Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Well armed Swiss is an insurance policy against Chaos in Eurozone collapse....

Well armed Swiss is an insurance policy against Chaos in Eurozone collapse....

About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning – as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time – how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society.

Not stagnation. Not gradual decline. Collapse.

As in riots, social disarray, plundering, and chaos. A non-trivial number of these people think the rioting in places such as Greece and England is just the tip of the iceberg, and they have plans – if bad things begin to happen – to escape to jurisdictions ranging from Australia to Costa Rica (several of them remarked that they no longer see the U.S. as a good long-run refuge).

This was rather sobering. I’ve never been an optimist about Europe’s future, as I explain here and here, but is the situation really this bad?

Well, the U.K. government seems to think things will get worse. Here are some excerpts from the Telegraph.

British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible. Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis. The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way. …Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest. …Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash. …Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder. “When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

Let’s think about what this means, and we’ll start with an assumption that European politicians won’t follow my sage advice and that they’ll instead continue to kick the can down the road – thus making the debt bubble even bigger and creating the conditions for a nasty collapse.

I’ve learned over the years that things are usually never as bad as they seem (or as good as they seem), so I don’t expect that a nightmare situation will materialize, but I certainly can understand why wealthy people have contingency plans to escape.

But what about the rest of us?

We don’t have property overseas and we don’t have private jets, so what’s our insurance policy?

Part of the answer is to have the ability to protect ourselves and our families. As explained here, firearms are the ultimate guarantor of civilization.

In my discussions and debates about this issue, I’ve traditionally relied on these four arguments:

1. Respect for the Constitution. The Founding Fathers were wise to include “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” in the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment recognizes the value of a well-armed citizenry, and today’s politicians (or courts) shouldn’t be allowed to weaken that fundamental freedom.

2. The presumption of liberty. It’s sometimes said that everything that isn’t expressly forbidden is allowed in the United States, whereas in Europe it’s the other way around, with everything forbidden unless explicitly permitted. This certainly seems to be the case for guns, with most European governments prohibiting firearms ownership for the vast majority of people.

3. Personal protection against crime. As the first image in this post powerfully illustrates, it doesn’t really matter if cops are only a few minutes away when a person only has a few seconds to protect against danger. And since the evidence is overwhelming that gun ownership reduces crime, this is a powerful argument for the Second Amendment.

4. Ability to resist government oppression. Totalitarian governments invariably seek to disarm people, as this poster indicates. And with the majority of the world still living in nations that are not free, private gun ownership is at least a potential limit on thuggish governments.

But perhaps we now need to add a fifth reason:

5. Personal protection against social breakdown. If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.

Here’s a thought experiment to drive the point home. If Europe does collapse, which people do you think will be in better shape to preserve civilization, the well-armed Swiss or the disarmed Brits?

I hope we never have to find out, but I know which society has a better chance of surviving....

Monday, November 28, 2011

US and Pakistan enter the danger zone, Blazing Saddles in Af-Pak on 26-11....

US and Pakistan enter the danger zone, Blazing Saddles in Af-Pak on 26-11....LOL

By M K Bhadrakumar

The air strike by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at the Pakistani military post at Salala in the Mohmand Agency on the Afghan-Pakistan border Friday night is destined to become a milestone in the chronicle of the Afghan war.

Within hours of the incident, Pakistan's relations with the US began nose-diving and it continues to plunge. NATO breached the ''red line''.

What is absolutely stunning about the statement issued by Pakistan's Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DDC), which met Saturday at Islamabad under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani is that it did not bother to call for an inquiry by the US or NATO into the air strike that resulted in the death of 28 Pakistani soldiers.

Exactly what happened in the fateful night of Friday - whether the NATO blundered into a mindless retaliatory (or pre-emptive) act or ventured into a calculated act of high provocation - will remain a mystery. Maybe it is no more important to know, since blood has been drawn and innocence lost, which now becomes the central point.

