U.S.-backed offensive against ISIS in northern Syria suffers devastating setback

McClatchy reports: The newest U.S.-backed offensive against the Islamic State in northern Syria suffered a devastating setback when the extremist group detonated an explosive-laden vehicle near a Kurdish-led column of armored vehicles, an Arab militia commander said Monday.

The Islamic State said the suicide bomber, with five tons of explosives, attacked a convoy of 70 vehicles Sunday, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, killed dozens of Arabs and members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

Such vehicles are a favorite tactic of the Islamic State in northeastern Syria, according to another commander in the region, Abu Issa, of the Liwa Thurwar Al-Raqqa, or Raqqa Revolutionaries. He said between mid-July and mid-October, the Islamic State had sent 45 such vehicle bombs against his force, which is based north of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-styled capital. Among those killed were five of the 20 men who had been trained by the U.S. in the use of TOW anti-tank missiles.

“They empty out a 10-ton armored personnel carrier. They remove the seats and everything. There’s one driver, and he comes really fast,” Abu Issa told McClatchy in an interview last month. He said a TOW missile can stop the vehicle, but he said the U.S. had not supplied his forces with those missiles.

Abu Issa’s is not the only group hoping for U.S. arms in order to take on the Islamic State. Even the Sanadid militia, which took part in the fighting near al Hawl, has yet to receive U.S. ammunition, Bandar told McClatchy on Monday.

“We got nothing yet from the Americans,” he said. [Continue reading…]


How U.S. officials can kidnap and threaten American citizens without legal risk

Patrick G. Eddington writes: At exactly 5 p.m. on March 13, 2007, just as I was preparing to leave my cubicle in Washington for the day, I got a phone call from the journalist Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers. To this day, I remember his exact words.

“One of your congressman’s constituents is being held in an Ethiopian intelligence service prison, and I think your former employer is neck-deep in this.”

The congressman was Rush Holt, then a Democratic representative from New Jersey, for whom I worked for 10 years starting in 2004. The constituent was Amir Mohamed Meshal of Tinton Falls, N.J., who alleges that he was illegally taken to Ethiopia, where he was threatened with torture by American officials. My “former employer” was the Central Intelligence Agency, but it soon became apparent that the agency “neck-deep in this” was the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Eight years after Mr. Meshal’s rendition, his case ended up before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The questions hanging over the proceeding were: can the United States government allow, or even facilitate, the rendition of an American citizen to another country for interrogation? And can United States officials themselves conduct rendition and interrogations of American citizens, including threats of torture, on foreign soil?

According to a decision handed down last week, the answers appear to be yes. [Continue reading…]


Flash was detected as Russian jet broke apart, U.S. military officials say

The New York Times reports: American military officials said Tuesday that satellite surveillance had detected a large flash of light just as a Russian chartered jet broke apart and fell from the sky over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing all 224 people aboard.

The United States military is not part of the multinational investigation into the crash, but officials said the satellite images were the first indication that the plane had exploded, because of either a bomb or the ignition of a fuel tank. But it will probably take several more days for the authorities to better understand what occurred.

The disaster has set off waves of hand-wringing in Egypt, Russia and elsewhere about whether mechanical failure, human error or terrorism was the cause. But here in the resort area where the plane took off minutes before the crash, thousands of sun-seekers from Russia and other European countries arriving daily say they are undeterred. Most have already written off the possibility that the crash was terrorism. [Continue reading…]


U.S.-backed ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ created to fight ISIS, exist only as a name

The New York Times reports: A newly appointed spokesman for the alliance briefed reporters in Syria beneath a yellow banner bearing its name in Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian. But the meeting took place inside a Kurdish militia facility because the alliance does not have its own bases yet, nor flags to put on its cars or a defined command structure, said the spokesman, Talal Sillu.

The combined force is to be commanded by a six-person military council, Mr. Sillu said. But he acknowledged that only one member had been selected so far — Mr. Sillu himself.

Last week, President Obama announced plans to deploy dozens of Special Operations troops to support the new alliance. And before that, American officials said 50 tons of ammunition had been airdropped for Arab fighters with the new group.

