A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.
The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.
According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.
In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. It isn’t clear whether they were an early part of the CIA initiative that Mr. Panetta stopped. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — The discussions “tapered off” evokes a curious imagine. Did the proponents of assassination become disenchanted with the idea, bored or distracted? Or was it simply that in this particular instance the White House lawyers simply couldn’t devise a method for circumventing the law?
If an assassination program had been put into operation, it seems unlikely that it would have met much public opposition.
The word “assassination” has all sorts of connotations – the ruthless, uncompromising intent of the assassin; stealth; daring; meticulous planning; the ability to find a chink in the armor of a visible yet protected target. What we don’t picture an assassin doing is hunting down an innocent target.
In Steven Spielberg’s Munich, the film attempted to expose the moral traps in a government-sanctioned assassination program. What the film inexplicably left out was that the culmination of Israel’s “Operation Wrath of God” was the murder of a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway – a man who had nothing to do with the Palestinian Black September Organization, yet ended up being killed in front of his pregnant wife.
If, as this Wall Street Journal report implies, the plan that Cheney wanted to keep secret was a program that in its earliest iteration would have involved tracking down and killing members of al Qaeda, then what this would have entailed was the use of death squads. Who they actually ended up killing and what would have happened to the bodies, would have remained as closely a guarded secret as the program itself
In an implicit rebuke to Iran’s ruling elite, a conservative presidential candidate warned Sunday that the political and social rifts opened by the disputed June 12 vote and subsequent crackdown could lead to the nation’s “disintegration” if they were not resolved soon.
The candidate, Mohsen Rezai, made his warning in a long statement about the election and its bloody aftermath, in which he called for reconciliation and spoke about the danger of “imprisoning” the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in divisive and shortsighted politics. The statement was posted on his Web site.
Although his message was largely nonpartisan, Mr. Rezai hinted that the government response after the election had been unfair, and he urged protesters to continue their work in legal and nonviolent channels.
Like the three other opposition candidates, Mr. Rezai, a former chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, initially said he believed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory involved ballot-rigging. Mr. Rezai later withdrew his legal challenge to the results, citing the need for unity. [continued…]
For months, the reports percolated in Washington and other capitals. Iran was constructing a major beachhead in Nicaragua as part of a diplomatic push into Latin America, featuring huge investment deals, new embassies and even TV programming from the Islamic republic.
“The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned in May. “And you can only imagine what that’s for.”
But here in Nicaragua, no one can find any super-embassy.
Nicaraguan reporters scoured the sprawling tropical city in search of the embassy construction site. Nothing. Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce chief Ernesto Porta laughed and said: “It doesn’t exist.” Government officials say the U.S. Embassy complex is the only “mega-embassy” in Managua. A U.S. diplomat in Managua conceded: “There is no huge Iranian Embassy being built as far as we can tell.” [continued…]
Maziar Bahari is a Newsweek reporter, a documentary filmmaker, a playwright, author, artist and, since June 21, a prisoner being held in Iran without formal charges or access to a lawyer. The Iranian state press has attached Bahari’s name to a “confession” made in vague terms and conditional tenses about foreign media influence on the unrest in Iran that followed the declaration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection on June 12.
Some in the government of Iran would like to portray Bahari as a kind of subversive or even as a spy. He is neither. He is a journalist; a man who was doing his job, and doing it fairly and judiciously, when he was arrested. Maziar Bahari is an agent only of the truth as best he can see it, and his body of work proves him to be a fair-minded observer who eschews ideological cant in favor of conveying the depth and complexity of Iranian life and culture to the wider world. Few have argued more extensively and persuasively, for instance, that Iran’s nuclear program is an issue of national pride, not just the leadership’s obsession. [continued…]
The British Embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed Monday that the United Kingdom has revoked a number of arms export licenses to Israel following the Gaza war, but insisted that the move did not constitute a partial embargo.
“There is no partial U.K. arms embargo on Israel,” the embassy said in a statement to Haaretz. “U.K. policy remains to assess all export licenses to Israel against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria.”
