Archive for October 17th, 2008
China has privately agreed to follow a “step-by-step” approach to fulfilling Pakistan’s aspiration for an expanded nuclear energy program, rather than sign an ambitious civil nuclear program of the kind recently struck between the US and India, senior Pakistani and Western officials said on Thursday. Private discussions are believed to have been held on expanded nuclear cooperation between Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese leaders during Zardari’s four-day visit to China, which began Tuesday. A senior Pakistani government official, familiar with discussions between Zardari and Chinese officials, claimed Thursday that China had agreed to “consider further nuclear power reactors to fulfill our needs. The relationship (on the nuclear issue) remains intact.” Speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity, the official added, “there is now a complete understanding on our future cooperation.” China has installed a 325MW nuclear power reactor at Chashma, in Pakistan’s central Punjab province. Beijing is also currently working to install a second power reactor of the same capacity there. In ten years, Pakistan plans to produce up to 8,000MW of electricity using nuclear energy. In addition to the two Chashma reactors, Pakistan has one Canadian-supplied nuclear energy reactor with a capacity of 137MW. Western diplomats say Pakistan is seeking to bridge the large gap between its installed capacity and future ambitions with Chinese help. – CBS
Arlington, Va. : The Secret Service has now labeled the “kill him” report as unfounded. Why isn’t the Post giving this report as much coverage as the original false report received?
Dana Milbank : Glad you asked, because I saw this earlier. This is actually about the incident in Scranton, not the one in Clearwater, Fla, that I wrote about. I wasn’t at the Scranton event, but I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they’ve started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty — protecting the protectee — and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it’s unfounded because the reporters can’t get close enough to identify the person. – WaPo
The OECD’s Working Group on Bribery sharply criticised the UK’s failure to bring its anti-bribery laws into line with its international obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and urged the rapid introduction of new legislation. Current UK legislation makes it very difficult for prosecutors to bring an effective case against a company for alleged bribery offenses. Although the UK ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention 10 years ago, it has so far failed to successfully prosecute any bribery case against a company. The OECD Working Group, which brings together all 37 countries that are parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, is “disappointed and seriously concerned” about the UK’s continued failure to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery, which it said has hindered investigations. The Group acknowledged positive aspects in the UK’s fight against foreign bribery, including the allocation of significant financial resources and nation-wide jurisdiction to a specialised unit of the City of London Police for foreign bribery investigations. It also noted the UK’s first conviction of an individual in September 2008 for foreign bribery in international business transactions, and its recent anti-corruption strategy to improve and strengthen the UK’s law and structures to tackle foreign bribery. But it emphasised that reforms are urgently needed and should be dealt with as a matter of political priority.
Recent cases have also highlighted systemic deficiencies that make clear the need to safeguard the independence of the Serious Fraud Office and eliminate unnecessary obstacles to prosecution. In a report following a supplementary review of the UK’s implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Working Group reiterated its previous 2003, 2005 and 2007 recommendations that the UK enact new foreign bribery legislation at the earliest possible date. It expressed its strong regrets concerning uncertainty about the UK’s commitment to establish an effective corporate liability regime in accordance with the Convention, as recommended in 2005. The full report is available here, with the recommendations on page 70. Among its main recommendations are that the UK should:
In light of the numerous issues of serious concern, the Working Group has requested the UK to provide quarterly written reports on legislative progress for each Working Group meeting. It may also carry out follow-up visits to the UK, and may take further appropriate action after it considers the reports or any on-site visits. The Working Group warned that uncertainty over the UK’s legislative framework may trigger a need for increased due diligence over UK companies by their commercial partners or multilateral development banks.
Jackson denies report by controversial columnist
Ron Kampeas, JTA, Oct 16 2008
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Amir Taheri, a conservative whose writings about the Middle East have a habit of coming undone, collided this week, and sparks were flying. Jackson said his views were distorted in an article by Taheri that quoted the Democrat as saying “Zionists” would lose their influence under an Obama administration. Jackson’s denials did not keep Republicans from trying to use the remarks against Obama in a fraught presidential election. The report in Tuesday’s New York Post by Taheri said Jackson told the first World Policy Forum last week in Evian, France, that “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” would lose influence under Obama, that Obama promised “fundamental changes” in US foreign policy, that the most important changes would take place in the Middle East, where a President Obama would end “decades of putting Israel’s interests first,” and that if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not resolved, the Middle East will “remain a source of danger to us all.” Taheri also quoted Jackson as saying, in an interview they conducted after Jackson delivered his remarks,
Barack is determined to repair our relations with the world of Islam and Muslims. Thanks to his background and ecumenical approach, he knows how Muslims feel while remaining committed to his own faith.
