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The Navy SEALs Bring You Izahgneb! Saving Libya’s Crude for Marathon Oil!

I discovered NSC spokesperosn Caitlin Hayden has a (little used) twitter feed today when she tweeted this article.

The article not only explains why Navy SEALs were ordered to take over a ship absconding with Libyan oil.

Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The economy entirely depends on it; turn off the taps and everything grinds to a halt. Libyans quite rightly regard the oil as their common property, a national resource to be shared for the good of all. The vast majority of Libyans hold jobs that are financed, directly or indirectly, by the sale of oil.

Given this history, it makes perfect sense that the control of oil should rest with the central government. Take that away, and the government doesn’t just lose control over its most important source of finance — the very notion of central authority will also be compromised, perhaps fatally. And in present-day Libya, the fate of democracy is closely linked with the viability of government itself.

This is why both Libya’s government and the international community have viewed the federalists’ threats to sell off the oil under their control as a dangerous challenge to the stability of the government in Tripoli. Last week, Jathran’s forces finally made good on that threat: they used one of the oil terminals under their control to fill up a North Korean-flagged tanker called the Morning Glory.

[snip]

Had the story ended there, the result would have been an unmitigated disaster for the government. Tripoli’s impotence and dysfunction would have graphically exposed for all the world to see. The floodgates for the wholesale looting of Libya’s oil resources would have opened. The forces of anarchy would have cheered. (It’s worth noting that a prime minister has already lost his job for even allowing the tanker to load in the first place.) But that’s when Washington stepped in.

Not long after the tanker arrived in international waters, a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, the USS Roosevelt (pictured above), brought the SEALs into range. (By the way, Obama authorized the move at 10 PM on Sunday night Washington time, as the world was preparing for the Crimean referendum.) They boarded the tanker without a shot fired and took it over.

But it bitches that no one recognized the successful operation as a “master stroke.”

President Obama pulled off a master stroke this week. He deployed U.S. military force in support of an infant democracy that desperately needs our help. The result was a resounding success, a vivid illustration of how the United States can put its unchallenged power to positive ends.

[snip]

The reaction in Washington: a giant yawn. Deafening silence from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are always quick to demand U.S. military action in situations where it will usually make things worse. Fox News barely noticed. Nor was there a word of praise from the president’s liberal allies on Capitol Hill. Even the New York Times ran a perfunctory report.

Now, frankly, I did notice. I shared the puzzlement I saw a few others express as to the legal basis for our SEALs policing stolen property. I was also rather curious about the legal status of the operation, which presumably relied on secrecy and also clearly (given the detention in Cyprus of suspected intended buyers) involved close cooperation with the intelligence community. (The Washington Times called it a “covert operation,” though they may not have been using the term in its technical sense.) And then shortly after, our government started crowing about its involvement, including this DOD statement noting that “The boarding operation [was] approved by President Obama.” And now, with this rare tweet from Hayden, official approval of this article that is thick with propaganda.

Behold the anti-Benghazi, ladies and gentlemen, a successful operation in which our brave Navy SEALs return stolen property to poor Libya, saving the unity of the country and a fledgling democracy.

Mind you, as I was looking for that DOD statement, I noted a slight change in the description of the operation.

A March 11 statement from Libya’s National Oil Company stated, “the crude oil loaded upon the vessel “Morning Glory”, which is now at Essider Terminal in Libya, is the property of NOC and its Partners.” A March 9 State Department statement said, “The oil belongs to the Libyan National Oil Company and its joint venture partners. These partners include U.S. companies in the Waha consortium.”

That March 17 statement, however, described, “The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company.” And a March 19 one not only added, “U.S. forces took control of the tanker in international waters at the request of the governments of Libya and Cyprus,” but repeated that “The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company.” Those partners — which both NOC and State were happy to reference before the SEALs valiantly rescued the crude — seem to have disappeared from the Administration’s messaging.

