Former CIA, NSA directors, retired generals, launch gun control group

HaydenFormer directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, as well as several 3- and 4-star generals and admirals have launched a new effort to control the sales of guns in the United States. The effort is certain to attract attention after last weekend’s deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. The group, which calls itself Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, is led by former CIA Director David Petraeus, former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, and US Army General (ret.) Stanely McChrystal. The group’s advisory committee includes recognizable figures such as that of Admiral Eric Olson, who led US Special Operations Command from 2007 to 2011 and was the first US Navy SEAL to be appointed to four-star rank. Other advisory committee members include high-ranking veterans from every branch of the US Armed Forces, such as R. Adm. Jamie Barnett, Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney and Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Norman Seip.

The group was formally launched at a press conference in Washington, DC, on Friday, just hours before Sunday morning’s mass shooting in Orlando. The organizers of the new effort said it came out of the 120,000-member strong Veterans for Responsible Solutions, a project spearheaded by USN R. Adm. Barnett in 2013, after the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, which killed 15 people. Another group that has offered support for the new effort, and will act as its parent organization, is Americans for Responsible Solutions, a non-profit organization that promotes gun control in compliance with the US Constitution. It was founded shortly after the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtwon, CT, which killed 28. The organization’s founders are former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, whose Congressional career was cut short in January 2011, after she and 18 other people were shot in Tucson, AZ.

During their press conference on Friday, Veterans Coalition for Common Sense leaders said each had “swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland”. But they were now “asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives”, they added. The group said they aimed to encourage their elected representatives to “do more to prevent gun tragedies”, including closing legal loops on gun background checks, strengthening gun control laws more broadly, and focusing on the mental health component that appears to be part of many mass shootings. In a separate development, another former Director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, said on Monday that “an assault weapons ban makes sense, at least to me”. In an interview with news site OZY, McLaughlin said that, in his personal view, “it is way past time for an assault weapons ban”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 June 2016 | Permalink

Opinion: Islamic State’s strategy will affect America’s gun control debate

Orlando shootingOut of the myriad of questions emerging from Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando, two are perhaps most pressing. One concerns internal security in the United States; the other relates to the broad strategy of the Islamic State, the militant Sunni Muslim group that claimed responsibility for the bloody attack. The two topics are closely related.

Like most issues in modern-day America, the topic of internal security is heavily politicized, with public debate dominated by Democratic and Republican partisans. Predictably, each side is using Sunday’s massacre to advance its political agenda. It cannot be denied that, rightly or wrongly, gun ownership is a deeply entrenched feature in the American understanding of citizenship for a variety of social and historical reasons. It is equally undeniable that America’s liberal gun laws make it extremely easy for aspiring terrorists to acquire weapons. Recent mass shootings show that even those with documented mental illnesses or individuals who have been questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible links to terrorism, like Omar Mateen, are legally able to purchase high-powered weapons. This reduces the number of people that are needed to inflict mass casualties and directly assists the work of terrorist groups. Furthermore, the ability of aspiring terrorists to legally acquire high-powered weaponry exceeds America’s law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, and thus directly threatens the security of daily life in the country.

Judging by other recent mass shootings, and the speed with which the relentless news cycle moves on to other stories, this latest massacre is unlikely to have a major impact on US gun laws. However, if the attack in Orlando proves to be part of a broader strategy by the Islamic State, then the center of the debate on gun control in America may shift in unprecedented directions.

Most commentators agree that the Islamic State is currently retreating not only in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, but also in Libya, where it appears to be losing its control of the strategic port of Sirte. The possibility of losing its territorial base may radically alter the group’s modus operandi and strategic goals. Historically, the Islamic State has focused on what can be described as its core terrain, which includes Iraq, Syria, the Sinai Peninsula, and to a lesser extent Jordan and Lebanon. Back in 2014, Islamic State leaders could have urged the group’s tens of thousands of followers in the West to carry out the jihad there. But they didn’t, because the grand strategy of the Islamic State is to secure a territorial base in the Middle East before taking on bigger tasks. Islamic State supporters were therefore urged to join the fight to establish a territorially secure caliphate in the Middle East instead of attacking Western targets. The latter have of course been attacked, but this has been done primarily for two reasons: first, to discourage Western countries from getting directly involved in the war against the Islamic State; second, to encourage Islamophobia in the West and further-marginalize already disaffected Western Muslim youth, driving them to join the Islamic State.

But should the militant Sunni group be territorially defeated, it might decide to change its tactic and begin unleashing its followers in the West. Or if it is sensing that it is losing control of its self-proclaimed caliphate, it may already be already changing its strategy. There is currently no evidence that Omar Mateen was in touch with the Islamic State prior to committing Sunday’s massacre. But if he did, the Orlando massacre may have been an early indication of the Islamic State’s change of direction. Perhaps, then, the US is in for a lot more of these carefully targeted and lethally executed strikes.

