News You Need For Nov 20, 2010

Ex-AIPAC official got at least $670,000 from donors

By Jeff Stein

The latest episode of the AIPAC spy scandal turned sordid last week, with the pro-Israeli lobby releasing its deposition of fired official Steven J. Rosen in which he confesses he engaged in extra-marital sex and watched pornography on his office computer.

But largely buried beneath such tawdry details was an admission arguably far more damaging to Rosen’s drive to prove the organization ruined his professional life: that major Jewish donors supported him with hundreds of thousands of dollars during the four years after his dismissal in May 2005.

Lawyers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, argue that such financial support, as well as continuing references to Rosen as an influential figure in Middle East policy circles, shows that his firing hasn’t materially affected his life.

Indeed, many of the dozen benefactors Rosen named, including entertainment mogul Haim Saban and Slim-Fast billionaire Daniel Abraham, are also major donors to AIPAC, which fired him after the Justice Department charged him with illegally giving classified information to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler and an Israeli Embassy official.

During his Sept. 22 deposition, AIPAC’s lawyer alleged that Rosen had received “over $1 million in gifts or severance or payments of benefits between ’05 and ’09.” Rosen detailed gifts that amounted to $670,000.

One philanthropist “bundled” about $200,000 for him, Rosen said. Saban gave $100,000 to him, his wife and children. Another supporter, philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, paid off Rosen’s daughter’s $18,000 college loan, he said. In all, about a dozen supporters gave him $670,000, according to his testimony, which AIPAC released last week.

The payments stopped in 2009, Rosen says, when the government dropped its case against him and another AIPAC official, saying it couldn’t make an espionage case against them.

During its deposition of Rosen, AIPAC’s lawyer Thomas L. McCally clearly tried to make his confessions of pornography and philandering the central issues in his dismissal. Rosen shot back that he had “witnessed” AIPAC’s executive director Howard Kohr “view… pornographic images on AIPAC computers,” as well as “his secretary do it repeatedly, and call people over to see it, including Howard Kohr.” He said he “witnessed other members of staff do it,” too.

Kohr did not respond to a request for comment on Rosen’s pornography allegation. AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton declined to comment on that allegation but said his suit had no merit.

Rosen portrays the pornography issue as a red herring, contending that government attorneys stampeded the organization into firing him by playing its officials a selectively edited portion of a wiretapped conversation that made him look like he knew he was illegally trafficking in classified Pentagon documents.

Within hours, the organization announced it was firing Rosen because such alleged behavior “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees.”

Rosen says his actions were common practice at the organization. He said his next move is to show that AIPAC, Washington’s major pro-Israeli lobbying group by far, regularly traffics in sensitive U.S. government information, especially material related to the Middle East.

“I will introduce documentary evidence that AIPAC approved of the receipt of classified information,” he said by e-mail. “Most instances of actual receipt are hard to document, because orally received information rarely comes with classified stamps on it nor records alerts that the information is classified.”

But Rosen said he would produce “statements of AIPAC employees to the FBI, internal documents, deposition statements, public statements and other evidence showing that [the] receipt of classified information by employees other than [himself] … was condoned … for months prior to being condemned in March 2005 after threats from the prosecutors.”

AIPAC, he said, “will make denials. The jury will have to decide who is telling the truth — I am.”


U.S. sending tanks to Afghanistan

By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. defense officials say the Pentagon is sending tanks to help Marines fighting insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Two senior officials say 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks and 115 additional Marines will be deployed next month. They spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss battlefield tactics.

The officials said Friday this is a first for the U.S. in the 9-year-old war, though Canadians and Danish troops have already used the huge, heavily armored combat vehicles in Afghanistan.

Officials say the tanks will help Marines keep insurgents away from key population areas and help troops move into insurgent safe havens. Officials say the tanks can bring extra protection and added firepower and help troops observe key routes where militants place roadside bombs.


Obama Administration Denies Request for Fort Hood Report That Could Aid Suspect

By Catherine Herridge

This April 9, 2010, file photo released by the Bell County Sheriffs Department shows U.S. Major Nidal Hasan at the San Antonio to Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas, after his Nov. 5 shooting spree at Fort Hood.


(AP) This April 9, 2010, file photo released by the Bell County Sheriffs Department shows U.S. Major Nidal Hasan at the San Antonio to Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas, after his Nov. 5 shooting spree at Fort Hood.

EXCLUSIVE: A key intelligence report that could aid accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan’s defense is being withheld by the Obama administration, according to a letter obtained by Fox News as part of its ongoing investigation of a radical American cleric.

