says the drama justifies new international sanctions against Iran and Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief insists that “somebody in Iran” must pay the price.

“The burden of proof and the amount of evidence in the case is overwhelming and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this,” Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said.

The potential consequences are dire in a tense region where the United States and Israel reserve the right to attack Iran to stop it acquiring a nuclear bomb, a goal Tehran disavows.

For starters, the row could throttle any slim chance of resuming negotiations to settle the nuclear dispute.

Saudi-Iranian acrimony has ratcheted up this year, especially since Saudi troops intervened to help Bahrain’s Sunni rulers crush protests led by the island’s Shi’ite majority and fomented, according to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, by Iran.

From across the Middle East’s Arab-Persian and Sunni-Shi’ite faultlines, Riyadh also accuses Tehran of inciting unrest among minority Shi’ites in its own oil-rich Eastern Province, and has often urged the United States in the past to attack Iran, according to diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.

The plot suspects are Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, arrested on September 29 in New York, and Gholam Shakuri, said to be a member of Quds Force, the covert, operational arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. He is thought to be in Iran.

U.S. evidence rests mainly on Arbabsiar’s alleged confession that he had acted for men he thought were top Quds officials.

MOTIVE AND MEANS

Yet questions abound over the putative plot, not least the classic ones of motive and means. Many analysts are skeptical.

What could Iran hope to gain from an assassination that would have brought fierce retribution? Why try to recruit a hitman from a Mexican drug cartel instead of using its own?

On the other hand, why would the United States, even with a presidential election looming next year, go public with such accusations unless they were well founded, knowing the impact they could have on an already volatile Middle East?

“Killing the Saudi envoy in America has no benefit for Iran,” said independent Iranian analyst Saeed Leylaz. “Why should Iran create hostility when the region is boiling?

Dismissing the “very amateur scenario” as out of character, he said: “Iran might have conducted some political adventurism like denying the Holocaust, but an assassination attempt, particularly in America, is so un-Iranian.”

It would certainly be a departure for Iran, although it has assassinated its own dissidents abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and it has used Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Shi’ite militias in Iraq to further its own aims.

Decision-making in Tehran is murky and factional rivalry is rife. But the idea that rogue Quds elements could concoct such a momentous plot seems a stretch. That Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would authorize it seems more so.

“The United States would not blame the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) without substantial evidence,” argued U.S.-based global intelligence company Stratfor.

“However, this plot seems far-fetched considering the Iranian intelligence services’ usual methods of operation and the fact that its ramifications would involved substantial political risk,” it added.

Former CIA agent Robert Baer poured scorn on the reported Iranian conspiracy. “This stinks to holy hell,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “The Quds Force are very good. They don’t sit down with people they don’t know and make a plot. They use proxies and they are professional about it.”

CONSEQUENCES UNCLEAR

How this lurid episode in the adversarial relationships between Iran, the United States and its Saudi ally will play out in a Middle East already in turmoil is not yet clear.

Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said the “fabricated allegations” were a U.S. bid to divert attention from Arab uprisings that Iran says were inspired by its own Islamic revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979.

Tehran has watched in glee as popular revolts have ousted U.S. allies in Egypt and Tunisia, even if Islam has not been the overt driving force behind the surge of Arab unrest – it may have more in common with Iran’s own street protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009.

Iran, however, is disconcerted by the upheaval in Syria, its only solid Arab ally and overland link to Hezbollah.

The fall of President Bashar al-Assad would damage Iran’s “resistance” axis and perhaps strengthen Saudi Arabia and Turkey, its main Sunni rivals for influence in the Middle East.

Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, is already on a U.S. sanctions list for allegedly supporting Assad’s violent six-month-old crackdown on dissent.

Nevertheless, it seems doubtful that any of the protagonists would want to use the alleged Iranian plot as a pretext for all-out confrontation in a region the world depends on for oil.

Given that no one was hurt, Iran, the United States and Saudi Arabia may avert any violent fallout — although Washington clearly intends to push for further international punishment of Iran for its defiance of U.S. policy.

“More U.S. sanctions will be about the limit of it,” said Alastair Newton, a former senior British Foreign Office official and now senior political analyst for Japanese bank Nomura. “The U.S. case hardly looks solid, either, so let’s wait and see.”

U.S. officials have themselves acknowledged that the details of the plot smack of a Hollywood script, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton jesting: “Nobody could make that up, right?”

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran, Peter Apps and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London, and Washington/New York bureaux; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

13-42

Delusion in Detroit

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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Seated, left to right:  Steve Downs, Abayomi Azikiwe, Dawud Walid.  Behind podium:  Moderator Debbie Johnson

Detroit–July 17–There are several problems facing the Muslim community in the United States.  One problem is that Muslims are sometimes targeted by the FBI and other law enforcement bureaus, framed for plots they are not even intelligent enough to hatch themselves, and then arrested and prosecuted for conspiracy to commit crimes they never understood–sometimes they are goaded by troublemakers, wolves in sheeps’ clothing, paid by the FBI in proportion to the crimes they are able to get Muslims to commit.

Another, much worse problem, is that inside the Muslim community we give excuses and podiums to the apologists for Muslim terrorists and troublemakers–who are inherently dangerous to the Muslim community by virtue of their commitment to goals antithetical to the teachings of Islam. 

And so this past weekend in Detroit about 100 people gathered at The Shrine of the Black Madonna to complain about government “preemptive prosecution.” However, there was the problem that the meeting supported some Muslims who had suffered prosecution for very real offenses.

Not least among those is Tarek Mehanna, a pharmacy graduate who apparently travelled around the world (to Yemen) to seek training to fight against Americans, and who planned to kill numerous innocent civilians at a local mall, and went so far as to conspire to commit this attack.  You may say “innocent until proven guilty” but first read the complaint, 32 pages of damning evidence, with countless detailed samples of Mehanna’s assiduous efforts to commit terrorism, complete with evidence from two of his coconspirators who backed out of his plot and turned states’ evidence, and also audio-taped conversations in which Mehanna planned terrorist acts.

Tarek’s brother Tamer spoke in support of him this weekend in Detroit, however Tamer’s speech almost amounted to further evidence against his brother, as he spoke for about 15 minutes, railing against the existence in the Muslim community of “snitches.” The use of the term “snitch” already implies that his brother is guilty–as usually a snitch is someone who reveals what was intended to be a secret.  The implication is that Tarek had committed conspiracy, wanted to keep it secret, and Tamer is angry because the “snitches” revealed the secret.

But thank God they did.  Better for Tarek to rot in jail, frustrated in his intention to blot out the lives of innocent civilians.

If all Tamer Mehanna can say for 15 minutes is that snitches are bad, he begs the question whether his brother is fully guilty, and also whether he himself is supportive of his brother’s alleged crimes. 
But most of the people discussed at the meeting Saturday appeared far more innocent than Tarek Mehanna. Behind  the speakers was a board on which were posted the names of about 100 people termed victims of preemptive prosecution. 

Present at the meeting were many activists on behalf of many of those “preemptively prosecuted,” and the most effective presentation was a video about Sami Al-Arian, which advocated his innocence, and expressed the capricious nature of the US prosecution of his case–where when Al-Arian was acquitted of all charges they rearrested him and continued to detain him.

This event was slightly misguided in the ways mentioned above, but the point still stands that the US government has overplayed its hand in the war on terror, by brutally pursuing many who are in fact innocent, and by deliberately detaining them beyond the point at which it becomes obvious that they are innocent.

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‘Little Gitmo’

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

When an upstate imam named Yassin Aref was convicted on a suspect terrorism charge, he was sent to a secretive prison denounced by civil libertarians as a Muslim quarantine.

By Christopher S. Stewart

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File:  Yassin Aref.  (Photo: Will Waldron/Albany Times Union)

July 11, 2011 “New York Magazine” — -  On August 4, 2004, Yassin Aref was walking along West Street in a run-down part of downtown Albany. It was about 11 p.m., and he had just finished delivering evening prayer at the storefront mosque around the corner, where he had been the imam for nearly four years. Caught up in his thoughts, he might not have noticed the car parked across from his two-story building if a man hadn’t called out his name.

Aref instantly recognized the FBI agents inside the darkened vehicle. They had been monitoring him for years now, maybe longer. Sometimes they stopped and asked questions about his views on Saddam Hussein or the mosque. As part of Bush’s war on terror, the FBI had been talking to other Muslims in Albany, too. When Aref climbed into the back seat, he figured that the agents simply wanted to talk some more. Instead, they told him he was under arrest.

