Saturday, October 22, 2011

United States responds to latest Israeli intelligence probe with typical weakness....

United States responds to latest Israeli intelligence probe with typical weakness....

October , 2011 -- From national security incident to harmless prank: How the media is covering up another Israeli intelligence operation against the United States...

First treated as a major national security and terrorism-related incident, the early morning break-in of the Bexar County Court House in San Antonio, Texas on October 19 by five French passport bearers is now being relegated by the corporate media to a prank. The nation has been deceived before after small groups of young Israelis, posing as movers, art students, and mall kiosk operators were initially arrested across the United States in the months prior to after the inside Job of 9/11 attacks for national security-related reasons but they were quietly deported to Israel for mere visa violations....

According to our intelligence sources in Texas, there is every reason to believe that five French passport holders arrested in a break-in of the Bexar County Court House were part of another Israeli security penetration team. Mossad is infamous for using passports, real and counterfeit, of Western nations, including France.....

The news media first reported that the five arrested after breaking into the court house were "French-Moroccan Muslims" in their 20s. That report, itself, was suspicious since there has not been a "French Moroccan" nationality since 1956, when Morocco ceased being a French protectorate, and one of the five arrested had a French name not common to Muslims. Also, immediately after their arrest, the nationalities of the men were not released by police. It was later reported that two of the five men were "French Moroccan," although three had the same last name.

The men were officially identified as Adil Ajjaid, 27; Hicham Ajjaid, 25; Mehdi Ajjaid, 21; Meïssa Luc Mithra, 24; and Camille Huet, 25. Mithra's Facebook page claims he is from New Kingston, St. Andrew, Jamaica, not France, as alleged by the FBI, Homeland Security, and San Antonio law enforcement agencies. It is possible that Mithra arrived in Miami on September 10 from Jamaica and rendezvoused in Miami with the other four who arrived in New York from London Heathrow the same day.

The five men were traveling across the country in a rented recreational vehicle and were in the country on 90-day tourist visas. Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz brushed off the incident by claiming the five men were drunk and that three of them were walking through the court house wearing sombreros stolen from a Bar Association closet while waving a gavel and playing with judicial robes stolen from a court room. On July 7, 2011, the San Antonio News-Express reported: "For one week last month, Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz swapped his cowboy hat for a yarmulke as he visited Israel on an organized trip with other law enforcement leaders. 'I’ve always had an interest in Israel,' he said in an interview Tuesday. 'It was a great conference.' Ortiz joined 16 other sheriffs, police chiefs and organization heads, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, on a week-long trip, courtesy of the Jewish Institute for National Security’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program . . . The junket was Ortiz’s second organized trip to Israel: last year, Bexar County footed the bill to send him to an international conference on homeland security, he said. During last year’s conference, Ortiz and Special Operations Commander Lt. Dennis Casillas learned about Israel’s hostage negotiation tactics, among other things . . . Ortiz said, adding that he plans to pass on information he learned during this year’s trip to his officers."

Local reports said three of the men entered the court house from a fire escape through a fourth-floor window, hardly an amateur break-in procedure. However, the three men were captured on the court house video surveillance system, which appeared to operate normally. The other two men waited at the RV while the three entered the court house. A court house burglary alarm was tripped by the team at 1 am local time. The police reportedly did not show up at the court house until 1:40 am, forty minutes after the fire escape alarm was originally tripped. The three men wandered the court room hallways for thirty minutes before police arrived.

After the arrest of the five men on burglary and criminal mischief charges, tactical units closed off the street and bomb-sniffing dogs from the San Antonio Police Department and two other agencies were brought in to check the court house and the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center where a geospatial intelligence conference on the intelligence use of spy satellites, sponsored by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation,
was taking place. Attending the conference along with some 4000 other participants was Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers....

Also, photographs of U.S. critical infrastructures, including dams, court houses, water systems, other public buildings, as well as shopping malls were found in the RV. Also discovered in the RV were maps, cell phones, computers, and "visas." U.S. visas are normally pasted into passports. The "visas" listed addresses in France but the nationalities of the men were not made clear after their arrest.

