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Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations
Friday 04 December 2009
Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t
The head of Blackwater revealed the details of his collaboration with the CIA to locate and assassinate top al Qaeda operatives as part of a covert antiterror operation Tuesday, and blamed Democrats for the leak that ended the program.
In an article published in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into "denied areas" to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.
Prince was one of a secret network of American citizens with special skills or access chosen to help the CIA access targets of interest. The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed to lawmakers in a closed session with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. During this meeting, CIA director Leon E. Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players.
Prince blames Congressional Democrats for the leak. "[W]hen it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus," he said. "The left complained about how [CIA operative] Valerie Plame's identity was compromised for political reasons. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it."
According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al Qaeda leaders.
Under an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the CIA was barred from carrying out assassinations. But President George W. Bush took the position shortly after 9/11 that killing al Qaeda members was comparable to killing enemy soldiers in battle, and therefore assassinations were permissible. Prince was hired in 2004.
A former Navy Seal, Prince said, "I've been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services." In his role as a contractor for the covert CIA program, according to The New York Times, Prince's Blackwater employees assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto remotely piloted aircraft work previously performed by authorized and trained CIA employees.
Prince says he and a team of foreign nationals located a target for assassination in October 2008, but did not complete the job. He alleges two of these trips brought him and his team into Germany and Dubai - without the knowledge of their governments.
He further said that Blackwater resources were never used, but that he used his personal finances and was later reimbursed by the government. Prince has personally spent $45 million to finance a fleet of armored personnel carriers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater itself had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.
Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services for Xenon, the noncombustible gas, was founded in 1997 and has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. In 2004, coalition forces in Baghdad declared private contractors, which included Blackwater employees, immune from Iraqi law.
Largely assigned to act as bodyguards for American diplomats and provide security for military and intelligence stations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Prince's employees have on more than one occasion been accused of wanton force, which has resulted in civilian deaths.
A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.
A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside, who later turned out to be a father of six, and a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq's vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.
Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.
"We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the US government," says Prince. "Now we pay lawyers."
The company is also facing a grand jury investigation and bribery accusations along with the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007.
American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations , but many worry that the contracting out of the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. "It is too easy to contract out work that you don't want to accept responsibility for."
Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.
Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, said that drone attacks also operate in "an accountability void."
Prince said that until two months ago, he was still working on intelligence-gathering operations from an undisclosed location in America and coordinating the movements of spies who were working undercover in the Axis of Evil countries. However, Prince, who was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a position, now plans to curtail his work with Blackwater and teach economics and history in high school.
Will the Last "Progressive for Obama" Please Turn Out the Lights?
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Black Agenda Report heartily endorses this Saturday's Emergency Anti-Escalation Rally in front of the White House. Having said that, we turn to the subject of the legions of Obama-smitten activists that abandoned confrontation with Power for the past several years, for fear of harming their hero's presidential prospects. How wrong they were, as subsequent events have shown.
"It should now be clear to even the most dense among self-styled `progressives' that Obama was never worth a damn."
The U.S. peace "movement," much of which "comes and goes" as often as Boy George's "Karma Chameleon," has finally discovered that its presumed perch in Barack Obama's tree was untenable, if not wholly imaginary. To be sure, "Progressives for Obama" and other assorted delusional groupings were always squatters in the Obama camp but they were the only ones who didn't know it. How embarrassing it would have been, back during the campaign, had the lost little lefties realized that Obama's imperial soul mates were laughing at them from a disdainful distance, knowing full well the path their bought-and-paid-for president would soon be traveling. How would the Obama peacenik groupies have preserved their sense of self-worth much less their arrogant smugness had they realized the absolute contempt in which they were held by their hero's funders and packagers and no doubt by the Object of Adulation, himself?
With the president's hearty embrace on December 1 of not only current U.S. aggressions in South Asia but the entirety of the glorious rise of U.S. global hegemony since the end of World War Two, it should now be clear to even the most dense among self-styled "progressives" that Obama was never worth a damn. To Obama, the world-terrorizing nuclear arms race against the Soviets, the savage assaults on countries emerging from colonialism, the death of millions in the quest to make the world safe for corporations, the spread of the global drug trade under management of U.S. intelligence services all this can be summed up as: "The United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades, a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty."
"'Progressives for Obama' and other assorted delusional groupings were always squatters in the Obama camp."
