Friday, August 30, 2013

This Time It's for Real

They should have titled the Syria intel report the same as this blog post.

It's out, and full of high confidences, or what Tenet might call slam-dunks.  A couple of observations..

1.  The death toll seems really really precise.  Where exactly did it come from?   How do we know it didn't come out of someone's posterior?

2.   The CIA and other agencies keep saying the rebels don't have the capability to fire/launch chemical agents.  But a careful reading of the report does not suggest the rebels don't have the wherewithal to possess these agents.   How do they know some undercover rebels didn't open some cans of gas just as Syrian artillery was raining down?  Have they found the actual shell casings or other corroborating evidence?   It's not like the rebels haven't been accused of possessing Sarin before.  And of course the timing has always favored the rebels.  Must we rush to war on this?  

3.   Saying there was an attack; that the rebels didn't have the ability to fake the photos nor the launch mechanisms also supports a release of gas by the rebels in an effort to draw the west into the war.  Which we are now considering.

4.   Having said all of the above, the report makes a decent case for the Syrians using gas.  It's not out of the range of possibilities that they are both arrogant and stupid enough to launch chem weapons two days after UN inspectors arrive.  Such could be based on their own internal assessment of how the west, including the Big O, might react.  Part of that is the fact he's been sitting on his hands all year despite the red line and reports of chem use, which the administration now admits as part of their evidence.

It's not hard to imagine a frustrated chinless tinpot barraging pockets of resistance in Damascus--his city--to soften them up for a more extensive bombing campaign.

It's just not beyond the shadow of a doubt.  After Iraq they are going to need more rock-solid evidence than that to convince the totality of the United States and the world.

MORE  8/30/13

Notice the unclassified report doesn't specify the type of chemical weapon used.  It might matter just a bit.  Also notice that nobody from the administration took any questions from the press today.  Obama spoke before a scheduled event, surrounded by other world leaders while Kerry droned on from a State Dept podium for 20 minutes without taking any questions.  There was no daily press briefing from the State Department and apparently not one from the White House, either.   Whether that signals something more than just the basic arrogance and opacity is hard to know.

Meanwhile, as Britain bails out Obama is left to team up with the French socialist.  They have a responsibility to protect, dontcha know.  Except in Iraq. 

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER.. 8/31/13 we wait for the bombs to fall.  Here's former DCIA James Woolsley being interviewed in 2004 regards Iraq and Syria:
So you think it is quite possible that some biological weapons haven’t been found?
You have to distinguish between weapons and agents. Weapons suggests loaded-up artillery shells and rockets and bombs. But you don’t load anything up with biological or chemical agents until the last minute. So most of the more sophisticated discussion about this talks about agents rather than weapons. Kay said that it is possible— indeed, I think he said it was likely— that something connected to WMD may have been smuggled out to Syria.
And the same thing was said some weeks ago by James R. Clapper, the head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Even with chemical weapons, the numbers that keep getting cited are between 100 tons and 500 tons. That was in the National Intelligence Estimate in the fall of 2002, and it was in Powell’s statement. People talk as if that’s a huge amount. That’s the difference between approximately five tractor trailer loads and 25 loads.
Perhaps the media could remind everyone that our current DNI is the same James Clapper who said Iraq's WMDs might have been moved to Syria.


After letting his cabinet and spokespeople tell everyone and their brother that Obama didn't have to wait for anyone to defend the international norm he's now decided to go to Congress.  Talking heads are saying it was partly a political decision, which is odd considering they just recently explained that going it alone was OK because WMDs were used so it wasn't a political decision, just the right thing to do.   Of course it was a political decision because this president had backed himself into several tight corners with no way out but to drop and take a safety.  

So, here we are, no shock and awe this weekend, unless this is the biggest head fake in history.  But it can't be a head fake because he just said it was important for our democracy he go to Congress.  Maybe he's hoping Assad, or someone, launches more chemicals in the interim, which would allow him to act immediately.  If not things are in stasis until 2 days before 9/11 when Congress returns.   Who in Congress will want to vote on authorizing military force in a country that didn't attack us just as 9/11 approaches?  In other words, chances are there will be no attack.

Or course the administration will then try to blame Congress for him not being able to uphold his red line, just as he has done with GITMO.  Funny coming from a president who thinks nothing of issuing Executive Orders superseding US law every other week.   The question is whether the mainstream press will let him get away with such a naseating lack of leadership.  He is basically standing on the world stage now with his mom jeans pulled down and a wedgie, so it will be interesting to see the coverage. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More Pretzels

Here's White House spokesman Josh Earnest doing his own pretzel imitation...

Gee, the smartest administration in history doesn't know that regime change in Iraq was the stated policy of the US Government, not just the Bush administration? 

It's funny watching Henry remind him of what Obama said in his famous 'dumb war' speech in 2002--the speech that basically got him elected over Hillary, while Earnest pretends he hasn't studied the analogy enough to comment.  Guffaw.

Mr Josh assures us Syria won't be open-ended, hell, Bush didn't lobby anyone that Iraq would be open-ended either.  And good Lord, this same administration up until recently was saying Assad's 'days are numbered'.   They've now done a complete 180 on that, assuring us that Obama wants nothing to do with regime change.

Earnest is right, there really isn't a good comparison between Syria and Iraq. He knows that unlike Saddam, Assad has not recently shot at our aircraft or tried to assassinate a president, and certainly hasn't invaded neighboring countries.  He's done some bad stuff, like killing his own people, acting as a conduit for Hizballah and probably having Rafik Hariri killed, but this is basic tinpot behavior and not directly threatening to the US.

The funnier thing is watching president smart war saying he can do a quick in and out, a shot across the bow to remind Big Ass of our big stick should he ever consider using those WMDs again, which begs the question of what happens if we do a pinprick attack and leave Chinless in power and he uses WMD again somewhere down the line.  After all, the international norm must be maintained at all costs, no matter what the UN or anyone else says.  Except in Iraq. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pretzels and Threats

Watch Jay Carney turn into a pretzel trying to rationalize why Obama's condemnations of Bush for threatening to bomb Iran in 2007 to stop a WMD program is somehow different than with Syria:

Henry got him to say the use of chemical weapons represents an 'actual or imminent threat'.  While many would disagree with the idea that Syria's use of chemicals is an 'imminent' threat to anyone outside its borders, most might agree it's an 'actual' threat insofar as setting a precedent in the Third World and particularly the Middle East.  After all, Bashar Assad's father allegedly used cyanide gas against a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in the early 80s.  Then of course Saddam gassed the Kurds and Iranians later in the 80s.  Neither were dealt with by force at the time, which only made things worse down the line.

At the same time allowing a fascist fanatical religious state in Persia to have the worst kind of WMDs would also represent an 'actual', not imminent threat as well.  Obama himself has said as much, stating that America will not 'countenance' Iran getting nukes because it would be a 'game-changer', the exact label he put on Assad's use of chemicals.  Since getting nukes is different than wanting them, a US strike to stop Iran from getting them wouldn't be much different than striking Syria for changing the game by using chemicals.  But somehow Jay Carney thinks there is a difference and will no doubt keep saying that using is different, ergo, Obama was not wrong.  He never is.   

But perhaps it's telling that the smartest president ever is leaving the explanation of this mess to various spokesgoofs, Lerch and the Vice President, who himself threatened to push impeachment of Bush if he dared to attack Iran without congressional approval. He is sequestered, studying his range of options with the national security folks, planning something very bold that doesn't involve boots on the ground.  Obama fan Peter Bergen says that choice is 'from hell', quoting a book by the current Ambassador to the UN, who remained on vacation during the recent emergency WMD meeting; a book critical of the current National Security Advisor.  So the pretzel is rather twisted.  But hey, Obama wanted the football.  He's now the quarterback and there's nobody above his pay grade.  Sure hope he's got some of those special powers

MORE 8/28/13

How about this. We bomb some regime WMD and military sites. Then in the process we 'lose' a couple of bombs on the territory held by al-Nusra/AQ in Iraq, sort of like we lost one on the Chinese embassy in Sarajevo. That way it doesn't look like we are siding with Zaawhiri.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

About those Chemical Weapons..