Jackson was quick to label the article a distortion, saying, in a statement released Wednesday by his Rainbow Push coalition,
The recent column in the New York Post by Amir Taheri in no way represents my views on Middle East peace and security. The writer is selectively imposing his own point of view, and distorting mine. I have a long-held position of a two-state solution to achieve peace in the Middle East. I stand forthrightly for the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility, and a peaceful, non-violent resolution to co-existing with its Palestinian neighbors.
Jackson also accused Taheri of seeking to “incite fear and division.” Sources close to Jackson said some of the quotes in Taheri’s article were fabricated — Jackson never used the term “Zionists,” for instance, they said. It was unclear if Taheri claimed to be in the room when Jackson made his remarks, or if others had reported the remarks to the writer. In an editorial Thursday, the New York Post stood by the Jackson story, noting that in his statement, Jackson did not directly deny the quotes. “He meant what he said,” an editorial said, “until things blew up in his face. Jesse Jackson needs to shut up and realize that his biggest enemy is his mouth.”
Taheri, a favorite of conservatives who back confrontation with Iran, has a controversial past. Some of his writings on his native Iran have been debunked by experts as based on fabrications and distortions. Canada’s National Post apologized for his 2006 report, that Iranian leaders planned to force Jews to wear a yellow insignia, after the claim proved unfounded. More recently, Taheri reported that Obama had tried secretly to persuade Iraqi leaders to stall the withdrawal of US troops, in order to prevent the White House from earning a success. Obama’s campaign and the White House both denied the substance of the report, and the Democratic camp accused Taheri of being in the pocket of the mcCain campaign. “Jesse Jackson confirmed the Jewish community’s long-standing concerns with Barack Obama’s policies on Israel and the Middle East,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement. The AJC chimed in, without first checking the veracity of the report, Jackson’s advisers told JTA. “Rev. Jackson’s remarks, which appeared in an interview with the journalist Amir Taheri in today’s New York Post, echo classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a statement. The Obama campaign responded to the remarks. Obama national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said in a statement:
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is not an adviser to the Obama campaign and is therefore in no position to interpret or share Barack Obama’s views on Israel and foreign policy. As he has made clear throughout his career and throughout this campaign, Barack Obama has a fundamental commitment to a strong US-Israel relationship, and he is advised by people like Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Rep. Robert Wexler, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Senator Joe Biden who share that commitment. As President, he will ensure that Israel can defend itself from every threat it faces, stand with Israel in its quest for a secure peace with its neighbors, and use all elements of American power to end Iran’s illicit nuclear program. No false charges can change Barack Obama’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
(I believe the reason McCain ended up with the mooseburger-eating creationist as running mate is not that he decided against Lieberman, but that Lieberman decided against him. On Salon Radio, Glenn Greenwald asked Harper’s Scott Horton about his recent reporting on how Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol lobbied the McCain campaign to select Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee. Horton explained that the McCain campaign is now regretting following Kristol’s advice, calling the Palin pick a “total disaster”. – RB)
The $55 trillion question (extract)
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
[...] As McCain inexorably implodes, an extremely angry Republican party in most of its strands rears its ugly head — the extraordinary levels of hate at recent McCain-Palin rallies are just the tip of the iceberg. This correspondent has seen the mob become really brown-shirt scary, brandishing “Obama bin Lyin” placards or yelling “Kill him!” In the official Republican website in Sacramento, California, there was even a direct link between Obama and Osama bin Laden — with an explicit call to “Waterboard Barack Obama” (it was finally pulled out by Republican leaders). Meanwhile, not insignificant hordes of sensible Republicans are in desertion mode, appalled by the shenanigans of the mooseburger-eating creationist from Alaska. As the real economy on ground level is bound to get much worse before election day, that will only add more fuel to Republican fire, something that happens to turn off independent and undecided voters in droves. All conditions are in place for an Obama landslide. Obama is leading in Ohio, as in virtually any swing state except Indiana, according to Real Clear Politics polls. This is due a great deal to the Obama campaign’s formidable ground game. According to Democratic operative Josh Lyman, the Obama headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, a mega-church with a basement the size of a supermarket, is staffed by no less than 600 hyperactive tech youths. So it may all translate into an Obama landslide. And then what? [...]