Obama lives and breathes American Manifest Destiny which means, as a non-white person, he is profoundly mentally unbalanced. But any lefty worth her/his salt should have known that. Obama's yearly talks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the regional equivalent of the Council on Foreign Affairs, were models of imperial-speak, totally consistent with his West Point performance. Beginning years ago, he repeatedly declared that, as president, he would draw a line in the sands (or mountains) of Afghanistan which is something only militarist, imperialist pigs draw in other people's countries. He warned everyone that, under the Bin-Ladin-Might-Be-There Doctrine, he would refuse to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. And he has ceaselessly lied about his actions and intentions in Iraq a key qualification for the job of imperial U.S. president.
Still, there seems to be a soggy cloud hanging over some self-styled anti-war circles, as if Obama's most recent display of rabid war mongering, American Manifest Destiny-ism was a tragedy for and betrayal of the "movement." And I suppose that those confused souls who believed that they were doing "movement" work while engaged in Obama groupy-ism for the last several years, might feel that some kind of tragedy had occurred. And they might be right, in that the absence of an anti-war movement during the campaign years undoubtedly encouraged Obama in his warlike proclivities. As a result, hundreds of thousands will undoubtedly die, because American "progressives" forsook their duty to humanity for reasons no more defensible than those a teenage girl would give for following a shallow but "hot" celebrity around from city to city.
Let's make it plain: Obama didn't do anything to the "movement." Most especially, he did not fool anyone in the "movement." Rather, people who claimed to be in the "movement" fooled themselves and then proceeded to fool lots of other people into thinking that Obama-work was "movement"-work when events have shown it was the opposite.
"The absence of an anti-war movement during the campaign years undoubtedly encouraged Obama in his warlike proclivities."
A huge number of "movement" notables should be deeply humbled and, to varying degrees, ashamed at their lemming-like susceptibility to Obama's what? The two-year near-silence in the anti-war "movement" is proof, not of Obama's Svengali-like powers (his imperialism is actually quite transparent), but of profound weaknesses in the "movement," itself (which is why I've been putting the term in quotes).
I have a hunch that the worst of the paralyzing Obama-effect on "movement" politics is finally over due mainly to Obama's insistence on remaining true to the logic of imperialism and refusal to toss his groupies on the Left a straw to cling to, any further.
There is no need to name-the-names of the politically prodigal ones, many of whom are returning to some kind of oppositional activism now that their erstwhile idol is in full-spectrum war mode. Far better to quote Cynthia McKinney, the former Georgia congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, whose engagement with struggle is a constant:
"We have now reached the point where those who make and interpret current events think they can make us believe that war is for peace, ignorance is strength, slavery is freedom, and lies are the truth. Well, we know the truth, and we will not rest until every drone is stopped and no more bombs are dropped. We will not rest until peace is won. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said there comes a time when we do what we must because our ultimate measure is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy. At this time of challenge, we are clear: we will not give up and we will not stop."
There are many "movement" notables who, in fact, did try in the recent past to peddle a banker's best friend as a man of the people, a proponent of "race-neutrality" as an ally of oppressed minorities, and an imperial invader and occupier as something resembling a man of peace.
Hopefully, they will make up for past misconduct and bad judgment through prodigious feats of activist productivity, including plenty of shouting at the White House on Saturday.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@....
BREAKING POINT 2010
KINGSTON, NY, 8 December 2009 The first decade of the 21st century is going out the same way it came in with a bust and a bang.
The dot-com bubble burst in 2000, and the Bailout Bubble will bust in 2010.
9/11 terror ushered America into the decade, and terror will strike again before the decade ends.
The decade long wars waged by US and NAT0 against Afghanistan and Iraq are leading the world to the first Great War of the 21st Century.
The 20th century belonged to America, in 2010 Empire America will be breaking apart. The signs are there for all to see.
World leaders and most economists see a very different future unfolding. They insist the financial crisis is over and recovery is on the way.
On the military front, America's new Commander in Chief, Congress and the generals promised their war strategy will bring victory abroad and keep the homeland terror free.
Fed a steady diet of junk news du jour by the Cartoon News Networks, the general public remains largely oblivious or at best, grossly misinformed. As 2009 ends, the misadventures of Tiger Woods and the White House party crashers top the media menu.
Increased terror, escalating wars, economic calamity these are just a few of the 2010 Top Trends featured and analyzed at length in our Winter Trends Journal ® that you will receive by early January.
In the meantime, to keep you alert, focused, and above all, prepared, within two weeks we will send you an overview of our 2010 Trend forecasts. It is important to have plans and strategies in place for the holidays, a time when so many are caught up in the spirit and paying little attention to the headlines.
Our high alert is not alarmism. Last year, just two days after Christmas, with most people in a holiday state of mind, Israel launched a major war against the Palestinians. There were a number of factors that could have led either to an instant economic meltdown or an escalation of the war beyond the Palestinian borders. Click here.