But already, things have not always gone as planned. Since the ammunition airdrop, American officials have privately acknowledged that the Arab units it was intended for did not have the logistical capability to move it. So, again, the Kurds were called to help.

An array of smaller groups have allied with the Kurds, including Arab and Turkmen rebels, Christian militias and Bedouin fighters loyal to a sheikh who considered the Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi a friend.

While these groups hate the Islamic State, most are small, and some have been repeatedly routed by the very jihadists the United States now hopes they will defeat.

While the Kurds have become used to securing territory, with uniformed forces and a clear chain of command, their Arab allies often leave teenagers with Kalashnikovs at checkpoints who stop and release cars at random, scaring drivers.

A commander of one Arab group lamented that while Kurdish commanders could simply order their fighters to move, he could only make suggestions and hope his men complied. [Continue reading…]


U.S. brings F-15C dogfighters to counter Russians over Syria

The Daily Beast reports: The U.S. Air Force is deploying to Turkey up to a dozen jet fighters specializing in air-to-air combat—apparently to help protect other U.S. and allied jets from Russia’s own warplanes flying over Syria.

Officially, the deployment of F-15C Eagle twin-engine fighters to Incirlik, Turkey—which the Pentagon announced late last week—is meant to “ensure the safety” of America’s NATO allies, Laura Seal, a Defense Department spokesperson, told The Daily Beast.

That could mean that the single-seat F-15s and the eight air-to-air missiles they routinely carry will help the Turkish air force patrol Turkey’s border with Syria, intercepting Syrian planes and helicopters that periodically stray into Turkish territory.

But more likely, the F-15s will be escorting attack planes and bombers as they strike ISIS militants in close proximity to Syrian regime forces and the Russian warplanes that, since early October, have bombed ISIS and U.S.-backed rebels fighting the Syrian troops.

Seal declined to discuss the deployment in detail, but hinted at its true purpose. “I didn’t say it wasn’t about Russia,” she said.

Russia’s air wing in western Syria is notable for including several Su-30 fighters that are primarily air-to-air fighters. The Su-30s’ arrival in Syria raised eyebrows, as Moscow insists its forces are only fighting ISIS, but ISIS has no aircraft of its own for the Su-30s to engage.

The F-15s the U.S. Air Force is sending to Turkey will be the first American warplanes in the region that are strictly aerial fighters. The other fighters, attack planes and bombers the Pentagon has deployed — including F-22s, F-16s, A-10s and B-1s—carry bombs and air-to-ground missiles and have focused on striking militants on the ground.

In stark contrast, the F-15s only carry air-to-air weaponry, and their pilots train exclusively for shooting down enemy warplanes. It’s worth noting that F-15Cs have never deployed to Afghanistan, nor did they participate in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. The war in Syria is different. [Continue reading…]


Watchdog accuses Pentagon of evading questions on $800 million Afghanistan program

By Megan McCloskey, ProPublica, November 2, 2015

This story has been updated.

The watchdog charged with overseeing U.S. spending in Afghanistan says the Pentagon is dodging his inquiries about an $800 million program that was supposed to energize the Afghan economy.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the military is restricting access to some documents in violation of law and has claimed there are no Defense Department personnel who can answer questions about the Task Force for Business Stability Operations, or TFBSO, which operated for five years.

“Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about TFBSO, an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago,” Sopko wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released today.

The Pentagon’s claims are particularly surprising since Joseph Catalino, the former acting director of the task force who was with the program for two years, is still employed by the Pentagon as Senior Advisor for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism.

[Read more…]


Organized crime: Pentagon blows $43 million on useless Afghan gas station

USA Today reports: U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for a $42 million natural-gas filling station in Afghanistan, a boondoggle that should have cost $500,000 and has virtually no value to average Afghans, the government watchdog for reconstruction in Afghanistan announced Monday.

A Pentagon task force awarded a $3 million contract to build the station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, but ended up spending $12 million in construction costs and $30 million in “overhead” between 2011 and 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found. Meanwhile, similar gas station was built in neighboring Pakistan cost $500,000.