While it seems certain that chemical weapons were used in Syria, the 'whodunit' is still up for grabs.  Many are asking why Assad would launch an attack just days after a UN inspection team arrived.  It's a good question.  It's also apparently a question the administration doesn't want answered:
"If the Syrian government had nothing to hide and wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have ceased its attacks on the area and granted immediate access to the U.N. five days ago," a senior Obama administration official said.
"At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days," the official added.
Sounds like an Iraq flashback--take our word for it! So, if one believes the chinless dictator wouldn't go that far that would mean the 'rebels' launched the attack as a way to pull the west into the battle and stop their losses. But believing the SMC/FSA fighters would have access seems rather absurd since western intelligence is embedded in their ranks.  So where would the WMDs have come from?

One wild guess is of course Iraq.  The Russians and Iranians have been pressing this angle, using our old friend Izzat al-Douri as a facilitator to help the various Sunni Iraq insurgent groups either obtain Saddam-era munitions or supervising new production to be smuggled across the Turkish border into the battle zones.  However, Russia and Iran seem to be the only ones pushing this idea and both stand to gain from it in the propaganda department if true, so it must be taken with a grain-silo sized pillar of salt.

Others are reminding folks about the other Arab tinpot who dabbled in WMD--Moahmar Gaddafi.  Yep, the 'rebels' indeed found a stash of chemical weapons in 2011 after the tyrant was sent to Allah:
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had an undeclared stockpile of chemical weapons, international inspectors have confirmed. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said inspectors visited Libya this week and said inspectors found sulphur mustard and artillery shells 'which they determined are chemical munitions.'
This means the shells were not filled with chemicals, but were designed specifically to be loaded with chemical weapons. 'They are not ready to use, because they are not loaded with agents," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said. Among the chemical munitions they found were stocks of sulphur mustard agent, which can cause severe blistering. All the newly declared materials are being stored at the Ruwagha depot, in the south-east of the country.
This, coupled with the very strange official reactions to the Benghazi terror attack might explain some things, assuming anything is ever fully explained.  First off they might start with why Samantha Power, our newly minted Ambassador to the UN, remained on vacation and skipped an emergency UN meeting about the chem-attack in Syria. Power is a vocal advocate of "Responsibility to Protect" and was a voice in the ear of the administration advocating involvement in Libya. Having Libyan WMD liberated into AQ hands and then used in Syria might be a bit problematic (or as Jesse Jackson might say, frowned upon).

Then again, all of the above is predicated on the rebels surreptitiously using WMD to frame Assad.  If it was ever discovered the rebels used WMD, especially AQ-back factions, it would change Obama's 'calculus' (maybe a derivative instead of an integral) and leave the west with no horses to back (they long ago lost the ability to fall back into the Assad camp should things go wrong).  Maybe that's why the administration doesn't want the UN to discover anything.  Alas, these 40 pound brains are still trying to plan a peace conference with Russia and the rebels.  The same Russians blaming the attacks on the rebels.  Not very flexible.

Overall most people would agree that getting involved in Syria is a loser and Obama knows it, both in his brain and through the polls.  His 'red line' claptrap was mere bluffing ahead of an election but now it has backed us into a corner that only a few cruise missiles will solve.  Let's hope they know what they are doing--many lives hang in the balance.

MORE  8/25/13

Scott Shane of the Times puts Syria and the UN in perspective:
While administration officials emphasized that Mr. Obama had not decided to take action, they said he was determined not to be drawn into a protracted debate over gaining access for the United Nation investigators, given their doubts, at this point, that it would produce credible findings.
Funny, why were the UN inspectors even in Damascus in the first place? The recent attack occurred AFTER they had arrived; the earlier attacks they were there to investigate happened weeks and months ago. So what's with the suddenly short time range of investigation?  Very strange, as if they don't want them to find anything right now.  

And how similar to the criticism on Iraq. The president doesn't want to get into a negotiation with the dictator over UN access looking for WMDs as he prepares for attacks without a UN mandate. But it won't be spun that way.

Politics aside, if indeed the chem-rocket was launched by Hizballah via Iran, which seems to be taking control at the moment, does the US not want such a determination made public via a UN team?   Sure sounds like some justification somebody could eventually use for taking out Iran's nuke program.   

SHOCKED  8/26/13

John Kerry and Jay Carney expressed the president's shocked outrage over the horrible deaths caused by the chemical attack today. Also shockingly, nobody in the White House press room suggested that Obama's foot-dragging after his red line was crossed (the first couple of times) could have contributed to such a horrid scene.  Carney was prepared for the question--indeed he tried to parse between 'small scale' and 'wide scale' attacks, making a distinction insofar as their response or potential response.  In a nutshell, what he seemed to be saying is the small scale attacks were only worth 'ramping up' support to include small arms while a large scale attack warrants something more, which he refused to characterize.  This despite reports that the small arms supposedly sent after the first red line crossing still haven't arrived. 

Just a wag, but by leaking to the press various tidbits about what might happen, ie, cruise missile attack, the administration is testing the waters to see how much response they need. Otherwise they would have remained entirely mum, not wanting to give away any tactical or strategic advantage.   If the waters show support from the public for some bombing, and if the intelligence community determines that retaliatory responses from the various Syrian or Iranian proxy factions can be controlled or won't materialize, they'll go for it sooner than later.  If the waters are a little too choppy they'll go for some kind of delayed UN, we are the world reply or even try to run attack permission through Congress (hoping for failure).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Teen murder problem, explained

The teen violence problem largely explained, without experts, politicians or race-hustlers..

In this case society is to blame, that is, the tendency to provide a social program instead of advocating personal responsibility.  It's so much easier just to send a check. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Red Lines and Puppies

Regarding the possible massive chemical weapons attack in Syria, forget the fact our president pretended that such an attack would cause really really bad consequences.  The obvious question is why would Assad launch such an attack right after a UN inspection team had just arrived in his country to investigate previous attacks?

  That question was asked today by Jeffrey Goldberg:
The second question is, why would the Assad regime launch its biggest chemical attack on rebels and civilians precisely at the moment when a UN inspection team was parked in Damascus? The answer to that question is easy: Because Assad believes that no one -- not the UN, not President Obama, not other Western powers, not the Arab League -- will do a damn thing to stop him. There is a good chance he is correct.
Eh OK, but is even Assad that bold?   Maybe if he knew Iran and Russia squarely had his back?  Well, if so, that represents an even larger finger-sign shaped missile from Putin exploding on the White House lawn than was Snowden.  Picture a bully pushing the skinny kid from Chicago over each red line he keeps drawing. 

But let's assume even Assad and Putin aren't that bold.  That would mean the 'rebels' pulled off an attack, as Russia is now inferring, or it was faked. This actually makes more sense based on the arriving UN team. If the rebels pulled off an attack that's just as bad as Assad doing it, because it means we're giving weapons to people who are just as bad as the guy they are fighting.

It also means people aligned loosely with AQ now have WMDs.  Where would they get them?  It's tempting to suggest "from Saddam", since our current Director of National Intelligence once said, but a lot of factors really don't add up on it (even General Sada's far-fetched airborne transfer).  The Assads have maintained chem weapons for decades (they didn't get them from Rummy) so they didn't need any from Iraq anyway.  Besides, all indications are that the US/western intel keeps their eyes trained on Syria's stocks and they haven't indicated movement, which was another red line.  That would mean they came from somewhere else. Outside of Syria.  Where?  Here?
"The chemical weapons used in the attack on Khan al-Assal area had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brigadier General Adnan al-Dulaimi and supplied to Ba'ath-affiliated terrorists of the Nusra Front in Aleppo through Turkey's cooperation and via the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province," an informed source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of his life, told FNA on April 6.
The source who has been an aide to Izzat Ibrahim - the most senior member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle who is still on the run and heads the outlawed Ba'ath party after the apprehension and execution of Iraq's former Dictator Saddam Hussein - defected from the group a few months ago, but holds substantiating documents on Izzat Ibrahim's plans.
Far-fetched and rather delicious propaganda for Russia, but considering that the Maliki government is largely siding with Iran and Syria it's certainly plausible for the forgotten Ba'ath clown to be helping the other side.

Now then, if the rebels only faked the attack to gain international sympathy and trigger military involvement it certainly would be better--as in nobody actually dying, but it would mean they are pretty desperate.  None are real good options.  But did you hear the White House got another puppy?


