George W. Bush’s CIA Briefer: Bush and Cheney Falsely Presented WMD Intelligence to Public

By David Corn in Mother Jones

On “Hardball,” Michael Morell concedes the Bush administration misled the nation into the Iraq War.

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell is sworn in as he testifes before the House Intelligence Committee. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell is sworn in as he testifes before the House Intelligence Committee. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

For a dozen years, the Bush-Cheney crowd have been trying to escape—or cover up—an essential fact of the W. years: President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants misled the American public about the WMD threat supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein in order to grease the way to the invasion of Iraq. For Bush, Cheney, and the rest, this endeavor is fundamental; it is necessary to protect the legitimacy of the Bush II presidency. Naturally, Karl Rove and other Bushies have quickly tried to douse the Bush-lied-us-into-war fire whenever such flames have appeared. And in recent days, as Jeb Bush bumbled a question about the Iraq War, he and other GOPers have peddled the fictitious tale that his brother launched the invasion because he was presented lousy intelligence. But now there’s a new witness who will make the Bush apologists’ mission even more impossible: Michael Morell, a longtime CIA official who eventually became the agency’s deputy director and acting director. During the preinvasion period, he served as Bush’s intelligence briefer.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball on Tuesday night, Morell made it clear: The Bush-Cheney administration publicly misrepresented the intelligence related to Iraq’s supposed WMD program and Saddam’s alleged links to Al Qaeda.

Host Chris Matthews asked Morell about a statement Cheney made in 2003: “We know he [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Here’s the conversation that followed:

MATTHEWS: Was that true?

MORELL: We were saying—

MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?

MORELL: That’s not true.

MATTHEWS: Well, why’d you let them get away with it?

Read more at Mother Jones

Al-Qaida breaks ties with group in Syria

In this Sunday Feb. 2, 2014 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center (AMC), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows buildings damaged by Syrian government forces airplanes, in Aleppo, Syria. Syrian government helicopters and warplanes unleashed a wave of airstrikes on more than a dozen opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, firing missiles and dropping crude barrel bombs in a ferocious attack that killed dozens of people, including at least 17 children, activists said. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida’s central leadership broke off ties with one of the most powerful militant groups in Syria, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and distanced itself from the rebel infighting in that country’s civil war, according to a statement Monday.

The announcement appeared to be an attempt by al-Qaida to put its house in order and reassert influence among rival Islamic groups that have turned against one another in Syria, where the groups have joined rebels in fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

In past months, the Islamic State — created by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq — has increasingly clashed with other hard-line Islamic factions, including assassinating commanders of rival groups with car bombs and shootings.

Al-Baghdadi created the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant last year in defiance of orders from the terror network’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, who at the time ordered him to remain the head of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, while authorizing another group, Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, to operate in Syria in al-Qaida’s name. Al-Baghdadi went ahead and created the new group, becoming a powerful force in Syria’s conflict.

In Monday’s statement, al-Qaida’s general command announced it has “no connection” with the Islamic State, underlined that the group “is not a branch of the al-Qaida organization,” and said al-Qaida “is not responsible for its actions.”

Al-Qaida did not condone the group’s creation “and in fact ordered it to stop,” the statement said.

It also condemned the infighting among Islamic groups, saying, “We distance ourselves from the sedition taking place among the mujahedeen factions (in Syria) and of the forbidden blood shed by any faction.” It warned that mujahedeen, of holy warriors, must recognize the “enormity of the catastrophe” caused by “this sedition.”

It also condemned the infighting among Islamic groups, saying, “We distance ourselves from the sedition taking place among the mujahedeen factions (in Syria) and of the forbidden blood shed by any faction.” It warned that mujahedeen, of holy warriors, must recognize the “enormity of the catastrophe” caused by “this sedition.”

Read more at the Associated Press

Break the link between terrorism funding and poaching

By Siddharth Maheshwari (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a new threat in the terrorist hotbed of Africa, and the U.S. military can do much more to combat it. Poaching of endangered elephants and rhinos has become a conservation crisis, and profits from wildlife crimes are filling the coffers of terrorist organizations. The twin crises should be cause for alarm for military leaders, not just conservation groups. They need to start working together before it is too late.

