John McCain, George Bush’s Bagman

So I spent a day and a half, knowing full well that the Colombian rescue was done with the assistance of our intelligence services, wondering, still, why they timed the rescue to coincide with McCain’s visit to Colombia.

Leaders of the Colombian FARC rebel movement were paid millions of dollars to free Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, Swiss radio said on Friday, quoting ‘a reliable source’.

The 15 hostages released on Wednesday by the Colombian army ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the radio’s French-language channel said.

Saying the United States, which had three of its citizens among those freed, was behind the deal, it put the price of the ransom at some $20 million.


White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the rescue ‘was conceived by the Colombians and executed by the Colombians with our full support,’ while implying that Washington had provided intelligence and even operational help.

Silly me! They didn’t need McCain there for a photo op! They needed a bagman.

Now I wonder how long it’ll be before we find out the ransom came from Bandar’s little slush fund? But don’t worry–McCain’s just aspiring to be like Saint Ronnie.

  1. PJEvans says:

    The timing was awfully convenient.

    FARC only wanted money? Doesn’t the traditional demand include things like amnesty and pardons?

  2. bmaz says:

    I guess this explains why Cindy’s Plutonium Black Centurion American Express card has such a high balance. Farcs are even more expensive than Louboutins and Jimmy Choos. Go figure.

        • WilliamOckham says:


          I found support for my reading of “subject to electronic surveillance” from an odd group of people, Senators DeWine, Graham, Hagel, and Snowe. In 2006, they introduced a bill to legalize the TSP. There is no doubt the bill was intended to legitimize the then-current practices of the Administration. Senator Graham said, “My goal is to ensure the spying program, which has been effective and vital to our national security, is able to continue by ensuring we have the appropriate checks and balances in place.”

          One provision of the bill was to create a Terrorist Surveillance List:

          The President shall establish and maintain for purposes of this Act a list of groups and organizations that are subject to electronic surveillance authorized under the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The list shall be known as the ‘Terrorist Surveillance List’

          I think that pretty clearly indicates the ‘plain meaning’ of ’subject to electronic surveillance’. As a “specially designated global terrorist organization”, there’s no doubt al Haramain was on the list.

            • yonodeler says:

              The expressed purpose of the bill used the term “suspected terrorists”, but Suspected was intentionally not used to modify Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 and Terrorist Surveillance List.

          • bobschacht says:

            It’s the “enemies list!” And of course, it has to be secret, because you can’t let our “enemies” know that we’re onto them.

            Bob in HI

  3. LS says:

    This whole thing wreaks of Iran Contra…wonder what Ollie’s been up to lately? But America will just yawn on..

  4. Eureka Springs says:

    So free trade with Columbia means we do the GOP does negotiate with and pay off terrorists?

  5. allan says:

    Jim Lehrer’s felacial fawning interview Thursday
    with the Colombian defense minister was a sight to behold.

  6. GregB says:

    We will never negotiate with evil! Except during election years when it may offer a great foreign policy photo-op.


    • emptywheel says:

      Let me reiterate, though. I don’t think it’s photo op–at least not entirely.

      All of the intelligence work we’re doing with Colombia right now–including the earlier cross-border operation into Ecuador–is setting up an operation on Venezuela. Perhaps they’re only planning on the op if we start bombing Iran, and need to guarantee fuel supplies. Perhaps they’ve got an October surprise planned (some set up sting involving Chavez, the Iranians, and the Russians, using Viktor Bout as bait). But it’s not just a photo op.

        • emptywheel says:

          Look, Chavez is a demogogue. But there is certainly reason to at least listen to his claims that the US is out after him through Colombia. We did it once, if we took on Iran, Venezuela and its oil would be one of our–by far–biggest vulnerabilities. So rest assured, if there are Iran plans that may or may not be used, there are also Venezuela contigencies that may or may not be used.