At any rate, the DDC simply proceeded on the basis that this was a calculated air strike - and by no means an accidental occurrence. Again, the DDC statement implies that in the Pakistan military's estimation, the NATO attack emanated from a US decision. Pakistan lodged a strong protest at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels but that was more for purpose of 'record', while the "operative" part is directed at Washington.

The GHQ in Rawalpindi would have made the assessment within hours of the Salala incident that the US is directly culpable. The GHQ obviously advised the DDC accordingly and recommended the range of measures Pakistan should take by way of what Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani publicly called an "effective response."

The DDC took the following decisions: a) to close NATO's transit routes through Pakistani territory with immediate effect; b) to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days; c) to "revisit and undertake a complete review" of all "programs, activities and cooperative arrangements" with US, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including in "diplomatic, political and intelligence" areas; d) to announce shortly a whole range of further measures apropos Pakistan's future cooperation with US, NATO and ISAF.

No more doublespeak
The response stops short of declaring the termination of Pakistan's participation in the US-led war in Afghanistan (which, incidentally, is the demand by Pakistani politician Imran Khan who is considered to be close to the Pakistani military circles). In essence, however, Pakistan is within inches of doing that.

The closure of the US-NATO transit routes through Pakistan territory may not immediately affect the coalition forces in Afghanistan, as it has built up reserve stocks that could last several weeks. But the depletion of the reserves would cause anxiety if the Pakistani embargo is prolonged, which cannot be ruled out.

Therefore, the Pakistani move is going to affect the NATO operations in Afghanistan, since around half the supplies for US-NATO troops still go via Pakistan. An alternative for the US and NATO will be to rely more on the transit routes of the Northern Distribution Network [NDN]. But the US and NATO's dependence on the NDN always carried a political price tag - Russia's cooperation.

Moscow is agitated about the US regional policies. The NATO intervention in Libya caused friction, which deepened the Russian angst over the US's perceived lack of seriousness to regard it as equal partner and its cherry-picking or "selective partnership".

Then, there are other specific issues that agitate Moscow: US's push for "regime change" in Syria, the US and NATO appearance in the Black Sea region, continued deployment of US missile defense system, and the push for US military bases in Afghanistan. In addition, Moscow has already begun circling wagons over the US "New Silk Road" initiative and its thrust into Central Asia.

The future of the US-Russia reset remains uncertain. Washington barely disguises its visceral dislike of the prospect of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin following the presidential election in March next year. Short of bravado, the US and NATO should not brag that they have the NDN option up their sleeve in lieu of the Pakistani transit routes. The Pakistani military knows this, too.

Equally, the closure of the Shamsi airbase can hurt the US drone operations. Pakistan has so far turned a blind eye to the drone attacks, even conniving with them. Shamsi, despite the US's insistence that drone operations were conducted from bases in Afghanistan, surely had a significant role in terms of intelligence back-up and logistical support.

By demanding that the US vacate Shamsi, Pakistan is possibly shifting its stance on the drone attacks; its doublespeak may be ending. Pakistan is ''strengthening'' its air defense on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Future US drone operations may have to be conducted factoring in the possibility that Pakistan might regard them as violations of its air space. The US is on slippery ground under international law and the United Nations Charter.

A Persian response
The big issue is how Pakistan proposes to continue with its cooperation with the US-NATO operations. Public opinion is leaning heavily toward dissociating with the US-led war. The government's announcement on the course of relations with the US/NATO/ISAF can be expected as early as next week. The future of the war hangs by a thread.

Unlike during previous phases of US-Pakistan tensions Washington lacks a "Pakistan hand" to constructively engage Islamabad. The late Richard Holbrooke, former special AfPak envoy, has become distant memory and special representative Marc Grossman has not been able to step into his shoes.

