Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aviation Update

Re MH17, the whole black box transfer thing was bizarre, almost something one would see in a James Bond movie where thugs hand over the boxes to the third world government rep...

According to a Kiev paper (if it can be believed), part of the deal was that Malaysian officials would give the boxes to an entity that Russia favored:
As part of the deal brokered by Borodai and a Malaysia delegation that included at least one member of the country's national security council, Malaysia must in turn hand over the black boxes to aviation experts favored by Russia to examine them.
Where is Steven Segal when ya need him? 

Meanwhile, the bodies are being sent somewhere in non-rebel Ukraine for identification.  No word on whether there will be autopsies to check for explosive residue and foreign objects common to missiles, which seems a necessary part of any investigation.  Then again, this isn't anything close to any usual investigation.

The US plans to release data supporting its missile theory sometime today, which will probably line up with summary views of some of the aircraft parts that seem consistent with missile damage.  The FDR/CVR probably won't show anything but a sudden loss of data anyway.  Everybody knows this was a missile. 

God be with those poor families having to go through this nightmare.


Further south in another war zone, word is out this morning that Delta has canceled all flights in and out of Tel Aviv Ben Gurion due a a HAMAS rocket that landed nearby.  US Airways also canceled today's flight.  And United as well.  Not surprising considering what happened in Ukraine, but also a huge victory for the terrorists.  Keeping commercial US flights--and the cargo they carry--out of Tel Aviv is both an economic and symbolic victory that can put pressure on Bibi's government.  No doubt they will try to land a few more rockets there if they can after such a swift retreat.    

BOTH WAYS   7/23/14

Is it just a simple public safety reason that compelled airlines and now FAA to ban commercial air carrier operations into Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv or something more?   Impossible to say.   Seems the decision as to whether to fly or not could have been made by the airlines.   Having it made by the government brings into play politics.

For instance, the interesting part of today's State Dept press conference was the spoxgirl's reaction to questions about it the ban.  She was pre-emptively defensive, lecturing reporters that there were no American tanks in Baghdad they were entitled to their opinions but not their own facts.   Her main talking point was that the ban would end should Israel agree to a cease-fire.

When pressed by Fox for a comment about Senator Cruz' allegation that it was 'economic blackmail' the spoxgirl mocked Cruz and urged him to check the facts, which are basically unknowable without access to internal inter-agency deliberations.

One could speculate that the administration saw and opening and took it, ie, they realized they could justify the ban due to the HAMAS rocket (despite Iron Dome), knowing it would hurt Israel in the pocketbook and possible given them leverage into forcing a cease fire.  They've been running cover on Operation Sharp Edge (or whatever its called) for weeks, puppeting the line about Israel's right to self defense while simultaneously trying to appease angry Palestinians with weasel talk in the process.  But John Kerry's alleged faux pax on Fox, where he complained about "a helluva pinpoint operation", ie, that's what was agreed to between the two, strongly suggests this ban is a retaliation.  At least one could speculate as much.    

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Clinton to Berger on bin Laden

Gotta watch the stuff trickling out of the Bubba R Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  On a Friday doc dump the library released a handwritten note from the first black president to Sandy 'socks' Berger, his national security advisor at the time, expressing doubt about some intelligence on bin Laden.

The note was written several months after Clinton bombed some tents in Khost Afghanistan and an aspirin factory in the Sudan (1998), which prompted charges he was 'wagging the dog' to remove attention from Monicagate. 

For those who've forgotten, Clinton bombed the plant based on CIA evidence of traces of EMPTA in the ground outside the plant, a substance related to the processing of VX nerve gas.  What most of the mainstream press reports are conveniently ignoring is that the Clinton crew thought Saddam's WMD scientists were involved in helping bin Laden produce this chemical.

So here's the note:

What does it suggest?  And why were they unafraid to release it?  At the same time, they were afraid to release any part of the internal communications between Berger and colleagues Dan Benjamin and Richard Clarke in response--national security.