ConocoPhillips owns a 16.3% stake in the Waha Concession, and an even bigger stake in some less productive ventures. Marathon Oil also owns a 16.3% stake (and Hess a 8.2% stake).

So while Caitlin Hayden would like you to believe this was a heroic op that saved the Libyan democracy from disintegration — I’m sure the SEALs acquitted themselves against 3 armed Libyans quite courageously and it may well help the Libyan state — it also happens to be an operation that served to rescue around $8 million of crude owned by American companies.

Two more details. As Guardian pointed out in its initial coverage of the rebels’ seizure of the oil, reliable sources of oil to Europe are increasingly important as the US tries to face down Vladimir Putin on Europe’s East.

Just as importantly, Marathon has been trying to find a way to get out of its stake in Libya.

Libya has blocked efforts by U.S. company Marathon Oil to sell its stake in one of the country’s top oil ventures by moving to preempt a deal, sources said, highlighting the struggle investors face in cutting exposure to Libya’s unrest.

Two years of turmoil since the Arab Spring and tough contract terms have prompted oil firms to reassess their role in Libya, and U.S. companies appear keenest to leave as they lack the proximity and infrastructure links that make North Africa attractive to their European peers.

Sources told Reuters in July that Marathon was considering the sale of its stake in Libya’s Waha Oil Company, which has a maximum output capacity of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) and produces the OPEC member’s main light sweet crude grade.

In addition to the hit this would have on Marathon’s bottom line (the Libyans have first bid here and informed Marathon they’d pay less than market rates), it would open up yet another new front for China to invest in big reserves. The last thing the US wants in China extending its influence in Africa.

Again, I’m not questioning the courage or excellence of the SEALs, nor am I diminishing the importance of oil to propping up the Libyan state right now. But it seems the push to turn this into a heroic narrative also serves to obscure the degree to which this is also about using our military to ensure the viability of this exploration so as to ensure US oil companies continue to exert influence — and keep pumping oil — in Libya.

Yes, this was not the catastrophe that Benghazi was (which has been magnified in any case). But that doesn’t mitigate that the overthrow of Qaddafi risks spiraling even further out of control into yet another colossal catastrophe of American (and European) intervention.

Is Chinese Elite Looting More Newsworthy than Middle Eastern–or US–Looting?

NYT has a really good article today on how the family of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has gotten enormously wealthy while he’s been in power. The Chinese government has already started censoring the story itself and discussions of it.

And while I applaud NYT’s coverage of the corruption of the Chinese elite, I was left wondering whether NYT would print the equivalent story on Middle Eastern dictators or–even more unlikely–American elites.

While there has been some coverage of how Hosni Mubarak, Moammar Qaddafi, Ali Abdullah Saleh, or Zine El Abindine Ben Ali looted their countries of billions now that they’ve fallen, one of the only times we’ve heard about Saudi looting came after Riggs Bank got busted.

And while we’ve had reports on Countrywide’s VIP program and the general process by which members of Congress get enormously wealthy on our dime as well as stories focused on those (like Maxine Waters), we rarely see maps like the one NYT drew of the business connections involved.

Partly, I wonder whether the US is just better at hiding these connections. Some of this kind of work would stumble on America’s shell corporations, for example.

In the case of Mr. Wen’s mother, The Times calculated her stake in Ping An — valued at $120 million in 2007 — by examining public records and government-issued identity cards, and by following the ownership trail to three Chinese investment entities. The name recorded on his mother’s shares was Taihong, a holding company registered in Tianjin, the prime minister’s hometown.

The apparent efforts to conceal the wealth reflect the highly charged politics surrounding the country’s ruling elite, many of whom are also enormously wealthy but reluctant to draw attention to their riches. When Bloomberg News reported in June that the extended family of Vice President Xi Jinping, set to become China’s next president, had amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, the Chinese government blocked access inside the country to the Bloomberg Web site.