Admiral Mike Mullen has retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is now a 'burnt-out case' embroiled in controversies with the Pakistani military. Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus isn't terribly popular in Islamabad after his stint leading the US Central Command, while his predecessor as spy chief and now Defense Secretary Leon Panetta always remained a distant figure.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a charming politician, but certainly not cut out for the role of networking with the Pakistani generals at the operational level. She could perhaps offer a healing touch once the bleeding wound is cleansed of dirt, stitched up and bandaged. And US President Barack Obama, of course, never cared to establish personal chemistry with a Pakistani leader, as he would with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Now, who could do that in Washington? The horrible truth is - no one. It is a shocking state of affairs for a superpower with over 100,000 troops deployed out there in the tangled mountains in Pakistan's vicinity. There has been a colossal breakdown of diplomacy at the political, military and intelligence level.

Washington trusted former Pakistani ambassador Hussein Haqqani almost as its own special envoy to Islamabad, but he has been summarily replaced under strange circumstances - probably, for the very same reason. At the end of the day, an intriguing question keeps popping up: Can it be that Pakistan is simply not interested anymore in dialoguing with the Obama administration?

The heart of the matter is that the Pakistani citadel has pulled back the bridges leading to it from across the surrounding crocodile-infested moat. This hunkering down is going to be Obama's key problem. Pakistan is boycotting the Bonn Conference II on December 2. This hunkering down should worry the US more than any Pakistani military response to the NATO strike.

The US would know from the Iranian experience that it has no answer for the sort of strategic defiance that an unfriendly nation resolute in its will to resist can put up against an 'enemy' it genuinely considers 'satanic'.

The Pakistani military leadership is traditionally cautious and it is not going to give a military response to the US's provocation. (Indeed, the Taliban are always there to keep bleeding the US and NATO troops.)

Washington may have seriously erred if the intention Friday night was to draw out the Pakistani military into a retaliatory mode and then to hit it with a sledgehammer and make it crawl on its knees pleading mercy. Things aren't going to work that way. Pakistan is going to give a "Persian" response.

The regional situation works in Pakistan's favor. The recent Istanbul conference (November 2) showed up Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran sharing a platform of opposition to the US bases in Afghanistan in the post-2014 period.

The Obama administration's grandiose scheme to transform the 89-year period ahead as 'America's Pacific Century' makes Pakistan a hugely important partner for China. At the very minimum, Russia has stakes in encouraging Pakistan's strategic autonomy. So does Iran.

None of these major regional powers wants the deployment of the US missile defense system in the Hindu Kush and Pakistan is bent on exorcising the region of the military presence of the US and its allies. That is also the real meaning of Pakistan's induction as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is on the cards....

Blazing Saddles in Pakistan
By Spengler

In Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles, a welcoming committee for a new sheriff turns into a lynch mob when it discovers the man is black. He points his gun at his own temple and says, ''One step closer and the [N-word] gets it!'' The townspeople back off, rather like the American government every time it catches Pakistan supporting the Taliban or other enemies of the United States. Pakistan menaces the United States with the prospect of its own failure.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum summed up the Washington consensus at last week's national security debate, ''Pakistan must be our friend'' because it has nuclear weapons. America can't do without Pakistan, that is, because if Pakistan breaks up, nuclear weapons might reach the hands of terrorists. The flaw in this argument is that Pakistan itself is governed by terrorists. That is why it has been so successful. It scares its neighbors. American policy, instead, should force the burden of uncertainty onto Pakistan.

Last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air strike on Pakistani frontier outposts prompted Islamabad to stop resupply of NATO forces in Afghanistan, leaving Washington to apologize for the ''unintended tragic'' deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Rather than calling Pakistan to account for the attack on the American embassy in Kabul by the al-Haqqani network, which outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen September 22 called ''a veritable arm'' of Pakistan's ISI, America finds itself on the defensive. If the Pakistanis fired on NATO forces before the latter called in an air strike, as the Afghan government claims, we should infer that Pakistan provoked the incident in order to wrong-foot the United States.

