Brazil to spend $3.4 bn for amphibious armoured vehicles

Sao Paulo: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has authorised spending six billion reais ($3.43 billion) to finance construction of 2,285 amphibious armoured vehicles for the Brazilian army, officials said.
Defence Minister Nelson Jobim said the new vehicle, the Guarani, will be built by Brazil in partnership with Italy's Fiat-Iveco.

"It will replace the army's entire mobility system," he said in comments published by Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper Friday.

The army has until now relied on the Urutu and Cascavel, built by the now-defunct Engesa company and exported to a score of countries.

The prototype of the Guarani was presented at the Laad 2009 defence hardware trade fair in Rio de Janeiro with a cost per unit of $1.5 million.

Brazil recently signed deals with France for helicopters and submarines and is in the market for 26 fighter jets, while Brazilian officers travelled to Russia to discuss purchasing an air-defence system.
READ MORE - Brazil to spend $3.4 bn for amphibious armoured vehicles

Wikileaks Publishes Intercepted Government Pager Texts As They Were Sent


Government employees sent more than 500,000 text pager messages In the hours before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At 3 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, November 25, those intercepted messages will be published online at Wikileaks. The messages will be published at the same times that they were originally sent on 9/11.
Wikileaks, a journalistic endeavor that promotes better government through transparency , says that the messages were intercepted by a organization that has been archiving US telecommunications prior to 9/11. Wikileaks says that the sources of the messages range from Pentagon employees to messages sent by the NYPD, and even automated messages relayed by computers to their operators.
Below are examples of what Wikileaks will publish. Visit their site for more information.


8:36:03 AM
IRAQ SAYS IT SHOOTS DOWN U.S. RECONNAISSANCE PLANE
8:51:31 AM
Andrew.Terzakis@pentagon.af.mil|Please call Pentagon Weather|UNCLASSIFIED Please call Pentagon Weather.......reference 1030 Meeting.....703-695-0406 ANDREW J. TERZAKIS, Lt Col, USAF D
8:53:44 AM
"NYPD Ops Div" <|1 PCT WORLD TRADE CENTER|--- 1 PCT - WORLD TRADE CENTER - POSSIBLE EXPLOSION WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING. LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION TO CHURCH AND VESSY.
9:24:48 AM
DOLLAR TUMBLES VS EURO, YEN AFTER WTC EXPLOSION
9:24:59 AM
NYC WTC'S: WMS TKT 191100495. SWITCHES SEEM TO BE OKAY . OVERLOADS IN SM 9 OF SOUTH TOWER FROM HIGH
9:31:51 AM
N.Y.C. TKT#191100488 - WTC HAS BEEN HIT BY AN AIRPLANE AND A BOMB. CURRENTLY B6 IS BEING EVACUATED. NCC HAS RECEIVED MULTIPLE ALARMS OPTICAL / ENVIORNMENTAL. UPDATES WILL FOLLOW. RYAN P/L NCC 800-824-8049
9:32:52 AM
FANNIE MAE DELAYS BENCHMARK BILL,CALLABLE NOTE ANNOUNCEMENT DUE TO WTC BLASTS
9:50:03 AM
it's reported that a US military helicopter circled the building then crashed into or next to the Pentagon - it's not clear to whether it was the White House or the Pentagon - they are being evacuated
7:05:57 AM
Please don't leave the building. One of the towers just collapsed! PLease, please be careful. Repeat,
11:00:30 AM
BOMB SQUAD PLS REPORT TO EDIC..PER T913..OPS/JL
11:13:04 AM
Lines to Washington & Saudi are blocked or jammed. Couldn't get thru. Jim at the FBI had no info - he suggested we watch Fox or CNN. Chris.
11:20:52 AM
Eddie and Paul are okay. Paul is still trapped in his building which is next to the WTC.
11:29:13 AM
pewells|I'm OK. I saw the whole thing. Was on the roof looking at the first fire when I saw the second plane plow into the second tower. Unbelievable, literally...I was inside when they collapsed. Still in my apt, nowhere to go...This is the end of the world as we know it...
11:39:47 AM
jtamer|You are needed in the WAR room asap.
3:25:54 PM
im not dealing with this shit today....i will call johnston in early......ford shut down there plants and im not answering why we are still working....fuck this. FROM: RYDER LITTLEJOHN (x18914) (3
5:20:30 PM
Honey wanted to tell you how much i love you. I was alittle worried.I Don't want to lose you now that I got you back. You mean everything to me. You have my whole heart and life. Ilove you so much,
6:05:05 PM
We are bombing Afganistan. Pene
6:58:58 PM
1) my nephew's ok, 2) there's a dead body at the main gate, 3) US denies responsibility for bombing in Afghanistan. Over and out.
READ MORE - Wikileaks Publishes Intercepted Government Pager Texts As They Were Sent