          • freepatriot says:

            if we took on Iran, Venezuela and its oil would be one of our–by far–biggest vulnerabilities.

            you’re on the right track, but you’re focusing on the wrong thing

            transportation is the key

            and how is oil transported ???

            unless the terrorists are a bunch of fooking mooks, they’re gonna figure this out too

      • LS says:

        I agree. I think Bushco and McBushco are going for at least a twofer before leaving (if they do) office…Iran and Venezuela…they’d also like to nail Syria. This is all about oil. All of it. Planned way before 9/11 (which was the enabling event…even alluded to in their planning.) Bushco is trying to claim all the oil in the world that it can get its hands on and out of the hands of China and Russia. Very, very dangerous chess played by very stupid dangerous people and enabled all along the way by a very stupid Congress.

        • PJEvans says:

          I suspect Congress is so busy watching the magician doing his stuff that they don’t notice what his assistant is doing with their coats, wallets and purses.
          Not necessarily stupid, but definitely gullible.
          The stupid is not listening to the people telling them what’s going on.

      • freepatriot says:

        Perhaps they’ve got an October surprise planned (some set up sting involving Chavez, the Iranians, and the Russians, using Viktor Bout as bait).

        I can see what you’re implying here, but I don’t think these clowns are capable of planning a tripart plan to keep oil flowing if we attack Iran

        and the funny part is that this plan is apparently focused on point of supply protection-siezure

        let the American Army protect all the oil wells on the planet

        without oil tankers, the oil ain’t getting to America anyway

        guess georgie will be wishing he had secured the ports in a few months

        anybody got a clue how many oil tankers there are

        gotta be a finite number …

        those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it

        America as the “East Aisa Co=Prosperity Sphere ??? WTF ???

  7. masaccio says:

    OT, I have posted some of my China pictures here.

    For some reason, the pictures posted in reverse chronological order, and I can’t figure out how to change the order. I would appreciate help on this.

    • skdadl says:

      Fascinating, masaccio. I may have missed something, but when you said you didn’t eat the feet either — um, may I ask, feet of what?

      Back to the main topic: there’s something about this story that is escaping me. I keep thinking there must be more to it, although I can’t imagine what.

      • LS says:

        Heh…maybe referring to the head of the chicken…beak and all…in the pic. *g*

        The pictures are really wonderful.

    • ceeinbc says:

      OT — masaccio, please check your Flickr mail for help re: changing the order of your China pics.

      Re: Hidden agenda for McCain’s Colombian visit, hmmm, makes one wonder what McCain/Bush really had in store for PM Harper & his crew during McCain’s recent trip up here to Canada.

      • skdadl says:

        Re: Hidden agenda for McCain’s Colombian visit, hmmm, makes one wonder what McCain/Bush really had in store for PM Harper & his crew during McCain’s recent trip up here to Canada.

        Heh. That very thought crossed my tiny mind this a.m. as well. There’s something strange about a presidential candidate taking these trips at this point — Canada? Colombia? If anything, Canada seems the more puzzling. And Harper flew the coop for the duration, too.

      • emptywheel says:

        And his fundraising trips to England. He’s hitting all the NeoFeudalist allies, lately. He needs a trip to Sarkozy and a trip to Berlusconi, and it’ll be everyone.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Well, that link from “St Ronnie” in the post to the Wikipedia I/C info is really discouraging.
      As if the nation was lost back in the late 1980s, alluding to something that LabDancer mentioned a week or two ago in referencing how the Dems who’d stood up to the bellicose wing of the GOP had been ’silenced’ and all that were left were the polite, compliant cowerers.

      And the evocative sense of deja vu: the Pres knows nothing, documents are destroyed, illicit deals are run out of the NSA… it sure puts Hadley’s role in a brighter glare when you figure that I/C was run out of the NSA. One of the things they learned, evidently, is to run it out of OVP and coordinate with NSA (and keeping it farther from the limelight).