Four of the men had arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport from London Heathrow on September 10, the eve of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and rented the RV bearing California license tags from Road Bear RV Rentals and Sales
in Middleton, New Jersey. The men all had French driver's licenses and they paid $10,000 for the RV using cash and credit cards. The four picked up the fifth man, Mithra, in Miami, before driving to San Antonio. The fifth man arrived at Miami International Airport. The men claimed to speak little English and had to speak to police through a translator, although their language was not made clear by authorities. However, Adil Ajjaid's Facebook page states he speaks English, Spanish, Arabic, French, and, more interestingly, Hebrew. Adil Ajjaid had also apparently been in Augusta, Georgia, the location of National Security Agency Georgia where Arabic, Farsi, and MENA (Middle East North African) linguists monitor Middle Eastern communications.

Corporate media then began to tamp down the story, surprising in itself because of the initial reports that the five men were "Muslim" and "Moroccan." Chief among those pushing the "prank-gone-wrong" story were The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff also began to play down the incident in interviews with the media.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security responded to the break-in but they quickly decided the men posed no national security threat, the standard procedure for the FBI when native Israeli intelligence agents are apprehended in the course of committing espionage in the United States. FBI spokesman Erik Vasys told the San Antonio Express-News that "it is not common to break in to a county court house.” Bexar County Sheriff's Department spokesman Louis Antu told the Associated Press, "We don’t know exactly who they are . . . Just because they have their visas … who are they really?”
First Assistant District Attorney Chris Herzberg told the Express-News, "“Why would a bunch of tourists choose a court house to break into? That is the part that's very hard to reconcile."

The three men who broke into the court house claimed they wanted to take in a scenic view of San Antonio. The FBI San Antonio office, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Homeland Security Department cleared the five men for any national security breaches. However, area military bases increased their security as a result of the incident. These include National Security Agency Texas, which conducts surveillance of Latin America; a major base with nuclear weapons at Lackland Air Force Base, and another, more secret base at the Army's Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley complex, where the CIA is also present.

Sheriff's Deputy Chief Dale Bennett told the Los Angeles Times that three of the men's names, which he described as "not common," matched those on an FBI watch list. The French Consulate in Dallas was informed of the incident.
There is also the oddity that a search warrant for the RV was not obtained until the afternoon following the early morning arrest of the men.

A U.S. intelligence source in nearby Houston remarked, "Has anyone considered that they [the five men] may be a cell and were showing off for the cameras as a cover story -- if they would be caught. Doesn't everyone enter through a 4th floor window? Why no discussion about what all was found in the cars? I don't believe in coincidences and I do not believe that they were just sightseeing. The first clue was not that they were wearing sombreros but the fact that they had to have knowledge of the building to know that there was a fourth floor door through which they could enter. Did someone leave the window open?"

More to the point, where was frequent flyer to Israel Sheriff Ortiz during the break-in?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Europe pays for lost character....

Europe pays for lost character....
By Reuven Brenner

Should the European Union extend credit to its risk-of-defaulting members? Can Greece and Italy be looked at like some misbehaving heirs who got easy money from their indulgent, dotting parents? Can "tough love" be a remedy?

Parents, after all, occasionally advance far too much capital on far too easy terms to their undeserving offspring - with disastrous consequences, as noted in last week's column (see
The vital few, Asia Times Online, October 15, 2011). I am not even talking here about Shakespeare's King Lear, giving away his kingdom to his two ruthless daughters, but the quite common occurrence of the saying "three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves". The

first generation is the entrepreneur builder, the second expands - and the third often destroys.

This happens as the third generation perceives the business as serving them, the self-indulgent generation - rather than them continuing to serve the business, and find ways to accountably match capital with talent and character. But parents' misallocation, being blinded by misguided "love", does not bring about national crisis, big as the business empire might be - unless they happen to be either dictators, be it in the Middle East, Africa, and not long ago Latin America.

But what has been blinding Washington's politicians/ Wall Street's banks/ the rating agencies to lead them to advance so much credit to households who had no glimmer of hope of returning the loans? And what is it that blinded European banks and governments to advance directly or indirectly so much credit to profligate countries?

J Pierpont Morgan once said there was only one basis upon which he would extend a loan. It was "character" - not money or anything else, "because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom."

Trust? Character? When was the last time you heard these terms applied to anything, whether in Washington, Wall Street or Europe's political class? And what would "character" mean when credit is extended to countries?

Years ago, when working in Monterrey, Mexico, a company called Electra was prominent in the consumer distribution business (it still is). In practice it was a finance company, offering credit and decent instalment payments to poorer Mexicans to whom the banks would not give loans or credit cards. It has been a very successful business, most people paying in time.

