Trial of ‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler underway in New York

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
He is considered the world’s most notorious weapons smuggler; dubbed ‘the merchant of death’, his life’s story inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Lord of War. But his trial, which is currently underway in New York, has so far gone largely unnoticed by the world’s media. Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military intelligence (GRU) officer, was arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok, Thailand, in March of 2008. At the time of his arrest, he and his two collaborators were negotiating a complex weapons deal with two individuals who said they were representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s largest leftist paramilitary group. However, the interested buyers turned out to be informants of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was employing them as part of a sophisticated sting operation. Bout was arrested by the Thai Royal Police and was imprisoned in Bangkok, before being extradited to the United States last year. He is now being tried in Manhattan for attempting to supply arms to the FARC, including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and even two airplanes. Earlier this week, the jury heard excerpts from recorded conversations between Bout, his accomplices, and the DEA informants, in which the Russian weapons merchant is heard saying that he and the FARC “have the same enemy” —namely the Americans. Bout voiced this comment in response to a DEA informant’s exclamation that the FARC wanted to use the weapons supplied by Bout “to knock down those American sons of bitches”. The deal was never completed, as it was interrupted by Thai police officers, who stormed into the hotel room and captured a stunned Bout. In another sequence in the recordings, Bout is heard saying that he plans to convince the defense minister of an unidentified country to facilitate the transfer of weapons to the FARC by providing him with official documentation. Read more of this post

Largest Afghan narcotrafficker was CIA, DEA informant

Haji Juma Khan

Haji Juma Khan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The history of operational collision between the Central Intelligence Agency and illicit narcotics traders is both long and largely documented. But new revelations published in The New York Times this week come to add a new chapter in this ever-expanding saga. The revelations this time concern Haji Juma Khan, perhaps the most notorious of Afghanistan’s drug lords, who has been described by US federal officials as arguably the most dangerous narcotrafficker in Central Asia. In 2008, Khan was finally arrested in New York, where he was charged with conspiracy to fund terrorist operations through trading in narcotics. American prosecutors allege that Khan literally “helped keep the Taliban in business”, providing them with weapons and cash on a systematic basis. But The Times reveal that, over a number of years, Khan also acted as an informant for both the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration and was “paid a large amount of cash” in return for his services. Read more of this post

Some underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is little point in recapping here the bulk of disclosures contained in the ongoing WikiLeaks revelations. The news sphere is jam-packed with them —and perhaps this is the real story in the WikiLeaks revelations, namely the fact that espionage and intelligence issues have near-monopolized the global news cycle for the first time since the post-Watergate Congressional investigations of the 1970s. But it is worth pointing out a handful of news stories on the WikiLeaks revelations that have arguably not received the media coverage that they deserve. Undoubtedly the most underreported disclosure concerns a 2007 meeting between US officials and Meir Dagan, the then Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. During the meeting, Dagan apparently “presented US with five-step program to perform a coup in Iran“.  But there are other underreported disclosures. Take for instance the revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized US diplomats to engage in all-out and indiscriminate spying on senior United Nations officials. Although there is nothing here that will surprise seasoned intelligence observers, the breadth of intelligence collection that US diplomats are instructed to engage in (which includes collecting credit card numbers and biometric data of UN officials) is astonishing and certainly unprecedented. Moreover, it should be noted that many senior UN officials are in fact American, which leads to the intriguing question of whether US diplomats are routinely required to engage in intelligence collection against American UN officials. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #441

  • US officials admit terrorist suspect was DEA informant. US government officials have told The Washington Post what the world’s media has been saying for almost a year, namely that Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper, was working as a Drug Enforcement Administration informant while training with Islamist insurgents in Pakistan.
  • Ex-CIA officer decries Israeli policies. Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer at the CIA, has said in an interview that Israel’s policies in Palestine “are manifestly evil”.
  • Bomber who killed seven at CIA base was not vetted. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian al-Qaeda sympathiser who killed himself and seven CIA agents at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan in January had not been properly vetted, the CIA has said.

Analysis: How the CIA bedded down in Burma

Burma

Burma

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is a story that was largely ignored when it surfaced last year: since 1994, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Richard A. Horn had been claiming 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. The latter, represented by special agent Horn, had a policy of publicly commending the Burmese government for its significant efforts to end the vastly lucrative illegal drug trade in the country. But the diplomatic leadership at the US embassy in Rangoon, supported by the CIA, felt that their inroads with the Burmese military junta, which has controlled the country since 1990, were being obstructed by the DEA. Read more of this post

‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler enjoys Russian protection

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The case of notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout is well known. Born in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, in 1967, Bout served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the collapse of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to shady groups, ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout, known as ‘Lord of War’, was finally arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Recently, Washington scored a second victory by convincing Thai authorities to extradite Bout to the United States on terrorism charges. Presumably, Bout will be tried as an arms smuggler acting on his own accord. But is this right? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #329

  • Iran insists US hikers had intelligence links. Iran’s intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, has said that Americans Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd, who were arrested on Iranian soil last July, “were in contact with intelligence services”. The evidence would “soon be made public”, he said.
  • Gerdes case shows difficulty of CIA jobs. The case of CIA employee Kerry Gerdes, who was recently convicted for falsifying interview reports while performing background checks on CIA employees and potential employees, reveals how difficult the job is for young CIA recruits, who expect it to be exciting or glamorous, according to seasoned investigators.
  • US still denying India access to Headley. There has been intense speculation in India and Pakistan that David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper, is in fact a renegade CIA agent. Could this be why the US is denying India access to Headley?

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