Considering that the United States wants Pakistan to pursue military operations against a largely Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan, while Pashtuns comprise a fifth of the Pakistan's people, friendship seems an odd choice of words. American policy threatens to tear Pakistan apart, and Islamabad's double-dealing is understandable under the circumstances. The only way to make Pakistan behave is to convince Islamabad that it will be torn apart if it does not accommodate American demands. Absent the threat of encirclement and dismemberment, Pakistan will do everything to avoid exacerbating what already amounts to a low-level civil war. America's strategic objective in the region - eradicating Islamist terrorists - poses an existential threat to the Pakistani state. The only way to force Pakistan to accommodate itself to American objectives is to pose an even worse existential threat.

Pakistan's pursuit of ''strategic depth'' - projecting its influence through support for Islamist groups in Afghanistan, and Kashmir, as well as terror attacks inside India - stems from weakness. As Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi writes in the Winter 2012 issue of Middle East Quarterly, ''Pakistan itself is an artificial state composed of diverse ethnic groups that are united solely by religious affiliation. Hence, fear of Pashtun and Baloch (Pakistan's largest provinces geographically) desires for autonomy or independence, together with concern about India's influence, also provides a basis for pursuing Pakistani strategic depth. For example, to suppress Baloch nationalism, the Pakistani military and intelligence have engaged in human rights abuses including the arrest and disappearance of some 8,000 Baloch activists in secret prisons.''

After three years of American strategic disengagement under the Obama administration, that has become a difficult proposition. Involving the Indian military in Afghanistan with a limited by open-ended mandate would have served notice to Islamabad that America was serious. Two years ago, Pakistani websites fluttered with rumors that India would deploy 120,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, staking a claim as America's strategic partner. It is doubtful that any such offer was on the table, but India at the time was prepared for a smaller deployment. Under present circumstances, New Delhi wants no part of an adventure that the Americans are preparing to abandon.

India simply does not trust the Obama administration to stand up for American interests in the region. China has moved into the vacuum left by American policy in Pakistan, deploying 11,000 soldiers in the Gilgat-Baltistan region of southern Kashmir. Ostensibly the Chinese are there to secure high-speed road rail links between the Chinese-built ports on Pakistan's coast and Western China, but their presence also reinforces Pakistan's control over a rebellious region. The small Chinese force, moreover, raises the stakes in any potential confrontation over Kashmir between India and Pakistan; if Chinese troops were to get in the middle of a fight, China might be drawn in on Pakistan's side. Pakistan now has two air force squadrons flying China's JF-17 ''Thunder'' jet and shortly will add a third.

After the September 13 attack on the American embassy in Kabul, the United States made belated and tentative gestures to India, including the first formal offer to sell India the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As M K Bhadrakumar argued in this space (see
Hindu art of double hedging against China, Asia Times Online, November 10), New Delhi must weigh the advantages of its strategic alignment with the United States against the fact of American strategic disengagement under the Obama administration. Whether India takes up the American offer for the F-35's depends on a number of factors, including the disappointing pace of progress in its joint development of a Fifth Generation fighter in cooperation with Russia. The F-35's though, will not change the perception that Washington is guarding its rear as it withdraws from the region.

The Obama administration has painted itself in to a corner. It cannot cajole or threaten Pakistan. On the contrary, Pakistan is threatening Washington. China's growing presence in Pakistan reduces America's capacity to punish Pakistan, for example, by withdrawing support for American-built fighter aircraft. India remains understandably cautious. And the Afghan war, as Mr. Al-Tamimi wrote in the Middle East quarterly, ''will prove at best a massive drain on US resources and lives, possibly reaching a cost of up to $100 billion a year, all for killing a few dozen al-Qaeda militants in a country whose annual gross domestic product is a mere $13 billion.''