      If Robert McFarlane (St Ronnie’s NSA) was running the I/C ops out of his office, then WTF is Hadley (he of the ‘oh, I forgot to remove the 16 words from the 2003 SOTU speech…’) up to these days?

      Clearly, Hugo Chavez doesn’t synch with the priorities of the BushCheney corporate gluttons. And Chavez has helped support Iran. So your 20 makes a whole lot of sense. I’d predict after the elections, but before Jan 20th. (mid Nov probably suits the CheneyNSA crowd quite nicely.)

      OT — Thanks for those lovely photos, massacio — enjoyed every one of ‘em! (Particularly the children’s school Dragon Dance, the crowded side streets with laundry hanging out, and the Forest of Stone Tablets.) No doubt your recent trip makes TN seem rather ‘wide open’ and spacious.

      Qu: Was the ‘forest’ the pine forest itself, or was the ‘forest’ comprised of Stone Tablets?
      I inquire b/c there are ancient stele in the Near East referenced as a ‘forest’ of tablets, as though the tablets are the trees. I gather your photos are the stone tablets in the pine forest…?

      • masaccio says:

        Skdadl, thanks, the feet were in the bowl with most of the rest of the chicken.

        rOTL, we visited what amounts to a museum of stone tablets, but the name was the Forest of Stone Tablets. I didn’t take an establishing picture; it was a single building with maybe 75 or 80 stone tablets. The one labeled Son of the Dragon was one of several out in the garden of the building.

        The staff was engaged in making rubbings, so I saw that as well. One of the tablets was considered lucky for those taking examinations, so it was being copied over and over.

    • JTMinIA says:

      I assume that the “three sages of China” are Confucius, Lao Tse, and Mencius, but can you tell me which is which (in the last picture)? If I had to guess, I’d say the order I gave above is from left to right in the photo, but I’m not sure. Maybe they gave Confucius the nicest beard, instead. But since the best-bearded dude also has the largest ears, I’ll stick with my guess of the center being Lao Tse.

      • masaccio says:

        There was no sign on the statue, so I’m guessing. I think the order is Lao-Tse, Confucius, and Mencius. According to Wikipedia, Lao-Tse is usually pictured as a Daoist figure, and that fits the one on the left. He also has long earlobes, and that fits. Mencius was a pupil of Confucius, so he should not be in the center.

        • JTMinIA says:

          On second look, I agree. I thought the center guy’s ears looked longer than those of the guy on the left, but I should have noticed the “book” that the guy on the left is holding. That’s the give-away that he’s Lao Tse. In theory, Lao Tse wrote the Tao Te Ching in one sitting on the request of a gatekeeper (as Lao Tse was headed off for what we’d called retirement). The only thing that had me pushing the center as Lao Tse was how he looks older, but that’s my bias (as opposed to the standard bias in China). I like Lao Tse quite a bit. I think Confucius was a bit too much of a control-freak.

          I don’t think that there’s any doubt that the guy on the right is Mencius.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wonder how St. John the Divine got permission to carry that much currency or its equivalent over the border. Just asking, cause if he didn’t, he’s in a world of hurt.

  9. yonodeler says:

    The Bush administration’s geographically-challenged, culturally-challenged dealmakers aren’t doing as well in the Middle East.

  10. JThomason says:


    Bout was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand on March 6, 2008, five days after the Colombian government found the computer of FARC’s (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) leader alias “Raul Reyes” in a long term camp site in Ecuador.

    Wikipedia. My inferential capacities are arcing.

    • emptywheel says:

      Right. And his indictment really focuses on FARC–but the whole FARC thing was just a setup. So what are they doing? Besides, I’m still waiting to see the resolution to the Venezuelans being tried as agents of a foreign power in Miami for–uh–being bagmen.