Well, since Clinton was referencing a NY Times article in 1999 it's useful to understand what Times writer Tim Weiner was saying:
The interviews also raise questions about key assertions that have been made by the Government about Mr. bin Laden. Senior intelligence officials concede that their knowledge of him is sketchy. ''We can't say for sure what was going on'' with him from 1991 to 1996 -- most of the years covered in the indictment -- one senior official said.
His Affluence Seems Overstated Present and former American officials and former business associates of Mr. bin Laden say he appears to control only a fraction of the $250 million fortune that the American Government says he possesses. ''Clearly, his money's running out,'' said Frank Anderson, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official who maintains close Middle Eastern contacts.
Larry Johnson, the State Department deputy counterterrorism director from 1988 to 1993, said Administration officials had ''tended to make Osama bin Laden sort of a Superman in Muslim garb -- he's 10 feet tall, he's everywhere, he knows everything, he's got lots of money and he can't be challenged.''
Milton Bearden, a retired senior C.I.A. official who ran the agency's war in Afghanistan and retired in 1995, said the Government had ''created a North Star'' in Mr. bin Laden. ''He is public enemy No. 1,'' Mr. Bearden said. ''We've got a $5 million reward out for his head. And now we have, with I'm not sure what evidence, linked him to all of the terrorist acts of this year -- of this decade, perhaps.''
In other words, anonymous CIA and Justice people were telling the Times the legal case against UBL wasn't solid while former high profile intelligence people were downplaying his role.  At the same time Vince Cannistraro, another former intel guy, was telling ABC News that bin Laden might be teaming up with Saddam, while also allegedly telling lawyer Stephen Jones of Oklahoma City bombing fame that the government didn't want any foreign suspects in that case.  Richard Clarke, who was part of the communication with Berger on this event, once famously said UBL might 'boogie to Baghdad' if they missed getting him in Afghanistan.  No wonder Slick was confused.

The key phrase is obviously, "..the CIA sure overstated its case to me..".  So what 'case' does he suspect was being overstated?  This was after a PDB in December 1998 warning of al Qaeda hijacking an airplane to secure the release of members of the 1993 WTC attack and after the embassy attacks, so it's not like terrorism itself was being overstated, just the role of the players involved.

Reporters are assuming he meant CIA was overstating the importance of bin Laden but it's valid to wonder whether Clinton might have been asking a broader question--if UBL is not the 'north star' the CIA claims, who is?   It's hard to imagine how one New York Times article could prompt doubt about terrorism in general, Clinton seemed to be confused on the role of one guy in the nexus--bin Laden.

And that goes directly to the response, which was completely redacted. Keep in mind Clarke and Benjamin have never come off the intelligence that led them to recommend bombing al-Shifa and few if any in the press have grilled them about it.  Returning to Tom Joscelyn's link above..
"The consistent stream of intelligence at that time said it wasn't just al-Shifa. There were three different structures in the Sudan. There was the hiring of Iraqis. There was no question that the Iraqis were there. Some of the Clinton people seem to forget that they did make the Iraqi connection."
So Clinton was questioning the CIA's assessment of UBL, at least in private, while his own team was indicting UBL and making links between him and Saddam Hussein.  As late as 1999. 

Yet when Clinton gave Fox an interview in 2006 (where he wagged his finger at Chris Matthews), he seemed to be saying he did more than anyone to stop bin Laden:
CLINTON: All I'm saying is, you falsely accused me of giving aid and comfort to bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew Al Qaeda existed then. And ...
WALLACE: But did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S.? Did they know in 1998 ...
CLINTON: Absolutely, they did.
WALLACE: ... when he bombed the two embassies?
CLINTON: And who talked about ...
WALLACE: Did they know in 2000 when he hit the Cole?
CLINTON: What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.
Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.
Pretty feisty, but he admits his counterterrorism team knew about the threat from bin Laden in 1996, three years prior to the note.  Evidently he was still wavering in 1999.