It took a long time for this to settle in. Aref was silent as they drove to FBI headquarters, a fortlike concrete-and-glass building on the south side of town. The agency has spoken only vaguely about what happened when they questioned him, and there are no recordings, though Aref would later describe the time as the “hardest, darkest, and longest night of my life”—scarier, he said recently, than the hardships he and his wife suffered as Kurds in ­Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

His hands and feet were chained. One of the agents spoke some Kurdish. Aref heard questions about terrorism, money laundering, a missile launcher. He refused a lawyer, believing that he had nothing to hide. “It is against my religion to lie,” he told them. The interrogation lasted much of the night. He says he never heard specific charges. At some point they told him his house and mosque were being raided, and all he could think about was his wife and three children, who had arrived in Albany with him as U.N. refugees in 1999.

When morning broke, he was loaded into another car, bleary-eyed and weakened, and taken to the federal courthouse. As the vehicle moved through the streets, Aref was astonished by the sudden commotion. Helicopters swarmed overhead. There were scores of local and national news reporters, cameras angling to get his picture. He saw snipers.

During his three-week trial in 2006, he learned that he was the target of a controversial FBI sting, which involved a Pakistani informant with a history of crime. In the end, he was convicted of, among other things, conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He spent weeks in solitary confinement, days shackled in different vehicles, which shuffled him from prison to prison. Time coalesced, became unrecognizable, until, in the spring of 2007, Aref landed at a newly created prison unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, that would change his life again. It already had a nickname: Little Gitmo.

Aref didn’t know anything about Little Gitmo, or a Communication Management Unit (CMU), as it’s formally called. Once a death-row facility where Timothy McVeigh was executed, the Terre Haute CMU was quietly opened by the Bush administration in December 2006 to contain inmates with links, in particular, to ­“terrorist-related activity.” A year later, another unit opened in Marion, Illinois.

Although inmates and guards refer to CMUs as Little Gitmos, the comparison to Guantánamo is imprecise: The units are not detention centers, and the inmates inside have already been convicted of crimes in the U.S. legal system. But what differentiates CMUs from all other facilities in the U.S. are the prisoners. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) estimates that 66 to 72 percent of them are Muslims, a staggering number considering that Muslims represent only 6 percent of the entire federal-prison population.

As of June, there are 82 men in the two CMUs, according to federal-prison officials, including a man convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the American Taliban John Walker Lindh, and the lone survivor of an EgyptAir hijacking in 1985. All inmates are kept under 24-hour surveillance in near-complete isolation. “If the government has intelligence that links you to terrorist activity, then that’s something that the prison authority should be able to take into account,” says Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, in defense of the measures. “We give them an array of privileges that most other places in the world are shocked by.”

Legal activists agree that restrictive rules can be applied to high-security prisoners, but many in the CMUs, they say, are low-security inmates. One Muslim man was placed in a CMU for perjury, while another was locked up, in part, for violating U.S. sanctions by donating to a charity abroad without a license. According to CCR, many don’t fully know why they ended up in the segregated units or how they might appeal their placement. In the words of Kathy Manley, one of Aref’s defense attorneys, the CMUs are a “quarantine,” and Alexis Agathocleous, a lawyer at CCR, calls them “an experiment in social isolation.” “There is this story being told in this country now about the threat of homegrown terror and of radicalization related to Muslim prisoners, and the CMU is a story about law enforcement controlling that dangerous threat,” says Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer at CCR. “An allegation that someone is somehow connected to terrorism, without evidence and without an actual conviction [for terrorism], allows them to be treated in this whole different system of justice.”

To gather intelligence from CMU inmates, correspondence is combed through by a counterterrorism unit in West ­Virginia. Regular group prayer is prohibited, and communications must be in English unless there’s a live translator. Phone calls are limited to two fifteen-minute conversations a week (most maximum-­security prisoners get 300 minutes a month). Immediate families of CMU inmates can visit only twice a month for a total of eight hours (general-population prisoners at Terre Haute get up to 49 hours of visits a month), and those conversations are monitored, recorded, and conducted through Plexiglas. Physical contact is forbidden, a permanent ban not imposed on most violent felons in maximum-security prisons.

As a result, critics say, those familiar markers—family, language, and religious identity—are being stripped away. “This is more than just being cut off from the world,” says Nina Thomas, a psychologist-psychoanalyst at NYU who has studied the CMUs. “Inmates are being shut into a very narrow universe.”

While the stated purpose of the CMUs, according to prisons spokesperson Traci Billingsley, is to “protect the public,” Meeropol thinks that they “spread fear.” Shamshad Ahmad, a physics lecturer at the University of Albany and president of Aref’s mosque, says that CMUs “send a message that the whole justice system [is] geared to take revenge of the events of 9/11 on anyone belonging to the Muslim community”—a message that, essentially, any Muslim could become Aref.

And especially because Aref’s conviction is itself a matter of controversy, CCR has chosen the imam to become its lead plaintiff in a case against the CMUs, one of the major lawsuits, including the ACLU’s in Indiana, meant to challenge the units and change the way they operate. Along with five other plaintiffs, Aref now sits at the center of a civil-­liberties battle against the prison system. To a growing number of supporters in Albany—who have rallied to get him out; have published his pre-CMU memoir, Son of ­Mountains; have raised money for his family—he is a symbol of the inequities Muslims still endure as collateral damage in the war on terror.

Aref was born in a mountain village in northern Iraq, where he lived through Saddam’s genocide on the Kurds and met his wife, Zuhur. They fled to Syria, where he finished his religious studies, worked at the office of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), and had three kids. Under a U.N. asylum program, the family learned in 1999 that they were going to Albany, a place the 29-year-old Aref had never heard of.

Although he couldn’t speak or understand much English, he managed to support his family as a hospital janitor for more than a year before he became the imam of ­Masjid As-Salam, the city’s only mosque. During his four years as imam, Aref regularly discussed his anti–Iraq War sentiments and grew to represent the spiritual voice of many Albany Muslims. “People hesitated to criticize the government publicly,” says ­Ahmad. “But he didn’t.”

It is believed that the FBI decided to target Aref in the summer of 2003, after the American military stormed an armed camp in Iraq and discovered a notebook with his name and number in it, along with the word kak, which the FBI translated as “commander” (the prosecution would later admit that the term actually translates to “mister”). The camp was alleged to be affiliated with Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist organization founded by Mullah Krekar, who was once a member of the IMK, where he had met Aref. Aref’s backers argue that the camp was filled with refugees and that the notebook could have belonged to anyone. Aref claims that he met Krekar only in passing and that he left for Albany long before the mullah founded Ansar al-Islam.

That Aref had a past connection to Krekar was perhaps enough to attract the FBI’s attention, though likely not enough to mount a legal case against him. So, working with expanded surveillance powers, the FBI went about setting up an operation.

Since 9/11, the FBI had begun relying more heavily on informants, under a controversial policy of preemptive prosecution—taking down those thought to possibly become terrorists in the future. It has resulted in the conviction of more than 200 individuals, including four Muslims in Newburgh convicted of plotting to bomb two Bronx synagogues; a 19-year-old Somali charged with attempting to blow up a Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon; and a man caught plotting an attack on Herald Square. “These types of operations have proven to be an essential law-enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a dinner this winter in defense of the tactics.

Critics, however, point out that in many operations, it’s difficult to determine whether anyone is truly culpable—or inherently dangerous. And intentionally or not, it’s very easy to round up Muslims. “There is a massive ideological, military, and intelligence infrastructure committed to the domestic and international wars on terror. These wars depend on maintaining Muslims as the primary threat to national security,” says Amna Akbar, a senior ­research scholar at NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. “The U.S. government seems to rely on widespread use of informants … sending them into mosques and other community spaces without any concrete suspicion of criminal activity.”

In order to pursue Aref, the FBI employed a Pakistani informant named ­Shahed Hussain, known as Malik, the same informant later used in the Newburgh trial and a man once described by the defense in that case as “an agent provocateur who earned his keep by scouring mosques for easy targets.” Malik had made a deal to avoid years in jail and deportation for helping people cheat on driver’s-license exams. He was also arrested in Pakistan on a murder charge. The operation, scripted by the FBI, started with Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who owned a local pizzeria and helped found Aref’s mosque.

Over several months, Malik moved into Hossain’s life, bringing his kids toys and expressing interest in religion. Malik, who claimed to be working for the Islamic terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, or JeM, eventually said he was buying a shoulder-firing missile launcher to kill then–Pakistani president Pervez Mushar­raf during a visit in New York City. To complete the purchase, he needed Hossain to launder $50,000 for him. In return, Hossain, whose business was on the skids, would earn $5,000.

Hossain then asked Aref to be the witness to the loan, a tradition in Islamic culture (as the only imam in Albany, Aref had notarized many loans). There were additional months of transactions where Aref documented Hossain’s loan payments to ­Malik. During those months, Malik would occasionally mention the missile, using the code word chaudry. The government argued that this was evidence that Aref knew about Malik’s terrorist connection, and the jury agreed. Aref was charged with ten of the 30 total counts, and the jury found him guilty of money laundering and supporting a known terrorist organization. “Did [Aref] actually engage in terrorist acts?” William Pericek, assistant U.S. Attorney, asked during a post-sentencing press conference. “Well, we didn’t have the evidence of that. But he had the ideology.”