Chris Cuomo did a sit-down with the prez this morning and asked some semi-tough questions about Syria..
CUOMO: The red line comment that you made was about a year ago this week.
OBAMA: Right.
CUOMO: We know since then there have been things that should qualify for crossing that red line.
OBAMA: Well, Chris, I've got to -- I've got to say this. The -- when we take action -- let's just take the example of Syria. There are rules of international law.
CUOMO: Uh-huh.
OBAMA: And, you know, if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.
CUOMO: You don't believe we've seen enough?
OBAMA: Now, this -- well, this latest event is something that we've got to take a look at. But keep in mind, also, Chris -- because I know the American people keep this in mind -- we've still got a war going on in Afghanistan.
CUOMO: True. True.
OBAMA: You know, we're still spending tens of billions of dollars in Afghanistan. I will be ending that war by the end of 2014, but every time I go to Walter Reed and visit wounded troops, and every time I sign a letter for a casualty of that war, I'm reminded that there are costs and we have to take those into account as we try to work within an international framework to do everything we can to see Assad ousted -- somebody who's lost credibility -- and to try to restore a sense of a democratic process and stability inside of Egypt.
A lot between the lines there. Syria: red line crossed but regardless of my cowboy talk the American people don't want an escalation so we are studying things, but we remain concerned. Hmm, what happened to the aid they've already provided when the red line was last crossed (that triggered the serious consequences)? It does not appear to be working so far, and this president does not appear to be serious about it.

Afghanistan: one does not simply 'end a war'. A war is either won or lost, or fought to a draw such as in Korea. So why won't journalists press the president on that characterization? It's clear that Americans don't want their loved ones being the last soldier to die for a lost cause, as Kerry once said, but isn't a war 'dumb' if not fought to be won?  Or is the main front in the GWoT, which the president once called Afghanistan, no longer a threat? If it's no longer worth winning, eg, no need for any further sacrifices from American military personnel fighting the enemy who attacked us on 9/11, then let's get the hell out yesterday.  Using it as a useful excuse not to provide the serious consequences over a red line drawn somewhere else is no reason to stay.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Benghazi Firings

Here's the New York Times headline of December 19, 2012 regarding punishment for bureaucrats fingered in the Bengahzi attack:
4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack
"4 are out". Most would assume "out" to mean fired.  But the Times worded it craftily in the body of their report:
Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
So "out" meant "removed from their posts", which technically does not mean fired. A few weeks later the New York Post clarified this in a story that was condemned by some on the left:
The four officials supposedly out of jobs because of their blunders in the run-up to the deadly Benghazi terror attack remain on the State Department payroll — and will all be back to work soon, The Post has learned. The highest-ranking official caught up in the scandal, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell, has not “resigned” from government service, as officials said last week. He is just switching desks. And the other three are simply on administrative leave and are expected back.
When asked about it during her testimony in January Hillary was fairly forceful in suggesting the four should actually be fired:
“First, all four individuals have been removed from their jobs,” Clinton began. “Secondly, they have been placed on administrative leave. Thirdly, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen highlighted the reason why this has been so complicated. Under federal statute and regulations, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty.”
“Fourth, I have submitted legislation to this committee and to the Senate committee to fix this problem so future ARBs (Accountability Review Board) will not face this situation. Because I agree with you, there ought to be more leeway given to the ARBs.”
But that was then.  Fast forward to this evening and an announcement from John Kerry:
Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that the four State Department officials placed on administrative leave by Hillary Clinton after the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi do not deserve any formal disciplinary action and has asked them to come back to work at the State Department starting Tuesday.
Kerry said he made the determination based on findings of the ARB, which was precisely what Hillary had used to 'fire' them.

The funny thing is, Kerry is right. No lower level staffers deserved to lose their jobs over Benghazi, or even be sent home with pay. If there was going to be any ass-kicking it should have been a top leadership level. By blaming these four people the administration was trying to get people to think it was some kind of bureaucratic failure they were taking care of, instead of a planned terrorist attack on 9/11.

Now, nearly one year from that attack (and the misinformation dumped on the public explaining it)--and after closing 22 embassies based on an AQ threat just recently--there's no reason to pretend that what happened was a reaction to a video or even bureaucratic incompetence.  The stonewalling has shifted solely to what the CIA was doing there, which is a question that could take decades to answer. 

Although these non-firings really didn't factor into the 2012 presidential election, other than the president continually pointing to 'the ARB review' so he could avoid talking about it, something eventually had to be done when the final report came out.  So they 'fired' the bureaucrats.   Oddly enough, Kerry's reinstatement of these people could be taken as a slap at Hillary.  If he did it unilaterally it might even send a signal of his interest in challenging Hillary16! for the nod, which could cause her some headaches.  But the chances are he's just hoping few will notice.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Spying on Di

Did the British SAS (Special Forces) actually take out Princess Diana?  That claim is making news in the UK right now..
The decision to examine the new claims suggests that officers believe they must be looked at by detectives to assess whether they have any weight. However they come from the estranged parents-in-law of “Soldier N”, an SAS soldier who was a key witness in the successful prosecution of Sgt Nightingale.
He was himself convicted of illegal weapons possession. His estranged wife’s parents wrote to the SAS’s commanding officer claiming the soldier had told his wife that the unit had “arranged” the Princess’s death and that this had been “covered up”.
For those who don't know, Danny Nightingale was the SAS soldier convicted of possessing a trophy pistol and ammo after returning from Iraq.  The whole thing sounds a little shaky, but surely the Brit press will cover it more objectively than will ours. I've always wondered whether the Princess's dabbling with Muslims, ie, Dodi Fayed or her Pakistani lover, might have been enough reason to keep tabs on her friends and associates.  Driver Henri Paul might have been an informant to French intelligence but he was also a drunk driver, so if the intel services arranged that accident they're as good as the characters in a Bond film.

The funny thing is, the NSA evidently captured some data on the Princess back before 9/11:
Diana, the official insisted, was never a "target" of the NSA's massive, worldwide electronic eavesdropping infrastructure. The NSA system sucks up millions of electronic signals from around the world every hour, but only "targeted" communications are actually analyzed and deciphered after a vast array of supercomputers sort them out on the basis of programmed search terms, such as "Saddam Hussein."
Target being the key word.  The NSA only recently denied 'targeting' the princess, saying some info was inadvertently picked up in the scoop.  But surely some of those people that were actually being targeted were close to her and were giving the Old Lady heartburn.

By the way, those with good memories will remember the "Echelon" story in the late 90s, which this WaPo report covers:
The giant spy agency, Maryland's largest employer, has been the subject of intense controversy in Britain and across Europe since a report released in January by the European Parliament concluded that "within Europe, all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency."
The report focused on a system called Echelon through which the NSA and its spy partners in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia share communications intercepted from around the world and systematically divide the huge task of analyzing the "take."
What's old is new again!  In essence 9/11 simply allowed the focus to shift to US-based targets. Or maybe they've been doing it all along based on capturing international trunk data through US servers. We await James Clapper's investigation of himself.  Hilariously, the Echelon story didn't tarnish Clinton that much in the 90s just as the recent revelations haven't seriously damaged Obama, but Bush's version of the program was outrageous. 

Radical Islamist Update

America is coming up on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  It's hard to believe, but it's also hard to believe we're still fighting the war, and fighting it the way we are.   

Today we have a story about the brother of one of AQ's top two being arrested (again) in Egypt.  He was previously arrested by the Mubarak regime, then freed when the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to power, now he's back behind bars.

Mohammed Zawahiri's name should ring a bell with anyone following the back stories of the Arab Spring and the Benghazi attack because he was the one who helped organize a protest crowd outside Embassy Cairo last year with the purpose of releasing the Blind Sheikh that eventually led to black jihad flags flying over several embassies.  Does he know where his AQ brother is hiding?   Will the Egyptian military do some 'enhanced interrogation' to find out?  After all, the administration just issued a worldwide terror alert based on a conversation between Ayman and the leader of AQAP.  Or would that be cruel?   

Meanwhile, where is Morsi?  Nobody has heard a peep from him since July 3.  Nobody is even asking. As he languishes somewhere the coup leaders are on the verge of repeating history despite the Obama administration's insistence of wanting an 'inclusive' Egypt going forward.  General Al-Sissi is acting as if Obama and Kerry don't really exist.  At the same time Republicans are conflicted because they don't want the Brotherhood to win either, nor does Israel.  As the post-9/11 period shows, laws are made for the little guys. 

Here in the homeland (don't you just hate that term, but the alternative is motherland or fatherland) we have a trial going on in military court regarding Major Nidal Hasan, who, in acting as his own attorney is trying hard to prove himself guilty to the consternation of the military court.  In the process of this charade a real news story trickled out a few days ago about Spc. Frederick Greene, a soldier shot twelve times by Hasan (after he yelled Allahu Akbar and opened fire).  Experts say he was only shot twelve times because he made a charge on Hasan trying to stop him. In other words, he's a true American hero.