Intelligence officials do not deny that the report contains information about the cleric, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who is the first American on the CIA’s kill or capture list.

The letter, dated Oct. 19, 2010, was sent by the general counsel for the national intelligence director – the nation’s top intelligence official – to the chief Army prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan. It states that the intelligence review requested by President Obama immediately after the shooting last year “is not reasonably available.”

Robert S. Litt, general counsel for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, cites “highly classified, compartmented, and sensitive information originating with a number of different executive branch agencies” as justification for withholding the document on the shooting, which left 13 dead and more than 30 injured.

In what may be a slight to the defense, the letter states a review of the material would be complicated and the DNI letter strongly hints it will never be produced for Hasan’s defense.

“The document you requested is an interagency joint response. … Accordingly, we cannot produce the document (if ever) until after a detailed and time-consuming interagency coordination and consultation regarding the report and the underlying highly sensitive information it contains. … As a result, we have determined that this report is not reasonably available…”

Fox News’ Specials Unit reported earlier this year, as part of an hourlong documentary on Anwar al-Awlaki, that at least 18 e-mails were exchanged between Hasan and the cleric. In one e-mail exchange, two sources who have reviewed the e-mails confirm, Hasan asked Awlaki to appear as a guest presenter at a fundraising/scholarship event in the U.S. The cleric declined, adding that he doesn’t visit the U.S. anymore.

John Galligan, Hasan’s defense attorney, told Fox News that he requested the White House intelligence report nearly a year ago, and it is only now that he has officially been told the information will not be available. Despite repeated requests, Galligan said other documents are being blocked, including the full accountability review of Hasan’s supervisors at Walter Reed, a classified annex to the Fort Hood report by former Army Secretary Togo West and retired Admiral Vern Clark, completed in January, as well as all of the e-mails exchanged between Hasan and Awlaki. Galligan told Fox News he has only 9 e-mails and characterized them as benign.

“How do you put a guy on trial for his life without giving his defense full discovery?” Galligan told Fox. “No one in their right mind would dispute that the report (the White House report) is relevant.” Galligan said some news reports suggest that the disclosure of some classified information relating to case would hurt the prosecution.

“I read that as being potentially beneficial to the defense,” he said.

An Article 32 hearing, where an army investigator determines whether Hasan’s case proceeds to a general court-martial and whether the death penalty will be in play, has just concluded. Sources tell Fox News that the investigating officer has recommended the court martial and death penalty because of aggravating factors. A final decision has yet to be made.

A transcript from the Article 32 hearing shows that the Army was notified of the DNI’s decision to block the report on or before October 21, 2010.

“Maybe Colonel Mulligan could give us an update on the other aspects of discovery that we addressed when we first started?” Galligan asked. “That was his communication concerning the White House materials. If he could just let us know where we stand?”

Col Mulligan responded. “Sir, yesterday I received from DNI a letter from their general counsel saying they’ll not provide the president’s 45-day intelligence report. I was waiting until the conclusion of the hearing to inform the defense; I have not yet searched all my e-mails.”

But the DNI letter was not provided to the defense until this week, on Monday, and 10 minutes before the Article 32 hearing continued.

Fox News asked the office of the DNI for comment – specifically why it had taken nearly a year to answer the request by Hasan’s defense team, whether there was a delay with the DNI or the Army and whether blocking the document, which the defense says maybe critical to the Army psychiatrist’s defense, is consistent with the Obama administration’s stated goal of transparency.

A spokesman for the DNI told Fox News, “We are not going to comment on ongoing criminal matters.”


Survey: Few Afghans Know Why NATO Invaded

It Remains War’s Excuse, But Most Afghans Never Even Heard of 9/11
by Jason Ditz,
With NATO officials busily plotting another several years of occupation in the Lisbon Summit, the people of Afghanistan are by and large being left out. Not just of the planning, but even the reason behind the war.

After almost a decade of military occupation, a new survey by the International Council on Security and Development revealed that 92 percent of the Afghan men surveyed had never even heard of 9/11, the ostensibly casus belli for the entire conflict.

The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high level of negativity toward the NATO military operations,” insisted ICOS President Norine MacDonald. It was unclear however whether the few Afghans who had heard of 9/11 were any more upbeat about the seemingly endless war.

The poll also showed majority support in Southern Afghanistan for secession and the creation of an independent Pashtunistan (potentially including some of Pakistan’s tribal regions), and that 40 percent of the population believed NATO was occupying Afghanistan as part of a goal to destroy Islam.