      • JThomason says:

        What I am getting in reading the criminal complaint against Bout is that he was approached by 3 DEA undercover agents who were embedded in FARC who were requesting surface to air missiles. 100 Igla missles were identified in Bulgaria at a cost of 5 million USD. So the logistics for moving the arms is put in place by the DEA acting as FARC and Bout is taken out. Very peculiar.

        I see what you mean about a black ops slush fund being handy for moving surface to air missiles to a terrorist group deeply infiltrated by the DEA. I know you have this covered. Am I getting the picture? What is curious is that the complaint is so transparent and is available.

        • emptywheel says:

          Well, mostly I was thinking of slush fund as a way to pay for hostages. Presumably, Bush is not going to go to Congress and say, “say, can I have $20 million to pay to FARC so the GOP nominee can have a photo op?” So where’d the ransom money come from?

          • JThomason says:

            Right and I get that now. If the weapons have been exposed they are not going to move to South America. Still channels have been identified. The complaint certainly highlights strong connections between US Agents and FARC and if direct action against Venezuela is not an option certainly some kind of guerrilla insurgency armed with Russian weapons could accomplish the aims of destabilizing Chavez.

          • LS says:

            Missing billions in Iraq…drug money from S. and C. America, Afghanistan drug money….They’ve got all the money they need to run their covert ops.

            The odd thing about McCain being there though doesn’t quite jive as a photo-op, because in actuality there really wasn’t an effective one…didn’t make sense.

            If anything, he was there to deliver a message on behalf of Bushco.

            I don’t know why, but my very first thought was something along the lines of Abramoff (750,000 documents blocked) and/or Cunningham and his weapons dealings…and Hastert, Turkey…Sibel Edmonds. I think McCain has been in the thick of the Repub darkside for awhile… My fictional mind theory is that there is a humongous “other” organized crime, weapons dealing, regime overthrowing operation ongoing worldwide, and McCain is in on it, and that is why they’ve got his balls to the wall and are pulling all of his strings.

            • yellowsnapdragon says:

              Abramoff popped into my head too, but I can’t quite figure how he fits in. And Cunningham and other southern California crooks are always floating around the stink.

              • LS says:

                Hmmm…there must be a reason in the subconscious that we both thought about it right off the bat…I know that I was interested in the Sun Cruz connections to Abramoff and the supposed Atta sitings…which to me…leads back to Bandar Bush possibly…and his wife…money laundering….Riggs Bank…Bush family connections…oil…Saudis…

                Then…today I read that OBL wanted the oil barrel price to be $144.


                Hmm….is W interchangeable with OBL on some weird level???

                Then, I’m thinkin’….W senior was meeting with Bin Ladens on morning of 9/11. W was roomates with OBL’s brother. The Saudis bailed W out of his oil business. He owes them.

                How does Abramoff count in all of this? I don’t know, but I think he does.

                I think there is a parallel universe going on…

        • yellowsnapdragon says:

          Where have I read in the somewhat recent past a government document referencing “Boris”, an unidentified accomplice in some crime. *racking brain*

  11. JThomason says:

    And I was patting myself on the back for knowing who “Butch” and “Sundance” were and remembering where they ended up once they were off the cliff and down the river.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Well, maybe Sonya’s in there somewhere and we just haven’t spotted her yet. Perhaps she’s claiming to be ‘Natalie’ these days?

      Kidding aside, Abramoff:
      – Karl Rove’s cookie jar for more GOP campaign $$ b/c clearly K-k-k-karl wanted GOP Permanent Majority.
      – GOP also needed Permanent Majority to control Congressional Committees, esp the very lucrative Armed Services, Appropriations, Intel committees.
      – GOP also needed Exec to operate ‘whatever the hell is going on’ out of OVP (neocons, Niger forgeries, you name it)
      – GOP also needed Exec to control agencies and regulatory structures
      – GOP also needed Exec to control DoJ (USAGs, Siegelman) and control the FBI (shutting down investigations into a myriad of God-only-knows-what)

      Abramoff was also evidently funding West Bank settlers, including providing them with weapons and night-vision spooky stuff (see Wikipedia). He seems to have generated that revenue stream from a bogus non-profit set up as a Jewish school located in Wa, DC (Ensalon…, or something like that).

