News you may have missed #828

Abdullah ÖcalanBy IAN ALLEN | |
Chinese researcher charged with stealing US drug. Chinese cancer researcher Huajun Zhao, 42, who has been working in the United States since 2006, has been charged with stealing data and an experimental compound from the Medical College of Wisconsin. The federal complaint accuses Zhao of stealing the compound, C-25, which could potentially assist in killing cancer cells without damaging normal cells. An FBI investigation turned up evidence that Zhao hoped to claim credit in China for discovering C-25. He had already claimed on a research website that he had discovered an unnamed compound he hoped to take to China.
Turkish intelligence to ‘oversee PKK retreat’. Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MİT, will oversee the withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, according to Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç. Last month, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the armed Kurdish group that has battled Turkey for 30 years, proclaimed an immediate ceasefire in PKK’s conflict with the Turkish state, which has claimed about 35,000 lives. Speaking on Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, TRT, Arınç said no legislation would be introduced to facilitate the withdrawal, but “certainly MİT will oversee it; security forces will take part in it, too”, he added.
Analysis: Controversial Bush programs continue under Obama. During the George W. Bush years, two of the most controversial elements of what was then called the Global War on Terrorism were the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program and the creation of the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay and the RDI program are both back in the news now, each for their own unsavory reasons. The Pentagon is requesting nearly $200 million for Guantanamo Bay infrastructure upgrades, including $49 million for a new unit for ‘special’ prisoners. Meanwhile, participation in the CIA’s controversial RDI program has resulted —for at least one person— not in prosecution or professional sanctions, but rather in a promotion.

News you may have missed #503

  • Dutch forces’ covert operations in Africa revealed. Dutch forces have for several years been training government soldiers in Mali, Senegal and Chad, without the Dutch parliament being informed, according to Dutch newspaper AD, which cites documents from the US Congress and the Pentagon.
  • Israel destroys spying devices found in Gaza. Hamas sources have told Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that they discovered several “audio-visual spying devices” in the sand hills south of Gaza City. But, as soon as they started removing the devices, they “received a phone call from Israeli intelligence elements” telling them that the site would be bombed “within three minutes” —which is precisely what happened, according to al-Ahram. Regular readers of this blog will know this incident was not a first.
  • Leaked documents reveal Guantanamo secrets. A batch of leaked US government intelligence documents, not meant to surface for 20 years, shows that intelligence collection at Guantánamo often was much less effective than the George Bush administration has acknowledged. According to the documents, the US military used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along.

CIA hid terrorism prisoners from US Supreme Court



The Central Intelligence Agency purposefully concealed at least four terrorism detainees from the US legal system, including the Supreme Court, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. The news agency has revealed that the CIA secretly transported the four to Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp on Cuba in 2003, two years before it publicly admitted their capture. It then secretly transferred them again to other sites in its black site prison network in various countries around the world, just three months before their prolonged stay at Guantánamo would entitle them to legal representation. While at Guantánamo, the four prisoners, Abd al-Nashiri, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, were kept at a facility known as ‘Strawberry Fields’, which is detached from the main prison site at the bay. By hiding the four, the Bush Administration managed to keep them under CIA custody while denying them legal representation for two years longer than allowed by US law. It also concealed their detention from national and international human rights monitoring bodies and from the US justice system, including the Supreme Court. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #344

  • CIA base in Afghanistan hit again. A suicide car bomber killed one civilian and wounded two security guards at the entrance to the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Afghanistan’s Khost province. It is the same base where Jordanian suicide bomber Humam Khalil al-Balawi killed seven CIA officers in December of 2009.
  • Fiji to set up new spy agency. The government of Fiji plans to re-establish its intelligence agency, ten years after it was disbanded by Labour Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. The new organization will be called the National Intelligence Agency of Fiji.
  • MI5 and MI6 must release Guantánamo records, says judge. MI5 and MI6 have been told by a British judge that they cannot use secret evidence to defend themselves from civil damages claims brought by six former detainees in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, including Binyam Mohamed.

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Analysis: Experts question legality of CIA drone strikes

Predator drone

Predator drone

A number of prominent American legal scholars have voiced concerns about the legality of the targeted killings by the CIA of suspected Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Speaking last week before the National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, some of the experts warned that the killings may constitute war crimes. Among them was Loyola Law School Professor David Glazier, who reminded subcommittee members that the CIA remotely navigated drone pilots are not legally considered combatants, and thus employing them to carry out armed attacks “fall[s] outside the scope of permissible conduct”. He also warned that “under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes”. Read more of this post

US court upholds NSA’s refusal to admit or deny wiretap data

Glomar Challenger

The Glomar

A US federal appeals court has concluded that the National Security Agency can refuse to admit or deny it possesses information about the US government spying on lawyers representing Guantánamo prison detainees. The decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York relates to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under a civil liberties lawsuit challenging post-9/11 warrantless surveillance operations by US agencies. The latter typically respond to most FOIA requests by confirming or denying possession of information relating to particular requests, and then by proceeding to either deny release, or release selected segments of the requested data. It is rare for an agency to refuse even to acknowledge the existence of information sought through FOIA. Read more of this post

UK spy agencies argue for torture trial behind closed doors

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

The two primary intelligence agencies in the British Isles have argued that any evidence presented in a lawsuit accusing them of torture should remain secret. The request, which is unprecedented in British legal history, was made on Monday before Britain’s High Court by MI5, MI6, as well as by a number of government ministers. The court case in point centers on a lawsuit filed jointly by seven British citizens or residents, all of whom were held in the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp and claim they were tortured by the CIA with British complicity. The seven are Moazzam Begg, Bisher Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Martin Mubanga, and Binyam Mohamed, whose case is perhaps the most well known. Read more of this post