Phil Carter Resigns: Key Pentagon Appointee Worked On Gitmo Detainee Issues


Phillip Carter, the top detainee affairs policy appointee at the Pentagon, has quit his post after just seven months on the job, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday. Carter told the Washington Post that he was leaving for "personal and family reasons."
Carter, an Army captain who served in Iraq, had been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's detention policy. He wrote extensively on national security and intelligence issues on his blog, IntelDump, before joining Barack Obama's presidential campaign last year to oversee outreach to veterans.
Carter's resignation appears to have caught the Department of Defense off guard, according to the Miami Herald:
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to say precisely when Carter submitted the resignation, or where he last traveled in a job that took him frequently to Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
"He has submitted his resignation,'' Whitman said, brushing aside a question of whether Carter was still reporting to work or had already spent his last day on the job. "A replacement has not yet been named." [...]
It was not known whether Carter's service in uniform as a civil affairs officer in Iraq helped him fit in to the Defense Department culture where pockets of senior leadership were holdovers from the Bush administration.
Carter's move comes days after President Obama acknowledged publicly for the first time that his administration would not meet its goal to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay by January 2010.
White House counsel Greg Craig, who played a major role in setting detainee policy for Obama, also announced his resignation this month.
READ MORE - Phil Carter Resigns: Key Pentagon Appointee Worked On Gitmo Detainee Issues