“It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000% more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. “Perhaps equally outrageous however, is that the Pentagon has apparently shirked its responsibility to fully account for the taxpayer money that’s been wasted — an unacceptable lack of transparency that I’ll be thoroughly investigating.” [Continue reading…]


U.S.-supported victory over ISIS in Iraqi town results in praise for Iran

The Wall Street Journal reports: A big victory over Islamic State here provided fresh ammunition for the many Iraqi Shiites who prefer Iran as a battlefield partner over the U.S., despite indications that Washington could soon intensify its battle against the extremist militants.

Shiite militias and politicians backed by Iran have claimed much of the credit for the Iraqi recapture a little over a week ago of the city and oil refinery of Beiji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Militia fighters danced and posed for pictures on tanks and armored cars near the bombed-out shell of the massive refinery there, Iraq’s largest.

But U.S. officers say the Iran-backed proxy militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, played only a supporting role. The bulk of the fighting was by Iraqi federal police and elite counterterrorism units trained by the U.S., the American officers said.

Still powerful Iraqi politicians and militia leaders have cited the yearlong operation to retake the city as evidence that Iraqis can combat Islamic State alone—or with help only of the Iran-backed militias. Some are now lobbying Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to rely less on the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State and more on the PMF.

“Iraqi people in general, not only us, have started to feel that the Americans are not serious at all about the fight against Islamic State,” said Moeen Al- Kadhimi, a spokesman for the Iran-backed Badr Corps militia. “Every victory that the PMF does without the help of the Americans is a big embarrassment for the Americans.”

Following the declaration of victory at Beiji, the U.S.-led coalition, which has been conducting an air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for more than a year, published a list of airstrikes it conducted around the city.

“It’s easy to say after the fact that ‘we did this,’ ” said Maj. Michael Filanowski, an officer for the Combined Joint Task Force, which organizes operations of the U.S.-led coalition. “But if you look at the sequence of events, it was Iraqi security forces that did the assault operations.”

He called the militias a “hold force,” meaning they secured the territory after it fell to the Iraqi forces. [Continue reading…]


How the U.S. government condemns or ignores indiscriminate bombing

Micah Zenko writes: If you watch U.S. government press conferences, you will occasionally come across a moment of incidental but illuminating honesty. Yesterday, one such moment occurred during a routine press briefing with Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the command element for the war against the self-declared Islamic State. Col Warren was asked about the growing number of disturbing allegations of Russia’s indiscriminate use of airpower in Syria. Just the day before, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “it appears the vast majority of [Russian] strikes, by some estimates as high as 85 percent to 90 percent, use dumb bombs.” Warren echoed Carter’s assessment, claiming that, “Russians have chosen to use a majority of really, just dumb bombs, just gravity bombs, push them out the back of an airplane, and let them fall where they will.”

Col. Warren went further to castigate Russia for its use of one particular type of ordinance: “You know, there’s been reporting that the Russians are using cluster munitions in Syria, which we also find to be irresponsible. These munitions have a high dud rate, they can cause damage and they can hurt civilians, and they’re just, you know, not good.”

That cluster munitions are “not good,” except as a reliable method for killing noncombatants outside of an intended target field, is a well-known and established fact. According to one UN estimate, the failure rates for cluster munitions vary from between 2 and 5 percent (according to manufacturers) to between 10 and 30 percent (according to mine clearance personnel). They were subsequently banned by the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions, which entered into force in August 2010 and has been endorsed by ninety-eight states parties. Notable states that have refused to sign and ratify the convention include those that consistently uses airpower to achieve their military objectives, such as Russia, the United States, and Saudi Arabia. [Continue reading…]


U.S. to send dozens of special forces to Syria as first boots on ground

Reuters reports: U.S. officials disclosed plans on Friday to station the first American boots on the ground in Syria in the war against Islamic State fighters, saying dozens of special forces troops would be sent as advisers to groups fighting against the jihadists.