“In the senior leadership, there’s no family that doesn’t have these problems,” said a former government colleague of Wen Jiabao who has known him for more than 20 years and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His enemies are intentionally trying to smear him by letting this leak out.”

And partly it may be lack of self-awareness. NYT complains, for example, that Chinese disclosure laws don’t apply to extended relatives.

In the winter of 2007, just before he began his second term as prime minister, Wen Jiabao called for new measures to fight corruption, particularly among high-ranking officials.

“Leaders at all levels of government should take the lead in the antigraft drive,” he told a gathering of high-level party members in Beijing. “They should strictly ensure that their family members, friends and close subordinates do not abuse government influence.”

The speech was consistent with the prime minister’s earlier drive to toughen disclosure rules for public servants, and to require senior officials to reveal their family assets.

Whether Mr. Wen has made such disclosures for his own family is unclear, since the Communist Party does not release such information. Even so, many of the holdings found by The Times would not need to be disclosed under the rules since they are not held in the name of the prime minister’s immediate family — his wife, son and daughter.

Eighty percent of the $2.7 billion in assets identified in The Times’s investigation and verified by the outside auditors were held by, among others, the prime minister’s mother, his younger brother, two brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and the parents of his son’s wife, none of whom is subject to party disclosure rules.

But when Congress finally passed a bill cracking down on insider trading this year, it didn’t even cover the spouses of members of Congress and we’re exempting some Executive Branch members on national security grounds.

Maybe I’m being churlish. But I really wonder if such a superb article would come out to expose graft of our allies that got deposited into American banks. And I wish we saw more of this kind of reporting about our own corrupt elite.

In somewhat related news, Silvio Berlusconi got sentenced to four years for tax fraud today (though appeals will probably save him from jail time). And we still haven’t seen Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

The Evolution of the “Obama Doctrine” after Benghazi

The other day, I wondered whether using three C-130s to bring a team of FBI Agents to Benghazi was overkill. And while I was able to get some kind of explanation (1 transport, 1 decoy, 1 to bring the toys), given this report on all the Special Forces C-130s swarming out of Crete…

In the last weeks, an unsual, covert, constant activity of U.S. Special Operations planes has been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. Quite regularly, taking off from Souda Bay, in Crete, various types of “Special Hercules”, including  MC-130Ps, MC-130Hs, HC-130P, and AC-130U gunships, performed day and night missions in the Libyan airspace whose purpose has yet to be fully unveiled.

As well as very vague reports that the Special Forces were not just protection–but were “helping gather intel”–in Benghazi, I’m not so sure.

Special Forces were always likely to help investigate this killing, but it appears there’s some kind of funky hybrid going on, the latest iteration of partnership between our National Security agencies in the war on terror.

And today, John Brennan headed to Libya to meet with Mohammed Magarief, who has been trying to consolidate national power even while the Prime Minister elect was ousted in a failure to form an acceptable government.

It’s against that background that this WaPo piece offers some key insight.

Before I get into it, I’m using “Obama Doctrine” as David Sanger did in his book. I think it’s a bogus term, but it’s the evolution in policy Sanger described as Obama moved away from CounterIntelligence in Afghanistan, to Counterterrorism, to a belief that partners and locals could carry out the fighting in Libya and elsewhere. The problem with that plan, I’ve always believed, is it offers no better solutions and some worse problems in how you establish the security and institution-building that countries need to have viable economies and legal systems. You’re still faced with the whole failed state problem.

In addition to general Islamist sentiment, Ambassador Steves’ assassination happened in an environment where the government was trying to nurture regime change and nation reformation without the military footprint we had in Afghanistan and Iraq. While Stevens appears to have had real security concerns, he also apparently pushed to have an open presence and to encourage capacity building in Libyans. Arguably, that’s part of what got him killed.

The WaPo catches us up to what kind of dilemmas that presents now as we try to find the best way to respond.