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence. The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services." The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country. Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."
A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.
His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."
"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."
The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi
The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It's very bare bones, and that's the point."
Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.
The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black" operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater, therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don't unless they ask."
According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."
The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."
In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"
Pakistan's Military Contracting Maze
Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. "The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets," he said. "It's not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people." Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls "Blackwater Vanilla," and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. "Good or bad, there's a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That's probably a good thing," said the source. "It's the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they're the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It's not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They're very good at what they do."
The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, "that's not entirely accurate." While he concurred with the military intelligence source's description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral's main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.
A spokesperson for the US State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. "We cannot help you," said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. "You'll have to contact the companies directly." Blackwater's Corallo said the company has "no operations of any kind" in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.
According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.
For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. "Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship," he said. "They've met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another." Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.
According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral's forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry's paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as "frontier scouts"). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater "is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral's folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they're having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they're executing the job," he said. "You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas." He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. "You've got BW guys that are assisting... and they're all going to want to go on the jobs--so they're going to go with them," he said. "So, the things that you're seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that--in some of those cases, you're going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house." Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, 'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work."
The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, "There's no real oversight. It's not really on people's radar screen."
In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by "a private American security contractor." The statement said, "Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments."
Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?
Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.
In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at "hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company's contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft." In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.
The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."
The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."
The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality." He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that. It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"
In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.
Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. "The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?" asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. "Let's forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren't about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory."
JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney's Extra Special Force
Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal's elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war--which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan--there is a concomitant rise in JSOC's power and influence within the military structure. "I don't see how you can escape that; it's just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it's inevitable, I think," Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, "I'm alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command," under which JSOC operates. "That's backward. But that's essentially what we have today."
From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater's 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators--which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater's alleged contracts with JSOC.
Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. "The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they've been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don't," said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. "They're known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they've got the experience. They're very valuable."
"They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia," said the military intelligence source. "They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they're talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It's a ridiculous revolving door."
While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. "What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing," said Colonel Wilkerson. "That's dangerous, that's very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don't tell the theater commander what you're doing."
Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. "I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good," says Wilkerson. "I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions." He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld "built up initially because Rumsfeld didn't get the responsiveness. He didn't get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse's mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch--read: Cheney and Rumsfeld--wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier."
Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. "When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn't tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, 'Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?' So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him--we rendered him home."
As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using "reprogrammed" funds "without explicit congressional authority or appropriation," according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA's authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end "near total dependence on CIA." Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations...before publication" of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.
The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the "darkest acts" in part to keep them concealed from Congress. "Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress," said the source. "They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: 'Preparing the Battlefield.'"
The significance of the flexibility of JSOC's operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA's is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress," she said. "If they are not, that is a violation of the law."
Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan
For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater's alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater's operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved--almost from the beginning of the "war on terror"--with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater's presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, "Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan." In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater's rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.
The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater "provides security for a US-backed aid project" in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. "We have no contracts in Pakistan," Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. "We've been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there."
Reports of Blackwater's alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. "The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar," he said. "That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities." Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are "wildly incorrect," saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has "found refuge from potential U.S. attacks" in Karachi "with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service."
In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan's intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi's Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, "The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in."
The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired "bungalows" in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large gated community established "for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan." Its motto is: "Home for Defenders." The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.
The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations." Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members of the International Criminal Court."
If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater's alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. "Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we're going to go as a nation that are dangerous," he said. "It's as simple as that."
READ MORE - Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan

Korean naval ships clash at sea

Korean border
A South Korean warship has exchanged fire with a North Korean naval vessel, reports from both countries say.
Officials in Seoul say the South Korean vessel opened fire when the Northern ship crossed a disputed sea border. The North Korean vessel then fired back.
North Korea insists its ship did not cross the border, and has demanded an apology, according to news agency KCNA.
The White House warned North Korea against any further action that could be seen as an "escalation".
The two navies have engaged in deadly exchanges twice along their western sea border in the past decade.
The incident comes days before US President Barack Obama visits Asia, with North Korea seeking direct talks on its nuclear programme.
Northern limit
In the North's version of events, a patrol boat was on a mission to confirm "an unidentified object" on the North's side of the border, and while it was sailing back, South Korean ships chased it and opened fire in a "grave armed provocation".
ANALYSIS
John Sudworth
John Sudworth, BBC News, Seoul
Any military clash between North and South Korea will be regarded by governments in this region as extremely serious.
There are however a number of precedents, exchanges of fire between the two navies that have led to casualties on both sides but no further military escalation.
The South, though, has accused the North of deliberately provoking these kinds of naval clashes to raise tension and increase its leverage in negotiations.
Multilateral disarmament talks have broken down, and the North is seeking bilateral talks with the United States, a forum analysts say it sees as more likely to win it the concessions it seeks.
The North Korean vessel "lost no time to deal a prompt retaliatory blow at the provokers", KCNA said.
"Much flurried by this, the group of warships of the South Korean forces hastily took to flight to the waters of their side."
Seoul's military has also demanded an apology for the incident.
South Korean officials said none of their troops had been hurt, while the North's boat had been set ablaze before it sailed away.
In October, North Korea's navy accused South Korea of sending warships across their maritime border to stir tensions, and warned that further incursions could spark retaliations.
The communist state's navy said that on one day alone, ships had crossed the boundary 10 times.
South Korea recognises the Northern Limit Line, drawn unilaterally by the US-led United Nations Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which has never been accepted by North Korea.
The last two major deadly clashes in the disputed waters took place in 1999 and 2002 during battles that lasted less than 30-minutes.
PREVIOUS CLASHES
1996: A North Korean submarine runs aground in South Korean waters
1998: South Korea captures a North Korean mini-submarine in its waters
1999: At least 17 North Korean sailors believed killed in naval fire fight
2002: Four South Korean sailors and an estimated 30 North Koreans killed in a naval battle
Both Koreas are part of the Six Party Talks process designed to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
Relations between the two thawed slightly in the 1970s, and then in 1991 after both signed a basic agreement with a goal of reunification.
In October 2007 the countries' leaders pledged to seek talks to formally end the Korean War, but this year the tension heightened again and the deal stalled.
North Korea has said South Korea's decision in May to join a US-led initiative to search ships for nuclear weapons caused it to abandon the 1953 truce that had ended the war.
READ MORE - Korean naval ships clash at sea