The announcement of the small ground force came as diplomats from more than a dozen countries held talks over Syria, which for the first time in the more than four-year-old civil war were attended by President Bashar al-Assad’s ally Iran.

In a rare hint of diplomatic progress, Tehran signaled it would back a six-month political “transition” period in Syria followed by elections to decide Assad’s fate, although his foes rejected the proposal as a trick to keep the president in power.

The Vienna talks ended without a specific conclusion apart from an agreement to reconvene in some form next week, delegates said. In addition to Assad’s fate, key sticking points have long included the question of which rebel groups should be considered terrorists and who should be involved in the political process. [Continue reading…]


How four federal lawyers paved the way for Obama to order the execution of Osama bin Laden

The New York Times reports: While the lawyers believed that Mr. Obama was bound to obey domestic law, they also believed he could decide to violate international law when authorizing a “covert” action, officials said.

If the SEALs got Bin Laden, the Obama administration would lift the secrecy and trumpet the accomplishment. But if it turned out that the founder and head of Al Qaeda was not there, some officials thought the SEALs might be able to slip back out, allowing the United States to pretend the raid never happened.

Mr. Preston wrote a memo addressing when the administration had to alert congressional leaders under a statute governing covert actions. Given the circumstances, the lawyers decided that the administration would be legally justified in delaying notification until after the raid. But then they learned that the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, had already briefed several top lawmakers about Abbottabad without White House permission.

The lawyers also grappled with whether it was lawful for the SEAL team to go in intending to kill Bin Laden as its default option. They agreed that it would be legal, in a memo written by Ms. DeRosa, and Mr. Obama later explicitly ordered a kill mission, officials said. [Continue reading…]


Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq

The Washington Post reports: President Obama’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said, a sign of mounting White House dissatisfaction with progress against the Islamic State and a renewed Pentagon push to expand military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria. They still require formal approval from Obama, who could make a decision as soon as this week and could decide not to alter the current course, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are still ongoing. It’s unclear how many additional troops would be required to implement the changes being considered by the president, but the number for now is likely to be relatively small, these officials said. [Continue reading…]


New allies in northern Syria don’t seem to share U.S. goals

McClatchy reports: After the failure of its $500 million program to stand up a Syrian volunteer force to battle Islamic State extremists, the Obama administration has begun an effort to enable Arab militias to fight alongside a Kurdish force that has gotten U.S. air support for the past year.

The stated U.S. aim is to oust the Islamic State from its de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. But if the Shammar tribal militia, the biggest in Hasaka province, is any example, many Arab forces on the ground have a different agenda. For that matter, so does the Kurdish People’s Protection Force, or YPG, which dominates this area and has worked closely with the United States since the siege last year of the border town of Kobani.

The road to the palace of Sheikh Humaydi Daham al Hadi, the head of the Shammar tribe, winds through vast wheat fields in this isolated corner of eastern Syria, past checkpoints manned by YPG fighters, and then by his own guards.

Hasaka, an oil, gas and grain producing area, is now part of what the YPG calls Jazera, one of three cantons that comprise Rojava, or west Kurdistan, a 200-mile-long corridor on Syria’s border with Turkey. The Syrian government, which still has troops in at least two cities, has acquiesced to YPG control.

Because Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and has closed its borders because of the YPG’s affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the only way into Rojava is by a ferry across the Tigris River from Iraq and hours of driving on secondary roads.

Welcoming visitors in his vast reception room, Sheikh Humaydi says his goal is to lead a Shammar tribal uprising against the Islamic State “to liberate Syria, Iraq and beyond.” But he also wants to carry on a 2-century-old struggle against conservative Wahabi Islam, which he said destroyed the last Shammar emirate, and he favors the breakup of Saudi Arabia, where the puritanical sect dominates. “We are already working on that,” he said. [Continue reading…]


Freed prisoners of ISIS describe beatings and torture

The New York Times reports: Muhammad Hassan Abdullah al-Jibouri had little hope that he would ever make it out of the Islamic State’s jail alive, and he had not even seen the sun in more than a month. Then, early last Thursday morning, he heard the helicopters overhead.