      So yeah. If you want ‘amorality 101′, his is a good name to use the google on.
      And his name links to so many others…

      David Safavian, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Susan Ralston….
      Quite a busy guy, that Abramoff.

  12. JThomason says:

    Marcy is operating at several inferential domains beyond mine and probably using methods where non-local physical rules apply but I think what she is suggesting here is to follow the banana trail.

  13. masaccio says:

    The French are denying the Swiss story:

    French officials also dismissed Swiss reports that bribes had been paid to the FARC and that the rescue was a staged affair. Ms. Betancourt is expected to undergo a medical examination at a French military hospital on Saturday.

    Le Monde quotes the head of the operation saying that no money changed hands. He thought it would have been better if the FARC had accepted a bribe, because it would have shown that the group was “decomposing”.

    Le Monde also quotes the US Ambassador denying any ransom came from the US. They also quote Betancourt denying that the rescue was staged, in no uncertain terms.

  14. LS says:

    Here’s my warped take on this:

    There is the Obama/McCain MSM hype and missing raped and killed white women America.

    There is the we can’t afford to drive to work and eat America.

    And, there is the America of Bushco….an extension of generations of thinking culturally ingrained in their ilk…beginning with Prescott…we are in a situation where Bushco is sort of a “kinder gentler” form of Hitler-like fascist tactics (spying, torturing, disappearing, murdering, preemtively invading and occupying sovereign nations and religiously profiling the “enemy”) aimed at world domination by force.

    The government of Colombia tortures and kills people. They are exactly what I just described. McCain is part of this now by proxy. Bushco has infected him and connected him and Lieberliar too.

    The whole thing stinks. Worse than Iran Contra…Iran Contra on Steroids.

  15. yellowsnapdragon says:

    The DEA asked its agent to contact Bout in November, 2007 about an arms deal. What was happening in late summer/early fall of last year that might cause the need to get operations moving in Colombia?

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      Maybe it was simply the late summer roll out of the new product and things were starting to move.

    • emptywheel says:

      Like I said, I’m still fairly suspicious that the folks caught bringing money “from Chavez” to Argentina were not involved with some other bigger players (including, honest to god, BAE). So that’s going down at the same time–the US is exposing some other funding scheme going on between the LA populists.

  16. LS says:

    “On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated an alleged confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA. The memo allegedly contains an update on US clandestine operations against the Chavez government.[117] Two days before the constitutional referendum, Chávez threatened to cut off oil shipments to the US if it criticized the voting results.”

  17. PontchartrainPete says:

    I was watching all this unfold Wednesday. CNN International had a Columbian correspondent on who said the hostages had been “released.” I clicked over to MSNBC, who said they were “rescued.” Then the official story came out about FARC being tricked into releasing the hostages. I thought the whole thing stank. Very fishy.

    Ransom makes more sense. And, if it’s ever admitted, the implications for the administration, McCain, and the media will be enormous.

  18. JThomason says:

    On the Chavez defeat last December with regard to the Constitutional referendum:

    The outcome marks the emergence of two potentially formidable political foes: university student leaders who galvanized the opposition and retired Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who once was one of Chavez’s closest collaborators as defense minister but became a harsh critic of the proposed changes.


  19. freepatriot says:

    Battle of Cowpens is on the History Channel right now …

    did I ever mention that my ancestors fought at cowpens ???

    232 years later, we’re still fightin for liberty …

  20. JThomason says:

    Dutch Antilles, Arms Deals, Abramoff:

    Kidan, who will be the company’s chairman and chief executive, touted the new management’s business expertise and experience in government. He is an owner and general counsel to the St. Maarten Hotel Beach Club and Casino. Vice chairman Jack Abramoff is a government affairs counselor for a Washington law firm, and spent more than a decade producing feature films. SunCruz president Ben Waldman served in the Reagan administration, including as associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.