Asia bent on acquiring aircraft carriers

New Delhi, India — Recent years have seen a flurry of orders for aircraft carriers by Japan, India, Australia, South Korea, Russia and China. The sudden focus on air capability at sea represents a paradigm change in the thinking of these states, and both communist and democratic governments appear to be on the same wavelength. Is this a harbinger of a new cold war in Asia?
Unresolved territorial disputes in East Asia, especially related to maritime boundaries, have resulted in the naval build-up by countries in the region. The discovery of oil and gas deposits in deep-sea locations around islands in the region has strengthened the importance of ownership claims.
The pursuit of aircraft carriers is also being fanned by recession-hit European economies largely funded by liberal government bailouts. Their high-tech exports have limited markets, but the rising economies of East and Southeast Asia have become prime candidates for military sales.
As the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan, many think Asia could become the next flashpoint. Therefore Asian states are equipping their navies with the prime symbol of power – the aircraft carrier.
Equipping the Indian navy with aircraft carriers, as envisioned by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, has stood India in good stead. The country has been operating them for well over 40 years now, which has boosted its naval and air power both in times of war and peace.
For almost a decade India operated two aircraft carriers, since the commissioning of the INS Viraat in 1987, which enhanced its operational profile and service capabilities in the Indian Ocean. The INS Viraat has recently been refitted in India and should see active service till 2015, while the 45,000-ton INS Vikramaditya is being refitted in Severodvinsk, Russia and should commence trials in 2011.
The new Vikrant class aircraft carriers are the Indian Navy’s first to be fully designed and built in India by Cochin Shipyard. Work on the lead vessel commenced in 2008 and is scheduled for launch in 2010. All aircraft carriers are being fitted to support three types of aircraft: the Sea Harrier, MIG-29KUB, the naval version of the light combat aircraft LCA and the TEJAS twin-seater being manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics in Bangalore.
Some countries view the rise of the Indian Navy as inimical to their military power and business interests in Asia. Old thought processes die hard, and so a vigorous, proactive maritime diplomacy must be pursued by the Indian government.
China’s strategy to acquire aircraft carriers was enunciated by Admiral Liu Huaqing, who studied under Admiral S.G. Gorshkov at the Naval War College in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). As with the Kremlin, the Chinese admiral had an uphill task to change the land-focused thinking of the Chinese Politburo. However, China’s recent naval review is a clear example of its “sea denial” strategy.
China is also pursuing an aircraft carrier acquisition strategy. Photographs have been taken of the unfinished Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag, purchased by China in 1998 and repainted in the colors of the PLA Navy, in a dockyard in the northeast port city of Dalian.
The Chinese story was that the ship would be used for a casino in the enclave of Macau. A chance meeting with the Macau delegation by the author indicated that they were from the PLA Navy. When asked for an opinion on the warship, I told them it would be very difficult to bring it up to its former Kuznetsov-class standards, but not impossible if money was available. The smiles of the officers said it all – finance is not a limitation for China. This indicates the seriousness with which China is pursuing its dream of an aircraft carrier.
Attempting to start aircraft carrier operations with a 60,000-ton hull is a leap into the unknown. It requires not only the acquisition of a mother ship, aircraft and helicopters, but the ability of 2,500 men and machines to operate at sea with clockwork precision and zero error, every day and in all weather conditions.
To work up the ship from its present refit state to combat status will take a minimum of 10 years. The learning curve will be very slow, difficult and full of hurdles to make the man and machine interface work smoothly. Intelligence reports indicate that China also plans to construct two new aircraft carriers in a shipyard in Shanghai. Apparently the ships will be similar to the Varyag, with nuclear propulsion.
Japan is building Hyuga-class helicopter destroyers, which are essentially 18,000-ton amphibious warfare ships that carry only helicopters. Japanese shipyards are more than capable of achieving the task, given their capability of operating aircraft carriers in the past.