Electra was also building up a good database on people who had solid reputations and paid back their loans. Electra dealt with the occasional bad apples by sending messengers in colorful uniforms to their houses (orange as I recall), so the entire neighborhood could take note of the delinquents, making the neighborhood grocery stores think twice if and on what terms to advance even daily credit to that family - an everyday life application of the adage "trust - but verify".

A few years ago Electra obtained the license to become a bank officially (though it was really a "bank" all along) - and is now gradually, successfully, penetrating South American countries. With decades of experience and data on which families could be trusted, it has the ability to price credit better than any bank.

In a recent speech, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said he learned much about banks during the recent crisis, especially about the dangers of "too big to fail". The inference from Electra's example and J P Morgan's observation could have given him strong guidance where some of the solutions are: let the big banks go bust, and let regional ones, knowing their customers more intimately, expand. They would find ways of advancing credit to people and companies with "character" - while keeping the old adage "trust but verify" in mind in a variety of incarnations.

In the United States, it was a wide combination of mistakes and blindness - real and pretended - by politicians, the central bank, Wall Street banks and rating agencies, all intertwined and judging events from a great distance, that eventually led to the saying among mortgage originators that the main requirement to get a mortgage was to have a pulse. A financial institution that would have to hold the mortgage on its books would have done due diligence to see if the borrower had something a bit more than a pulse.

As to global companies, if the "too big to fail" banks had broken up, the securitization of loans would have quickly re-started, holding all parties (rating agencies included) accountable. After all, bankers were never in the best position to do solid due diligence and credit assessment on them; traders do such due diligence constantly, re-assessing credit every minute of their trading day.

With parts of the businesses of today's big banks shifting to smaller, regional ones, and other parts being taken over by accountable securitized markets, there would be far fewer "too big to fail" financial institutions to be worried about, and risks would spread more widely.

In Europe, banks and investors advanced credit to countries lacking even a pulse. By this I mean that their population was known to be rapidly aging, that some were mired in black markets, had a happy-go-lucky preference for leisure and "apres-moi-le-deluge" mentality, and were subsidized by a legacy of entitlements based on the assumption that the demographic pyramid would have an expanding young base forever - never mind the demographic realities.

What blinded Europe's politicians and bankers? Decades of easy living weakened many of the institutions that once built up Europeans' "character". Unfortunately, no financial engineering can offer short- or medium-range solutions to restore "character". It can take a generation or more.

The uniqueness of the dozen Western type democracies after World War II and until 1990 permitted the continuous misallocation of capital and the destruction of character. The capital and talent flocking to their shores from the rest of the world, escaping dictatorship of one kind or another, helped cover the compounding mistakes.

During these long decades, new generations in these dozen or so Western democracies grew up adjusted to subsidized and prolonged years of staying in schools and universities, which are now producing much inequality and much vacuous intellectualism - of the economic/astrology kind included.

Present-day education achieves inequality since the brighter youth are subsidized to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, whereas youth with neither ambition nor talent for study, but wanting to operate skillfully a grocery, garage, or other small business, get nothing. And a good fraction of even those who stay for prolonged years on the grounds of real estate called "universities" do not get out much of it, since most universities have long given up on the principle of selection. The result is a generation of self-indulgent youngsters with high expectations - though backed by little more than pieces of paper.

The lucky decades allowed not only cover for the above accumulating deficiencies, but also promised generous entitlements, shorter hours of work, early retirement, nice pensions - and numerous other perks. And while taxes increased over time, Europe had plenty of monuments built in their less lucky pasts to sustain the illusion that permanent pleasures for future generations nevertheless exist and so they can have their short-lived pleasures too. Briefly, the European perception over their lucky decades has been that they can have their cake and eat it too. With all these mistakes compounding, the once more-disciplined character of Europeans got lost.

I do not know if Europe will be able to embark on the drastic changes needed to rebuild it's peoples' character, and even if it does, it can take a generation. Bankruptcy, though, may speed it up: as in business, so in political lives, fear of default is the mother of re-inventions.

Meanwhile, perhaps it is not too late for the United States to learn from Europe's grave, compounding mistakes and correct them in time, as, for the moment, it committed fewer of them. That is why, notwithstanding all its troubles and weakening of its character too, the US remains stronger - and so more worthy of better priced credit than its European counterparts.

Reuven Brenner holds the Repap Chair at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management. The article draws on his Force of Finance (2002).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy World Street ....