    New Owners Board Sun Cruz, Sep. 28, 2000.

    News that former Maho Group president and Casino Royale proprietor Rosario “Saro” Spadaro (72) had been arrested in Italy spread through St. Maarten like wildfire yesterday, following a report in the Spanish language daily El Nuevo Hispano.


    The breakthrough reportedly came from phone and personal conversations recorded at the Prosecutor’s Office in Messina. The head of the operation is said to be businessman Salvatore Siracusano, now in prison, who is said to have business relations with Youssef Nada, identified as financier of Osama bin Laden by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

    The investigation is a follow-up to others in the early 1990s, when then-famous Mafia prosecutor Domenico Sica, who was later killed, sent agents to St. Maarten to investigate.

    Spadaro was already arrested once by French authorities on November 19, 1993, while on his yacht in St. Barths, and held in Guadeloupe about a year pending extradition to the Antilles in connection with the St. Maarten airport scandal. At the time he had already been named in a Messina court concerning an illegal arms deal.

    St. Maarteen News.

    St. Maarten Hotel Beach Club and Casino.

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      Well now that’s interesting. Bin Ladin, CIA, arms deals, airlines…and Abramoff.

      Monzer al-Kassar is also a figure in Iran Contra according to wiki.

  21. JThomason says:

    My head is spinning:

    And evidence found in the raid suggests that Chavez recently gave the FARC $300 million, Colombia’s national police chief said Monday.

    Speaking at a news conference, Gen. Oscar Naranjo said evidence in three seized computers also suggests FARC had given Chavez 100 million pesos when he was a jailed rebel leader.

    Naranjo said other evidence in the computers suggests FARC purchased 50 kilograms of uranium this month.


    Why does the bit about uranium sound like a Rendon Group provocation? And I think I am finally getting the fact that the FARC references in the Bout complaint were part of the sting but why would have Bout dealt unless he had some confidence in the FARC bona fides of CS-1, CS-2 and CS-3? There is no news on the fate of Rosario Spadaro and Youssef Nada has a web site proclaiming his innocence and is suing Swiss authorities for implicating him as a AQ financier.

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      Boy oh boy do I agree about the bona fides of the three DEA stooges. There were pictures to prove their FARC credentials. Fishy indeed.

  22. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Why does the bit about uranium sound like a Rendon Group provocation?

    Oh, come now.
    You know they’re pillars of integrity.
    You must have misread.

  23. skdadl says:

    O/T: re Blackwater. I probably should have known this but I guess it passed me by (so much does). Did we know that there is a federal grand jury investigating the Blackwater shooting spree in Baghdad last September that ended up killing 17 Iraqis, including the little boy in that BBC story?

    I’ve just been running on the assumption that no one knows how to rein in the private contractors effectively (or no one dares to). So where did that grand jury come from?

    • JThomason says:

      If the New York Federal District Court can assert jurisdiction over Russian citizen Viktor Bout for contacts in Curacao, Copenhagen, Bucharest and Thailand arising from a deal with Columbian revolutionary agents with no suggestion of any act by a US citizen or on US territory, I would think jurisdiction could be asserted against agents of a US firm in a territory occupied by the US who are US citizens.

      • skdadl says:

        Well yes, I get that part. But it is the decision to investigate that surprised me. Especially on this turf, wouldn’t it take someone of somewhat elevated status in the DoJ to decide to move ahead with this?

        Apparently this has been going on since November. I really am slow.

  24. dosido says:

    I tell ya, this trip to Colombia was all about the Three Amigos trying extraordinary rendition for themselves…so comfy! What’s the big deal about a free trip to foreign countries?

    Either that, or McCain was simply trying to win votes by leaving the country, period.