The worst was averted. Had it happened, only those who'd taken proactive measures at the first signs of major hostilities would have gone through the crisis unscathed. The trend lesson? War, terror and calamity are not set to time clocks. Anything can happen, anywhere, at anytime. Prepare for the unexpected. It is the close-combat state of mind.
In addition to the ominous forecasts, we also foresee a variety of social, health, environmental, entertainment, cultural, business and consumer trends that will be both profitable and transformational.
Publisher's Note: If you have friends, family or acquaintances who still cling to "hope" and hope for "change", you may consider giving them a holiday gift of hard facts, penetrating analyses and prescient forecasts a subscription to the Trends Journal ®.
The Trends Research Institute | P.O. Box 3476 | Kingston, NY 12402
Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after 'Danish text' leak
Developing countries react furiously to leaked draft agreement that would hand more power to rich nations, sideline the UN's negotiating role and abandon the Kyoto protocol
John Vidal in Copenhagen guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 December 2009
The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations.
The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.
The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as "the circle of commitment" but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.
The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol's principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.
The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as "a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks".
A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the Guardian shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:
Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;
Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called "the most vulnerable";
Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance;
Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.
Developing countries that have seen the text are understood to be furious that it is being promoted by rich countries without their knowledge and without discussion in the negotiations.
"It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process," said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless.
Antonio Hill, climate policy adviser for Oxfam International, said: "This is only a draft but it highlights the risk that when the big countries come together, the small ones get hurting. On every count the emission cuts need to be scaled up. It allows too many loopholes and does not suggest anything like the 40% cuts that science is saying is needed."
Hill continued: "It proposes a green fund to be run by a board but the big risk is that it will run by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility [a partnership of 10 agencies including the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme] and not the UN. That would be a step backwards, and it tries to put constraints on developing countries when none were negotiated in earlier UN climate talks."
The text was intended by Denmark and rich countries to be a working framework, which would be adapted by countries over the next week. It is particularly inflammatory because it sidelines the UN negotiating process and suggests that rich countries are desperate for world leaders to have a text to work from when they arrive next week.
Few numbers or figures are included in the text because these would be filled in later by world leaders. However, it seeks to hold temperature rises to 2C and mentions the sum of $10bn a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change from 2012-15.
Mind-Machine Breakthrough: People Type With Just Thoughts
Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience
06 December 2009
By focusing on images of letters, people with electrodes in their brains can type with just their minds, scientists now reveal.
These findings make up one more step on the road to mind-machine interfaces that may one day help people communicate with just their thoughts. Researchers have recently employed brain scans to see numbers and maybe even pull videos from inside people's heads.
The neuroscientists were monitoring two patients with epilepsy for seizure activity with electrodes placed directly on the surface of their brains to record electrical activity generated by the firing of nerve cells. This kind of procedure requires a craniotomy, a surgical incision into the skull.
How it works
Lead investigator Jerry Shih, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., wanted to test how well their fledgling mind-machine interface functioned in these patients. He reasoned it would perform better when electrodes were placed directly on the brain instead of when placed on the scalp, as is done with electroencephalography, or EEG.
Most studies of mind-machine interaction have employed EEG, Shih explained.
"The scalp and bony skull diffuses and distorts the signal, rather like how the Earth's atmosphere blurs the light from stars," Shih said. "That's why progress to date on developing these kind of mind interfaces has been slow."
The patients sat in front of a screen that displayed a 6-by-6 grid with a single letter inside each square. Every time a square with a certain letter flashed and the patient focused on it, the electrodes relayed the brain's response to a computer. The patients were then asked to focus on specific letters, and the computer recorded that data as well.
After the system was calibrated to each patient's specific brain waves, when the patient focused on a letter, the letter appeared on the screen.
"We were able to consistently predict the desired letters for our patients at or near 100 percent accuracy," Shih said. "While this is comparable to other researchers' results with EEGs, this approach is more localized and can potentially provide a faster communication rate. Our goal is to find a way to effectively and consistently use a patient's brain waves to perform certain tasks."
How to use it
Once the technique is perfected, its will require patients to have a craniotomy, although it remains uncertain how many electrodes would have to be implanted. The computers would also have to calibrate each person's brain waves to desired actions, such as movement of a prosthetic arm, Shih said.
"Over 2 million people in the United States may benefit from assistive devices controlled by a brain-computer interface," Shih said. "This study constitutes a baby step on the road toward that future, but it represents tangible progress in using brain waves to do certain tasks."
These patients would have to use a computer to interpret their brain waves, "but these devices are getting so small, there is a possibility that they could be implanted at some point," Shih said. "We find our progress so far to be very encouraging."
The scientists detailed their findings Sunday in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.