It may be that the blood of over 50 people spilled in Orlando will not seriously affect the gun control debate. But if these killings increase in frequency and lethality, American society will face a number of unprecedented dilemmas that combine the issues of gun rights, domestic security and citizenship.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 June 2016 | Permalink

US paying ‘price in blood’ for Israel-Palestine conflict, say ex-CIA officers

Bruce Riedel

Bruce Riedel

Two former CIA officers have warned that America will continue “paying an increasing price in blood” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and urged the White House to directly meddle in domestic Israeli politics in order to help end the dispute. Speaking on Thursday at a conference on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace, Bruce Riedel and Frank Anderson, whose combined CIA careers span 55 years, agreed that a new all-out war between Israel and the Palestinians would be inevitable unless the United States aggressively “puts down its own map of a two-state solution”. Anderson, who is currently President at the Middle East Policy Council, opined that America is “paying an increasing price in blood for [the Israelis’ and the Palestinians’] failure and refusal to reach an agreement”. Riedel, who is Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued that “American lives are being lost today” due to the conflict’s impact on American national security. Read more of this post

US officials sought ‘national security’ clause to keep bailout details secret

Securities and Exchange Commission logo

SEC logo

US officials in charge of regulating securities exchanges sought to apply a ‘national security’ clause to information relating to the government’s bailout of giant insurance company American International Group (AIG). Emails obtained by Reuters show that, in November of 2008, the New York Federal Reserve (NYFR), which administered the bailout, collaborated with AIG in requesting that US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials apply “special security procedures” to shield bailout-related information from public scrutiny. Instead of dismissing the –possibly illegal– request, SEC officials advised NYFR and AIG to publicly file heavily redacted versions of the documents in question, and request “confidential treatment” for the redacted portions, citing ‘national security’ clauses. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0140

  • CIA Intellipedia gurus get Homeland Security Medal. Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, the CIA agents behind Intellipedia, have been awarded a medal for “promoting and expanding information-sharing in the Intelligence Community”. As intelNews noted last August, Intellipedia, the intelligence community’s version of Wikipedia, has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006. It now averages more than 15,000 edits per day and is home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.
  • Cuban Five resentencing delayed. A US federal judge has accepted requests from the lawyers of Antonio Guerrero, a member of the Cuban Five spy ring, to delay their resentencing, after the US government refused to turn over any national security damage assessments in the case. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. But an appeals court ruled earlier this year that the sentences they received (ranging from 19 years to life) were too long. It appears that Guerrero’s sentence will be reduced from life to 20 years behind bars.
  • Was Christopher Columbus a spy? An independent researcher is raising eyebrows by suggesting that Columbus was a Portuguese spy who knew exactly what he was doing when he supposedly “got lost” in the Atlantic in 1492.

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Comment: Blackwater’s role in CIA ops runs deep

Blackwater/Xe HQ


North Carolina-based military and intelligence contractor Xe had a major role in the CIA’s rumored post-9/11 assassination program and is active today in the Agency’s Predator drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times and The Washington Post cited “government officials and current and former [Xe] employees” in revealing that the CIA worked briefly with Xe –formerly known as Blackwater– in the context of a top-secret program to locate and murder senior al-Qaeda leaders. According to The Washington Post, Blackwater’s role in the operation was far from consultative, and included “operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders [and awards worth] millions of dollars for training and weaponry”.  The New York Times alleges that Blackwater’s central role in the operation was “a major reason” in CIA director Leon Panetta’s decision last June to inform Congress about the program, which CIA had kept hidden from Congressional oversight for seven years. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0048

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Obama officials toe Bush Administration secrecy line in rendition lawsuit

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

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

Obama to restructure White House oversight of domestic security



Almost immediately following the 9/11 attacks, President George Bush reorganized the White House supervision of domestic security issues by appointing a new Homeland Security Advisor to the President. Shortly afterwards he issued a directive creating a Homeland Security Council operating inside the White House, and tasked it with overseeing domestic security efforts. The main idea behind the reorganization was to allow the National Security Council (NSC) to concentrate on international security issues by transferring responsibility for domestic security to the new Homeland Security Council. Bush’s plan has been criticized as reflecting a simplistic and artificial separation of domestic versus international security. It now appears that US President Elect Barack Obama is intent on scrapping the majority of Bush’s 2001 reorganization, by eliminating the Homeland Security Council and reassigning the task of domestic security to the National Security Council. Furthermore, under Obama’s plan, the Homeland Security Advisor will be replaced by a new National Security Advisor who will be reporting to the President on domestic security issues, as instructed by the NSC.  Read more of this post

Analysis: Who is giving Obama advice on national security?

On Monday, US President-Elect Barack Obama chaired the first official meeting of the national security team he assembled earlier this month. But according to an article published today in The International Herald Tribune, an extended list of national security advisers to the President-Elect includes several conservatives, such as Brent Scowcroft, George Shultz and even Richard Armitage (!), whom he has contacted seeking counsel. Why does Barack Obama continue to court such Reaganite and neoconservative figures? Is he simply contacting them as a standard procedural duty, wishing perhaps to ensure some kind of managerial continuum between the current and incoming administrations? But if this is the case, then why do his senior advisers insist on releasing these names to the press in connection with the very first official meeting of Obama’s national security team? Read Article →

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