To persuade India to align itself decisively with American interests, and China to lower its profile, the United States would have to execute a 180-degree turn. It would have to repudiate Obama's disengagement and declare its intent to remain the world's unchallenged superpower, and make this credible by investing in strategic superiority. That would require major investments in aircraft carriers, fighter aircraft, drone technology, and theater missile defense.

That is expensive, but there are other ways to economize. At the same time, America should renounce nation-building in Afghanistan and settle instead for a prolonged, if not perpetual, war of attrition against its enemies. By historical analogy, Washington should handle Afghanistan the way that Cardinal Richelieu dealt with the German Empire during the Thirty Years' War. Rather than fund a corrupt and ineffective Afghan army dominated by Tajiks, the United States should acquire Pashtun capabilities of its own; perhaps it should quietly support Pashtun and Balochi separatists operating inside Pakistan. Among other things, this is cheaper than maintaining an army of occupation. Cutting off aid to the corrupt Karzai government, moreover, will drastically reduce the cost of hiring local armies.

America's misguided attempt to stabilize Afghanistan allows Islamabad to blackmail the United States by threatening to promote instability. If the United States accepts Afghan instability as a permanent condition and uses its in-country capability to wear down its enemies in a standing civil war, it can turn the tables by threatening to export the instability to Pakistan. Pakistan has been truncated before, when it lost Bangladesh. It could happen again. The object is not to dismember Pakistan, but rather to persuade Islamabad to behave. If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that Washington has done this sort of thing before. The Reagan administration did its best to prolong the Iran-Iraq war.

China has a general interest in limiting American power, but it also has a specific interest in forcing Pakistan to crack down on Islamist terrorism. The 100 million Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang constitute the greatest threat of a breakaway province within China's borders, and Beijing has complained that Pakistan's intelligence services are training Uyghur terrorists for infiltration into China. Islamabad, once again, is not in control over radical Islamists in its own military.

If America puts a figurative gun to the head of the Pakistani government and orders it to extirpate the radical Islamists in the military, two outcomes are possible. One is that Islamabad will succeed. The second is that it will fail, and the country will degenerate into chaos. That is the scenario the American policy is supposed to avoid at all costs, but it is hard to see why America would be worse off. If the elements of Pakistani intelligence that foster terrorism cannot be suppressed, it is clear that they are using resources of the central government to support terrorism. In the worst case, they will continue to foster terrorism, but without the resources of the central government. From America's vantage point, a disorderly collapse of Pakistan into a failed state is a better outcome than a strong central government that sponsors terrorism. At worst, a prolonged civil conflict between American-backed elements of the Pakistani military and Islamist radicals would leave the radicals weaker than they are now.

The simplest solution to the problem of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is to frighten the Pakistani army into eliminating the prospective terrorists who might use them. The second-best solution is to send the American army into Pakistan and take the nuclear weapons away. I believe Jeffrey Goldberg's and Marc Ambinder's report in The Atlantic Monthly that if the United States were to deploy troops in Pakistan to secure the country's nuclear weapons, China would raise no objections. If Islamist terrorists were to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, China would be at the top of their list of prospective targets.

Much as China might enjoy America's discomfiture in the region, American and Chinese interests converge around terrorism (and especially nuclear terrorism). Given America's present weakness, it may take some effort to iterate towards convergence with China. Threats to China's territorial integrity, though, have Beijing's undivided attention, and if America makes clear that draining the Pakistani swamp reflects support for China's efforts to preserve territorial integrity, rational self-interest will assert itself....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

French Freemasons have set up a lodge in memory of Pierre Marziali, the boss of the private military company Secopex who died in Benghazi in May....

French Freemasons have set up a lodge in memory of Pierre Marziali, the boss of the private military company Secopex who died in Benghazi in May....