Japan’s new government has recently stated that it will reexamine its past agreements with the U.S. military. The Japanese navy will have to scramble for additional units if the new dispensation is a “go it alone” strategy and the government asks the U.S. Navy to withdraw from its base in Okinawa.
The Australian government has also taken the bold decision to reacquire aircraft carriers and has placed orders for two Canberra-class ships. If hostilities develop in the Strait of Malacca and ships are rerouted into waters near northern Australia, protecting Australian waters will be imperative. Australia will need air power more than 500 miles from its coastline, and shore-based aircraft could not handle the task.
The Canberra-class ships, which are similar to India’s INS Viraat, are expected to be in service from 2014. They will be capable of operating 18 MRH-90 helicopters during hostilities. The navy’s biggest problem will be its ability to retain trained manpower. There are also reports of navy discussions on making Christmas Island an unsinkable aircraft carrier.
In 2007 South Korea commissioned an 18,600-ton “air warfare destroyer” equipped with the AEGIS system imported from the United States. This has amphibious capability and presently operates only helicopters. The South Korean Navy will reportedly acquire four of these Dokdo-class ships in the near future, primarily aimed at the North Korean navy.
Recently, this “interim aircraft carrier” has evoked a fair amount of interest from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. South Korea has very competent shipyards, and it is possible that after gaining valuable operating experience at sea, a larger variant may emerge in the decade beyond 2020.
Russia is the latest entrant to the aircraft carrier acquisition program, amid stirrings of national pride and a desire to reacquire old capabilities. Russia is reportedly purchasing a Mistral-class amphibious ship from France. It has been operating the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov for many years, and has deployed the ship and its fighter wing of SU-33 aircraft in European waters and the Mediterranean Sea. It also successfully tested the naval variant of the supersonic MIG-29 KUB from the Kuznetsov in 2009.
Media reports in Russia indicate that six new aircraft carriers are being sanctioned for operations in the Atlantic and Pacific seas by 2025. Russia could rebuild its naval power faster than anyone else in the Asia Pacific region, as it has its own manufacturing facilities, technology input and research and development facilities.
Modern nuclear-powered SSN submarines are based in Vladivostok to work in tandem with the aircraft carrier groups. The need to protect the oil- and gas-rich Siberian peninsula weighs heavily on the Russian government, as exports from this region to China and Europe are the mainstay of its economy.
The Pacific rim, from Vladivostok in the north to Australia in the south and across the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal, is in the throes of economic rejuvenation. The two fastest growing economies, China and India, have generated massive commodity trade, virtually all seaborne. Maritime tourism is rising too, as large cruise liners from the West are porting in Singapore and Hong Kong, among other places.
Security issues are increasingly coming to the fore, as the forces of destabilization are also located in this region, unfortunately. Organic air power at sea, beyond littoral waters, can be effectively provided by aircraft carriers only. This requirement is a boon for the languishing shipyards of Europe, as Asia is presently bereft of crucial infrastructure and manufacturing skills.
The aircraft carrier programs of Asia Pacific countries will cost well over US$100 billion in this decade, while infrastructure to support the ships over the next 50 years will cost another US$100 billion. The acquisition of armaments, aircraft, helicopters and associated systems will cost more than US$100 billion in the next five decades.
Aircraft carriers for Asia are a perfect opportunity for the slumping economies of the West, as their military and industrial complexes are geared to supply them. This has made the industry in the West recession proof. Aircraft carriers seldom sail singly; the battle group in support costs a pretty sum too, as it consists of high-technology ships like cruisers, destroyers and frigates. These add-ons will transfer at least US$200 billion to Europe, Russia and the United States in the decade ahead.
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(Captain Devindra Sethi is an alumnus of India's National Defense Academy, the College of Defense Management, the College of Naval Warfare, and the War College in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is a successful entrepreneur in the maritime industry and fluent in English, Russian and Hindi. ©Copyright Devindra Sethi.)
READ MORE - Asia bent on acquiring aircraft carriers