But in the same interview he also told Wallace that neither the CIA nor FBI would 'cerfify' that UBL was behind the attacks, which supports the wishy-washy narrative and provides him some cover despite the CIA setting up a special office in 1996 to track UBL headed by Michael Scheuer (who has been very critical of the Clinton team on apprehending or killing bin Laden in the late 90s).  

It also ignores the aforementioned indictment of UBL in 1998 (mentioning a tie to Iraq then updated to remove ties) and KSM.  Yet here's Slick still questioning the CIA's assessment of UBL's role in global terror in 1999.  Strange.

Could it impact Hillary! 2016?  Only if anyone asks.  Clintonistas might reply that it shows Bill was solidly focused on terrorism but wasn't sure about the intelligence on UBL due to some wishy-washyness at the CIA. Here's a comedic example of how an international news site handled it:
In one file referencing bin Laden, Clinton urgently asked his top national security aide whether the CIA overstated the involvement of the terrorist leader in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Yes that's it, an 'urgent' Clinton was seeking 'extra' information in his quest for the terror leader. By the way, the indictment was in 1998 as indicated above in this post, not after April 1999 as in the story.  Now here's a biased domestic site:
Wait, there's very little coverage in the mainstream press other than a stock AP story.   Which by the way is the one quoted above in the international news site.  The Washington Post ran that stock AP story.  The New York Times, itself mentioned in the release, ran an in-house version of the story that said less than AP.  Did the AP intentionally report the indictment as after the note?   Moving it makes it appear Slick was more engaged or even indicted UBL based on the redacted reply from Berger.  Reality makes him look confused and less engaged.  Josh Gerstein explains as well.   

Aides, if anyone asks, may also argue the note explains his cruise missile flop in 1998, ie, it wasn't wagging the dog, it was the CIA overstating the case--or in other words, he was wondering if he was on the right target or whether someone else was running the terror show.   Those goofballs at CIA!   They could then claim that the response from Berger to Clinton, which nobody in public is allowed to see but they know, but can only summarize in general, was that no, the CIA did not overstate the status of UBL, he was still the top dog.  And Clinton, with his question answered, strapped on his cape and pressed forward in his relentless war against bin Laden, unlike Bush who "ignored" his own August 2001 PDB (heavily covered by the press for some reason) that led to 9/11.  They always have a ready answer that satisfies the baby bird press.

Perhaps more interesting than all the finger pointing and blame shifting is the reminder in the 1999 Times story of anniversaries.  The African embassy bombings of 1998 occurred exactly 8 years to the day after US forces entered Saudi Arabia to begin Operation Desert Shield to protect that country from Saddam's forces in Kuwait.  Add to that, in February 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed on the anniversary of the day celebrated in Kuwait as 'liberation day' (2/26/91) from Saddam's forces, and September 11, 1990 was the day when president George HW Bush first called for a "New World Order" in a speech declaring that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait would not stand.  Even this past week the shoot-down of MH17 occurred on the 18th anniversary of TWA800, although the CIA said there was "not a missile" involved in that one. Terrorists do love their anniversaries.   And yes, this post is too long. Nobody cares anymore. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Iran Nuke Update

The ultimate Friday document dump...
Diplomats say Iran and six powers have extended nuclear talks until Nov. 24 after realizing that differences were too big to reach a deal by the Sunday, the informal deadline..
Here's State Dept Spoxlady Jen Psaki being asked about her comments last year regarding consequences for Iran if they failed to reach an agreement by Sunday.  Keep in mind a bi-partisan group in the Senate was pushing a bill to enact sanctions if this did not occur...
QUESTION: Hold on. Eight months ago, you said from that podium, “If the Iranians don’t get to a yes at the end of six months, we can put in place more sanctions.” Is that not the case anymore?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think, Lucas, our focus here and our primary goal is preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We are going to let the negotiations proceed on the ground. There’ll be ongoing discussions with a range of senior officials, with members of Congress, and I’m not going to get ahead of that process.
So no, apparently that is no longer the case.  The new "deadline" is November 24, 2014, the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Meanwhile Bashar Assad just got "reelected" to a seven year term and Putin just helped shoot down a commercial airliner.  But according to State good progress is being made, or as WH spox Josh Earnest might characterize it, we are seeing more tranquility in the world thanks to administration policies.  