Should it rely on the FBI, treating the assaults on the two U.S. compounds like a regular crime for prosecution in U.S. courts? Can it depend on the dysfunctional Libyan government to take action? Or should it embrace a military option by ordering a drone strike — or sending more prisoners to Guantanamo Bay?

Read more

Fox News Blames Benghazi Attack on Gitmo Detainee

Fox News quotes sources claiming that former Gitmo detainee Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamouda Bin Qumu was involved in–and may have planned–the attack on American’s Consulate in Benghazi.

Intelligence sources tell Fox News they are convinced the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was directly tied to Al Qaeda — with a former Guantanamo detainee involved.

That revelation comes on the same day a top Obama administration official called last week’s deadly assault a “terrorist attack” — the first time the attack has been described that way by the administration after claims it had been a “spontaneous” act.

[snip]

Sufyan Ben Qumu is thought to have been involved and even may have led the attack, Fox News’ intelligence sources said. Qumu, a Libyan, was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 and transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008.

His Guantanamo files also show he has ties to the financiers behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The declassified files also point to ties with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known Al Qaeda affiliate.

Like Fox, I strongly suspect the Benghazi attack was planned in advance.

But Fox has grasped on one of the most damning pieces of evidence in Hamouda’s Gitmo file to insinuate close ties to al Qaeda–that his alias was found on Mustafa Al Hawsawi’s laptop–without considering that his role as a truck driver for an Osama bin Laden company might explain it. Nor does it look at Hamouda’s participation in an LIFG splinter group, which may have caused him financial troubles and might make his role in factional politics today rather interesting.

Plus, there’s more interesting details about Hamouda in the public record. For example, in a July 2, 2007 Administrative Review Board, Hamouda reportedly said he didn’t want to go back to Libya for fear he’d be held responsible for earlier drug charges. But a September 25, 2007 WikiLeaks cable records his lawyer saying he had no such fears–both in June 2007 (so before the ARB) and again in September. Read more

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens Dies in Attack on Benghazi Consulate

The US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed earlier today in an attack on the Consulate in Benghazi.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt’s capital.

The ambassador was paying a short visit to Benghazi when the consulate came under attack on Tuesday night, Al Jazeera’s Suleiman El-Dressi reported from the eastern Libyan city.

He died of suffocation during the attack, along with two US security personnel who were accompanying him, security sources told Al Jazeera. Another consulate employee, whose nationality could not immediately be confirmed, was also killed.

Earlier in the attack, there was another Consular employee killed.

And in our Embassy in Cairo, protestors pulled down the American flag and replaced it with an Islamic one–reportedly an al Qaeda one. There were reports that Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother was involved in the Egyptian attack.

Note that Stevens was also the liaison with the Libyan National Transitional Council. This man helped Libya overthrow Moammar Qaddafi. Already, there have been a lot of condemnations of the killing from Libyans and other Arabs.

Details about both attacks are still coming out, and State is trying to play down the degree to which Salafists were involved in both. I’ll be curious to learn whether the mob had reason to know Stevens was at the Consulate when they attacked.

Condolences to Stevens’ family and the families of all of those killed in these attacks.

Mitt’s Election Would Just Mean Cofer Black Would Get His Kill List Back

Amidst all the partying and pandering, some actual journalism did take place in Charlotte. Gawker’s John Cook asked the following people about whether Americans could trust Mitt Romney to decide which American citizens to assassinate with drones (definitely click through for the video):

  • Kay Hagen, Armed Services Subcommittee Chair on Emerging Threats
  • Carl Levin, Armed Services Committee Chair and ex officio member of Senate Intelligence Committee
  • Cary Booker, Newark Mayor
  • Lanny Davis, Asshole
  • Brad Woodhouse, DNC Spokesperson
  • Chuck Schumer, Judiciary Committee Member
  • Gloria Allred, bane of bmaz’ existence
  • Bill Press, lefty radio personality
  • Unnamed Arizona delegate

Only Bill Press gives an answer that even recognizes the gravity of the answer.