Though the report from ICOS stressed the importance of communication with the Afghans it seems that such efforts will inevitably be dwarfed by the deleterious effect military occupation has on public opinion. MacDonald urged NATO to make it clear why Afghans’ future is “better with us than with the Taliban,” but recent NATO comments suggest not many officials even buy this anymore, leaving open the question of why the Afghans would.

Nobel laureates urge Israel to let Vanunu to receive int’l rights award

Atomic whistleblower seeks to attend ceremony granting him the International League of Human Rights’ Carl von Ossietzky Medal in Berlin.

Nobel laureates have petitioned Israel’s government to allow atomic whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu to leave the country so that he may receive an award issued by the International League of Human Rights in Berlin.

Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Mordechai Vanunu Mairead Corrigan Maguire with nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu during one of her Israel visits.

The award Vanunu is to receive is the Carl von Ossietzky Medal, named after the renowned German pacifist, who had opposed the Nazi regime, and who was later held in a concentration camp and murdered.

Ossietzky is also famous to have been denied the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a result of Nazi Germany’s unwillingness to allow the peace activist to leave its border when he was named laureate in 1935.

Vanunu was named as this year’s recipient in October, at which time the International League of Human Rights issued an open letter urging the Israeli government to allow Vanunu to participate in the ceremony.

The letter was signed, among others, by several Nobel laureates, such as Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, German writer Günter Grass, chemist Harold W. Kroto, physician Jack Steinberger, as well as singer Nina Hagen, author Felicia Langer, and former Vice President of the European Union Luisa Morgantini.

Following the letter, Vanunu’s attorney Michael Sfard sent a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, saying the atomic whistleblower was willing to commit himself to returning to Israel following the ceremony in Berlin.

In his letter Sfard asked whether “Israel was interested in joining the unlovely ranks of nations who prevented their citizens from receiving international prizes by preventing their arrival at ceremonies?”

The comment by Vanunu’s lawyer cites, among others, communist Poland which prevented Lech Wałęsa from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as well as the Soviet Union, which barred author Boris Pasternak from claiming the Nobel Prize in Literature.

It should be marked that ,currently, China is preventing 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate dissident Liu Xiaobo from leaving the country.

Vanunu was convicted of treason and imprisoned for 18 years after telling a British newspaper in 1986 about his work as a technician at Israel’s main atomic reactor, disclosures which cracked the secrecy around the assumed Israeli nuclear arsenal.

He was released from prison in 2004 but has not been allowed to leave Israel. In 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to six months in prison for violating the terms of his parole.

‘Iran nuclear worm targeted Natanz, Bushehr nuclear sites’

German computer security expert releases new study claiming the Stuxnet worm, which some claim slowed down activity in the Iranian sites, was designed to act as a ‘digital warhead.’

The Stuxnet computer worm which hit computers at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, and which experts have estimated slowed down activity both there and in the Natanz uranium-enrichment site, were designed to act as a double “digital warhead” against the Iranian nuclear sites, a new survey said Friday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility in 2008.
Photo by: AP

In September, experts on Iran and computer security specialists voiced a growing conviction that the worm that has infected Iranian nuclear computers was meant to sabotage the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz – where the centrifuge operational capacity has halved over the past year.

That analysis, based on the characteristic behavior of the Stuxnet worm, contradicted earlier assessments that the target was the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, where officials admitted computers were infected by the virus.

On Saturday, a report by German security expert Ralph Langner claimed that the computer worm was designed as a “digital warheads” against Natanz’s centrifuge operational system and the turbines in Bushehr.

Langer was the first expert to uncover the fact that the Stuxnet worm’s main goal was to harm Iran’s nuclear sites, and the latest report is meant to supplement his earlier findings.

The investigation by the German computer’s expert was triggered by the complaint of several Iranian firms to a Russian company that various Russian-made system had been affected by an unknown virus.

The company then recognized that the firms had indeed been hit by the worm known as Stuxnet, and ever since software security experts have been laboring to decipher the worm’s code.

Most experts feel that the virus represents a new kind of computer worm, one which is capable not only of targeting computers but also industrial infrastructures which are controlled by those computers.

Originally, the worm damaged the command and control systems of German engineering giant Siemens, systems which serves infrastructure facilities such as oil and gas drilling and production plants, water supply facilities and in Iran, the worm’s main target, nuclear sites as well.

Last week, experts from the computer security company Symantec testified before the Senate, claiming that the worm had been developed to damage the engines that operate the centrifuges in the Natanz enrichment site. Weeks ago, Haaretz was the first media outlet that estimated that the worm’s main target was the Natanz site.

