Is US-Mexico anti-drug intelligence cooperation about to end?

Enrique Peña NietoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Some senior American officials believe that the anti-drug intelligence cooperation between the United States and Mexico is in its closing stages, following tens of thousands of deaths in the past decade. Intelligence cooperation between the two countries reached unprecedented levels in the post-9/11 era, following the establishment of the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In the past decade, cooperation between Mexico’s Center for Research and National Security (CISEN) and ODNI, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, resulted in what some observers call “unprecedented bilateral action” directed against Latin American narcotics cartels. This arrangement culminated under the administration of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, when the CIA —and to a lesser extent the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Security Agency— were given unprecedented access to Mexican territory and civilian communications networks. However, in an extensive article published Sunday, The Washington Post says the close operational connection between Mexican and US intelligence agencies is quickly winding down. Citing interviews with over “four dozen current and former US and Mexican diplomats, law enforcement agents, military offices and intelligence officials”, the paper suggests that Mexico City is wary about Washington’s involvement in the so-called ‘war on drugs’. The major change on the Mexican side, says The Post, occurred last December with the inauguration of Mexico’s new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has returned to power after 13 years in opposition. Under Nieto’s administration, the Mexican security establishment, worn out by over 60,000 deaths and as many as 25,000 forced disappearances in the past few years, is intent on shifting its priorities. Instead of focusing on so-called ‘beheading operations’ —arresting or otherwise neutralizing the leadership of drug cartels— it has decided to stabilize the situation by containing —rather than eliminating— the operations of drug networks. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #449

  • Damning report on CIA attack on missionary plane. US Central Intelligence Agency officers involved with a secret counternarcotics mission in the Peruvian jungle routinely violated agency procedures, tried to cover up their mistakes, and misled Congress immediately after a missionary plane was accidentally shot down in 2001, according to a blistering CIA internal report released on Monday.
  • Israeli legislators call on US to release Jewish spy. Members of the Israeli Knesset are calling on US President Barack Obama to pardon American-born spy Jonathan Pollard, having been jailed in a maximum-security facility since 1985. George Bush refused to pardon Pollard in the last days of his presidency.
  • Analysis: Britain’s MI6 operates a bit differently than CIA. “Like the CIA, MI6 has a website, but while the U.S. agency site is only in English, MI6′s is also in Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese. Another sign of British sophistication: while the CIA site has games and quizzes for kids, the MI6 site gives short tests to allow potential recruits to assess their analytical and administrative skills”. Interesting comparative assessment by Walter Pincus.

Congress briefing on CIA activities halted after officials refuse to take oath

Gloria Luttig

Gloria Luttig

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional briefing on the CIA was unexpectedly halted on Wednesday, after Justice Department officials refused to take the oath. The briefing, by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, concerned the April 20, 2001 shooting down by the CIA of a Cessna 185 floatplane, which was suspected of transporting drugs from Colombia to Peru. The plane was actually carrying an American Christian missionary family, including two children, who were on their way to Lima, Peru. The attack on the plane resulted in the death of the mother and one of the children. As intelNews reported in November of 2008, a still-classified report by the Office of the US Inspector General concluded that the murder of the two Americans resulted from routine violation of intercept procedures by CIA operatives. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0132

  • Emirates to deport Syrian ex-spy and witness in Hariri assassination probe. A Syrian former spy was on Monday sentenced to six months in jail and deportation for entering the United Arab Emirates on a forged Czech passport. Interestingly, Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, was a prosecution witness in the inquiry into the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafiq Hariri. In 2005, Siddiq claimed that Lebanon’s former pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, gave the order to kill anti-Syrian Hariri. It is not clear to which country Siddiq will be deported.
  • US national security advisor insists Iran cannot currently build the bomb. US National Security Advisor General James Jones has rejected claims by The New York Times that Iraq has enough information to design and build a functional nuclear bomb. Jones also stood by the conclusions of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, which said Iran’s nuclear arms program is inactive.
  • Book claims CIA-linked network killed anti-drugs campaigner. A new book by Australian researcher John Jiggens claims that a CIA-linked drug smuggling network was responsible for the 1977 murder of Australian anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.

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News you may have missed #0129

  • Romanian communist spy boss dead at 80. General Nicolae Plesita, who directed Romania’s Securitate during the country’s communist period, has died. While heading the Securitate’s foreign intelligence service, from 1980 to 1984, Plesita hired the Venezuelan-born operative Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the US-owned Radio Free Europe offices in Munich, in 1981. In 1998, Plesita revealed that he had orders from the Romanian government to find temporary shelter for Carlos in Romania after the RFE bombing.
  • Settlement reached in DEA-CIA spying dispute. A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought 15 years ago by a former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who accused a CIA operative of illegally bugging his home. In a court filing, lawyers for the government and the DEA agent said they “had reached an agreement in principle to settle the underlying litigation”. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this case.
  • Federal judge denies request for CIA secret documents. Hundreds of documents detailing the CIA’s defunct overseas secret detention program of suspected terrorists, including extreme interrogation methods have remained secret after U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on Wednesday refused to release them “in order to protect intelligence methods and sources”. The ACLU argues that the CIA secret program was illegal under international and US law, that it involved the torture and deaths of some inmates, and therefore should not be shielded from public view.