“Family, language, and religious identity are being stripped away.”

o outside observers of the case, the details that emerged during the trial were troubling. The FBI testified that Aref knew the code word, linking him to the conspiracy, but according to recorded conversations, there was no evidence that either Malik or Hossain informed him of the term. And though Malik had shown a fake missile to Hossain, the FBI decided against showing it to Aref because they worried that he would be “spooked.”

The case, observers noted, ultimately lacked definitive evidence that Aref knew the true nature of the transaction, and the jury was directed to ignore the motives of the FBI’s investigation. As Judge ­Thomas J. McAvoy instructed them, “The FBI had certain suspicions, good and valid suspicions for looking into Mr. Aref, but why they did that is not to be any concern of yours.”

“I’m not only surprised that the jury convicted him, but I’m sure the judge was surprised too,” says Stephen Gottlieb, a professor at Albany Law School and author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America. “They basically turned two decent men into criminals.”

Manley believes he lost on emotional grounds. “I think the fear got to [the jury]. They ended up convicting him out of fear that he might be some kind of shadowy bad guy.” Steve Downs, another member of Aref’s legal team, attributes it to what he calls “the Muslim exception.” The emotion and politics of 9/11 had, they argue, altered the threshold for what constituted reasonable doubt.

In the years since Aref’s trial, critics have identified a pattern. “A whole range of policing, prosecution, and incarceration policies seem to take as a starting point that Muslims pose a particularly uncontainable threat meriting extreme and exceptional treatment by the government,” says Akbar. “Because national security has become an area in which the government is granted an extraordinary amount of deference, these policies are often allowed to stand without much scrutiny.”

After the jury reached a verdict, two local papers published editorials asking for leniency. The editors at the Albany Times Union called the case “unsettling,” with no clear answer to why the men were targeted, and wondered what lives Hossain and Aref would have “continued to lead if they had never been lured into a sting operation.”

The judge sentenced Aref to fifteen years and recommended a local federal prison. Instead, he was sent to the CMU, with little explanation, no hearing, and no obvious way to appeal.

The first time Aref wrote to me, in a heavily monitored e-mail exchange, he said, “I am not spending my time, time is spending me. My family’s situation is driving me insane and eating my patience.” His world was falling apart at the CMU. “It’s really hard for me to talk about what happened,” he wrote.

When Aref was sent to the Terre Haute CMU in May 2007, he was 37 years old. “I arrived to find a small Middle Eastern community,” he said. There were about twenty others inside. The idea of being called a terrorist sickened Aref. Every day he wondered why he was there, and he hoped someone would eventually realize that a mistake had been made. “I don’t understand how the jury found me guilty,” he wrote at one point.

His cell unlocked at 6 a.m., and he could circulate through the small unit comprising a few dozen cells and a common room. At 9 p.m., he’d be locked in for the night. On occasion, he heard screaming, and one day he saw a grown man drop to the floor and begin uncontrollably shaking and sobbing. When Aref asked a nurse later what had happened, she told him, “It’s all fear and stress.”

A peculiar loneliness consumed him. As an imam, Aref was naturally social. He helped solve people’s problems and guide them through their tangled lives. But at Terre Haute, he became reticent, curled inside himself. It was hard to know whom to trust. The FBI was sending agents to the unit to ask questions, and new inmates came every few weeks or so.

All along, he felt his family drifting away. That one fifteen-minute phone call a week (a second call per week was added in January 2010) was never enough. What could you really say in fifteen minutes divided up among at least four people? He tried to be upbeat, avoiding talk of the CMU. With the kids, he spoke about school, a kind of dinner talk. When his wife got on, the reality of their separation was oppressive.

Zuhur “almost lost her mind,” as Aref put it. The case had turned her upside down. Worried about wiretaps, she had disconnected the Internet, TV, and phone. She didn’t have a job and relied on friends and the mosque to pay her rent and buy food. She rarely interacted with strangers, afraid that they might be informants setting her up.

Talking to Aref was a project that required a friend to lend a cell phone to the family on the days he called. And when he spoke to Zuhur, she mostly cried. In the four years that he has been at the CMU, she has cried during every single call.

One of the hardest things was thinking about his young daughter, Dilnia. She was born while Aref was in jail. All he was to her was an abstract concept. “Whenever anyone asks her, ‘Where is your daddy?’ she will point or run to the phone and say, ‘That is my daddy,’ ” Aref said.

His two boys visited that first summer. With surveillance cameras zeroing in on them, it was difficult to be intimate. Salah was 10, Azzam 7. As Aref spoke through the Plexiglas, every word, every gesture was being mined for information.

His demeanor changed dramatically when his boys stepped away and Downs stepped in. Downs had made the two-day car trip with the kids from Albany. “They abuse me,” Aref said. When Downs asked him to explain, Aref wouldn’t. Then suddenly the meeting was terminated. According to Downs, a guard falsely claimed that he was using a pen “as a secret recording device.”

“I’m convinced that they understood I was trying to get info about the CMU,” Downs says. “And they did what [the CMU] was set up to do—prevent information [about the CMU] from getting out.”

The entire family arrived in a minivan the next summer, in 2008. It had been roughly four years since they’d all been together. But seeing his 2-year-old girl on the other side of the glass gave Aref tremendous pain. She didn’t recognize him.

The family spent a total of four hours together, and all seemed well until Zuhur suddenly snapped. In front of the kids, she made an announcement: She wanted to go back to Kurdistan. She felt her safety was at risk in America, even more than in the region from which she had fled.

Aref didn’t want to argue. A part of him understood. “I am not dead in order for them to forget me,” he said to me, “and not really alive to benefit them.” That was the last time he saw his family. They didn’t visit again. Zuhur wouldn’t let them.

On March 27, 2009, at about 4 a.m., a guard entered Aref’s cell and told him to pack. He was being transferred to the second CMU, at the state penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, which had opened a year before. Until recently, Marion had been one of the nation’s only supermax facilities, replacing Alcatraz in 1963.

The move came at a particularly fraught moment for the CMUs. When President Obama came into office in 2009, many hoped the units would be shut down. The Bureau of Prisons wouldn’t say if the new administration had reviewed the units, but they remained open, and their expansion soon inspired a fierce legal battle. In the summer of 2009, the ACLU’s National Prison project filed a lawsuit on behalf of an inmate that disputed the legality of the creation of the units, among other things. Soon after, the ACLU of Indiana filed another lawsuit, about the restrictions on Muslim prayer.

In the meantime, “balancers,” as CMU guards call them, were reportedly blended into the population—environmental activists, sexual predators, bank robbers, people who, prison officials claimed, “recruit and radicalize”—in order to address the criticism that CMUs were housing only Muslims. The Bureau of Prisons says it doesn’t use race or religion to decide placement, and it rejects claims of adding balancers, though Muslim inmates continue to be in the majority.

In April 2010, CCR, with Aref, filed its suit, challenging the constitutionality of the place: the harsh restrictions on phone calls and visits, the ban on physical contact, the alleged absence of due process, and cited growing evidence suggesting that prisoners were being targeted for their religious and political beliefs.

To CCR, Aref’s case was especially ­poignant. “Aref came to the United States as a refugee and was then subject to a dubious conviction,” says Agathocleous. “Despite the fact that he engaged in no violence, that the prosecution acknowledged at trial that it was not seeking to prove he was a terrorist, and that his conduct in prison was spotless, he has been subject to these incredibly restrictive conditions at the CMU … It just doesn’t make any sense.”

In Marion, Aref’s single cell was just as small as the former one, and his family was just as far away. But something had changed. He began to dread the phone calls with his family. “For many prisoners, the phone call is a big relief, and they get strength from it,” he said. “But each time I call and hear my wife crying and I learn what my children are going through, it stresses my mind.”

“I am not spending my time, time is spending me.”

After a motion for a new trial was dismissed and the appeal to his original case was rejected, a part of him became resigned to the situation, friends say.

Then on April 13, I received a surprise e-mail from Aref. “How are you doing?” he asked. And then he told me the news. “For real, I am no longer in CMU!”

“My father is a very religious man,” Aref’s 15-year old daughter, Alaa, says one recent summer night. “He has a beard and wears Arab clothes and has an accent. But when you talk to him”—she pauses as if conjuring her father—“you know he’s not a terrorist.” She has trouble saying this word. Terrorist. It doesn’t sound right in her mouth. And she tries it another way. “Baba didn’t hate anyone.”

On this June night, Aref’s four kids sit barefooted on the carpet of a classroom on the second floor of the Central Avenue mosque in Albany, where their father was once the imam. Some of the doors are still broken from the FBI raid almost eight years ago.

