News you may have missed #597

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

►►Inside the CIA’s secret Thai prison. The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have used Bangkok’s former Don Muang International Airport as a secret prison to torture Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now the commander of rebel Libyan military forces in Tripoli. If true, Belhaj’s allegations are the first public descriptions of a CIA black site in Thailand. Bangkok-based journalist Richard S Ehrlich investigates.
►►How is the US government using security contractors? “Mark Lowenthal, who was a high-ranking CIA official before joining the contractor work force, told the [US House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee] that during his time as assistant director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, half of his staff was made up of contractors”.
►►Leaked cables show Australia nuclear power push. In 2008, John Carlson, head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, which acts as the country’s nuclear safeguard authority, advised the then prime minister Kevin Rudd that no scheme to limit carbon emissions would succeed without the building of civilian nuclear power stations, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. When contacted by the media, Carlson refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of the revelations.

Was plane carrying UN Secretary General shot down in 1961?

Dag Hammarskjöld

Hammarskjöld

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On September 17, 1961, a Douglas DC-6 transport aircraft carrying United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld crashed in the British-administered territory of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The crash killed everyone onboard, except one passenger, who died hours later. Three successive investigations into the crash, conducted by the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation, viewed “pilot error” as the most likely cause of the tragedy. Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker with Sweden’s International Development Cooperation Agency, who is stationed in Burkina Faso, has spent three years researching Hammarskjöld’s death. He has produced a report with his findings, in which he cites interviews with several witnesses of the crash, who are still living. He says that, according to the evidence he has amassed, he has “no doubt” Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was “shot down by an unidentified second plane”. In an article published in British quality broadsheet The Guardian, Björkdahl also claims that the only survivor of the downed DC-6, American sergeant Harold Julian, who was a member of the UN Secretary General’s security detail, was abandoned to die of his injuries at a makeshift hospital in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. Björkdahl’s claim is based on his interview with colonial medical practitioner Mark Lowenthal, who tried to treat Julian in the hours following the airplane’s crash. Moreover, Björkdahl alleges that British colonial authorities in Northern Rhodesia were eager to cover up the details of the incident, and went out of their way to intimidate local villagers who witnessed the crash, and to downplay witness testimony suggesting that the Douglas DC-6 may have been shot down. Read more of this post

Obama said to be backing down in rift with CIA

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This author has been reporting on the continuing rift between the incoming Democratic Administration and many in ledership positions at the CIA. The latter openly warned the President Elect last month that he “may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party”. As I explained on January 6, Obama’s nomination of Leon Panetta to head the CIA should be expected to spark further protests by the troubled agency. It now appears that, having nominated Panetta, the Obama team is slowly backing away from its dispute with the country’s intelligence leadership. The New York Times reports that there is “a growing sense” among observers that the incoming President is “not inclined” to pursue any broad inquiries on warrantless eavesdropping (Operation STELLAR WIND) or the use of torture against CIA detainees in the “global war on terrorism”. Read more of this post