Reaction to James Bamford Interview about
CIA’s Protection of Almihdhar and Alhazmi
Author James Bamford was recently interviewed by Amy Goodman about his new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. He talked about some issues that are covered in the 9/11 Timeline’s CIA Hiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar and Yemen hub categories. The interview follows on from an article in the Congressional Quarterly and it is well worth reading the whole thing. I have some comments on a couple of the aspects Bamford touches on. First, I’d like to say that Bamford is obviously a really good reporter and he’s done a much better job on this than anyone who came before him (for example, Terry McDermott knew about the intercepts between San Diego and Sana’a, but relegated this information to the endnotes). Having said this, as far as I can see at the moment, he’s making a couple of errors and missing some things out.
(1) Main criticism of Bamford. So far, he has only talked about the CIA’s failure to inform the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, in January 2000. There were multiple other failures, in March 2000 when a cable came in saying Alhazmi had entered the US, in January 2001 when a source identified al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash as being at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, in the 11 June shouting match, the Moussaoui case, and when Wilshire was told Almihdhar was in the US. If the failure in January was due to a conspiracy, not a dog eating the CIA’s homework — which is what we had previously been led to believe — then it is extremely likely the other failures were also due to a conspiracy to withhold information from the FBI. This protection went on until late August 2001, at the very least. Without it, there is no way on earth that the 9/11 plot could have succeeded. The FBI would simply have arrested some of the plotters as a part of its Cole bombing investigation and put the rest under surveillance (or arrested them for the various other offences they committed — like immigration violations and driving without a licence).
(2) Also, if the CIA was deliberately preventing the FBI from learning of the hijackers, then you can bet that they themselves had the hijackers under surveillance, although possibly through some external organisation. What was that unit? Who was on it? Who ran it? Show me the records. How could they possibly fail to notice all the other hijackers that interacted repeatedly with Almihdhar and Alhazmi? Did they not find the flight training and mass ticket purchase for 9/11 suspicious?
(3) Bamford says the December 1999 intercept about Kuala Lumpur was the first sign of 9/11, but I don’t think so. AFAIK the first sign is detailed on page 155 of the Congressional Inquiry report (two paragraphs beginning “in early 1999″) — this is about an NSA intercept of the hijackers’ calls before December 1999. According to former British intelligence officer John Hughes-Wilson, Almihdhar and Alhazmi were actually talking about hijacking airliners in this intercepted call. I even picked up a hint in the Times that the hijacked airliners were to be used in unconventional ways.
(4) Bamford says that the CIA lost Alhazmi and Almihdhar in Kuala Lumpur, but this is actually supposed to have occurred in Thailand. The problem here is two-fold. First, in Malaysia the CIA had bin Attash under surveillance when he called the hotel where they stayed in Bangkok — making finding them in the city much easier — and the CIA lied about this later. Second, while the Alhazmi, Almihdhar and bin Attash were in Thailand, Alec Station chief Rich B lied to his superiors about the surveillance of them repeatedly-he claimed they were still in Malaysia and under surveillance, when he must have known they were in Thailand.
(5) The 9/11 Commission was aware of the calls between San Diego and Sana’a and did mention them in its report (on page 87-88 two paragraphs beginning “The law requires…” and page 222 two sentences beginning “Mihdhar’s mind seems…”). However, they failed to point out that the NSA intercepted these calls or provide a satisfactory explanation why the NSA did nothing with them. How come?
(6) The FBI had specifically requested that the NSA inform it of all calls between the house in Yemen and the US, but the NSA failed to act on this request, too. Would it be too much to ask for an explanation of this?
(7) The limited hangout excuse that is emerging is that Alec Station was allowing Almihdhar and Alhazmi to operate unchallenged by the FBI so they could wrap up a plot in Malaysia/southeast Asia. This is just completely ludicrous. Malaysia was a base for fundraising for militants, they did not do attacks there, the attacks were always elsewhere in SE Asia, like the Philippines. Plus, al-Qaeda is headquartered in south Asia and the Middle East, why would they need a base in Paterson, New Jersey, to conduct an attack in Malaysia? And, by the way, didn’t the Cole blow up in the middle of all this? Alec Station thought the next attack was going to be in SE Asia, then there was an attack on the Cole in Yemen, demonstrably falsifying this theory, then Alec Station continued to think the next attack was going to be in SE Asia!!?? That makes no sense. And what about justice for the 17 people killed on the Cole? The CIA was protecting an al-Qaeda terrorist co-responsible for the Cole bombing for nearly a year so it could prevent some theoretical attack in Malaysia!? I don’t believe any of this. Here’s a simple question: if the CIA did decide to withhold information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi, then what is the name of the officer who made this decision?
US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reacts to almost heading the wrong way off the stage after shaking hands with Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at the conclusion of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 15, 2008. – Reuters