The two boys, Salah, 14, and Azzam, 11, sit on either side of Alaa. Dilnia, who is now 5, sits off to the side, reading a book with a family friend. Zuhur stayed home. “She sometimes is depressed and doesn’t go out,” Alaa says.

Friends of the family say that Zuhur still talks about returning to Iraq, though she doesn’t have the money for a plane ticket or travel documents. Her crying hasn’t abated. When she does leave the house, she occasionally visits Aref’s lawyers and asks, “What did Yassin do wrong?” or “When is he coming home?”

Since being placed in a general-­population prison, Aref remains cautious. Without much explanation, he was moved out of the CMU, where he had been separated from the world for four years, and he could just as easily be moved back, like officials had done recently to an environmental activist named Daniel ­McGowan. Aref’s lawyer speculates that my requests to visit Aref in a CMU and the CCR lawsuit had placed pressure on prison officials, which might have had something to do with his sudden transfer out. (It’s a tactic that’s worked for CMUs in the past. With one of the ACLU lawsuits, a plaintiff was moved from a unit to a general-population prison and the case was dismissed.)

Last April, four years after the first CMU opened and days following CCR’s suit, the Bureau of Prisons began a public discussion of the units, a move, advocacy groups say, the prison system was legally obligated to make before the CMUs ever opened.

Many of the comments that flooded in focused on the lack of meaningful appeal—that inmates are stuck in the units—and in particular, how the units were ruining the men and their families.

Once Aref entered the general-population prison, he assumed that things would get better—that he would be able to embrace his wife and hug his kids, and that he might even be transferred again to a prison closer to home.

But so far, none of that has changed.

The FBI investigation and the CMUs have so alienated his family, especially Zuhur, who has still not visited her husband since his transfer. She hasn’t allowed the kids to go, either—though supporters are working to set up a trip for this summer.

None of Aref’s kids know exactly why their father is in jail.

Azzam, playing with the yellow gum in his mouth, says, “Money laundering or something, right?”

“It was an FBI sting,” Alaa says. “They kind of set him up for missiles or something.”

Salah, who looks most like his father in his long white shirt, nods.

“I miss him,” Alaa says. Turning to Steve Downs, who has been sitting quietly against the wall, she asks, “When my father gets out, they can deport him right away?”

Downs nods. Aref will be deported the day he is released from prison. Among them, Dilnia is the only American citizen, which means that all the others could be deported on that day too, or shortly after. Zuhur was recently denied citizenship.

Alaa will turn 18 before her father is released, and she could apply for citizenship. If it’s granted, she could become the guardian of the others.

I ask whether what’s been done to their father makes them angry. The boys are silent. “I’m upset,” Alaa says. “But my dad taught us never to hate.”

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The UN Report on Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s Death, and the Current Situation

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

The Pakistan People’s Party blames the government of that time for the death of Ms. Bhutto. They claim that the Police could have done much more than they did. Because the PPP knew proper security was not going to be provided that is why they had their own security team.

However things get very hazy when getting into the report as to the whereabouts of the security provided by PPP as well.

Here are some parts of the reports to summaries what the report says and later what is being done after this report has come out.

Parts of Executive Summary of the UN Report:

The Commission was mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking Pakistani government authorities to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources, as revealed in their public declarations. The extension of the mandate until 31 March enabled the Commission to pursue further this matter and eventually meet with some past and present members of the Pakistani military and intelligence services.

Ms. Bhutto faced threats from a number of sources; these included Al-Qaida, the Taliban, local jihadi groups and potentially from elements in the Pakistani Establishment. Yet the Commission found that the investigation focused on pursuing lower level operatives and placed little to no focus on investigating those further up the hierarchy in the planning, financing and execution of the assassination.

The investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth. More significantly, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. Evidence gathered from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police.

UN Report Blames the military for all Ms. Bhutto’s dismissals:

Her first government ended after just 20 months, and her second lasted less than three years. Both times, she was dismissed by the sitting president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari, respectively, based on allegations of corruption and nepotism. While both men were civilians, each had close ties to the military. Ms Bhutto and the PPP believed that it was the military, or more broadly, the Establishment, that forced her out.

Who does the Report Blame?

Contrary to the police assertion, there was no police-provided box formation around Ms Bhutto as she arrived at the rally, and the Elite Force unit did not execute their duties as specified in the security deployment. Furthermore, the Commission does not believe that the full escort as described by the police was ever present.

According to the report a bullet proof Mercedez-Benz was supposed to be riding right behind Ms. Bhutto’s vehicle which sped off before the gunshots and the bomb blast. Riding in the black Mercedes-Benz car were the driver, PPP official Mr Faratullah Babar in the front passenger seat and, in the rear passenger seat from left to right, two PPP officials Mr Babar Awan and Mr Rehman Malik and General (ret) Tauqir Zia.

UN Report Findings on the Mercedes Benz:

96. The black bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz car was the first to leave the parking area. It is not clear how much distance there was between this vehicle and the rest of Ms Bhutto’s convoy at the moment of the blast. Credible reports range from 100 meters to 250 meters. Some of those in the car said that they were close enough to Ms Bhutto’s vehicle to feel the impact of the blast. Others at the site of the blast have said that the Mercedes-Benz left Liaquat Bagh so quickly that it was nowhere to be seen when the blast occurred. Indeed, the Commission has not seen this vehicle in the many video images of the exit area it reviewed. Despite the acknowledgement of some occupants of the vehicle that they felt the impact of the blast, the Commission finds it incredible that they drove all the way to Zardari House, a drive of about 20 minutes, before they became aware that Ms Bhutto had been injured in the blast.

They should have stopped at a safe distance when they felt the blast so as to check on Ms Bhutto’s condition, the condition of her vehicle and whether the back-up vehicle was required. Indeed, as the back-up vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz car would have been an essential element of Ms Bhutto’s convoy on the return trip even if the occupants of that car had confirmed that Ms Bhutto had been unscathed in the attack.

The nature of the crowd was not determined because it was slowing the cars down considerably. The crowd was riled up to the point where it started to worry the people inside as to why the crowd was this way and the cars were slowing down. There was a dispute on the route that was taken as well. Neither the PPP nor the Police side of this story has been confirmed.

The protective box that was promised was never formed. The police claims they were about to form the box right when the blast took place but there is no evidence of that event taking place in the videos. The video clearly shows that there were not enough Policemen to push back the crowds to form the box.

Also PPP blames the police for not giving permission for an autopsy on Ms. Bhutto’s body. The police say that that was because they wanted consent from the family which is legally not necessary. The PPP claim that situations were created which made the autopsy harder even when the body was handed over to the relatives. How strong an argument this is for PPP is doubtful since President Zardari, the husband himself refused an autopsy.

The crime scene was completely hosed off right after the event took place. The police say it was because the crowds around it were restless and they needed to be put at ease. Once the scene was cleaned off people started to leave. Also the police claim people were rubbing blood from the scene on their faces thinking its Ms. Bhutto’s blood. However later on it was confirmed that only one person was seen doing such a thing. Hosing down a crime scene is not standard practice in Pakistan.

UN Report on the Crime Scene:

127. Video footage immediately following the blast shows shock, fear and confusion among the people at the scene and little police control. The crime scene was not immediately cordoned off. The police did collect some evidence. Officers from intelligence agencies, including the ISI, the IB and MI, were present and also collected evidence, using, as one Rawalpindi police officer noted, better evidence collection equipment than the police. Within one hour and forty minutes of the blast, however, SP Khurram ordered the fire and rescue officials present to wash the crime scene down with fire hoses. He told the Commission that the police had collected all the available evidence by then. Police records show that only 23 pieces of evidence were collected, in a case where one would normally have expected thousands. The evidence included mostly human body parts, two pistols, spent cartridges and Ms Bhutto’s damaged vehicle.

The report also states that many times people were scared to speak openly. If that is the case then the question arises that if people are not speaking openly then how did the commission get any facts and how did the commission differentiate between facts and comments made out of fear?

UN Report on the Press Conference:

156. At about 1700 hours on the day following the assassination the government held a televised press conference, conducted by Brigadier Cheema, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior at which he announced that: a. Ms Bhutto died from a head injury sustained when from the force of the blast she hit her head on the lever of the escape hatch; and, b. Mr Baitullah Mehsud linked with Al-Qaida was responsible, presenting an intercepted telephone conversation between Mr Mehsud and one Mr Maulvi Sahib in which Mr Mehsud was heard congratulating Mr Maulvi on a job well-done

Un Report Says the Joint Investigation Team was not given access to the crime scene in due time:

166. Once at the scene, the investigators could see that it had been hosed down.

Despite the late hour, they spent seven hours there. They followed the water current, including wading through the drainage sewer and collected evidence from the debris.