Aviation Update

The storyline of MH17 is becoming more clear as time passes--Russian-backed separatists fired a missile, probably aiming at what they thought was a Ukrainian cargo jet, and mistakenly shot down a 777.   No apologies have been issued and both sides are denying any role while blaming the other.

The NTSB and FBI have been dispatched to Ukraine but it's hard to imagine they will be able to get much accomplished in a war zone with the crash scene already contaminated.  Besides, the United States--through our Commander-in-Chief and Ambassador the the UN, has already announced it was a missile strike that brought down the aircraft likely fired by Russian-back Ukrainian separatists.  The FDR and CVR may provide some additional clues, mainly the CVR highlighting any crew discussions (if any) on routing or danger before the event, but otherwise it was a catastrophic event so the data will just stop.

The untold story now is not what, but why.  Getting to the why could be more troublesome and potentially cost more lives than the crash depending on where the West wants to draw their red lines on demanding an international investigation or imposing harsh sanctions.     

By the way, many of the conspiracy theories are insane.  They are comical beside any TWA 800 theories.  There are a few weird things though, such as the New York Times corrected claim that the Russian segment of the same Jet Route MH17 was flying was "closed" by Russia hours BEFORE the flight arrived in Ukraine. Actually, the airspace was closed below Flight Level 320, which would have been below the level the jet was traveling.  If indeed Vladimir Putey Poot's presidential aircraft had just passed this area on it's way from Brazil back to Moscow it sounds like the closing wasn't consequential or related.

The one thing that lingers in the air is Putin's rhetoric in reaction to sanctions on Wednesday...
Russia's foreign ministry dismissed the sanctions "bullying" and signaled that it was ready to push back. "We consider the new round of American sanctions against Russia as a primitive attempt to take vengeance for the fact that events in Ukraine are not playing out to the tune of the script of Washington," the ministry said in a statement.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in televised remarks said the sanctions are throwing Russia's relations with the West "back to the 1980s" and added that Russia "will have to pay more attention to military and security spending."

...sanctions that affect Russian arms companies (including missiles), followed by the shoot-down of a commercial aircraft on Thursday.  And Putin was apparently the one who broke the news to Obama during their phone call, as he was complaining about the sanctions.   So much for the reset.  So much for the flexibility.  So much for the 80s calling Mitt Romney and wanting its foreign policy back.      


There is another strange aviation story being overlooked right now, that of United Flight 201.  This was yet another Boeing 777 that made an emergency landing on the island of Midway.   Here's renowned ABC aviation expert (and former airline captain) John Nance on the event..

Full interview here

MORE  7/19/14

Talk about a conspiracy theory..  consider this story from the Daily Beast today (emphasis added):
Until now, Moscow has retaliated to U.S. financial pressure with sanctions of their own against U.S. officials, lawmakers, and even donors to President Obama who are linked to the gay advocacy community. Putin hasn’t always made the retaliatory sanctions public, but his government sought to respond proportionally and kept other issues out of the dispute.
So Vlad is making a point to target gays in the US supporting Obama, while MH17 was reportedly carrying over 100 people to an HIV/AIDs conference? Good Lord, is it possible that Putin, after his friends and weapons-making oligarch thugs were targeted by Obama, shot down the Malaysian Airlines jet to make a quiet statement?  And if so, was there any significance in choosing a Malaysian Airlines flight?  Could he possibly know something about MH370 that we're keeping under our hats?  Crazy insane, but Putin is crazy enough to do it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

CNN's show on Flight 800

CNN's "Witnessed", timed to the upcoming 18th anniversary of the downing of TWA flight 800, was fairly well-done, particularly in the witness interviews (lived up to its title).  Too often arguments over these things are cold without regard to the victims' families, but this show brought that home. 