Doesn't such a person deserve to be the subject of national media coverage?  There have been a few stories but nothing near top billing.  And what about a posthumous medal?   Stories say the Army won't be giving out medals to those shot at Ft. Hood due to them classifying it as "workplace violence" since such awards could taint the trial.  As if they think Hasan might be innocent.  Hopefully after Hasan proves himself guilty they can rethink the medal issue. That will probably be after Obama is out of office since they clearly don't want anything that might take away from the we-killed-UBL terror legacy.

The irony is that soldiers at Ft. Hood stage for deployment to go fight crazed jihadists in foreign countries who act just like Hasan.  Had Hasan been a Taliban member there would have been no trial, but since he committed his act of war on a base it's completely different or something.  It also appears possible they don't want to offend American Muslims by calling a white Baptist soldier a hero for trying to stop Hasan.

In that same politically correct vein several organizations are organizing a "Million Muslim March" to be held on 9/11, presumably to bring attention to the injustices done to American Muslims since 9/11/01.  Doing so is their guaranteed constitutionally-protected right.  But when considering that Hasan and Abdulhakim have killed more than the total of retribution killings of Muslims after 9/11 it's a stretch to say there's any serious discrimination occurring other than nasty glares.  Such an event will only sow divide and hard feelings.   

The leaders say they also want to condemn terrorism, which is worthy, but clearly their main grievance is not terrorism or else they'd be holding the rally on May 1.   Actually, their main goal seems strangely in line with the Democrat Party's goal of riling up the conservatives.  That should surprise no one, since the war on terror has been used a political football for over a decade now.

So here almost 12 years out from the attacks one can ask, are we winning? 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Body Man Speaks

This story is sure to stir things up a bit:
A famous photo shows President Barack Obama hunkered down in the Situation Room in May 2011 with his national security team as U.S. Navy SEALS carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
But his former body man Reggie Love said in an interview posted online Wednesday that Obama also played cards to distract himself during the day-long ordeal.
Does anyone think it strange the Commander-in-Chief would leave the command post during an operation where a split-second decision might be needed?  Remember, earlier in the day he played golf. 

The "Body Man" also recalled the birth certificate saga:
Love, who left the White House at the end of 2011 to complete his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, also recalled the moment when the president "finally" found his birth certificate. The moderator jumped in: "It took a little too long, by the way."
Explaining the delay, Love said when "your parents don't live together (and) you travel all over the world, documents get lost."
Hold on a sec.  The birth certificate Obama presented to the press (four days before the Osama raid) was not 'found', it was obtained by an administration staffer who flew to Hawaii and paid for a copy of it at the records bureau. Why would Love make it sound like Obama simply 'couldn't find' the one he had at home (that was mentioned in "Dreams")? Was anyone in the birther movement accusing him of 'losing' it? 

This interview from Love was either disinformation designed to stir up or rekindle more conspiracies or he let something slip.  Probably the former.  By the way if you're wondering if Obama is the only politician to have a "body man" he's not.  He might be the first to have someone known as a body man, as previous officials call them 'aides' in public.  And if you're thinking about Clinton, don't even ask.

Aviation Update

Regards the UPS 1354 crash, condolences to the families of the victims and to the UPS family in general, who've now suffered the loss of four crewmembers and two beautiful airplanes in the last three years.

A couple of observations.

As with the Asiana crash, the NTSB has been very proactive and transparent so far.  They appear to be trying to do everything possible to remove the bad taste left by the recent reemergence of TWA800 story.  This is a good thing.

The weather could have been a factor, but that doesn't appear likely.  The ceiling and visibility was well above the minimums for runway 18, and from all we know the PAPI guidance lights were functional.  There is no instrument landing system for that approach.  One of the main questions they will likely be asking is why flight 1354--an Airbus widebody (a "heavy" in ATC lingo)--was shooting an approach on runway 18 instead of runway 06 or 24, which is about 3000 feet longer and has an ILS.  The CVR and ATC tapes will likely answer that question relatively soon. 

Witness statements are important as well--NTSB says they are on scene to collect 'perishable' info such as that from ear and eyewitnesses--and most have agreed there were explosions, although the number seems to range from 2 to 5.  As the fire department said, those could have been triggered by fuel tank impact.

As to witnesses, one man claimed to have been awakened by the explosions and taken his dog out for a walk to see what was going on and told of two explosions. Hearing several explosions could be explained by the aircraft initially striking the side of the small hill, first explosion, separating, then the remainder cartwheeling and coming to rest and exploding again. There are pictures of what appears to be the vertical stabilizer intact in the wreckage so the age-old issue of Airbuses and their tail sections might not have been a factor. Additionally it appears the aircraft was in a very shallow descent when it hit, which suggests they had some control (which would suggest the aircraft was physically intact--for the most part at least).

Interestingly, some published witness statements tend to become perishable themselves after crashes, we'll see if it happens on this one.  The same guy quoted above, Eddie Smith, was also quoted as follows in early editions regards his dog walk:
Smith said he was stopped by a Birmingham police officer who drew his weapon and ordered him to return to his home and said that there had been a plane crash.
Assuming he wasn't embellishing, why would a police officer draw a weapon on a guy walking his dog just because a plane had crashed?

Other witnesses claimed to hear strange engine noises and that the plane was on fire before it hit the ground.
Eye witnesses reported that the aircraft engines sounded odd and that the twin engine plane was on fire before it hit the ground.
Those things could be explained by the plane catching fire after initial impact with the trees and the pilot trying to apply power causing the engines to spool up as they realized they were too low.  There's a lag between the time a pilot firewalls the throttle and the engines respond, which is troublesome when the aircraft is too close to the ground.  However, if the witnesses are correct that the aircraft was on fire before striking anything it might change the entire investigation. As admitted regarding the crash of UPS flight 6 in Dubai a few years ago...
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, but there is no evidence to support their claim.
Indeed they did.  And of course we just came off a huge worldwide terror alert centered around AQAP, who were the ones that placed cargo bombs on two aircraft during that same time period several years ago.  So pretending there's no possible terrorism concern would be foolish.  However, there are many things that could rule it out pretty quickly, perhaps the most obvious being why they were landing on that specific runway in the dark.  Reports say the crew issued no distress call, suggesting they didn't know they had a problem until it was too late.

UPDATE  8/15/13

Here's the second press conference on the crash..

Two questions have possibly been answered.  One, it appears runway 06-24 was closed for repairs when this aircraft arrived.  This explains why the flight was landing on the shorter north-south runway without an ILS.  Runway 18 was the natural choice as compared to runway 36 based on light winds and the fact the flight was arriving from the north during a low traffic time.  An ever so slight tailwind of around 5 mph was reported but should not have seriously affected the approach, however the aircraft did pass through some shower activity from about 5 to 30 miles north of the airport during descent.  Flightaware profiles show the jet descended pretty rapidly through the area on its way in, but again, the crew didn't report anything unusual. 

Two, according to the NTSB's engine experts there was no evidence of a pre-impact fire. This does not mean the plane wasn't on fire before impact, just that the engines likely were not.  Also, no evidence of an uncontained engine failure to explain the short landing.  Recall several witnesses said the engines didn't sound quite right.   Former NTSB expert John Goglia has also been quoted as saying the engine turbofan blades were probably not spinning as fast as they normally would be in 'flight idle' (common to most landings) because they were still intact after impact.  This could explain the sounds people heard.  A lot will become more clear when they analyze the FDR, which is now back at NTSB headquarters.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So Much for the Big Threat?

It was inevitable--the US closes 22 embassies and issues a worldwide travel alert, nothing happens, then people start second-guessing the actions.  And they have

While it's tempting to suggest the whole thing was deliberately overblown to avoid some kind of political unpleasantness one should remember there are a lot of people in the intelligence apparatus that would be knowledgeable about such a stunt. Unless of course there was just enough credible and compartmentalized information to get away with it. But whenever a red flag is raised and nothing happens it's impossible to determine whether the red flag contributed to that nothing, or whether nothing would have happened anyway.

Anyway, since this is a blog let's construct a crude timeline of what might have triggered a conspiracy.  Here we go..

1.  Thursday August 1:  Edward Snowden granted asylum in Russia.  Keep in mind this is a HUGE slap in our American faces.  It's equivalent to a giant, middle-finger shaped rocket launched from Moscow and landing on the White House lawn, filled with poop.  