Italy Convicts 23 Americans In CIA Terrorist Kidnapping Case


MILAN — An Italian judge found 23 Americans and two Italians guilty Wednesday in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect, delivering the first legal convictions anywhere in the world against people involved in the CIA's extraordinary renditions program.

Human rights groups hailed the decision and pressed President Barack Obama to repudiate the Bush administration's practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture was permitted. The American Civil Liberties Union said the verdicts were the first convictions stemming from the rendition program.

The Obama administration ended the CIA's interrogation program and shuttered its secret overseas jails in January but has opted to continue the practice of extraordinary renditions.

The Americans, who were tried in absentia, now cannot travel to Europe without risking arrest as long as the verdicts remains in place.

One of those convicted, former Milan consular official Sabrina De Sousa, accused Congress of turning a blind eye to the entire matter.

"No one has investigated the fact that the U.S. government allegedly conducted a rendition of an individual who now walks free and the operation of which was so bungled," she said, speaking through her lawyer Mark Zaid.

Despite the convictions capping the nearly three-year Italian trial, several Italian and American defendants – including the two alleged masterminds of the abduction – were acquitted due to either diplomatic immunity or because classified information was stricken by Italy's highest court.

The case has been politically charged from the beginning, with attempts to mislead investigators looking into the cleric's disappearance and derail the judicial proceedings once the trial was under way. But the Italian-American relationship, conditioned on such issues as participation in the Afghan campaign, is unlikely to be hurt by the convictions.

Three Americans were acquitted, including the then-Rome CIA station chief Jeffrey Castelli and two other diplomats formerly assigned to the Rome Embassy, as well as the former head of Italian military intelligence Nicolo Pollari and four other Italian secret service agents.

Only two Italians were in the courtroom to hear the verdict, including Marco Mancini, the former No. 2 at Italian military intelligence, who embraced his lawyer outside the courtroom after he was acquitted.

Former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady received the top sentence of eight years in prison. The other 22 convicted American defendants, including De Sousa and Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Romano, each received a five-year sentence. Two Italians got three years each as accessories.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the Obama administration was "disappointed about the verdicts."

The State Department is being sued by De Sousa, a former State Department employee who denies she was a CIA agent and who believes she should have been granted diplomatic immunity by U.S. officials. The judge's verdict, however, did not extend diplomatic immunity to consular officials charged.

Zaid, De Sousa's American lawyer, told The Associated Press in Washington: "The Italian conviction merely confirms the U.S. government's betrayal of our diplomatic and military representatives overseas."

Romano, who was one of only two Americans who received permission to hire his own lawyer, had tried to have the jurisdiction moved to a U.S. military court in the last weeks of the trial.

"We are clearly disappointed by the court's ruling," Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell told a Pentagon press conference Wednesday.

The Americans, all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents, were tried in absentia as subsequent Italian governments refused or ignored prosecutors' extradition request – a position that casts doubts on the Italian government's political will to enforce the sentences.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro said he was considering asking Rome to issue international arrest warrants for the fugitive Americans on the strength of the convictions. The government of Silvio Berlusconi, a close ally of President George W. Bush, has previously refused.