They were able to recover one bullet casing from the drainage sewer, later established through forensic examination to have been fired from the pistol bearing the bomber’s DNA. The JIT members left the scene around midnight. The Rawalpindi police provided security for them, and the road was cordoned off during the entire time. The next day, the team returned to continue the search. Upon their request, the scene remained cordoned off and the road closed. They eventually recovered other evidence in the course of their crime scene examination, including the partial skull of the suicide bomber from atop one of the buildings near the site.

The UN Report on The Bomber:

168. The scientific analysis of the suicide bomber’s remains by the Scotland Yard team established that he was a teenage male, no more than 16 years old. According to the JIT’s investigations, this young man was named Bilal also known as Saeed from South Waziristan. This was established through the links that the accused persons admitted having had with the bomber and the ISI telephone intercept of Baitullah Mehsud’s conversation with Maulvi Sahib.

According to the report Ms. Bhutto considered (i) Brigadier (ret) Ejaz Shah, Director General of the IB at the time of the assassination, (ii) General (ret) Hamid Gul, a former Director General of the ISI, and (iii) Mr Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of Punjab until 22 November 2007 to be a threat to her life but these people were not questioned in the investigation. Most of key persons who were in the car with Ms.Bhutto at the time of her death refused to speak to JIT when asked. They however, deny being contacted by the police.

The UN Report’s Statemen on The Sottland Yard Report finding:   

a. although not possible to “categorically…exclude” the possibility of a gunshot wound, the available evidence suggested there was no gunshot wound; b. Ms Bhutto died of a severe head injury caused by impact in the area of the escape hatch lip as a result of the blast; and c. the same individual both fired the shots and detonated the explosives.

That report was not trustworthy for the PPP leadership since they took a lot of the information given to them by the police on ‘good faith’.

The UN Report also says that she had threats from Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. She was also under threat they say from the establishment of the time.

Other hypothesis were her family and people close to her wanting her dead however the report states that there are no basis for these allegations.

Part of Important Findings of the UN Report:

iii. Responsibility for Ms Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.

vii. The additional security arrangements of the PPP lacked leadership and were inadequate and poorly executed. The Commission recognizes the heroism of individual PPP supporters, many of whom sacrificed them selves to protect Ms Bhutto. However, Ms Bhutto was left vulnerable in a severely damaged vehicle that was unable to transport her to the hospital by the irresponsible and hasty departure of the bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz which, as the back-up vehicle, was an essential part of her convoy.

xviii. The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms Bhutto’s assassination were, in most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies.

After the Report:

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP “Eight officials have been relieved of their duties while the service contract of a retired brigadier has been terminated. “Their names have been placed on the government’s exit control list. The Pakistan People’s Party has already asked the prime minister to take action against all those involved including Musharraf.”

Even though this seems to have satisfied many people and the government seems to be taking action against people who are mentioned in the report all does not seem to add up. There are many little things that are amiss still. It seems that there are key people in the PPP who need to be questioned and investigated on some decisions they made on that day as well.

The report mentions all of those incidents and persons but puts no blame or responsibility on them. The same is with the government. The police is being questioned for not providing boxed protection however, the Back up Mercedes-Benz sped up ahead leaving the vehicle with Ms. Bhutto behind; who is going to questions those people as to why they did that?

It is one of the common known facts that the police did not allow an autopsy after Ms.Bhutto’s death. However they cannot be held responsible when her husband refused to get it done as well. The situation goes against both parties however only one seem to be questioned.

The people of Pakistan get behind anything that gets them closer to the conclusion of any problem. However, this report brings out more problems and questions than solutions.

No one really knows who is saying what any more and who can be trusted. Everything that is presented to the people of Pakistan is wrapped in lies and confusion and in my opinion this is no different.

12-17

Book Review: Rounded Up

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Entrapment After 9/11
By Shamshad Ahmad, PhD
Troy Book Makers: 2009.
www.thetroybookmakers.com

Book Review by Karin Friedemann, MMNS

Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, was thrust into the media spotlight with claims that his name was allegedly discovered in an address book found in the pocket of a “terrorist” killed by US soldiers in Iraq. At the time, Aref was working as an imam at an Islamic center in Albany, NY. After it was exposed that the entire case against him was a fraud based on a mistranslation, the US government resorted to “secret evidence” to continue Aref’s prosecution.

“How can a trial be called fair if a defendant, or even a defendant’s attorney, cannot challenge the evidence of the accusation against him?” asks the author.

Step by step this book details the injustices suffered by Aref and the local community.

The legal atrocity starts when the FBI raided the mosque in the culmination of a sting operation. An accused felon serving as a cooperating witness hoped to avoid prosecution in return for fingering Aref and local pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain as dangerous Islamic terrorists. Such sting operations have been part of a larger strategy on the part of the Neocon-corrupted FBI and DOJ to justify selective surveillance and prosecution of Muslim Americans. A show trial based on secret evidence ended with a guilty verdict and an extremely harsh sentence handed down in 2007.

Dr. Ahmad describes how improper prosecutorial psychological tactics, US government manipulation or miscategorization of the evidence, and judicial misconduct gave the false impression the defendant was involved with terrorism when the actual albeit false charges pertained to money laundering.

Meanwhile, many supportive community members, media journalists, and cartoonists actively demonstrated their belief in Aref’s innocence. These American patriots bridged the gap between immigrant Muslims and the local community in order to preserve the freedom of an innocent man and to save what is left of America’s political integrity.

This book is an extremely painful and frustrating journey through the perversion of US law enforcement, which smears innocent people as terrorists in order for the government to save face for its failure to catch any real terrorists in the post-9/11 era.

It is too bad that every falsely accused person doesn’t have a friend like Dr. Ahmad to tell his story step by step, point by point. It is my hope that the evidence presented in this book will help win Aref’s freedom in his ongoing legal battle.

Those interested in learning more about the life and travails of Yassin Aref may wish to also read his book “Son of Mountains,” available at http://www.yassinaref.com/.

12-14

The Road to Armageddon

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Craig Roberts

Armageddon The Washington Times is a newspaper that looks with favor upon the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neocon wars of aggression in the Middle East and favors making terrorists pay for 9/11. Therefore, I was surprised to learn on February 24 that the most popular story on the paper’s website for the past three days was the “Inside the Beltway” report, “Explosive News,” about the 31 press conferences in cities in the US and abroad on February 19 held by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, an organization of professionals which now has 1,000 members.

I was even more surprised that the news report treated the press conference seriously. How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust? How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires? “A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7,” reports the Washington Times.

The paper reports that the architects and engineers have concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided “insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers’ destruction” and are “calling for a grand jury investigation of NIST officials.”

The newspaper reports that Richard Gage, the spokesperson for the architects and engineers said: “Government officials will be notified that “Misprision of Treason,’ U.S. Code 18 (Sec. 2382) is a serious federal offense, which requires those with evidence of treason to act. The implications are enormous and may have profound impact on the forthcoming Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial.”

There is now an organization, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth. At the main press conference in San Francisco, Eric Lawyer,the head of that organization, announced the firefighters’ support for the architects and engineers’ demands. He reported that no forensic investigation was made of the fires that are alleged to have destroyed the three buildings and that this failure constitutes a crime.

Mandated procedures were not followed, and instead of being preserved and investigated, the crime scene was destroyed. He also reported that there are more than one hundred first responders who heard and experienced explosions and that there is radio, audio and video evidence of explosions.

Also at the press conference, physicist Steven Jones presented the evidence of nano-thermite in the residue of the WTC buildings found by an international panel of scientists led by University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Professor Niels Harrit. Nano-thermite is a high-tech explosive/pyrotechnic capable of instantly melting steel girders.

Before we yell “conspiracy theory,” we should be aware that the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists offer no theory. They provide evidence that challenges the official theory. This evidence is not going to go away.

If expressing doubts or reservations about the official story in the 9/11 Commission Report makes a person a conspiracy theory kook, then we have to include both co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and the Commission’s legal counsel, all of whom have written books in which they clearly state that they were lied to by government officials when they conducted their investigation, or, rather, when they presided over the investigation conducted by executive director Philip Zelikow, a member of President George W. Bush’s transition team and Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a co-author of Bush Secretary of State Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice.

There will always be Americans who will believe whatever the government tells them no matter how many times they know the government has lied to them. Despite expensive wars that threaten Social Security and Medicare, wars based on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, non-existent Saddam Hussein connections to al Qaida, non-existent Afghan participation in the 9/11 attacks, and the non-existent Iranian nukes that are being hyped as the reason for the next American war of aggression in the Middle East, more than half of the U.S. population still believes the fantastic story that the government has told them about 9/11, a Muslim conspiracy that outwitted the entire Western world.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter to these Americans how often the government changes its story. For example, Americans first heard of Osama bin Laden because the Bush regime pinned the 9/11 attacks on him. Over the years video after video was served up to the gullible American public of bin Laden’s pronouncements. Experts dismissed the videos as fakes, but Americans remained their gullible selves. Then suddenly last year a new 9/11 “mastermind” emerged to take bin Laden’s place, the captive Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the detainee waterboarded 183 times until he confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attack.