It’s an interesting question, though, for another reason.

If Mitt were elected, then the Kill List’s rightful owner, Cofer Black, might well get it back. The Kill List–like so much else–goes back to the September 17, 2001 “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification that Black threw together as a wish list of expansive counterterrorism approaches. (Also on there, btw, was partnering with Libya on torture, which Human Rights Watch further exposed the other day and I plan to return to.) And remarkably, when Cofer Black was in charge of the Kill List, it was used more judiciously than Obama has used it (Black had moved out of the Counterterrorism role at CIA before Kamal Derwish became the first American killed in a drone strike on November 5, 2002). And who knows? If Black took responsibility for the Kill List back, he might choose to focus on torture like he did before.

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t want Cofer Black back in any official capacity. But it’s worth remembering that Obama’s Kill List is really just a hand me down from the guy who, along with the Kill List, also instituted torture and partnership with Moammar Qaddafi.

You Don’t Suppose All These Dictators Have Been Looting with SCB’s and HSBC’s Help?

It happens every time. Around about the time it becomes clear a corrupt Middle Eastern dictator will fall, but before he has actually fallen, the press begins to report on the hunt for the money the dictator looted from his country. There was the “discovery” of Hosni Mubarak’s up-to $70 billion in February 2011. And reports, in March 2011, of the up to $200 billion that Moammar Qaddafi looted.

And today,

Even as the war in Syria rages and Bashar al-Assad clings to power, the race to find the regime’s vast—and mostly hidden—fortune is already underway. Experts say al-Assad and his associates have amassed as much as $25 billion through investments in banks, state industries and other concessions, and has stashed the money in offshore tax havens and in investments across the Middle East.

I don’t mean to slight Eli Lake (or any of the other journalists linked) for reporting this. It’s important the world remember that these dictators rule by and for the looting of their countries. Indeed, Lake’s report is particularly useful in the way he maps out the industry that charges big fees to help bring looted money back to its rightful owners.

Finding the money is of keen interest to the modern-day treasure hunters who specialize in recovering the wealth of fallen dictators. Sometimes called financial intelligence or forensic accounting, the industry comprises lawyers, accountants, ex-spies, former law enforcement investigators and even some retired journalists, all of whom look at the unrest in Syria as a business opportunity. Some firms charge several thousands of dollars per hour for the sleuth work of a team of six to eight investigators. Others get paid a “success fee,” a small percentage of the overall haul.

It’s just that few people ever want to talk about the looting that goes on–often with the assistance and for the profit of American and/or European banks–while it’s occurring.

Which is one of the reasons why the flap over Standard Chartered is so interesting. It revealed that most of the regulators overseeing our sanctions and money-laundering enforcement really wanted SCB to reach a settlement on transactions that SCB now admits represent just a fraction of a percent of the affected transactions. And that’s just the Iranian transactions; it doesn’t include the Libyan transactions that Benjamin Lawsky alluded to in a footnote of the report.

And while there’s no evidence in the DFS report that SCB was helping Assad loot his country, the Carl Levin-led investigation into HSBC describes several examples of HSBC evading sanctions so as to keep its Syrian business even after sanctions were imposed. In particular, there’s the way HSBC apparently decided it wouldn’t tell the Office of Foreign Asset Controls about the trust relationship its Cayman Island affiliate had with Rami Makhlouf, whom Lake singles out as a key Syrian target of the loot-hunters.