The statement came in response to a Haaretz report that Britain had indeed slapped a partial arms embargo on Israel, refusing to supply replacement parts and other equipment for Sa’ar 4.5 gunships because they participated in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. [continued…]
In May 27, journalist Jesse Rosenfeld and I set out on the streets of Tel Aviv to probe the political opinions of young local residents. We started the day filming at Tel Aviv University, where a group of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli students gathered to protest a proposed law that would criminalize public observance of the Nakba, or the mass expulsion and killing of Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1948. There, we interviewed Palestinian Israeli students about the rising climate of repression, then spoke to another group of students who gathered nearby to heckle their Arab classmates and demand their deportation. A few hundred meters away, two genial business students expressed support for the so-called Nakba law, remarking to us, “If you want to keep democracy, you can’t let people protest against the independence of the country.”
That evening, Jesse and I took our camera to central Tel Aviv, where thousands were taking part in the annual all-night festival known as White Night. Some revelers took an intermission from the partying to express to us their hatred for the Iranian people. And a group of teenagers launched into a virtually unprompted diatribe against Barack Obama, referring to him as a Nazi, a Muslim, and a “Cushi,” which is Hebrew slang for “nigger.” [continued…]
A television advert for an Israeli cellphone firm showing soldiers playing soccer over the West Bank barrier has sparked cries of bad taste and prompted Arab lawmakers on Sunday to demand it be taken off air.
The jaunty commercial for Israel’s biggest mobile phone company Cellcom makes light of Palestinian suffering and shows how far Israelis fail to understand their neighbors, critics said. The company stood by the ad, however.
It shows a ball falling on an Israeli army jeep from the far side of a towering wall. A game ensues, back and forth with the unseen Palestinians after a soldier dials up “reinforcements,” including two smiling women in uniform, to come and play.
The advertisement made by McCann Erickson, part of U.S. Interpublic Group, ends with the upbeat voiceover: “After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun.”
Since the ad went out last week — as Palestinians marked the fifth anniversary of a World Court ruling that Israel’s walls and fences in the West Bank were illegal — some Israelis have taken to blogs and social networking sites to voice dismay. [continued…]
There is a hint of an older Baghdad in old Baghdad. You might call it more of a taunt. It’s there at the statue of the portly poet Marouf al-Rusafi, pockmarked by bullets, who gives his name to an untamed square. Around him revolves a city, storied but shabby, that American soldiers have finally, ostensibly, left.
The past is here. A turquoise dome, fashioned from brick and adorned in arabesque, peeks from beneath a shroud of dust. A stately colonnade buttresses British-era balconies and balustrades. A forlorn call to prayer drifts from an Ottoman mosque.
But few can see the dome. A spider web of wires delivering sporadic electricity obscures the view. You can’t navigate the colonnade. Blast walls block the way. And rarely does the call to prayer filter out from a deluge of car horns.
“It’s all become trash, broken windows and crumbling buildings,” complained Hussein Karim, a porter looking out from his perch atop a flap of cardboard on the statue’s granite pedestal. “Baghdad,” added his friend, Hussein Abed, “has become a shattered city.” [continued…]
A series of attacks in Afghanistan has left four U.S. Marines and eight British soldiers dead in recent days, stoking concern among U.S. and allied forces over a surge in battlefield deaths, as thousands of troops pour into the country.
The mounting deaths have contributed to harsh criticism of the war in a handful of NATO countries that have lost soldiers in recent months, including Canada, Germany and France. It has been an especially divisive issue in Britain, which has lost 15 soldiers in the past 11 days, including the eight killed Friday. Those deaths have brought Britain’s total losses to 184, a tally that now exceeds the 179 British military personnel killed in Iraq.
So far this year, 192 foreign soldiers have been killed, including 103 Americans — a 40% jump from the same period last year, and a 75% increase from 2007, say U.S. military officials. That figure doesn’t include the latest U.S. casualties. [continued…]