In the past two years, about 60,000 elephants and more than 1,600 rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and others. About a thousand park rangers have died in the past decade defending the animals.

Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated $19 billion a year — more than the illicit trafficking of small arms, diamonds, gold or oil. A July Congressional Research Service report found that a rhino horn is worth more than $50,000 per kilogram on the black market — more than gold or platinum. Sadly, poaching elephants and rhinos in Africa is easy money for terrorists, and they are cashing in.

One Elephant Action League undercover investigation in Kenya concluded that illegal ivory funds as much as 40 percent of the operations of al-Shabab, the group behind the November attack at a Nairobi shopping mall where 60 people were killed. The former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and the U.N. secretary general have drawn similar links between crime against wildlife and al-Shabab, al-Qaeda and the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.

Last May, President Obama called for a new strategy to fight al-Qaeda and its affiliates. To be effective, these counterterrorism plans must engage not only African defense leaders but also conservation and development leaders. U.S. military plans for Africa should include ending elephant and rhino poaching to cut off a key source of funds for al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

Read more at The Washington Post

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The hidden history of the CIA’s prison in Poland

A car drives past barbed-wire fence surrounding a military area in Stare Kiejkuty village in Poland. (Kacper Pempel/REUTERS )

By Adam Goldman, Updated: Thursday, January 23, 11:33 AM

On a cold day in early 2003, two senior CIA officers arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw to pick up a pair of large cardboard boxes. Inside were bundles of cash totaling $15 million that had been flown from Germany via diplomatic pouch.

The men put the boxes in a van and weaved through the Polish capital until coming to the headquarters of Polish intelligence. They were met by Col. ­Andrzej Derlatka, deputy chief of the intelligence service, and two of his associates.

The Americans and Poles then sealed an agreement that over the previous weeks had allowed the CIA the use of a secret prison — a remote villa in the Polish lake district — to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects. The Polish intelligence service received the money, and the CIA had a solid location for its newest covert operation, according to former agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interrogation program, including previously unreported details about the creation of the CIA’s “black sites,” or secret prisons.

The CIA prison in Poland was arguably the most important of all the black sites created by the agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was the first of a trio in Europe that housed the initial wave of accused Sept. 11 conspirators, and it was where Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the attacks, was waterboarded 183 times after his capture.

Much about the creation and operation of the CIA’s prison at a base in one of the young democracies of Central Europe remains cloaked in mystery, matters that the U.S. government has classified as state secrets. But what happened in Poland more than a decade ago continues to reverberate, and the bitter debate about the CIA’s interrogation program is about to be revisited.

The Senate Intelligence Committee intends to release portions of an exhaustive 6,000-page report on the interrogation program, its value in eliciting critical intelligence and whether Congress was misled about aspects of the program.

The treatment of detainees also continues to be a legal issue in the military trials of Mohammed and others at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

And in December, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments that Poland violated international law and participated in torture by accommodating its American ally; a decision is expected this year.

“In the face of Polish and United States efforts to draw a veil over these abuses, the European Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to break this conspiracy of silence and uphold the rule of law,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, which petitioned the court on behalf of a detainee who was held at the Polish site.

Read more at The Washington Post

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Drone Victims Testify Before Congress

Rafique ur Rehman and his family testify in a congressional briefing, October 30, 2013.

Zubair ur Rehman is afraid of blue skies. After all, it was a bright, clear day when his grandmother, Mamana Bibi was killed by a drone strike in a field outside of his home in Pakistan’s Waziristan region.

“When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear,” the thirteen-year-old told members of Congress at a briefing organized by Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, yesterday.

Zubair wasn’t always so anxious. Not even on that day when he was out collecting okra with his grandmother, siblings, and cousins in preparation for the Eid holiday.

“As I helped my grandmother work in the fields,” he said through a translator, “I could hear the drone hover overhead, but I didn’t worry. Why would I worry? Neither I nor my grandmother were militants.”

That is why it was so surprising when a hellfire missile fell from the sky and shattered his family’s life. Zubair’s sister, Nabila, nine years old, recalled what happened next. “I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running but I felt something in my hand. I looked at my hand and I saw that there was blood. I tried to bandage my hand but the blood kept coming. The blood wouldn’t stop.”