Another account involving an individual on the OFAC list was housed at HSBC Cayman Islands. On February 21, 2008, a Syrian businessman by the name of Rami Makhlouf was placed on the SDN list by OFAC. One week later, HSBC Cayman Compliance personnel contacted HBUS to report that HSBC Cayman Islands currently held a trust relationship with Mr. Makhlouf and to inquire as to “what actions if any HSBC Group has taken in relation to the above mentioned individual.” An HBUS Compliance officer asked the Cayman Compliance officer for more information about the Makhlouf accounts, and the head of HSBC Cayman Compliance responded: “The Trust is administered by HSBC Geneva. We raised concerns with this client in August 2007 however we were assured by David Ford that the relationship had been reviewed at a Group level and a decision had been taken to continue with the relationship.” Ultimately, HBUS determined that it did not have any connection to Mr. Makhlouf and did not need to report any information to OFAC.

Maybe the loot-hunters should ask HSBC and SCB where Qaddafi and Assad put their money? Maybe that’s what they bill out at such high rates to do?

The thing is, we can only point to these details because SCB and HSBC, because of Lawsky and Levin’s efforts, have undergone more transparency than all the other banks helping dictators strip their country’s wealth.  Regulators apparently want to keep us from knowing how much purportedly respectable banks help these dictators to shore up their own power and loot their countries. Moreover, they only want to penalize these banks for a tiny fraction of the business they do with these dictators even after they’ve been sanctioned.

It’s as if the regulators wanted to permit this kind of looting to happen, only to acted surprised at the sheer scope of the looting after the dictator’s demise.

Lost Among the Findings in Syria

The Neocons have been pressuring Obama to do something in Syria. So it’s thoroughly unsurprising that we’re officially learning what we’ve known for months: the CIA has been involved in Syria. According to Mark Hosenball the Finding Obama signed authorizing such actions permits us to collaborate at a “secret” command center on or close to our air base at Incirlik.

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

[snip]

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

The Finding doesn’t authorize arming the rebels (though Hosenball’s sources seem unsure about the general scope of the Finding), but NBC has reported that the Saudis and Qataris have already armed them with shoulder-launched missiles.

It’s just like old times! The US partnering with Saudis to get shoulder-launched missiles into the hands of rebels with dubious loyalties. Whatever could go wrong with that?

There are two details about this that deserve notice.

What happened to the leak hawks in Congress?

First, this story is based on the leak of a covert Finding–precisely the kind of leak that Congress has gone on the warpath against. Hosenball attributes his reporting to US sources–an attribution that can (though doesn’t necessarily) refer to Congressional sources.

U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

[snip]

A U.S. government source acknowledged

And while he notes–and names–the Senators who have been pressuring Obama to do precisely what he has been doing for months, Hosenball doesn’t name the members of Congress who are opposed to such an action.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government should become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

In short, chances are not insignificant that a Congressional source leaked the contents of a Finding authorizing covert operations.

And yet … crickets!

Those same Senate Intelligence Committee leak hawks who have authorized a range of stupid actions to prevent leaks seem unperturbed by a leak revealing information that is as sensitive as the leaks they’re demanding be investigated.

How does anti-Assad Finding relate to the Assad-cooperation authorized under the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification?

Then there’s this. In his description of all the things included in the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification authorizing the war on terror, Bob Woodward said cooperation with Syria (and Libya) were included.

[George Tenet] called for initiating intelligence contact with some rogue states such as Libya and Syria that he said might be helpful in trying to destroy al Qaeda. For the CIA to obtain helpful information against the terrorists, they might have to get their hands dirty. (Bush at War 77)

We know the MON included such cooperation with Libya because liberated documents have reflected cooperation on renditions. And Maher Arar, who was rendered to Syria and tortured, can tell you all about what our cooperation with Syria entailed.

The thing is, the MON authorizing cooperation with Syria remains in effect. We know that to be true because Judge Richard Wesley, in enabling the government to keep all mention of this MON secret a few months ago, stated it pertained to “active intelligence activity.” Rather than writing a new MON–one that doesn’t give CIA carte blanche in deciding the limits of things like targeted killings–Obama is still relying on this MON for things like killing American citizens.

So does that mean the CIA is at once authorized to share intelligence with Bashar al-Assad (under the Gloves Come Off MON) and help rebels overthrow and probably kill him (under this new Finding)?