Still, the presentation didn't close any holes in the age-old narrative.  For instance, there was no scrutiny of the oft-repeated theory that the aircraft over-heated while sitting on the tarmac on a hot summer afternoon running the APU to cool the aircraft.  This was cited as raising the temperature of the airframe to over 100 degrees, which heated the fuel vapors, which were turned to mist by either the APU or in taking off.  That's basically the only way the spark theory works.

So there's a kind of conventional wisdom that it was a particularly hot day.  Yet here are the weather observations from JFK on July 17, 1996:
5:51 PM 84.9 °F
6:51 PM 82.9 °F
7:51 PM 82.0 °F
8:51 PM 80.1 °F
Not exactly a heat wave.  And good grief, if temperatures in the mid 80s are hot enough to cause a fuel tank explosion then airplanes at Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix should have been exploding with some regularity.  Even St. Louis, where TWA had a hub, gets a lot hotter.  Yet flight 800 was the first jet aircraft to blow up in flight in the history of the modern jet age.  Not to say it couldn't be the first based on a series of bad circumstances, just odd.   Calling attention to an 86 degree day in New York in July is also odd. 

Another irritant was the interview with Mr. Goglia.  His dismissal of all the witnesses, especially the testimony of the Eastwind Airlines pilot who saw the whole sequence right out his front windshield, was curious, since the pilot says he did NOT see a missile.  But apparently since the pilot didn't see the aircraft rise thousands of feet like the unofficial CIA video (commissioned by the FBI without blessing by the NTSB) showed--and Mr. Goglia seemed to be supporting--his testimony was deemed unreliable.  Too bad there's not a video out there to put this all to rest.  

Finally, Mr. Panetta.  It was a little strange to see him, a political person, interviewed.  Major Clinton political figures have been reluctant to discuss this crash, even in their memoirs.  So it was good to see him.   Perhaps CNN could have asked why, if president Clinton was as he says ready to retaliate strongly should evidence have pointed to states or terrorists why he had not (and never did) responded to the Khobar Towers attack just a month earlier?  Or the terror attack on our Riyadh barracks in late 1995?   Had the attack been tied to Saddam Hussein would he have invaded that country?  How about Iran?  Follow-up questions never asked. 

CNN could have also asked him why Bill Clinton placed Al Gore on an aviation safety committee only a month after flight 800 with the goal of studying how to prevent attacks on commercial aircraft.  A coincidence?   A question never asked.  
But the stranger thing about the Panetta interview is that he didn't exactly come off as a cheerleader for the NTSB/FBI storyline, preferring to say something like 'we may never know' (what caused the tank to explode) as if leaving the door slightly ajar. 

MORE  7/17/14

What can you say?   Condolences to all involved, even Malaysia Airlines.   On the anniversary of an event that everyone thought was a commercial aircraft shot to pieces by a missile we have this Malaysia event, which looks to be a missile strike.  This has been the sum of many fears for civilized governments for awhile, but it's happened.   Except this time it happened to an airline that is already missing another 777-200. 

Technically it's hard to point out much at this juncture based on the few snapshots of debris--it will be harder for the pros if the FSB-led separatists keep them out of the crime scene.   There's very little chance that NTSB will get the black boxes, but even if they did the data would likely show a catastrophic failure and not much else.  What needs to happen is a reconstruction just like they did with flight 800.   But the aircraft is lying in pieces in a war zone.    