2.  Later Thursday August 1:  during the State Department Daily Briefing the same day a reporter asked spokeswoman Marie Harf about a 'rumor' of embassy closings.   She then confirmed that some embassies were being closed:
QUESTION: There are some, I guess you could call them, rumors that I was hoping you could address that some U.S. embassies may be closing or closed?
MS. HARF: Yes, just one second. So the Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th. The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.
QUESTION: Which embassies and --
MS. HARF: I don’t have a full list of that in front of me. I can endeavor to get that.
QUESTION: Well, do you have a partial list?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a list in front of me.
3. Friday August 2: State Department officially clarifies embassy closings. They don't do briefings on Fridays in August but White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed the closings to widespread press interest during his Friday presser. The embassies were to be closed on Sunday concurrent with the end of Ramadan due to some kind of special day that anonymous experts said would be a particularly good one for a terrorist to martyr himself.  It was also Obama's birthday.  Someone also leaked that the threat was triggered by AQ activity within AQAP and that attack preparations were underway.

4. Saturday August 3: Somebody leaked further details about the plot, which supposedly came from an intercepted message between AQ leaders. News orgs admitted they were withholding info on request from the administration. Sounded dire!  It was further announced that nineteen of the closed embassies will remain closed through Saturday August 10, further deepening the threat.  Obama played golf with a guy from Chicago who's associates are being investigated.  Then he went to Camp David for a party.   

5. Sunday August 4: All the talking heads lined up on the Sunday shows to outline the worst threat since 9/11.

6. Monday August 5: White House and State gave pressers, no change in status. No updates.  Fox News reporter asks State Department rep whether White House is "outraged" over the recent leaks about the threat.  It was not taken seriously of course.

7. Tuesday August 6: More intel leaked about the intercepted message--it was between Ayman Zawahiri and Nasser Wuhayshi. The president goes on a late night comedy show and provides important information.

8. Wednesday August 7: Another leak in support of the threat, this time to Daily Beast writers Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, describing the communications between AQ leaders as a 'conference call'. There is no White House briefing again.

9. Thursday August 8: Nothing significant happened.  White House briefing featured normal filibustering.

10. Friday August 9: Obama gave an afternoon press conference where he got few if any questions about the threat.   He got several about the NSA and surveillance, which dovetailed nicely into his announcement that he was actually ahead of Snowden on calling for reform of the NSA spying.  He announced a panel to investigate and report back to him.  He got asked about how the Benghazi investigation is coming along and possibly committed a crime in revealing sealed charges against some of the perps. Then he left Washington for a vacation trip to Martha's Vineyard. Later that evening the State Department announced the nineteen affected embassies would reopen the next day, Saturday the 10th.  No explanation was given as to why they were reopening (whether the threat had lessened, etc).

11. Saturday through the weekend: Press remained focused on story of California kidnapping. President played golf.  President allowed press to follow him for a hole and take pictures, which Greta Van Sustern thought was purposeful, ie, stick in your bunghole, America, I'm playing golf.  Stories began to surface about whether threat was warranted or not on the usual sites.

12. Monday August 12: State Department Daily Briefing; question was asked about the threat, not much was revealed.   Every embassy except in Yemen and Pakistan are back open.  Obama announced that DNI James Clapper, who lied to Congress about the spying, will be in charge of the panel and will be reporting findings about himself back to Obama.   

So, from the time Snowden was given asylum through the weekend following and throughout the subsequent week there was very little talk about Russia thumbing their nose at the Obama administration, or whether Snowden may have given them further sensitive or top secret information.  The AQ embassy attack story took all the air out of Snowden and now the president is on vacation. 

Meanwhile the previous thoughts on this blog about whether the government might have burned some intelligence secrets because they were covering a big story, like maybe the capture or killing of Zawahiri, looks less likely each passing day.  And the thought someone might have used terror threats to divert attention from a bigger more embarrassing story looks more and more possible.   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Like Father, Like Son

This is too good a story to miss, especially for Mid-Southerners...
Now. . . here's where the saga gets cool.
I delved into Toddle House history. It turns out that the guy who built the Toddle Houses from nothing into a mid-century middle-American treasure was a fellow named Fred Smith. He had owned a bus company, had sold it, and had devoted his business acumen to the Toddle Houses. He died in the 1940s, leaving a 4-year-old son fatherless.
The boy, also named Fred, went to college, joined the Marines, served two tours of duty in Vietnam, then came home and, like his dad had done, decided to start a company. It was based on an idea he had dreamed up while in school. It had nothing to do with the restaurant business.
It was a little firm called Federal Express.
As they say, read the whole thing. 

California Kidnapping Saga

I have to admit to not paying close attention to the California murder-kidnapping story until Saturday, when it was announced that an FBI tactical agent shot and killed the suspected murderer/kidnapper near Cascade, Idaho.  Thankfully the girl was saved; too bad the perp wasn't because he'll never be forced to tell his story, which right now doesn't make much sense.

The first mystery is of course the shooting--authorities aren't talking much.  Was there a shootout, shots exchanged, or did they just take him out with a sharpshooter?  Don't expect much because--everyone together now--it's an ongoing investigation.  Not that there's anything nefarious with law enforcement at this point because it might well have been a shooting to prevent the perp from harming the girl then killing himself as they closed in.  We just don't know yet.   

Otherwise the media has reported that the man, James DiMaggio, was like an uncle to Mr. Anderson's children.  We have also been told that the 16 year old daughter who was with him in Idaho was scared of him, but had not told her parents.  The man admitted to having a crush on her and taking her alone on a trip to Hollywood, which is kind of weird.  But I guess he was the trusted uncle--the father says he saw no signs of anything untoward.  We have not been told what the mother thought or if she knew. 

And what about the parents?  Why wasn't the father with the mother, son and daughter at "Uncle Jim's" remote house near the Mexican border?  Well, if you dig a little you'll find...
Mr Anderson lives in Tennessee after moving away from the area for a job a few months ago.
Oh, so the father wasn't in the San Diego area, he was here in Tennessee. Why? Digging deeper:
Brett and Christina Anderson recently separated, Dawn said. Investigators called Brett Anderson her ex-husband, but he said they were still married.
It would seem that marital problems might be an important aspect in such a story since the perp was known to the family.  And what about the perp?   Reports say he worked as a phone guy (telecommunications specialist) at Scripts Research Institute in San Diego but was preparing to move to Texas:
DiMaggio, a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was planning to move to Texas and invited Christina Anderson and the children to his home last weekend to say goodbye, Christopher Saincome, Christina Anderson's father, told AP.
Why was he moving? Was he fired? Was he just taking a new job?  It surely could have been a line of BS designed to lure the family to the home for the crime, but it wouldn't be that hard for somebody in the media to check with his employer to see how things were going at work. Was anyone "creeped out" by him there?  What was his status, etc. 

And what of the notion that DiMaggio might have rigged his Nissan Versa to explode if anyone tried to get close? What made the authorities suspect such a thing?  Was he an explosives expert? Where did that come from? Obviously the car wasn't rigged to blow up when they found it.  We aren't even sure he was armed.

And what about his romantic life?  Was he married, divorced, seeing someone? Since the Andersons were separated was there any possibly something was going on between the mother and him?  The event sounds a bit similar to the old Kubric film "Lolita" starring James Mason, where he kills the beautiful teenager's mother (Shelly Winters), whom he married to get close to her daughter, then runs off with the young girl without telling her so they can be alone, only to find tragedy in the end.  That kind of thing, middle aged man going haywire over blond teenager, may well totally explain the entire thing but depending on the news media to explain it to any degree is a losing proposition.

MORE  8/11/13

Big question in my mind is how the sequence went down in the mountains. Some reports are stating that the FBI waited until Hannah, the kidnapped girl, was separated from the campsite then grabbed her.  If that's the case--and if this report is true...
They shot dead DiMaggio, who was unarmed, and trying to 'fortify' his remote campsite.

(and considering the source it might not be)--why was he shot? What further threat were they expecting after the girl was rescued?  Anything to do with the fear the car might have been rigged to explode? 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Destruction of the National Pastime

Baseball, the national pastime.  Hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, what's more American than a ballpark in summer?

Not much, but like everything else in America these days it seems to be an institution crumbling from within.  The lure of millions has led many in the sport astray--in ways that far eclipse what happened with the Black Sox scandal or the existence of spit-ballers or sign-stealers or Pete Rose.  None of those rule-breakers were operating with drug-enhanced bodies.

The recent revelations about Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriquez are seriously troubling, not because they took drugs but because one of them swore up and down they had not and even begged for the public's trust, while the other continues to live in a fantasy world where he seems to think it doesn't matter.