In a message Langner published on his website on Friday, the German computer security expert described two models for the kind of attacks the worm could have prompted as soon as it was inserted to Siemens’ command system: “It appears that warhead one and warhead two were deployed in combination as an all-out cyberstrike against the Iranian nuclear program.”

Experts claim only an organization with the highest technological capabilities could have performed such a cyber attack, with some attributing it to the Israel Defense Force’s 8200 intelligence unit or a U.S. intelligence organization, with some saying the worm was the result of a joint Israeli-U.S. effort.

There have been reports in the past of other alleged efforts by Israel and the West to undermine the Iranian nuclear project, some of which also targeted Natanz. These efforts included infiltrating the purchasing networks Iran set up to acquire parts and material for the centrifuges at Natanz and selling damaged equipment to the Iranians. The equipment would then be installed on site and sabotage the centrifuges’ work.

The centrifuge – a drum with rotors, an air pump, valves and pressure gauges – is an extremely sensitive system. Generally, 164 centrifuges are linked into a cascade, and several cascades are then linked together. But the centrifuges need to operate in complete coordination to turn the uranium fluoride (UF6 ) they are fed into enriched uranium. Their sensitivity makes them particularly vulnerable to attacks, since damage to a single centrifuge can create a chain reaction that undermines the work of one or more entire cascades.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors regularly visit Natanz, has reported that of the more than 9,000 centrifuges installed on the site, less than 6,000 are operational. The agency did not provide an explanation of this 30 percent drop in capacity compared to a year ago, but experts speculated that the centrifuges were damaged by flawed equipment sold by Western intelligence agencies through straw companies.


How Would Palestinians Remember Ariel Sharon?

by Mahmoud El-Yousseph

As Israel’s Ariel Sharon is fighting for his life, Palestinians are not eager to see him die, a feeling articulated by every Palestinian I spoke with here and abroad. The same sentiments are also expressed by other Arabs and Muslims, although they see the Prime Minister as a war criminal who has a long history of committing atrocities and evil acts.

It appears Ariel Sharon will die a slow death, unless God wills differently. The people who suffered under him for over 25 years would like to see him die very slowly. That will give closure to them since he escaped the war crime tribunal. This may sound cruel, but after reviewing an abbreviated synopsis of Sharon’s brutal history, it is certainly understandable:

Qibya massacre – on Oct. 14, 1953, Sharon led his “Unit 101” in an attack on the Palestinian village. Sixty-nine civilians (mostly women and children) were massacred. He lied about his involvement, but admitted the ruthless act later in his biography.

Sabra and Shatila massacres – on Sept. 16-18, 1982, then Israeli Defense Minister Sharon masterminded the atrocities that took place in these two Palestinian refugee camps near Beirut, Lebanon. His forces encircled and sealed the camps, then allowed 150 bloodthirsty Phalangists (a pro-Israeli militia) to enter and wholesale slaughter ensued. An Israeli government commission found him personally responsible for the deaths of 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese residents of the camps. The U.N. called the act genocide. U.S. diplomats in Lebanon were outraged, as the PLO evacuated Lebanon with a U.S. guarantee for the safety of remaining civilian populations.

Sharon will also be remembered for the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, a sovereign nation, and his subsequent 18 years of occupation that left the country in total ruin. According to Lebanese statistics, the Israeli offensive caused 18,000 deaths and 30,000 injuries, mostly civilians.

Jenin massacre – During the Israeli Army’s Defensive Wall operation in April 2002, untold numbers of Palestinians were killed and maimed as Jenin refugee camp was nearly obliterated. This catastrophe took place under media blackout, culminating in Israel’s refusal to let in U.N. human rights observers as they covered up the carnage.

As if military history isn’t evidence enough to convince those clinging to the idea that Sharon is a “man of peace,” more recent violations of international law and refusal to come to a legitimate diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians should suffice:

In March 2002, Sharon turned down an offer by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during an Arab League peace conference in Beirut for full Arab recognition of Israel. All Israel had to do was move back to pre-1967 borders in compliance with U.N. Resolution 242.