Probably, there is a very simple explanation for this (and for the fact that we helped to kill Moammar Qaddafi, as well). Probably, the new FInding (and whatever Finding authorized the activities our spooks engaged in in Libya) simply includes language canceling the prior language authorizing cooperation with Assad. So no big deal, really.

Still, doesn’t that give lie to the Administration’s seeming treatment of that 11 year old MON as inviolate? That is, if this Finding renders (heh) part of that MON meaningless, then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for Obama to write a new MON, one that involved actual oversight.

What If the Biggest Risk ISN’T Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Giving Speeches?

The guy who covered up CIA’s torture, Jose Rodriguez, worries that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed might give a speech during the course of his military commission.

Although he acted defiantly in court, Rodriguez said KSM would like nothing more than a forum to preach radical Islam.

“This is a process that will continue for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “I have heard he may plead not guilty, and if he does, he’ll use the [legal] process as his platform . . . to talk about his jihadist beliefs.”

[snip]

“It seemed to us that he was looking for a platform from which he could spout his hatred for all things American, and a trial would certainly present that opportunity,” Rodriguez writes. “It strikes me as more than a little ironic that several years later, Attorney General Eric Holder almost granted KSM his wish.”

Ironically, Rupert’s rag decided to plug these Rodriguez fears the day after KSM and his co-defendants tied up the military commission in knots not by speaking, but by remaining silent.

Judge [James] Pohl turns to Mohammed’s attorneys and his right to counsel. Mr. Mohammed, he says, pursuant to the Manual for Military Commissions, you are today represented by two military lawyers, Derek Poteet and Jason Wright, your detailed counsel. Do you understand this?

There’s a pause – the first of many, as we’ll soon see – as the court and counsel wait for the defendant’s responds.  KSM doesn’t give one, and Judge Pohl notes as much. Very well, he continues, detailed counsel will be provided to you.

No response.

Read more

The Libyan Gift That Keeps Giving: Sarkozy’s Turn

In the last few days, Tony Blair has developed Alberto Gonzales-like levels of forgetfulness with regards his flip-flops on Libya as he tries to answer questions about the Abdel Hakim Belhaj rendition.

But it looks like Blair won’t be the only European figure who may soon regret his inconsistency with regards to Libya.

Tucked into an article about US Judge Ricardo Urbina’s decision that British MPs couldn’t use FOIA to get information on British collaboration in our renditions is this tidbit directed as Sarkozy:

Previously unpublished documents show that French secret agents regularly spied on dissidents, and passed on information which led to them being captured and killed.

This all took place while the French President was still calling Gaddafi the “Brother Leader” and treating him as an honoured guest in Paris.

The damning revelations are contained in 5,600 pages of notes uncovered in archives in Sabah, in the south of Libya.

Jomode Elie Getty, a Libyan living in France, said he found a report dated 13 June 2007 that proved a surveillance operation had been organised against him and other dissidents by France’s secret service.

Another intelligence report, filed just before Gaddafi arrived on a state visit to France a few months later, read that it was necessary to “listen to contacts, to identify them and track them down” and to “prevent anti-Libyan acts”. The operation was co-ordinated by loyal Gaddafi lieutenant Bashir Saleh who, intriguingly, was “rescued” by the French during the rebellion and is now under 24-hour protection in Paris.

Then there’s the call from Saif al-Islam for Sarkozy to give back €50 million allegedly laundered from from Moammar Qaddafi through Swiss and Panamanian bank accounts to a key Sarkozy aide back in 2005.

“Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything,” said Saif-al Islam, currently held in Libya following the overthrow of his father’s regime.

“The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.”

I’m not entirely sure why these EuroNeocons believed they’d be able to flip-flop their support like this and get away with it.

But given the thoroughly uncritical guarantees Libya backers offered that nothing could go wrong, I must confess to a bit of amusement.