The 35-year-old police officer heard bursts of gunfire, and shouts in Kurdish and in English. Suddenly, the door to his cell was battered open.

“Who is there? Who is there?” a soldier yelled, first in Kurdish and then in Arabic.

“We are prisoners!” Mr. Jibouri’s cellmates yelled back.

Mr. Jibouri was one of 69 Arab prisoners of the Islamic State freed in a military raid near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija last week, the first in which American Special Operations forces were confirmed to have accompanied their Kurdish counterparts onto the battlefield.

On Tuesday, in their first interviews since being brought to the Kurdish autonomous region by American Chinook helicopters, four of the former prisoners described life under the thumb of the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]


Drone warfare is self-defeating

Musa al-Gharbi writes: The sweeping language in the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) has empowered both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to interpret their counterterrorism mandate broadly, to include targets ranging from the Taliban to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and other Al-Qaeda affiliates around the world.

The U.S. drone program, which aims to eliminate high-value targets from these organizations and disrupt imminent terrorist plots against the United States, has been a key component of their efforts.

However, critics have questioned the program’s effectiveness for some time. For example, U.S. officials didn’t always know whom they were killing or what group the targets belong to — let alone whether or not they committed any grievous crime or posed a meaningful threat to U.S. personnel or interests. Moreover, those killed in the drone strikes were generally not high-value targets, but low-level militants, a term denoting any military-aged male killed in the campaign. [Continue reading…]


Glenn Greenwald: Support for Syrian rebels is legitimate in spite of Al Qaeda’s presence

Glenn Greenwald writes: I personally don’t view the presence of Al Qaeda “affiliated” fighters as a convincing argument against supporting Syrian rebels. It’s understandable that people fighting against an oppressive regime – one backed by powerful foreign factions – will align with anyone willing and capable of fighting with them. Moreover, the long-standing US/UK template of branding anyone they fight and kill as “terrorists” or “Al Qaeda” is no more persuasive or noble when used in Syria by Assad and the Russians, particularly when used to obscure civilian casualties. And regarding the anti-Assad forces as monolithically composed of religious extremists ignores the anti-tyranny sentiment among ordinary Syrians motivating much of the anti-regime protests, with its genesis in the Arab Spring. [Continue reading…]

This statement might confuse some of Greenwald’s readers — at least I’m sure it would have if he had made it the lead of his latest column. Instead, this recognition that alliances of convenience are inevitably formed during any attempt to overthrow a tyrannical regime, was more of an afterthought buried deeply within a diatribe aimed at the BBC.

Greenwald goes on to assert: “It’s not a stretch to say that the faction that provides the greatest material support to Al Qaeda at this point is the U.S. and its closest allies.”

He might not think it’s a stretch — many others would beg to differ.

The idea that Al Qaeda inside or outside Syria is backed by the U.S. government should be treated with the same amount of scorn as claims that 9/11 was an “inside job.”


American concerns about weapons falling into the wrong hands has and continues to be obsessive, as a Wall Street Journal report in January made clear.

It didn’t take long for rebel commanders in Syria who lined up to join a Central Intelligence Agency weapons and training program to start scratching their heads.

After the program was launched in mid-2013, CIA officers secretly analyzed cellphone calls and email messages of commanders to make sure they were really in charge of the men they claimed to lead. Commanders were then interviewed, sometimes for days.

Those who made the cut, earning the label “trusted commanders,” signed written agreements, submitted payroll information about their fighters and detailed their battlefield strategy. Only then did they get help, and it was far less than they were counting on.

Some weapons shipments were so small that commanders had to ration ammunition. One of the U.S.’s favorite trusted commanders got the equivalent of 16 bullets a month per fighter. Rebel leaders were told they had to hand over old antitank missile launchers to get new ones — and couldn’t get shells for captured tanks.

On those occasions where U.S. supplied weapons are known to have ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda, this has been a major embarrassment to the Obama administration.

Even now, after a month in which Russia has conducted more than 800 airstrikes in Syria, rebels have yet to be supplied with the most basic form of effective air defense — MANPADs, though this may soon change — and the flow and use of TOW anti-tank missiles remains tightly regulated.