In the Middle Ages confessions extracted by torture constituted evidence, but self-incrimination has been a no-no in the U.S. legal system since our founding. But with the Bush regime and the Republican federal judges, whom we were assured would defend the U.S. Constitution, the self-incrimination of Sheik Mohammed stands today as the only evidence the U.S. government has that Muslim terrorists pulled off 9/11.

If a person considers the feats attributed to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, they are simply unbelievable. Sheik Mohammed is a more brilliant, capable superhero than V in the fantasy movie, “V for Vendetta.” Sheik Mohammed outwitted all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies along with those of all U.S. allies or puppets, including Israel’s Mossad. No intelligence service on earth, or all of them combined, was a match for Sheik Mohammed.

Sheik Mohammed outwitted the U.S. National Security Council, Dick Cheney, the Pentagon, the State Department, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and Air Traffic Control. He caused Airport Security to fail four times in one morning. He caused the state-of-the-art air defenses of the Pentagon to fail, allowing a hijacked airliner, which was off course all morning while the U.S. Air Force, for the first time in history, was unable to get aloft intercepter aircraft, to crash into the Pentagon.

Sheik Mohammed was able to perform these feats with unqualified pilots.

Sheik Mohammed, even as a waterboarded detainee, has managed to prevent the FBI from releasing the many confiscated videos that would show, according to the official story, the hijacked airliner hitting the Penagon.

How naive do you have to be to believe that any human, or for that matter Hollywood fantasy character, is this powerful and capable?

If Sheik Mohammed has these superhuman capabilities, how did the incompetent Americans catch him? This guy is a patsy tortured into confession in order to keep the American naifs believing the government’s conspiracy theory.

What is going on here is that the U.S. government has to bring the 9/11 mystery to an end. The government must put on trial and convict a culprit so that it can close the case before it explodes. Anyone waterboarded 183 times would confess to anything.

The U.S. government has responded to the evidence being arrayed against its outlandish 9/11 conspiracy theory by redefining the war on terror from external to internal enemies. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on February 21 that American extremists are now as big a concern as international terrorists. Extremists, of course, are people who get in the way of the government’s agenda, such as the 1,000 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. The group used to be 100, now it is 1,000. What if it becomes 10,000?

Cass Sunstein, an Obama regime official, has a solution for the 9/11 skeptics: Infiltrate them and provoke them into statements and actions that can be used to discredit or to arrest them. But get rid of them at all cost.

Why employ such extreme measures against alleged kooks if they only provide entertainment and laughs? Is the government worried that they are on to something?

Instead, why doesn’t the U.S. government simply confront the evidence that is presented and answer it?

If the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists are merely kooks, it would be a simple matter to acknowledge their evidence and refute it. Why is it necessary to infiltrate them with police agents and to set them up?

Many Americans would reply that “their” government would never even dream of killing Americans by hijacking airliners and destroying buildings in order to advance a government agenda. But on February 3, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the U.S. government can assassinate its own citizens when they are overseas. No arrest, trial, or conviction of a capital crime is necessary. Just straight out murder.

Obviously, if the U.S. government can murder its citizens abroad it can murder them at home, and has done so. For example, 100 Branch Davidians were murdered in Waco, Texas, by the Clinton administration for no legitimate reason. The government just decided to use its power knowing that it could get away with it, which it did.

Americans who think “their” government is some kind of morally pure operation would do well to familiarize themselves with Operation Northwoods. Operation Northwoods was a plot drawn up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism in American cities and fabricate evidence blaming Castro so that the U.S. could gain domestic and international support for regime change in Cuba. The secret plan was nixed by President John F. Kennedy and was declassified by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. It is available online in the National Security Archive. There are numerous online accounts available, including Wikipedia. James Bamford’s book, Body of Secrets, also summarizes the plot:

“Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman [Gen. Lemnitzer] and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.”

Prior to 9/11 the American neoconservatives were explicit that the wars of aggression that they intended to launch in the Middle East required “a new Pearl Harbor.”

For their own good and that of the wider world, Americans need to pay attention to the growing body of experts who are telling them that the government’s account of 9/11 fails their investigation. 9/11 launched the neoconservative plan for U.S. world hegemony.

As I write, the U.S. government is purchasing the agreement of foreign governments that border Russia to accept U.S. missile interceptor bases. The U.S. intends to ring Russia with U.S. missile bases from Poland through central Europe and Kosovo to Georgia, Azerbaijan and central Asia. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke declared on February 20 that al Qaida is moving into former central Asian constituent parts of the Soviet Union, such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Holbrooke is soliciting U.S. bases in these former Soviet republics under the guise of the ever-expanding “war on terror.”

The U.S. has already encircled Iran with military bases. The U.S. government intends to neutralize China by seizing control over the Middle East and cutting China off from oil.

This plan assumes that Russia and China, nuclear armed states, will be intimidated by U.S. anti-missile defenses and acquiesce to U.S. hegemony and that China will lack oil for its industries and military.

The U.S. government is delusional. Russian military and political leaders have responded to the obvious threat by declaring NATO a direct threat to the security of Russia and by announcing a change in Russian war doctrine to the pre-emptive launch of nuclear weapons. The Chinese are too confident to be bullied by a washed-up American “superpower.”

The morons in Washington are pushing the envelope of nuclear war. The insane drive for American hegemony threatens life on earth. The American people, by accepting the lies and deceptions of “their” government, are facilitating this outcome.

[Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House in March, 2008. His latest book, How The Economy Was Lost, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press.]

12-10

UFO’s (explained, for kids)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IBN TUFAIL

The secret wartime scientific accomplishments were the background for sightings of peculiar objects in the skies, beginning in June 1947, in the Southwestern desert area which had so many secret military installations. The objects could be some new super-secret aircraft developed by the U.S. military. Or could they have been developed by some other technologically advanced beings, perhaps from beyond the Earth or the solar system? After all, we now knew that the technology to permit space travel was possible. And these elusive objects traveled far faster and maneuvered far more adroitly than even a jet airplane.

There were many skeptics, however, who considered the objects pie in the sky–or more exactly “flying saucers” (1947), since excited observers had described the objects as saucer-shaped. The name flying saucers caught on, making serious research difficult. As a 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed complained, “ever since the cliché ‘flying saucer’ was coined, the greatest and most exciting mystery of our age has been automatically reduced to the level of a music hall joke.”

The believers preferred the solemn government designation unidentified flying object (UFO), first used in 1950. But that was a little weighty for everyday use, so in 1953 the acronym UFO was coined to replace it. It has dignified the pursuit of the elusive objects ever since. Those who study them have been known at least since 1959 as ufologists, and their field of study has been ufology.

Since 1947, the US government, private research institutions, and individual scientists have collected data about the phenomenon. Although UFOs are not a phenomenon unique to the US, American organizations and private individuals have taken the lead in collecting, analyzing, and publishing sighting reports.

The most publicized collection agency was the US Air Force through its Projects Sign (1948), Grudge (1948–1951), and Blue Book (1951–1969). The FBI, the CIA, and other US agencies also looked into it. Congressional hearings were held on the subject in 1966 and 1968. The goal of the US government was to determine whether the UFO phenomenon was a threat to national security. Unable to find the threat, the government stopped collecting reports from the public in 1969.

Nearly all research efforts have determined that a small but significant number of sightings remain “unidentified” after scientific investigation. This is especially true with reports made by the most articulate witnesses and containing the most data. Although the primary objective of private UFO researchers was to collect and analyze reports, they also sought to convince the public and the scientific community of the legitimacy of the subject. Their task was made all the more difficult by ridicule, caused in part by the perceived unlikelihood of the phenomenon’s extraterrestrial origin, and in part by publicity hungry charlatans and self-promoters (“contactees”) who, beginning in the 1950s, made fictitious claims about meeting “space brothers” and traveling to distant planets, or hinted darkly about secret government conspiracies with aliens.

In addition to the problem of ridicule, serious researchers found it difficult, although not impossible, to gather “hard” evidence of the unconventional nature of the phenomenon. They amassed photos, films, videotapes, radar tracings, and great numbers of multiple witness reports of objects on or near the ground. They reported studies of UFO effects on electrical and mechanical devices, animals, and humans. They studied soil samples purportedly altered by landed UFOs. In spite of all this, they were unable to present artifacts of a UFO—the hard evidence that most scientists demanded.

