Is US considering transferring convicted arms smuggler to Russia?

Viktor BoutBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Former Soviet military intelligence officer Viktor Bout is one of the world’s most notorious weapons dealers. In 2008, Bout, known informally as ‘the merchant of death’, was finally arrested in Bangkok by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, with the cooperation of the Royal Thai Police. He was eventually extradited to the US and convicted to a 25-year prison term, which he is serving at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York. Last week, it emerged that the US Bureau of Prisons was about to transfer Bout to the Florence Federal Correctional Facility in Colorado. Widely referred to as ‘Supermax’, the Florence facility houses some of America’s most notorious prison inmates. It seems a proper fit for someone like Bout, who for decades supplied weapons to African warlords, who is accused by the United States of having supplied weapons to the Taliban, and who was arrested while trying to sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On Tuesday, however, it was suddenly reported that the Bureau had decided to delay Bout’s transfer to Supermax. Bout’s attorney, Albert Y. Dayan, said he had been notified in a letter that the Bureau was “re-evaluating where to send Bout” and that it was “reconsidering its plan” to send the notorious weapons merchant to the Colorado maximum security facility. As might be expected, Dayan called the news “a credit [to] the Bureau of Prisons and the US Attorney’s office”; but the question, of course, is why did the Bureau decide on the delay, and what does the US Department of Justice know about it? The answer could perhaps be found in an interview given on Wednesday by no other than the US Attorney General, Eric Holder. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #395 (Russia-US spy swap edition IV)

  • All children of Russian spies repatriated. All the children of the 10 Russian spies freed by the US in a dramatic swap with Moscow have been sent to Russia to rejoin their parents, US attorney general Eric Holder has said.
  • Moscow relieved that spy scandal is over. A sense of relief seemed to pervade the halls of the Russian government over the weekend that a potentially embarrassing spy scandal with the United States was over. But few Russian officials showed any enthusiasm about discussing the two-week affair.
  • Russia ‘gave spies hundreds of thousands of dollars’. US Attorney General Eric Holder says 10 Russian secret agents deported by US authorities as part of a spy swap had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Moscow.

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News you may have missed #0121

  • DHS intelligence official speaks on cross-department collaboration. Since its establishment, the US Department of Homeland Security has been involved in almost every major turf battle within the US security and intelligence community. Bart Johnson, the department’s Acting Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis, speaks about collaborating with non-DHS actors.
  • Somali group executes two for spying for CIA. Somalia’s al-Shabaab on Monday publicly executed two people accused of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency and the country’s embattled government. Before the US-assisted Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, al-Shabaab (The Party of Youth) used to be the youth organization of the Somali Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Al-Shabaab shares the ICU’s mission of turning Somalia into an Islamic khalifat.
  • US intelligence veterans group backs CIA torture probe. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have authored a memorandum addressed to US President Barack Obama, in which they “voice strong support for Attorney General Eric Holder’s authorization of a wider investigation into CIA interrogation”.

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News you may have missed #0063

  • UK government ministers, MI6 boss, reject torture accusations. Britain’s home secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary, David Miliband, have rejected claims that the UK operated a “policy to collude in, solicit, or directly participate in abuses of [war on terrorism] prisoners” or to cover up abuses. The outgoing director of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, has also said that there has been “no torture and there is no complicity with torture” by British agents.
  • Ex-spy may succeed Kazakh leader. An unnamed senior security official may eventually succeed Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan for 20 years.
  • Congressman tells Holder to widen torture probe. Several news outlets are verifying earlier rumors (reported on by intelNews on July 13) that the Obama Administration is considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the use of torture by US intelligence agencies after September 11, 2001. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, has said he wants US Attorney General Eric Holder to extend the rumored investigation beyond CIA interrogators, and determine whether high-level officials of the Bush administration committed war crimes.

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News you may have missed #0026

  • US Attorney General considers torture probe. The Associated Press is among several news outlets reporting that Eric Holder is considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the use of torture by US intelligence agencies after September of 2001.
  • Iran’s invisible Nicaraguan embassy. The US State Department has been raising alarm bells about the Iranians supposedly “building a huge embassy in Managua”. But nobody in Nicaragua can find any super-embassy, The Washington Post reports.
  • Kim Jonh Il likely to die soon, CIA tells S. Korean spy agency. According to South Korean sources, the CIA now believes that Kim Jong-Il’s chances of surviving the next five years are less than 30%. Last June, intelNews relayed reports that Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s third son, appears to be his father’s most likely successor.

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Obama lawyers employ “state secrets” clause again, despite assurances for openness

Judge Walker

Judge Walker

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Last week, US Justice Department officials employed a “state secrets” clause previously used by the Bush Administration, to block a lawsuit against CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The move surprised many observers, as only days earlier the new US Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, had ordered “a review of all claims of state secrets used to block lawsuits” in an attempt to stop hiding “from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know”. Remarkably, last Friday the Obama Administration tried using the same “state secrets” clause again, this time to prevent a lawsuit filed by a now defunct Islamic charity against the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping scheme. Read more of this post

Obama officials toe Bush Administration secrecy line in rendition lawsuit

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last Monday it emerged that the new US Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, ordered “a review of all claims of state secrets used to block lawsuits into warrantless spying on Americans and the treatment of foreign terrorism suspects”. US Justice Department spokesperson, Matt Miller, said the directive “will ensure the [state secrets] privilege is not invoked to hide from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know”. Despite Mr. Holder’s review order, however, the Obama Administration has chosen to retain the previous government’s “state secrets” clause to block a lawsuit filed by victims of CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The case is Binyam Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, a Colorado-based Boeing Corporation subcontractor that provided logistical support to the CIA’s prisoner transfer scheme. Read more of this post