What continues to get obscured by those who insist on pushing the narrative of rebels heavily armed by the U.S. and its allies, is the enduring imbalance of military power in this war: the fact that the Assad regime and its allies continue to maintain air dominance largely unchallenged.


Nick Turse: Success, failure, and the ‘finest warriors who ever went into combat’

If journalism was once considered the first rough draft of history, now, when it comes to American military policy at least, it’s often the first rough pass at writing a script for The Daily Show.” Take, for example, a little inside-the-paper piece that Eric Schmitt of the New York Times penned recently with this headline: “New Role for General After Failure of Syria Rebel Plan.” And here’s the first paragraph:

“The Army general in charge of the Pentagon’s failed $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels is leaving his job in the next few weeks, but is likely to be promoted and assigned a senior counterterrorism position here, American officials said on Monday.”

Yes, you read that right. Major General Michael Nagata is indeed “likely to be promoted.” He remains, according to Schmitt, one of “the Army’s rising stars” and is “in line to be awarded a third star, to lieutenant general, and take a senior position at the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington.” Oh, and one of the reasons for his possible upcoming promotion, other than having overseen a program to produce 15,000 American-backed “moderate” Syrian rebels ready to fight the Islamic State that actually only produced a handful of them who fought no one, is according to “colleagues” his “bureaucratic acumen in counterterrorism jobs at the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.”

Bureaucratic acumen! What better skill could you ask for in the new American national security state built since 9/11 on failure? No kidding, wouldn’t you give your right arm to be in an organization that essentially called whatever you did success and promoted you accordingly? As TomDispatch’s Nick Turse notes in his latest stunning report on America’s Special Operations forces, the secret military within our military that has in recent years grown to monstrous proportions has also gone from “success” to “success”; that is, as an organization, its expansion has been dependent upon Washington’s military failures and disasters, especially in the Greater Middle East. One of Bob Dylan’s famed cryptic lyrics seems to cover the situation with a certain precision: “She knows there’s no success like failure. And that failure’s no success at all.” Tom Engelhardt 

Iraq, Afghanistan, and other special ops “successes”
America’s elite forces deploy to a record-shattering 147 countries in 2015
By Nick Turse

They’re some of the best soldiers in the world: highly trained, well equipped, and experts in weapons, intelligence gathering, and battlefield medicine.  They study foreign cultures and learn local languages.  They’re smart, skillful, wear some very iconic headgear, and their 12-member teams are “capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations, from building indigenous security forces to identifying and targeting threats to U.S. national interests.” 

They’re also quite successful.  At least they think so.

“In the last decade, Green Berets have deployed into 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Trans-Sahel Africa, the Philippines, the Andean Ridge, the Caribbean, and Central America have resulted in an increasing demand for [Special Forces] around the globe,” reads a statement on the website of U.S. Army Special Forces Command.

[Read more…]


Pentagon used humanitarian NGO as front for espionage

The Intercept reports: On May 10, 2007 in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush presided over a ceremony honoring the nation’s most accomplished community service leaders. Among those collecting a President’s Volunteer Service Award that afternoon was Kay Hiramine, the Colorado-based founder of a multimillion-dollar humanitarian organization.

Hiramine’s NGO, Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, won special praise from the president for having demonstrated how a private charity could step in quickly in response to a crisis. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” read Hiramine’s citation, “HISG’s team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane.”

But as the evangelical Christian Hiramine crossed the stage to shake hands with President Bush and receive his award, he was hiding a key fact from those in attendance: He was a Pentagon spy whose NGO was funded through a highly classified Defense Department program.

The secret Pentagon program, which dates back to December 2004, continued well into the Obama presidency. It was the brainchild of a senior Defense Department intelligence official of the Bush administration, Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin, an evangelical Christian who ran into criticism in 2003 for his statements about Islam, settled on the ruse of the NGO as he was seeking new and unorthodox ways to penetrate North Korea. [Continue reading…]