Since the late 1940s, the UFO phenomenon has entered U.S. popular culture, and it has become a staple of motion pictures, television shows, advertising copy, and media images. As early as 1950 it proved to be one of the most recognized phenomena in Gallup Poll history, and it has continued to play an important role in popular culture.

In the early 1960s, people began to claim that they were abducted into UFOs. Although UFO researchers at first considered these reports to be an “exotic”—and probably psychological—sidelight of the main sighting phenomenon, abduction accounts grew steadily in number. Evidence for abductions was mainly derived from human memory, usually retrieved through hypnosis. But the people who reported being abducted were not “contactees” or self-promoters and appeared to be genuinely concerned about what had happened to them. In the 1980s, the numbers of people who came forward with abduction accounts had begun to rise dramatically, and a 1998 Roper Poll of 5,995 adults suggested that as many as a million Americans believed they had been abducted. By the end of the twentieth century, the abduction phenomenon had come to dominate UFO research.

In spite of extensive efforts in the second half of the twentieth century, attitudes toward the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon and the research into it changed little. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, researchers had failed to convince the scientific community of the phenomenon’s legitimacy, they had not developed a standardized methodology to retrieve alleged abduction accounts, and no UFO organization had gained the academic backing to professionalize both UFO and abduction research. Yet after half a century of study, UFO proponents had advanced knowledge of the subject greatly, and some even claimed that a solution to the mystery of UFO origins and motivations seemed possible.

In the twenty-first century, the UFO phenomenon persisted, apparently unaffected by societal events. It continued to maintain a ubiquitous presence in popular culture, researchers continued to study it, and, although scientists and academics still scorned it, ordinary people continued to report both sightings and abduction accounts.

11-39

Lockerbie: Megrahi ‘a Convenient Scapegoat?’

August 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By BBC News

2009-08-22T113659Z_01_SIN805_RTRMDNP_3_LOCKERBIE

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (L) talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli in this August 21, 2009 video grab from Libya TV. Gaddafi hugged the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised more cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, while London and Washington condemned his "hero’s welcome" home. Meeting Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for "encouraging" Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, Libyan news agency JANA reported.

REUTERS/Libya TV

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has left Scotland to return to Libya.

With his departure, a lengthy chapter in Scots legal history has closed.

But many questions remain – and they will not disappear along with the flight to Tripoli.

BBC Scotland’s Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson has been looking at the mystery which still surrounds the 1988 bombing.

The collection of evidence from Britain’s worst act of terrorism began immediately – and within a week detectives announced it had been caused by a bomb in a radio cassette player.

Throughout the subsequent weeks whole sections of the jumbo jet were recovered to help investigators literally piece together the cause.

Although they knew it was a bomb they needed to find out who had placed it, why they had done so, and how?

Early suspicion fell on Ahmed Jibril, leader of Palestinian terror group the PFLP-GC, who intelligence sources suggested may have been working for Iran.

West German police mounted Operation Autumn Leaves, raiding flats near Frankfurt where the group was preparing bombs in radio cassette players.

They were similar to that used to blow up Pan Am flight 103.

But Dick Marquise, chief of the FBI “Scotbom Task Force” from 1988-1992, said investigators could find nothing later to link this plot with Lockerbie.

“We never found any evidence,” he told the BBC. “There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of intelligence that people have said there were meetings, there were discussions.

“But not one shred of evidence that a prosecutor could take into court to convict either an official in Iran or Ahmed Jibril for blowing up Pan Am flight 103.”

There were also suggestions that Jibril’s group put the bomb onto a Pan Am feeder flight from Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow, switching the suitcase for one containing drugs being run by another Palestinian group.

But another airport has also come under suspicion – Heathrow in London, from where the doomed jumbo jet took off.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the victims of the atrocity, said a break-in the night before near the Pan Am secure baggage area was not fully investigated by police, who he claims concealed the evidence.

“I wrote recently to the Crown Office (which handles Scottish prosecutions) asking why that had been concealed for 12 years, and if they knew about it all along,” he said.

He said they would not answer his question, which he said meant there must now be a thorough inquiry into the incident.

During Megrahi’s first appeal, held at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands, his counsel raised the matter, saying it cast doubt on claims that the fatal bomb must have been loaded in Malta.

But the five appeal judges rejected the suggestion.

Malta had become crucial once police found a fragment of the bomb timer wrapped in a piece of clothing in a Dumfriesshire forest.

The clothes had Maltese labels – but question marks remain about how this discovery was made several months after the disaster, and also over how the material was handled.

The original trial heard labels on police evidence bags containing the fragment had been changed: the evidence of the officer who had done this was heavily criticised by the trial judges.

Worldwide terrorism

There were question marks too over Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who was the only man to identify Megrahi.

His evidence was that the Libyan, who he picked out at an identity parade, had bought the clothes at his shop.

But his police statements are inconsistent, and prosecutors failed to tell the defence that shortly before he attended an identity parade, Mr Gauci had seen a magazine article showing a picture of Megrahi, and speculating he might have been involved.

Mr Gauci now lives in Australia, and according to defence claims is believed to have been paid several million dollars by the Americans for his evidence.

It may be that we will never know exactly what happened in December 1988.

Secret documents before the Appeal Court – which even the defence has not seen – might have provided new information.

They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security.

Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.

Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.

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Examples of Advanced Ancient Technology

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Harun Yahya

Excerpted from the book A Historical Lie: the Stone Age

The Nimrud Lens

A discovery made by the archaeologist Sir John Layard in 1850 raised the question of who actually used the first lens? During a series of excavations in what is now Iraq, Layard discovered a piece of a lens dating back 3,000 years. Currently on display in the British Museum, this fragment shows that the first known lens was used in the days of the Assyrians. Professor Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome believes that this rock-crystal lens—which, according to him, is a major discovery shedding considerable light on the history of science—could also explain why the ancient Assyrians knew so much about astronomy, having discovered the planet Saturn and the rings around it.

To what use was this lens put? That answer may be debatable, but it’s still obvious that not all bygone societies lived simple lives, as evolutionist scientists maintain. Past societies made use of science and technology, built deeply-rooted civilizations and enjoyed advanced life styles. Only limited information regarding their daily lives has come down to us today, but practically all we know shows that none of these societies ever underwent evolution.

The Baghdad Battery

In 1938, the German archaeologist Wilhelm König discovered a vase-like object now known as the “Baghdad Battery.” But how was it concluded that this object, some 2,000 years old, was used as a battery? If it actually was used as a battery—which the research carried out certainly indicates—then all theories to the effect that civilization always progresses and that societies in the past lived under primitive conditions, will be totally demolished. This earthenware pot, sealed with asphalt or bitumen, contains a cylinder of copper. The bottom of this cylinder is covered with a copper disk. The asphalt stopper holds in place an iron rod, suspended down into the cylinder, without making any contact with it.

If the pot is filled with an electrolyte, a current-producing battery is the result. This phenomenon is known as an electrochemical reaction, and is not far different from the way that present-day batteries work. During experiments, between 1.5 and 2 volts of electricity was generated by some reconstructions based on the Baghdad Battery.

This raises a very important question: What was a battery used for 2,000 years ago? Since such a battery existed, obviously there must have been tools and devices that it powered. This once again shows that people living 2,000 years ago possessed far more advanced technology—and by extension, living standards—than was previously thought.

The Mayans: Another Civilization That Refutes the Idea of the Evolution of History

Almost all evolutionist publications have one thing in common: All of them devote considerable space to imaginary scenarios regarding why some biological structure or characteristic of a living thing might have evolved. The striking factor is that all the stories evolutionists dream up are depicted as scientific fact. The fact is, however, that these accounts are nothing more than Darwinist fairy tales. Evolutionists seek to present the scenarios they come up with as scientific evidence. Yet these accounts are all entirely misleading, of no scientific worth, and can never constitute evidence for evolutionist claims.

One tale so frequently encountered in the evolutionist literature is that of allegedly ape-like creatures turning into human beings, and of primitive man gradually becoming a social entity. Despite there being no scientific evidence to support them, reconstructions of these supposed primitive human beings—in which they are depicted as walking only semi-upright, grunting, walking together with their “cave-families” or hunting with crude stone tools—are the best known parts of this scenario.

These reconstructions amount to an invitation to imagine and believe. With them, evolutionists seek to convince people not on the basis of concrete facts, but of fantastic speculation, because these are based on their authors’ prejudices and preconceptions, rather than on scientific facts.

Evolutionists have no qualms about keeping these stories in the professional literature, nor about presenting them as if they were scientific truth, even though they are well aware of the erroneous nature of their accounts. However, these scenarios so frequently voiced by evolutionists constitute conjectures, not scientific evidence, for the theory of evolution, because there is no evidence that Man is descended from an ape-like ancestor. In the same way, no archaeological or historical evidence suggests that societies evolve from the primitive to the more advanced. Man has been Man ever since he first came into existence, and has created different civilizations and cultures in all periods of history. One of these civilizations is the Mayan, whose remains still inspire amazement today.