Occupy World Street ....
By Pepe Escobar

... if the enemy wins, even the dead won't be safe.
And this enemy has not stopped winning.
- Walter Benjamin, On the concept of History....
CIA informants inside OWS movement in NYC....

In a page taken right out of the FBI's Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and the CIA's domestic spying operations from the 1960s, a handful of long-time CIA operatives have been detected among the key leadership of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in New York.

The CIA's penetration of OWS comes at the same time that a longtime CIA clandestine services officer, with field experience in Jordan and Pakistan, has been identified as a special assistant to the deputy commissioner of intelligence at the New York Police Department. The CIA agent has been assigned to his NYPD duties since July. The stationing of the CIA liaison officer at the NYPD has the approval of CIA director David Petraeus.

Two former CIA officers, David Cohen and Larry Sanchez, helped establish the NYPD's new intelligence division. Sanchez left the NYPD in 2010 while Cohen remains as the Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence. After retiring from the CIA but before taking his present job, Cohen worked for the "too-big-to-fail" American International Group (AIG), a company with longstanding links to the CIA, particularly in Asia....

The Indignados International rules. The torch has been passed from Cairo's Tahrir Square (the Arab Spring) to Madrid's Puerta del Sol (the Spanish Spring), on to New York's Liberty Square (Occupy Wall Street) and from this past Saturday on, World Street - 951 cities in 82 countries.

All ages, all social classes - but mostly brave young men and women denouncing the hubristic fall of large swathes of the world

into a geopolitical abyss trespassed by an unprecedented social, financial, monetary, political and strategic crisis.

Nothing is more natural than "we are the 99%" going global - because the movement specifically denounces the ravages worldwide caused by the myth of neo-liberal globalization, as applied by that wrathful God, The Market. Yet the 1% - and their corporate media shills - still don't get it (or mock it), and will try to smash any actions to remedy neo-liberalism's utter failure.

The 1% cannot possibly understand the anger of a "no future" generation, or the anger of those who have played the game by the rules and ended up with nothing - the collective anger of all who cannot possibly trust failed political and financial institutions anymore.

And it will get worse. Banks are not lending and reactivating the economy mostly because in the US, only four giants - Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America - now hold 95% of US derivatives, a whopping $600 trillion nightmare just waiting to happen. Derivatives were crucial in bringing down the global economy, with all its dire social consequences - and it may happen all over again.

Meanwhile, the 1% is in the process of violently assaulting the historical rights of working and middle classes - even at the risk of losing what's left of their political and social legitimacy (they don't care anyway). As Minqi Li, former Chinese political prisoner and economics professor at the University of Utah stresses, "As during the 1968-1989 period, the resolution of the crisis will depend on the evolution of class struggle on a global level." Li insists that capitalism is not part of the feasible options left; but the problem is the solid 1% elites are still in control, and will relinquish power over their dead collective body.

Creating a new political language
So what next? Where to go from here? Where to find the intellectual firepower to keep fighting?

At Zuccotti Park - Occupy Wall Street's headquarters in lower Manhattan - there's a free public library, with books donated by everyone who feels like it. A good first step would be for people to supply a good many copies of The Beach Beneath the Street, by McKenzie Wark [1], a gripping history of the Situationists - the key conceptual group led by Guy Debord at the heart of May 1968.

Wark has also written a clinical essay detailing how instead of occupying an abstraction - Wall Street - the movement occupied another abstraction, "A more or less public park nestled in the downtown landscape of tower blocks, not too far from the old World Trade Center site," and from there proceeded to occupy "the virtual space of social media".

Wark concludes, "The abstraction that is the occupation is then a double one, an occupation of a place, somewhere near the actual Wall Street; and the occupation of the social media vector, with slogans, images, videos, stories. 'Keep on forwarding!' might not be a bad slogan for it. Not to mention keep on creating the actual language for a politics in the space of social media."

No wonder the 1% are puzzled. Occupy Wall Street is already creating a new political language, smashing old categories of cause and effect, using for instance what Guy Debord described as derive - a technique of moving like lightning through different settings (from physical to virtual, or from lower Manhattan to Washington Square and Times Square).

They are already amplifying Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concept of rhizome - polishing an interdisciplinary, underground, symbolic war machine.

