Entries in CIA (4)
The Times of London reports:
The CIA has been using the Shamsi airfield — originally built by Arab sheikhs for falconry expeditions in the southwestern province of Baluchistan — for at least a year. The strip, which is about 30 miles from the Afghan border, allows US forces to launch a Drone within minutes of receiving actionable intelligence as well as allowing them to attack targets further afield.
Shamsi was used for the 2001 American operations to overthrow the Taliban but the Pakistan Government claimed the US left in 2006.
The Times supports its discovery with evidence of a contract to deliver 730,000 gallons of aviation fuel, worth $3.2 million, to Shamsi.
You have to hand it to the US embassy in Pakistan, however. They are not giving up the public ruse, even if their statement seems to be uncomfortably close to protesting too much:
No. No. No. No. No. We unequivocally and emphatically can tell you that there is no basing of US troops in Pakistan. There is no basing of US Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, none, on the record and emphatically. I want that to be very clear. And that is the answer any way you want to put it. There is no base here, no troops billeted. We do not operate here.
But, in a demonstration of how super-secret this entire operation is, a local journalist explains, "We can see the planes flying from the base. The area around the base is a high-security zone and no one is allowed there.”
The Daily Telegraph of London splashes a contemporary spy drama on its pages this morning:
Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed. It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project.
That's quite plausible, of course, given declarations such as that of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday that an Iran nuclear weapons programme would be an "existential threat" to Tel Aviv.
But then the story gets almost as murky as the covert project. The only source is a "former CIA officer on Iran" who claims, "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that [the Iranians] don't realise what's happening....The goal is delay, delay, delay [the weapons programme] until you can come up with some other solution or approach."
No direct evidence there and the only cited case is that "Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported 'gas poisoning' in [January] 2007". At the time, the US Government's Radio Farda circulated the report, supported by a Reva Bhalla of Stratfor who insisted there was "very strong intelligence" that Hassanpour had been targeted by Israel. Iranian news services countered that Hassanpour had not been employed by the Atomic Energy Organisation: "[All] nuclear experts, Thank God, are sound and safe."
Unsurprisingly, Bhalla pops up in The Telegraph for a sound-bite but adds no evidence. And the article has no other cases to test; it just asserts, based on "Western intelligence sources": "Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli 'hits', intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the programme."
The article lists other operations which are far more likely to be significant, such as "Israeli and US intelligence co-operated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites" and "Israel has also used front companies to infiltrate the Iranian purchasing network for 'dual use' items – metals, valves, electronics, machinery – for its nuclear programme".
Overall, however, this reads as a different type of operation, a bit of "psychological warfare" to keep Tehran off-balance over what might and might not be attempted to undermine its nuclear programme and to add the stick to the carrot of "engagement". And, given that the main sources are "Western" and the story is out of New York, this has the feel of folks in the US Government --- possibly supported by London --- putting the pressure on Iran.
"An invaluable tool, (the CIA) said, is the practice in which U.S. agencies transfer individuals arrested in one country to another allied country that is able to extract information from them and relay it to the United States.”
Washington Post, 1 Nov. 2002
In their haste to fall over themselves in praising the Obama administration’s decision to close Guantanamo and CIA secret prisons, much of the media forgot to ask if that also applied to rendition. Rendition, a practice that began not with the now departed Bush administration but with its Democratic predecessor, involved the transferring of terrorism suspects from American control to the custody of American allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. And how do these countries “extract information” from suspects. Here’s an account from the Washington Post of some of the methods employed by Jordan’s General Intelligence Department:
Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten
We now have the apparent answer about rendition. The LA Times reported yesterday that it will continue as will the CIA’s power to kidnap people off the streets in foreign countries as it has done in widely publicized cases in Europe. The difference, according to one anonymous Obama official, is that “if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice." The Obama administration should be asked as soon as possible whether torture is within these “parameters.” If it is it is further evidence that the main difference between the Obama version of the war on terror and that of his predecessor is in the way that it is sold to the public.