McGwire and Sosa--then Bonds--really got the ball rolling and now people look at stats and wonder, is he juicing?  That's already bad enough for the sport.  The latest charge is against former Cardinals great Albert Pujols, coming from former Cards slugger Jack Clark:
"I know for a fact he was," Clark said. "The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that's what he did."
In response Pujols is suing Clark and the radio station in St. Louis that employed him (where he made the comments) for defamation. In an unusually strong statement, "King Albert" said the following:
"I've said time and time again that I would never take, or even consider taking, anything illegal," Pujols said in the statement. "I've been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and never once have I tested positive. It is irresponsible and reckless for Jack Clark to have falsely accused me of using PED's. My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.
"I know people are tired of athletes saying they are innocent, asking for the public to believe in them, only to have their sins exposed later down the road. But I am not one of those athletes, and I will not stand to have my name and my family's name, dragged through the mud."
That bolded last paragraph is perhaps the most rock-solid denial imaginable, even stronger than the statement Braun made a few years ago (and reiterated early this year, that turned out to be a lie).  Braun probably felt he could lie with such impunity because he'd likely been told that the concoctions being used were undetectable. 

So if it turns out Pujols did use PEDs--after a denial that included a reference to Christ--it's going to be very hard to believe any denials from anyone.  In a way the suit is a benchmark moment for MLB going forward, since Pujols has done things no other player in history has done and is a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame.  He has become an impeccable role model.  The owners best hope he's telling the truth if they want to continue selling their 9 dollar beers and 4 dollar hot dogs.   

Friday, August 09, 2013

Obama Presser

Main takeaways from today's presser: (summary of his responses with reaction underneath):

1.  Obama was going to ask for a reform of the secret programs before Snowden ever showed up, so Snowden is no hero.  Obama is the hero.  He himself wanted reform and heck, he might even have leaked the program himself had more time elapsed.

Of course this is impossible to prove, which is why it was used.  It's also complete and total BS.  The guy ran on bashing Bush's trashing of the constitution and secret programs--that's where 'transparency' came from.  He was going to be different.  But he found some of the Bush programs useful after all.  And he was going to tell everyone if not for Snowden.   Except he was never going to divulge his continuation of any of those Bush programs, ever.  The assertion that he asked for this in his speech at the NDU speech in May is preposterous and should be vigorously fact-checked by the press. 

2.  Snowden didn't solely affect the decision to cancel the one-on-one with Putey Poot.  Heck, they might have canceled anyway without him due to all kinds of things (forget about that reset, Putin messed it up).

Could comment, but Condi Rice--a Russian expert--is a lot more clear-eyed and authoritative on it. 

3.  Benghazi culprits not caught yet?  Don't worry, I got bin Laden but it took more than 11 months.

At least somebody asked.  Of course bin Laden was one man without forces surrounding him; these Benghazi jihadies were likely part of the overall AQ non-Core network (despite taking phone calls and orders from Zawahiri) so there are likely hundreds or even thousands involved, ie, it might take military action.  Indicting and even capturing one guy isn't going to be'justice'.   It's also interesting that CNN's correspondent didn't bother to ask about their own bombshell story involving the massive CIA participation at Benghazi, but such is life in DC when careers and book deals are on the line versus asking the tough questions.   

4.  AQ 'decimated' with 22 embassies closed?   Yes, Core AQ is still decimated but the others are still dangerous, which we've said all along.

Well yes they might say it, but not prominently.  It's not like Biden yelled at the convention, "Osama bin Laden is dead, except for some very dangerous affiliate branches who are still pulling off attacks and might cause us to close embassies and issue travel advisories, and GM is alive!!!   Doesn't have the same ring.

But let's take a second to expose this giant red herring known as 'Core AQ'. They've singled out AfPak so they can show progress and remove the troops but it's really meaningless.  Bin Laden, Zawahiri and a few hundred jihadies scattered into Pakistan after Bush blasted out the Taliban in 2001.  Zawahiri's original group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, merged into AQ before 9/11 but guess what, they were based in Egypt.  Several "top lieutenants" of EIJ are still at large.  Other AQ affiliates, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, were around on 9/11--their early leader Belhadg is now a Libyan government official (with a possible tie-in to Benghazi).  Of course KSM and his nephew Yousef were basically lone wolf contractors for AQ who did a lot of damage without an army.  So please with this core AQ stuff.    

5.  Republicans don't want 30 million people to have health care.

There are no words available to destroy this strawman.  He should have said they want dirty air and dirty water too, and dead puppies.

Clearly the president tried to use this presser mainly to diminish Snowden, both as an important leaker and someone who impeded our diplomacy with Russia.   He didn't want it to seem like Snowden, just some hacker, took out an important one-on-one meeting or spurred a debate on NSA spying.  Not sure he succeeded.   Putin certainly won't buy it nor will any Libertarian.  

And the press corpse?   Some improvement but still lacking.  No questions on IRS, the AP phone logging, Rosen, the Yemeni leaker, the leaker of this information on Zawahiri's phone call, and far too many softball setup questions that allow the president to filibuster for minutes about punishing his enemies (not the terrorists) while getting all his talking points in.   Pretty much same ole same old.  

MORE  8/9/13

Wasn't one of the biggest takeaways that Bush was right?   Not one reporter made the point, but Obama in discussing the secret programs (and his former press sec Gibbs on MSNBC tonight) tacitly admitted that things looked different once they got read-in to the amount of threat reportings a president is privy to see.  Something O kept quiet while he was hammering Bush on torture and the economy.

Also, there really wasn't a lot about the current threat we are supposedly under.  Jon Karl from ABC asked about the dronings in Yemen but the president cut that off; someone could have asked what it will take to come out of the embassy closings (which is being done this weekend).   But they didn't.   Still thinking there might be something big we haven't been told they are holding onto, which might have become more evident had someone forced a curt reply or some kind of facial gesture. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Really? A Conference Call?

A 20 person conference call.  That's the latest skinny on the big AQ threat:
The crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region.
Now that's fodder for some dark humor.  Imagine: Zawahiri calls a GoToMeeting of the boys so they can discuss their lack of success reaching their terrorist goals, complete with charts and using the Tsarnaev brothers to shame the regional captains. "Do something!" the exasperated terror leader screams.   All completely oblivious to the massive NSA spying scandal thing in the news and the fact that all AQ members know they've been spied on since the 90s.  Wonder if anyone fell asleep in the meeting?

Seriously, should anyone believe this?  One, it seems to destroy the administration's carefully constructed paradigm that 'AQ Core' is somehow removed from "AQ affiliates' for the purposes of saying Obama has decimated AQ, (Core, but they always said there were affiliates, ahem).  As has been previously mentioned, leaking this has now burned the mode of connection they used along with burning our intelligence snoopers' ability to snoop on it.  So was it worth it just to explain the embassy closings?  Or is there something more going on?  Lake mentions that Zawahiri apparently thought his lines were secure:
Al Qaeda leaders had assumed the conference calls, which give Zawahiri the ability to manage his organization from a remote location, were secure. But leaks about the original intercepts have likely exposed the operation that allowed the U.S. intelligence community to listen in on the al Qaeda board meetings.
It's hard to imagine any commercial comms being thought of as 'safe' by anyone these days so perhaps it was a non-commercial venue workaround or some other super secret workup.  Maybe somebody felt it was worth leaking, but why?  Only a fool would leak this kind of thing--even if they were trying to explain our embassy closings.  Obama didn't elaborate on his Leno appearance so we don't know what we don't know.

Of course all of this strongly suggests we know the potential whereabouts of Zawahiri.  Early reports characterized the call between him and Nasser al-Wuhayshi was from the Pakistani tribal areas to Yemen but in today's State Department briefing there was an interesting moment between spokeswoman Jen Psaki said AP reporter Matt Lee.  First, Psaki's answer to a question about whether Core AQ is really not world AQ with this new revelation, emphasis added:
As we talked a little bit about yesterday, as the result of the enormous pressure we’ve put on the group, we have eliminated all of al-Qaida’s senior leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And because the current leaders of al-Qaida core are so worried about their personal safety, they’re far less able to plan attacks.
She said ALL.  Matt Lee caught that little gem and responded as such:
QUESTION: Jen, I’m confused here. You opened that answer by saying you’ve eliminated all of core al-Qaida leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Where do you think --
MS. PSAKI: I said almost all.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. I didn’t hear the word “almost.” I’m not sure – but you meant to say almost, if I didn’t mishear you. You did mean to say --
MS. PSAKI: Almost all.
QUESTION: -- almost all. Okay. So that would include Zawahiri?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve eliminated almost all.
QUESTION: Okay. But you still believe that he is in Afghanistan or Pakistan, that rough area?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any intel or anything --
QUESTION: Okay. And then the second --
MS. PSAKI: -- to share on his whereabouts.
Over the weekend the administration was asking media outlets to sit on some of the information to protect something.  Then they allowed news reporters to report that Zawahiri was calling from the tribal regions to Yemen, now today we learn it was a conference call to a whole bunch of leaders.  Then when asked today the spokeswoman, on a question about AQ Core being "decimated", says "all" in relation to the leadership being wiped out, then pretends she didn't say it.