As a grandson of May 68 and the Situationists, Occupy Wall Street could not but be radical. It wants to go beyond power politics, corporate power and corporate cronyism. It won't be bought - a key reason for it to be relentlessly mocked by corporate interests (who cares about corporate behemoths Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation? Occupy should let them rot in irrelevancy). It's essentially a collective rebellion of people - neither left nor right, but certainly not conservative - who refuse to be co-opted (and hopefully will treat opportunists like Al Gore, Warren Buffett and George Soros like the plague).

What do they want? They want the common good to be available for all - not privatized to death or exploited by corrupt political castes. How the common good - the water, forests, communication networks, factories, transportation networks, hospitals - should be used is up to the citizens of each local, contemporary Agora (the Greek popular assembly place). That, essentially, means putting people first - the absolute antithesis of the mercantilization of life.

This is a utopian agenda - and what makes Atlanticist right-wingers squirm, it's a direct call to utopian communism. Titus Levi, a professor at the United International College in Zhuhai, southern China, calls it "commonism"; he reflects how "having an economics of biology and humanity turns the current system on its head: using economics as a tool for humanity, not humanity ground down to serve economic imperatives."

Occupy World Street certainly wants that forests won't be mowed down, the air won't be polluted, banks won't be double-crossing their clients, and citizens should be totally engaged in the running of public life (and not resign themselves to vote under appalling electoral laws every four or five years). This implies sensible laws managed by honest and impartial people should be in place. It's not happening - thus the swelling ranks of the Indignados International.

Look south, young man
Occupy Wall Street could also use a kick-ass manual of radical politics such as Hermeneutic Communism [2], by Gianni Vattimo, professor of philosophy at the University of Turin, and Santiago Zabaleta, research professor at the University of Barcelona.

In action-packed 140 pages - plus copious notes - Vattimo and Zabaleta eschew historical Soviet communism and the contemporary Chinese model to praise the present, democratically elected, South American governments, "which are determined to defend the interests of their weakest citizens."

They are certainly right to believe that "this is the region of the world that best represents the communism of the twenty-first century, which, as Eric Hobsbawm said, must be first and foremost a critique of capitalism"; or a defense of what the great Walter Benjamin called "the tradition of the oppressed".

Vattimo and Zabaleta produce a devastating critique of our "framed democracy", in which the 1% "pursues truth in the form of imposition (violence), conservation (realism) and triumph (history). These metaphysically framed political systems hold that society must direct itself according to truth (the existing paradigm), that is, in favor of the strong against the week".

Vattimo and Zabaleta naturally debunk the whole "end of history" fallacy as well as demonstrate "how within the system of metaphysically framed democracies, change is almost impossible". The only possible alternative left at the moment is in the Latin and especially South American space, where, to quote Noam Chomsky, "People just take democracy more seriously than in the West, certainly the United States."

As imperfect as the different national experiments may be, from Brazil to Venezuela, from Bolivia to Argentina, at least the new South American governments have been more representative of their people because "they have been detaching themselves not only from neo-liberal impositions but also from the attendant military presence, that is, armed capitalism".

So Occupy the World has much to gain by analyzing the different political experiments in South America. Parallels with Europe are also very enlightening. Compare for instance Argentina - where in the next elections on October 23 Cristina Kirchner will be most certainly leading a third post-neo-liberal term, just like Dilma Rousseff in Brazil - to Spain, home of the indignados, where, believe it or not, the reactionary, quasi-fascist Popular Party is bound to win the November 20 elections.

The reptilian former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has described the indignados as a "marginal, non-representative" movement - just as your average Fox News anchor.

Make no mistake; the intellectual firepower to channel global anger is there, from Vattimo and Zabaleta to Deleuze and Guattari, from Debord and Benjamin to David Harvey and Eric Hobsbawm, from Alan Badiou and Slavoj Zizek to Minqi Li and Wang Hui, from Atilio Boron to Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera.

This is not a (global) revolution - yet; it's still (slow) evolution. The post-political silent majority is certainly not stupid - just cynically resigned. The challenge is to hurl them out of their couches and remotes and into the streets - to make it a 99% in action.

That implies pressing for a number of key, specific policies; taxing the wealthy and the financial system, more funds for public education, decent health care, the end of the Pentagonization-addicted worldwide US Empire of Bases. As far as the US is concerned an overwhelming majority of Americans is in favor of these policies.

So the answer, my friend, is and will be blowing in the streets. All power to the Indignados International. It's time to remix Martha and the Vandellas for the early 21st century. Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?

1. See here. 2. See here.