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Colombian ex-spy details coup plot against Venezuela

Rafael García

Rafael García

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of information technology at Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS) has revealed details of what he claims was a Colombian-assisted coup against the Venezuelan government. Speaking on Colombia’s Noticias Uno television station, former DAS official Rafael García said the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe was the main supporter of a 2004 attempt to topple the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez. García, who was fired from DAS three years ago, after being caught taking bribes from right wing paramilitaries and drug barons, said Colombia recruited 120 Colombian paramilitary members of Northern Bloc, a militia unit of the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which operates mostly along the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0071

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News you may have missed #0070

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Judge accuses CIA of fraud in 15-year court case

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 15-year old lawsuit against the CIA unexpectedly resurfaced yesterday, after a US federal judge accused the CIA attorneys of fraud and warned the former and current CIA leadership of serious legal sanctions. US District Judge Royce Lamberth said the CIA misled him on several occasions by falsely claiming that the “state secrets” clause applied to the case, which three consecutive US administrations have tried to bury. The case was filed in 1994 by retired Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Richard A. Horn, who claimed that CIA agents illegally wiretapped his conversations while he was stationed in Burma. It appears that, at the time, the US diplomatic representation in Burma and the CIA station in Rangoon were at loggerheads with the DEA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0028

  • Iran could have the bomb in six months, says German intelligence. Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) alleges that if the Iranians “wanted to they could test a nuclear bomb within half a year.”
  • Australian PM threatens China over Rio Tinto spy case. Kevin Rudd warned China it has “economic interests at stake”, less than a week after Beijing arrested the Australian chief of the Anglo-Australian mine company’s iron ore operations in China.
  • 12 Mexico intelligence officers mutilated and killed. The mutilated bodies of the one female and 11 male federal intelligence officer were left in a heap beside a road in rural Michoacan state. Drug gangsters launched a brutal offensive against the Mexican government last Saturday, after the capture of their senior leader, Arnaldo “La Minsa” Rueda. “We’re waiting for you,” read a taunting sign left with the bodies.
  • NRO releases unclassified portions of 2009 budget. The super-secretive US National Reconnaissance Office, which is in charge of US satellite spying, has released fragments of its FY2009 Congressional Budget Justification Book. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago there were rumors circulating in Washington that NRO may be broken up into several smaller agencies.

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US rewarding Colombia despite knowledge of military abuses, declassified records show

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Earlier this year, the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation nominated Colombia as a leading candidate for economic assistance under the Millennium Challenge Act. The Act provides financial rewards to US allies “that enter into compacts with the United States to support policies and programs that advance the progress of such countries [toward] demonstrated commitment to just and democratic governance”. However, internal US government documents published yesterday by researchers at The National Security Archive, show that Colombia’s favored treatment by the US comes despite knowledge of serious and systematic abuses by the Colombian military and security establishment. According to the declassified documents, the CIA and senior US diplomats in Bogotá have known since at least 1994 that the country’s security forces (largely trained and backed by the US) systematically engage in “death squad tactics”, and collaborate with drug running cartels. Read more of this post

US State Department accused on spying on interfaith group

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) is a faith-based organization, established in 1919, with offices in over 50 countries. Current or past members of IFOR include several Nobel Laureates, among them Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. In a statement released on December 17, IFOR has accused the US State Department of routinely intercepting “for two full years” the electronic communications of the organization’s US branch. Specifically targeted were communications concerning FOR’s Latin America program, generated both in the US and Colombia, the statement said. It also alleged that the spying on FOR appears to be part of a wider operation targeting “more than 150 e-mail accounts of human rights organizations, journalists, academics, and labor organizations”. Read more of this post

Reporter who helped expose CIA drugs scandal remembered

In August 1996, Garry Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The San Jose Mercury News, published a trilogy of articles under the title “Dark Alliance”. In it, he openly alleged that the Reagan Administration, along with the active support of the CIA’s leadership, had allowed the Nicaraguan Contras to fund some of their operations against the Sandinistas by illegally trafficking cocaine into the United States. What followed Webb’s allegations was a barrage of demonization by virtually the entire US media industry, which discredited his professionalism and effectively ended his career. Read more of this post

CIA agents lied about killing missionaries, report reveals

In 1994, then US President Bill Clinton authorized a covert CIA operation to assist the Peruvian Air Force in preventing planes carrying narcotics from flying over that country’s territory. Among the results of this operation was the shooting down of a Cessna 185 floatplane on April 20, 2001, which the CIA suspected of transporting drugs from Colombia to Peru. The only problem was that there were no drugs on the plane. It was actually carrying an American Christian missionary family, including two children, who were on their way to Lima, Peru. The attack on the plane resulted in the death of the mother and one of the children. A still-classified report by the Office of the US Inspector General has now revealed what many CIA critics suspected, namely that the murder of the two Americans resulted from routine violation of intercept procedures by CIA operatives. What is more, not only did the CIA refuse to acknowledge its mistake, but CIA employees actually “misled and even lied to Congress about what happened and did not supply accurate information to the Department of Justice or the Bush administration”. Furthermore, the Agency “obstructed inquiries into its role in the shooting down” of the aircraft by “cover[ing] up evidence of its failings”. Reportedly, the CIA has yet to discipline anyone about these murders. Meanwhile, the mother and grandmother of the murdered victims, Gloria Luttig, has expressed her disgust about the fact that “some of the members of the CIA [involved in the incident] have been promoted” since the murders. [IA]

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