So the burning question is what are they still not telling us?  Is it possible we have already eliminated Zawahiri and they are sitting on the info in an effort to round up the other leaders who were on the call, of which they potentially know some locations.  Many in the intel community wanted to do just that after the Bin Laden takedown and criticized the administration for spiking the football right away. 

Or was this just a gaffe in an effort to protect a political narrative with the entire embassy closing exercise just a diversion to make everyone stop talking about Snowden, Benghazi and all the other phony scandals©?

The latter seems very hard to buy considering the amount of people that would have to be involved, but with this administration one can never say never.  Time will tell.   

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Investigation Update

One of the phony scandals© being dismissed by Democrats evidently includes the AP phone call logging taps, which were authorized by the Justice Department to help US Attorney Ronald Machen determine who might have leaked about a secret agent embedded within AQAP in Yemen.

You may recall the big story leaked to AP in 2012 about busting an underwear bomb plot, followed by an admission by the administration that they got the info from a person on the inside, effectively blowing the agent's cover.  They had to spirit him away.  And he wasn't even our guy.  

After the initial shock of that story wore off there has been little mention about it, other than it's presumably part of the phony scandal panoply.   No question the Obama folks have been the toughest administration in modern times--maybe ever--on prosecuting leakers, yet they can't seem to find anyone to indict on this (reason given for the log harvesting was that they exhausted all other reasonable efforts).   So did the phone logs bear any fruit?  Nobody knows.  Nobody has been caught yet. 

Meanwhile another leak about AQ and Yemen has appeared, this time to CBS:
The terrorism threat that prompted the U.S. government to close nearly two-dozen embassies and consulates surfaced when intelligence analysts intercepted electronic communications between top al Qaeda leaders, CBS News' Bob Orr has learned. Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), were discussing "something big," sources say. It's rare for veteran al Qaeda leaders to break operational security by openly discussing possible plots, and the interception stunned U.S. officials.
Just like in 2012, somebody apparently felt the need to explain their actions.  Back then it was explaining how we knew a package bomb plot was stopped (which would have helped bolster Obama's 'AQ on the run' narrative); this time it's about justifying the temporary closures of 22 diplomatic facilities (the big cheese said 'do something!').  It appears they've now burned a line of intelligence by revealing this, sort of like when somebody in the Clinton crew leaked and blew cover on UBL's satellite phone back in the 90s.   Do we need another US Attorney? 

In the LOL department, Fox News asked the State Department today if they were 'outraged' about the leak, to which they had little comment.

And now, after CNN has interviewed the head of Ansar al-Sharia on Benghazi---who told them the FBI has never interviewed him--the Justice Department has suddenly pressed charges against him.  Meanwhile Major Hasan is defending himself by declaring that yes dammit, I'm a jihadist, vowing to prove he's guilty of killing all those soldiers after yelling allahu akbar.  You just can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

On the Run, to Somewhere

Today is the president's birthday. What better present than an intercepted threat leading to a rather unusual global travel warning and the closing of 22 diplomatic posts, eh?  OK, we know for the Delegator-in-Chief it's really partying or playing 36 holes.   

But alright, we have a threat.  It's tempting to question it because there's certainly plenty to question.  

First of all, John Kerry just told the Pakistanis only days ago that the drone program in their territories will end 'very very soon' because AQ is only a shadow of its former self.  Everyone remembers Joe Biden telling America that UBL was dead and GM was alive. So c'mon, it's gotta be political theater designed to diminish Snowden's (and Putin's) PR victory or divert from the phony scandals©, one of which seems to have popped back up again.  Or in liberal-speak, Bush throwing up the yellow light warning before an election.    

Apparently sensing this, terrorism expert Peter Bergen rushed to the rescue of his favorite administration by pointing out the symbolism of the day to Muslims and why it might be a more advantageous day to commit suicide for the cause than say Christmas.  But hold on, that doesn't square with the 'all is well' narrative coming from the White House. Politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths all the time--which side is the least untruthful here?    

Because after all, threats still exist.  The administration likes to parse AQ into sections, referring to 'core AQ' in making pronouncements about how many they've sent to Allah as opposed to the relatively untouched AQIM.  But it hardly matters. UBL was taken out but as Hasan Turabi predicted a long time ago, killing bin Laden will just create thousands more.  Just look at Rewards for Justice site and notice the length of the list.

In doing so you'll see there are still some blue chip players on the field for team AQ Core, including Zawahiri, his old EIJ mate Saif al-Adel, Adnan Shukrijumah (Jafar the pilot), Abderraouf Jdey, Anas al-Liby, Yasin al-Suri (AQ's man in Tehran) and the "red-headed terrorist", Abu Musab al-Suri (allegedly released by Bashar Assad in retaliation for our taking sides).  Al-Suri is credited with the idea of small cells operating on their own much like what was seen with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. 

Aside from the core folks there are many offshoots and sympathizers. Abu Du'a is the leader of ISIS, the combination of AQ in Iraq + Al Nusra Front (remember, we were supposed to be fighting AQ wherever they exist--except Iraq, which apparently remains dumb).  Of course there is Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban, whose Pakistani brothers recently sent several squadrons to fight in Syria, the Haqqanis in AfPak, and AQ's man in North Africa, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, another zombie warrior wanted in the attack on the BP gas plant earlier this year in his home country of Algeria that killed three Americans.

There is also al-Shabbab in Somalia.  Few Americans realize we were involved in a hot war in Somalia a few years ago using Ethiopian ground forces, who basically fought to a draw with the terrorists (while doing nothing for their reputation in the region, leading some to suspect the crash of one of their passenger planes leaving Beirut shortly thereafter was something more than an accident).

The left likes to think of Iraq as completely separated from Islamists but we still haven't caught people like Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Saddam's former right hand henchman and still number one on the Iraqi version of RFJ, who has been tied to many insurgent groups since Baghdad fell (and the violence has been horrific over the past few months).  Another Iraqi, Abdul Yasin (one of the bomb mixers of the 1993 World Trade Center attack) is still unaccounted for and it remains uncertain as to his relationship with Ramzi Yousef and Saddam. 

Another terrorist operating from Iraq was legacy bomb-maker Abu Ibrahim, leader of the 1980s "15 May Organization" terror group who planted a bomb on Pan Am flight 830 killing a Japanese teenager.  He's on the RFJ list.  His bomb might have killed everyone on board had the device been more potent--it did blow a hole through the floor and create a bulge in the fuselage but cockpit crewmembers Roy Hawk and James O'Halloran landed the plane safely.  The guy who planted the bomb, Mohammed Rashed, was recently released from US lockup after apparently cooperating over something (presumably we still want Ibrahim despite his advanced age, 70s).

Side note, Rashed was married to Christine Pinter.  She was connected to the German Marxist revolutionary group Badaar-Meinhof Gang and the two met while Rashed was at one of their compounds for training.  They later became the "Red Army Faction" but quickly disappeared after the fall of the Berlin wall.  Feel free to connect the dots.     

There are even a few Shia terrorists still wanted for attacks on aviation in the 80s, such as for TWA 847, one of whom was released by Germany several years ago.  Perhaps Mohammed Ali Hammadi was instrumental in providing information to nail one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world few had ever heard of, Imad Mughniyah, Hammadi's partner in crime in the 847 hijacking, in return for his early release.  Or perhaps not--he's still on the RFJ list (unless that was part of the bargain to maintain street cred).  Hard to know.

Right now our government seems to consider the AQ in the Arabian Peninsula gang to be the most dangerous faction operating.  Their players on the RFJ list are led by...wait, there appear to be no AQAP players on the list.  Weird.  Their leader is one Nasser al Wahayshi, a former secretary to UBL and lately reported to have been promoted to AQ Number Two, which means he's about to die.  One of the main players was Said al Shihri, who we've already sent to Allah although his brothers have only recently admitted it.  Another local leader was removed a few days ago during a recently heightened level of drone activity.   Of course Anwar al-Awlaqi and his teenage son were involved with these guys. 