Historical sources refer to a tall figure in white robes who came to the communities living in this region. According to the information contained on monuments, the belief in a single God spread for a short time, while advances were made in science and art.

The Mayans: Expert Mathematicians

The Mayans lived in Central America around 1,000 BCE, at a considerable distance from other advanced civilizations like those in Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia. The most important features of the Mayans are the scientific advances they made in the fields of astronomy and mathematics, and their complex written language.

The Mayans’ knowledge of time, astronomy and mathematics was a thousand years ahead of that of the Western world at the time. For example, their calculation of the Earth’s annual cycle was a great deal more accurate than any other such calculations before the invention of the computer. The Mayans used the mathematical concept of zero a thousand years before its discovery by Western mathematicians, and used far more advanced figures and signs than their contemporaries.

The Mayan Calendar

The Haab, the civil calendar used by the Mayans, consisting of 365 days, is one of the products of their advanced civilization. Actually, they were aware that a year is slightly longer than 365 days; their estimate was 365.242036 days. In the Gregorian calendar in use today, a year consists of 365.2425 days. 67 As you can see, there’s only a very small difference between the two figures—further evidence of the Mayans’ expertise in the fields of mathematics and astronomy.

The Mayans’ Knowledge of Astronomy

Three books which have come down to us from the Mayans, known as the Maya Codices, contain important information concerning their lives and astronomical knowledge. Of the three—the Madrid Codex, the Paris Codex and the Dresden Codex—the latter is the most important in terms of showing the depth of the Mayan knowledge of astronomy. They possessed a very complex system of writing, of which only less than 30% has been deciphered. Yet even this is enough to show the advanced level of science they attained.

For example, page 11 of the Dresden Codex contains information about the planet Venus. The Mayans had calculated that the Venusian year lasted 583.92 days, and rounded it up to 584 days. In addition, they produced drawings of the planet’s cycle for thousands of years. Two other pages in the codex contain information about Mars, four are about Jupiter and its satellites, and eight pages are devoted to the Moon, Mercury and Saturn, setting out such complicated calculations as the orbits of these planets around the Sun, their relationships with one another, and their relationships with the Earth.

So accurate was the Mayans’ knowledge of astronomy that they were able to determine that one day needed to be subtracted from the Venusian orbit every 6,000 years. How did they acquire such information? That is still a matter of debate for astronomers, astro-physicists and archaeologists. Today, such complex calculations are made with the help of computer technology. Scientists learn about outer space in observatories equipped with all kinds of technical and electrical apparatus. Yet the Mayans acquired their knowledge 2,000 years before the invention of present-day technology. This yet again invalidates the thesis that societies always progress from a primitive to a more advanced state. Many bygone societies had just as advanced a level of civilization as current ones, and sometimes even more so. Many communities today have not yet achieved the levels attained by societies in the past. In short, civilizations sometimes move forwards and at other times backwards, and both advanced and primitive civilizations sometimes exist at the very same time.

Network of Roads in the Ancient Mayan City of Tikal

Tikal, one of the oldest Mayan cities, was founded in the 8th century BCE. Archaeological excavations in the city, which stands in wild jungle, have unearthed houses, palaces, pyramids, temples and assembly areas. All these areas are connected to one another by roads. Radar images have shown that in addition to complete drainage system, the city also enjoyed a comprehensive irrigation system. Tikal stands neither by a river nor by a lake, and it was found that the city made use of some ten water reservoirs.

Five main roads lead from Tikal into the jungle. Archaeologists describe them as ceremonial roads. Aerial photographs show that Mayan cities were linked to one another by a large network of roads totaling some 300 kilometers (190 miles) in length and demonstrating detailed engineering. All the roads were made from broken rocks and were covered over with a light-color hard-wearing layer. These roads are perfectly straight, as if laid out with a ruler, and the important questions remain of how the Mayans were able to determine direction during the construction of these roads and what equipment and tools they used. The evolutionist mentality cannot provide rational and logical answers. Because we are dealing with a marvel of engineering, hundreds of kilometers long, it is crystal-clear that these roads are the product of detailed calculations and measurements and the use of the necessary materials and tools.

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India Tones Down Aggressive Stance on Mumbai

January 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-01-09T133757Z_01_ISL08_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-INDIA

NEW DELHI: Though India retains its stand on involvement of Pakistan-based elements in Mumbai-terror strikes, of late there has been slight change in the diplomatically aggressive stance adopted by it earlier against Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly criticized Pakistan while addressing a daylong conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security (January 6). During his inaugural address, Singh referred to Pakistan at least nine times. “A holistic approach to our security concerns is definitely called for,” Singh emphasized. “Our problems are compounded by the fact that we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighborhood,” he said. Referring to Mumbai terror case, he described Pakistan’s “responses” to “various demarches” from India as suggestive of it acting in an “irresponsible fashion.” Describing terrorism as the most “serious threat” faced by India, Singh divided it into three categories: “terrorism, left-wing terrorism and insurgency in the northeast.” “Left wing extremism is primarily indigenous and home-grown,” Singh said. He blamed neighboring countries, “mainly Pakistan” for terrorism and insurgency in northeast.

“The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Taiba” with “support of some official agencies in Pakistan,” Singh said. He also blamed Pakistan for “whipping up war hysteria.” Giving stress to implementing the policy of “Zero tolerance of terrorism with total commitment,” Singh said: “We must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics.”

India apparently was (and perhaps still is) counting on securing influence of United States and other friendly countries to pressurize Pakistan in taking action on the dossier of evidence Delhi has given to Islamabad regarding the Mumbai-case. Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon handed over evidence to Pakistani envoy Shahid Malik (January 5). The Indian envoy simultaneously handed over the evidence to Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad. “We have handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26th November, 2008,” India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. Describing the Mumbai-case as “an unpardonable crime,” Mukherjee stated that India is briefing all its “friendly countries” on it. “I have written to my counterparts around the world giving them details of the events in Mumbai and describing in some detail the progress that we have made in our investigations and the evidence that we have collected,” he stated.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was subsequently scheduled to leave for US in a few days time to convince Washington about Pakistan’s role in Mumbai-strikes. The change in India’s approach in building up pressure against Pakistan at the diplomatic level is suggested by postponement of Chidambaram’s visit. “Balancing everything, it was decided three days ago that I stay back,” Chidambaram said (January 9). The decision to cancel Chidambaram may have been partly shaped by India facing internal problem over strike in petroleum sector, by the truckers and also the Satyam-fraud case. Besides, with the White House heading for a major change, criticism was voiced in various circles on what did Chidambaram expect to gain from his Washington-trip.

The decision on Chidambaram not heading for US over Mumbai case cannot be de-linked from the subtle but definite shift in aggressive posture adopted earlier by the government. India has come out more assertively than before (since the Mumbai case) in ruling out any military strike against Pakistan over Mumbai case. Rejecting option of India taking any “Israel-type” action against Pakistan over Mumbai terror strikes, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “I do not agree to that. Because this is totally wrong. The situation is not at all comparable.” “I have not gone and occupied any (of) Pakistan’s land which Israel has done (in Palestine). So, how can the situation be comparable,” he said during a television interview (January 10).

Suggesting that India is keen on exercising its diplomatic options rather than reach the war-stage, Mukherjee said: “We have not reached the end of the road.” “When I say all options are open, all options are open. There is no need of picking up option a, option b, option c, option d. No need of that. I am not responding to that. What I am responding to is options are open.” The options being considered by India at present are a response from Pakistan on “evidence” given by India regarding Mumbai-case. “We have given them (Pakistan). We expect them to act on it. If they do not act on it, then what follow up steps we will take and in what space of time it will take place, future course will decide,” Mukherjee said.

Amid the backdrop of criticism voiced against too many verbal missiles being fired in the subcontinent over the Mumbai-issue, the change in Indian government’s approach isn’t surprising. The government has no option but to tone down its aggressive posture. Besides, United States seems to believe that New Delhi should give some time to Islamabad to act on the evidence given to it. This is suggested by comments made by US envoy to India David C. Mulford over the past week. Regarding Pakistan’s approach towards “evidence” presented by India, he said: “You have, after all, a situation where there is a civilian government, a very strong military, a very strong intelligence agency and a media and other players. And I think you have to take a view that it is going to take little time to percolate to see what really is the outcome.” On how long should India should wait for Pakistan to respond, he replied: “It is not a question of time, although time is important, because to get into a situation where so much time passes, it makes them look uncooperative.” Describing it as a difficult task for Pakistan, he said: “So, frankly I think it is going to take time, it is not going to be easy, and it is not only going to take time and patience but some considerable restraint on the one hand and a continuing willingness to try to cooperate on the other.”

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