The Americans and Italian agents were accused of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003, in Milan, then transferring him to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany. He was then moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released, but has not been permitted to leave Egypt to attend the trial.

Spataro had sought stiffer sentences ranging from 10 to 13 years in jail, citing a conspiracy between U.S. and Italian secret services to abduct Nasr, who was under surveillance by Italian investigators building their own terror case against him. Nasr was suspected of organizing the movement of would-be suicide bombers to the Middle East, and Spataro noted in his closing arguments that the timing of his CIA-led abduction, as the United States was preparing to invade Iraq, indicated his potential importance.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said at his confirmation hearing in February that the administration would continue the practice of rendition for prisoners captured in the war on terrorism, but promised to get assurances first that prisoners would not be tortured or have their human rights violated once transferred.

The CIA declined to comment on the convictions.
READ MORE - Italy Convicts 23 Americans In CIA Terrorist Kidnapping Case

Russia 'simulates' nuclear attack on Poland

Russia has provoked outrage in Poland by simulating an air and sea attack on the country during military exercises.
Russian tanks in Georgia
A Russian military tank in action in Georgia Photo: Getty Images
The armed forces are said to have carried out "war games" in which nuclear missiles were fired and troops practised an amphibious landing on the country's coast.
Documents obtained by Wprost, one of Poland's leading news magazines, said the exercise was carried out in conjunction with soldiers from Belarus.
The manoeuvres are thought to have been held in September and involved about 13,000 Russian and Belarusian troops.
Poland, which has strained relations with both countries, was cast as the "potential aggressor".
The documents state the exercises, code-named "West", were officially classified as "defensive" but many of the operations appeared to have an offensive nature.
The Russian air force practised using weapons from its nuclear arsenal, while in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which neighbours Poland, Red Army forces stormed a "Polish" beach and attacked a gas pipeline.
The operation also involved the simulated suppression of an uprising by a national minority in Belarus – the country has a significant Polish population which has a strained relationship with authoritarian government of Belarus.
Karol Karski, an MP from Poland's Law and Justice, is to table parliamentary questions on Russia's war games and has protested to the European Commission.
His colleague, Marek Opiola MP, said: "It's an attempt to put us in our place. Don't forget all this happened on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland."
Ordinary Poles were outraged by news of the exercise and demanded a firm response fro the government.
One man, identified only as Ted, told Polskie Radio: "Russia has laid bare its real intentions with respect to Poland. Every Pole most now get of the off the fence and be counted as a patriot or a traitor."
Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, has tried to build a pragmatic relationship with the Kremlin despite widespread and vocal calls in Poland for him to cool ties with Moscow.
After spending 40 years under Soviet domination few in Poland trust Russia, and many Poles have become increasingly wary of a country they consider as possessing a neo-imperialistic agenda.
Bogdan Klich, Poland’s defence minister, said: “It is a demonstration of strength. We are monitoring the exercises to see what has been planned.
Wladyslaw Stasiak, chief of President Lech Kaczynski’s office, and a former head of Poland’s National Security Council, added: “We didn’t like the appearance of the exercises and the name harked back to the days of the Warsaw Pact.”
The Russian troop exercises will come as an unwelcome sight to the states nestling on Russia’s western border who have deep-rooted anxieties over any Russian show of strength.
With a resurgent Moscow now more willing to flex its muscles, Central and Eastern Europeans have warned of Russia adopting a neo-imperialistic attitude to an area of the world it still regards as its sphere of influence.
In July, the region’s most famed and influential political figures, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, wrote an open letter Barack Obama warning him that Russia “is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods.”
Moscow and Minsk have insisted that Operation West was to help "ensure the strategic stability in the East European region".
READ MORE - Russia 'simulates' nuclear attack on Poland
 
 
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