Speaking of Yemen, the above-mentioned Baathist thug Izzat al-Duri was rumored to have been staying there several times over the years...
Considering I’ve been saying that al Douri was in Yemen since 2006, I’m not surprised. The Iraqi Baathists in Yemen are a significant factor in both the Sa’ada Wars and the insurgency in Iraq. Their presence also underpins the Yemeni regime’s relationship with Syria. Further, the Baathists and al Qaeda were colluding in Yemen to transit fighters to Iraq, with the support of the Yemeni state. Saddam and Saleh were very close as were their top leaderships.
Bold to indicate yet another inconvenient link if true, but who really knows the truth?  The story was written when Saleh was still in power so if he had any dealings with Syria it would have likely been with Assad, which doesn't make sense considering the loyalties.  Saleh counted Uncle Saddam as his mentor and invited a lot of former Baath IIS personnel to Yemen in the aftermath of the war, some of which might have been working with the CIA in the war against jihad, which means it's possible to believe ole Izzat could actually be a US asset (explaining why he hasn't been captured).

Then again the Iranians say some spectacular things about al-Duri and his possible Syrian connections related to WMDs (which would also explain why he's never been caught), even throwing in a mention of the ex-KGB president of Russia.  Problem is their statements tend to be riddled with BS.  Or just complete and total BS.  The Yemeni connection to al-Duri may also be BS.  Actually, about the only thing that is known for sure about the GWoT is that there's a fog of BS surrounding it. 

Meanwhile the most famous AQAP member remains master bombmaker Ibrahim al Asiri, responsible for the underwear and package bombs along with an anal cavity version and maybe others.  He was the guy the Yemeni spy was targeting last year when the AP revealed the busted bomb plot.  This led US officials to admit the activity while possibly blowing the cover of the agent, which resulted in a leak investigation that eventually resulted in a phony scandal© of 40 AP phone lines being logged by the FBI out of the Capitol, for which no one has yet been indicted. Some think Asiri may be the de facto leader of AQAP right now but whatever the case it appears his group is vowing to take down commercial aircraft, making them pretty dangerous considering the Detroit flight and the cargo package bombs.

But wait, all the above is known.  How does it relate to now?

Recall the last time a prominent AQ leader was taken out.  In 2012, not too long before the 9/11 anniversary, Abu Yaha al-Liby was droned, which triggered a call-to-arms pronouncement by Zawahiri only days before 9/11 along with a similar call from AQAP.  What followed was the attack on Benghazi by a protest crowd angered over a B movie trailer terrorist group and black flags of jihad being raised over several other embassies in the region.  After announcing that the FBI was investigating so they couldn't say too much, the administration shortly blamed everything on the filmmaker and threw him in jail.  AQ was on the run and GM was alive and so forth.

Fast forward to now.  Ramadan is ending with some kind of special Night of the Long Knives or something; Zawahiri is again hitting the airwaves with his explanation of the removal of Morsi (ours and the Joos' fault); and AQAP is making threats over the loss of Al Shihri.   So somehow we've managed to piss off Zawahiri and the Brotherhood, AQAP, and even General al-Sissi (who is anything but--he led the military in taking out both Mubarak and Morsi).  Anyway, we all know how peaceful the Islamists are when they get their robes in a bunch.   Rumors say the epicenter of the threat is somewhere near Cairo. Our ambassador is probably number one on some of the "AQ hit lists". 

Among other reasons for concern are the mass jailbreaks over the past month in Libya, Iraq and Pakistan. Interpol is involved, which seems fruitless, but it shows the urgency.  Meanwhile everything is happening just as someone other than Fox News has reported about Benghazi.  The last time this happened Jay Carney called a special double-secret background briefing with the suddenly hostile White House press corpse and within hours the IRS released their phony scandal©, giving the press and Issa something else to chew on.
Recall the sickness that befell Hillary when she had to testify about it.  Hope she's feeling better.

All of which could lead to the suspicion they are doing it again, throwing a net over Benghazi with another more dramatic story.  But while that scenario fits rather nicely into a desperate political cover-up it also fits nicely into an effort to salvage a darker issue involving weapons we don't want the head-choppers to have and the protection of names and sources of those doing the work of the Sheepdog.  

Indeed the press has long reported that CIA contractors were in Benghazi to vacuum up Gaddafi's arsenal of surface-to-air missiles.  If it were to be discovered the CIA had been running arms to Syria from Libya through Turkey then certainly it would make the president look like a big fat liar over the 'red line' stuff.  But do Republicans really want to poke this nest?  In the 90s they focused on Monicagate and charged the president with wagging the dog for shooting cruise missiles at bin Laden, who was quietly gaining strength.  How can the public know for sure the WMDs used by Assad's forces--already confirmed by Obama--have not been captured by some of the 'rebels' fighting there?  Are we depending exclusively on Assad or was that entire story bogus as well?

Those still reading to this point are probably begging for a point. OK, the takeaway is that while it's tempting to believe the president is just throwing up a yellow terror alert to divert from phony scandals© or Snowden or the limp economy or the train wreck known as Obamacare there are still a lot of people who want to kill us in spectacular fashion.  In other words, the world still hates us despite Bush being retired.

But we are not reminded of this fact very often.  The administration has been trying to take a page out of Clinton's 90s playbook by pretending such threats are being reduced or something far away.  They know we crave more important stories like George Zimmerman getting a speeding ticket, A-Rod's suspension or any variety of 50 Shades of Gray salaciousness.  The real enemy combatants are known as Creepy Ass Tea Party Crackers, who are trying to derail hopenchange and send America back to Jim Crow days, a fight that only Eric Holder is courageous enough to fight.

[A quick sidebar---the Snowden revelations, along with Rosen and the AP, have put a dagger in the notion the left (aside from Glenn Greenwald) really ever cared about Bush trashing civil liberties. Call it a teachable moment of sorts.]   

But ok, ok, the point.  The point is don't pass the terror alert off as total BS.  There might be some opportunism thrown in as to the timing but by overtly coming out with these warnings has forced the administration to risk blowing the AQ fairy tales they've carefully crafted, which go into downgrading the military and bringing troops home from Afghanistan (nation-building at home, etc).   They simply cannot afford to have anymore black flags flying over our embassies or anymore murdered ambassadors.

MORE  8/5/13

Since the world still seems to be intact the questions are now rolling in, followed by helpful government experts providing answers.  Here's CBS News:
Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), were discussing "something big," sources say. It's rare for veteran al Qaeda leaders to break operational security by openly discussing possible plots, and the interception stunned U.S. officials.
Sources confirm for CBS News that the intercepted electronic conversation occurred between the top leadership of core Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan and the head of Yemen based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Nassir al-Wuhayshi. One source said that the tone of the conversation was serious and had a sense of urgency, reports CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton.
The source said the sense of the directive from al Qaeda leadership was pushing for AQAP to move forward with an attack. The source said that the urging was to have the attack coincide with the conclusion of Ramadan and to ensure that it was a "big" attack.
Of course we couldn't tell if they were winking or had their fingers crossed.   Surely they knew we were listening.  The question anyone with a brain has to ask is why would Zawahiri give up his own location by using a traceable phone?  Are we on the verge of snagging him--this being the prelude, or is he suicidal?

If that's all there is it just ain't James Bond enough to pass the smell test.  On the other hand, this scary scenario seems a little more reasonable.   Now, if time passes and the only thing that happens is a push for more NSA spying and a deeper trashing of our Fourth Amendment rights at the airport then maybe the conspiracy theories will get some legs.


I can't get past the revelation that they actually admitted to pinpointing Zawahiri's call location when grabbing this intel.  Obviously they've burned the line they spoke on so both players have to be wondering whether they should be running or not.   Which brings to mind a thought--are we about to open a can on Yemen?  As the AP reporter mentioned at the State Dept briefing today, the threat can't be very 'specific' if it includes 19 countries.   Maybe they are being closed before something happens--something we do.   

OK, ONE MORE  8/5/13

Apparently it's not too unsafe for McCain and Graham to travel to the epicenter of the threat--they arrive in Egypt tonight. 

Meanwhile, it was noticeable today that most questions to the White House were about the massive terror threat and not how Putey Poot stuck his finger in our eye last week.   Again, the further this goes on without anything happening the more it's going to look like a political op.