In October 2005, Mr. Sharon ditched the U.S.-backed Roadmap to Peace by ordering the unilateral withdrawal of his army and 8,500 illegal Jewish settlers only from Gaza. He then moved them into other confiscated Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

The euphemistically titled “Security Fence,” better known to Palestinians as the “Apartheid Wall” or “Sharon’s Wall” encircles the entire West Bank, cutting off Palestinians from their farms, schools, hospitals and other towns and villages. The wall is 25 feet high and is expected to reach 403 miles in length, higher and longer than the Berlin Wall. This courageous Prime Minister defied the International Court on July 9, 2004, when it ruled the wall is a violation of international law. The Court added that Israel must cease construction of the wall and dismantle sections located in the occupied territories and compensate damages, ultimately returning Palestinians’ property.

Iron-fisted policies that include: collective punishments, home demolitions, land seizures, targeted assassinations and humiliating checkpoints. All these devices are intended to inflict pain, fear and suffering on the Palestinian people, resulting in their complete submission or leaving their ancestral home permanently.

In, his last act as Prime Minister, Sharon has manipulated the outcome of the January 25 Palestinian election by denying Palestinians in East Jerusalem the right to vote.

Nevertheless, when he dies, there will be no Palestinian celebration; no dancing in the streets, no passing out candy. Islamic law forbids rejoicing over anyone’s death, despite the horrific legacy of death, destruction and human rights abuses Ariel Sharon leaves behind.

Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a retired USAF veteran living in Westerville, Ohio.

Originally published January 23, 2006

Fake bomb made in the US caused Germany terror alert

German interior minister says suspicious package found in Namibia was manufactured to test airport security
Air Berlin plance
A fake bomb made in the US was responsible for the terror alert which delayed a Munich-bound Air Berlin plane by eight hours. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/ReutersWhen a suspicious package was identified at Windhoek airport in Namibia on Thursday, the flight was halted, the Munich-bound passengers delayed and news sped round the world that an x-ray scanner had been found with batteries attached by wires to a detonator and a ticking clock.

Today, however, a German government minister revealed the bizarre truth: the bomb was fake, manufactured in the US to test airport security. It was not yet clear who had planted “test suitcase”, the German interior minister, Thomas de Mazière, said, but the one fact they had established was that the device had been manufactured by a US company that specialises in alarm systems. At no time were passengers’ lives in danger.

“This company is a manufacturer of alarm and detection systems and these real test suitcases are built to test security measures,” he said.

The US transportation security administration (TSA) confirmed today that it was working with the German and Namibian authorities “to determine the origin of the device and the reason it was being transported on the plane”.

According to tests by the German federal criminal police, the suitcase did not contain explosives.

German security experts said yesterday it was most likely that either US or African authorities were behind the test, following the discovery of several parcel bombs sent from Yemen to the US.

The suitcase, which contained batteries connected to a detonator and a ticking clock, was intercepted by authorities at Windhoek airport on Wednesday night and sparked an international terror alert.

The Munich-bound Air Berlin plane on which it was believed the suitcase was due to be loaded was delayed for about eight hours while security checks were carried out. Passengers were questioned by police when the plane landed at Munich airport yesterday morning.

Initial theories that the bomb might have been a dummy run by terrorists were dismissed by US security sources who told German television such “dry runs” were not typical.

Security services and airport scanner manufacturers are known to run a variety of false alarm checks to ensure operators and systems are capable of intercepting likely forms of explosive devices. One leading manufacturer said today that its scanning machines were programmed to generate occasional false positives in order to keep staff alert. The TSA is reported to have organised several series of tests using undercover agents to put dummy bombs through security scanners at US airports. One such test, in 2007, was said to have resulted in 75% of the fake bomb parts passing through unobserved.

Even more embarrassing was a security survey carried out by Slovakian border officials earlier this year using real explosives. Eight pieces of contraband were planted on unwitting passengers leaving on a flight from Bratislava bound for Dublin. The 85g (3oz) charge of RDX slipped into a 49-year-old electrician’s bag was not removed by security checks and the passenger flew to Ireland unaware of what was in his luggage. Slovakian officials eventually had to contact police in Dublin to explain the error.

The Windhoek discovery had no impact on the German security alert issued by de Mazière on Wednesday, which related to “concrete information” about a planned Islamist attack on Germany towards the end of this month.

Security measures have been tightened across the country. Extra armed police and military personnel have been sent to airports, railway stations, seaports and luxury hotels.

Several incidents of unattended suitcases and packages found at railway stations in Berlin today proved to be harmless, but the atmosphere in public places remained jittery.

With Germany’s Christmas markets, a magnet for tourists from around the world, due to open on Monday, all police leave has been cancelled.

  1. #1 by B.A.Frémaux-Soormally on 11/21/2010 - 9:34

    “Obama Administration Denies Request for Fort Hood Report That Could Aid Suspect”


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