The two were badly injured along with four of their cousins. Their grandmother did not survive the attack.

Read more at the Boston Review

New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy

By Aron Lund for Syria Comment
Sept. 24, 2013

Abdelaziz Salame, the highest political leader of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo, has issued a statement online where he claims to speak for 13 different rebel factions. You can see the video or read it in Arabic here. The statement is titled “communiqué number one” – making it slightly ominous right off the bat – and what it purports to do is to gut Western strategy on Syria and put an end to the exiled opposition.

The statements has four points, some of them a little rambling. My summary:

– All military and civilian forces should unify their ranks in an “Islamic framwork” which is based on “the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation”.

– The undersigned feel that they can only be represented by those who lived and sacrificed for the revolution.

– Therefore, they say, they are not represented by the exile groups. They go on to specify that this applies to the National Coalition and the planned exile government of Ahmed Touma, stressing that these groups “do not represent them” and they “do not recognize them”.

– In closing, the undersigned call on everyone to unite and avoid conflict, and so on, and so on.

The following groups are listed as signatories to the statement.

1. Jabhat al-Nosra
2. Islamic Ahrar al-Sham Movement
3. Tawhid Brigade
4. Islam BrigadeIslamic Dawn Movement
5. Suqour al-Sham Brigades
6. Islamic Dawn Movement
7. Islamic Light Movement
8. Noureddin al-Zengi Battalions
9. Haqq Brigade – Homs
10. Furqan Brigade – Quneitra
11. Fa-staqim Kama Ummirat Gathering – Aleppo
12. 19th Division
13. Ansar Brigade

Who are these people?

The alleged signatories make up a major part of the northern rebel force, plus big chunks also of the Homs and Damascus rebel scene, as well as a bit of it elsewhere. Some of them are among the biggest armed groups in the country, and I’m thinking now mostly of numbers one through five. All together, they control at least a few tens of thousand fighters, and if you trust their own estimates (don’t) it must be way above 50,000 fighters.

Most of the major insurgent alliances are included. Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam and Suqour al-Sham are in both the Western- and Gulf-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC a.k.a. FSA) and the SILF, sort-of-moderate Islamists. Ahrar al-Sham and Haqq are in the SIF, very hardline Islamists. Jabhat al-Nosra, of course, is an al-Qaida faction. Noureddin al-Zengi are in the Asala wa-Tanmiya alliance (which is led by quietist salafis, more or less) as well as in the SMC. And so on. More groups may join, but already at this stage, it looks – on paper, at least – like the most powerful insurgent alliance in Syria.

Read more at Syria Comment

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Group are not in Line with the Syrian Revolution


Syrian Coalition
Istanbul, Turkey
September 20, 2013

The Syrian Coalition condemns the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) for its aggression towards Syrian revolutionary forces and its indifference to the lives of the Syrian people. The Syrian Coalition stresses that the following ISIS practices constitute a stark contradiction to the principles of the Syrian revolution:

1. ISIS’s link with a foreign agenda and its repeated calls to establish a new state inside Syria violating national sovereignty.

2. ISIS’s repeated repressive practices with respect to the freedoms of citizens, doctors, journalists, and political activists.

3. ISIS’s use of force in dealing with civilians, as well as its fight against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in particular the recent incident in the town of Azaz, Rural Aleppo, where ISIS tried to control the Bab al-Salamah border crossing with Turkey on September 18, 2013.

4. ISIS no longer fights the Assad regime. Rather, it is strengthening its positions in liberated areas, at the expense of the safety of civilians. ISIS is inflicting on the people the same suppression of the Baath party and the Assad regime.

The Syrian Coalition reiterates that the Syrian people are moderate, and respect religious diversity and political differences. They reject extremist (takfiri) ideology and exclusionary behavior, including any and all criminal acts against all citizens.

The Syrian Coalition emphasizes that the principles and values of the Syrian revolution are universal human values, and calls on all revolutionary forces to continue the struggle towards a state where freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy, and equality can thrive.

We ask for Mercy for our martyrs, health for our wounded, and freedom for our detainees.

Long live Syria and its people, free and with honor.

via Syrian National Coalition