As to any symbolism with flight 800, terrorists do like anniversaries.  But it's hard to see any links here, unless the Russians actually shot down 800.  No, if there's a conspiracy to boot it's not about what happened, which is pretty obvious, but why.  The president and EU just announced tougher sanctions on Russia on Wednesday the 16th, including Russian companies who make missiles and weapons.   Then on Thursday the 17th a commercial aircraft is shot down by a missile.   One could certainly take it as a message from Moscow.

But Occam's Razor might suggest it was an accidental shoot-down by a trigger happy separatist in an area where several military planes had just been shot down.  That analysis will become more likely when the passenger manifest is released and is unremarkable.   If there was somebody famous on that plane, ie, famous in a government or security kind of way,  it may get more complicated very fast.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Political Chaos Theory

What's with all the chaos? Drudge has been blathering out link after link about the border problems for a week while the administration pretends there's no crisis whatsoever.  This government's inaction--especially from the Commander-in-Chief charged with defending our borders--tends to inflame the usual conservative suspects, while really jazzing the more extremist wingers, who are calling for militias on the border.

Then yesterday the Attorney General of the United States came out and suggested that any opposition to his performance and Obama's administration is probably due to racism.  He provided zero evidence, which is very unlike a lawyer.  But he didn't need any evidence.  And no, using the phrase "take our country back" is NOT evidence of racism.

He followed by saying that one of the things that keeps him awake is worrying about domestic terrorists, not just the Major Hasan/Boston bomber types, but the other ones--those dissatisfied with government. In other words, the ones displaying Gadsden Flags or talking about tea who may go to the border.

This after a lengthy news feast over the Hobby Lobby ruling and how it affected women.

Yet it's entirely possible that none of these things are coincidences.  Some perspective may be useful, from 2012:

"They gonna put y'all back in chains". The clip was reported far and wide in the mainstream and social media. It was bare naked identity politics with a racial edge, but it helped get the vote out that November. Obama wasn't without his moment--he famously told a Telemundo audience they should "punish their enemies", and he wasn't talking about drug cartels or al Qaeda terrorists (who were officially on the run back then).

This isn't to say the Democrats are manufacturing news stories, no, simply capitalizing on them.  Never let a crisis go to waste, but they have an impending crisis--a lame duck president at year's end. 

Historically blacks don't show up in the same numbers for the mid-terms as they do for generals.  This was the case in 2010 when Obama got 'shellacked' by those he now calls tea baggers.   But the Democrats need a big turnout from the blacks, Hispanics and females to keep the train rolling towards the change they believed in, a Utopian place where white folks' greed doesn't run a world in need.

Oddly enough the mainstream media has been hitting three stories very hard these past few weeks, each pointing towards those very same voter demographics:  women's issues, immigration, and now race.

Amidst this forest of towering strawmen, Fox host Megyn Kelly is literally beside herself.   She's a person that thinks methodically and logically, as do most lawyers, and has never been afraid to challenge Bill O'Reilly's occasional foray into populism or panderism.  She went after Nancy Pelosi's idiotic comments about the Hobby Lobby decision, or how "five men" on the Supreme Court are trying to take away women's contraception (at least she didn't say five "white" men like Harry Reid).

Kelly is right of course--Pelosi's argument shouldn't impress an either-grader much less a voting adult, but Kelly's audience isn't San Fran Nan's target.  Pelosi might be addled but she's still a skilled politician and likely knows exactly what she's doing and where her message is going.  Kelly should approach it from that angle. 

As the months wind down expect to see the media continue to churn the identity politics commode while continuing to ignore actual stories such as a potentially partisan IRS (and whether anyone ordered their targeting), the president's actions on the night of the Benghazi attack, the VA scandal, or a flagrant abuse of executive powers.  It can all be blamed on racist white men.  They are the ones with a stranglehold on the world while others remain in need.  It's really a win-win for the media because sex, race and immigration stories tend to sell better.

The right needs to understand this effort and react accordingly (which means sensibly, not emotionally). What are the odds?