Rest in peace to the fallen and my heart goes out to the family and friends of Pierre. I had no idea that Secopex was operating in Libya, and this is pretty big news for a couple of reasons.
The first is if this was an intentional targeting, the objective is pretty clear. By killing the CEO of a major PMC in country, this brings great attention to the fact that the west is now using it’s own version of ‘mercenaries’ or PSC’s in Libya to do their bidding. There was great outrage in the beginning of this conflict by the west/media that Ghaddafi would actually contract with private forces, and yet here is the west doing the same thing. It is a killing that reflects the hypocrisy....
I guess this incident happened at a police check point and the others in the party were arrested as well. There is no telling what will happen to them, and they might be used as political pawns in a media game that Ghaddafi could play. For those familiar with Iraq or Afghanistan warfare, the insurgencies have used fake police check points as a means to do all sorts of nasty things. I have no doubt that similar tactics will continue to happen in Libya as a tool of whatever side in the conflict....
Another thought that came to mind is that I wonder if one of Ghaddafi’s mercenaries actually thought this one up as a strategy? Could this be a case of PMC versus PMC or private forces versus private forces in Libya? Who knows, but if the west plans on using private force in Libya, the possibility exists that you could have PMC’s/PSC’s battling one another in one form or another.
I am also curious as to what are the services that France’s largest PMC was going to provide in Libya other than basic security stuff? And why was the CEO on the ground involved with this activity? To give a comparable US example, this would be like the CEO of DynCorp getting killed in Libya. So if you have the CEO on the ground in a madhouse like Libya, then I imagine that there was some very interesting planning and advising going on....

Although at this time, I haven’t a clue as to exactly the kind of services Secopex was providing and I am sure the story will develop as more details come out. If the company or anyone familiar with this story would like to provide more details in the comments or in private, please feel free to do so. -Matt

Edit: 5/18/2011 – Here is the official statement from Secopex about Pierre’s death.
Mr. Marziali was in Benghazi for the creation of a branch office destined to provide close protection services. The circumstances of his death remain unknown at this time.
The other members of the company with him are currently being held by the rebellion. The Quai D’Orsay expects their liberation within the following days. We do not know the reason for their arrest....

We will respond to the insulting and libelous allegations in due course.
Mr. Marziali’s served his country for twenty five years. Until his death he worked in respect of the laws of the Republic. He was a man of dis-honor....


On a dark night in May, five employees of a prominent French private security company left a restaurant in the Libyan revolutionary capitol of Benghazi. Before they could return to their hotel, they were accosted by a group of armed rebels. As their colleagues explain it, they had little reason to believe there would be trouble: In the morning, the guards had an appointment with representatives of the rebel government to discuss a contract about securing a crucial material transit route from Cairo.

Very little about what happened next is clear. But one stark, bloody fact remains. Moments later, the rebels shot dead Pierre Marziali, a French ex-paratrooper who founded the security company, Secopex.

‘Allegations of espionage are totally founded....LOL’

But this was no random hit by unruly gunmen who happened to wave the banner of opposition to Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan opposition government quickly took Marziali’s men into custody, even though they were citizens of France, one of “Free Benghazi’s” most important foreign benefactors.

An official statement issued on May 11 accused the security contractors of “illicit activities that jeopardized the security of free Libya.” A promised investigation would determine if they were “spies hired by the Gadhafi regime.”

The curious incident made headlines — briefly. Then it faded away, a murky incident in a confusing war. Secopex has said next to nothing about the incident publicly — until now. Karen Wallier, a Secopex representative, told Danger Room that she herself “do[es] not have all of the answers” to what happened that night. But she said that the Secopex team “made no resistance” to the gunmen before Marziali was shot.

“The circumstances of his death were accidental,” Wallier added. “Allegations of espionage are totally unfounded.”

It is unclear if the Libyan government still believes Secopex spied for Gadhafi. But some in the private security business remain suspicious.

The Libyan rebel leadership has taken many steps in recent weeks to dispel the western suspicion, widespread when the uprising began in February, that the rebels are a shadowy band of unsavory characters. Since capturing most of Tripoli on Sunday, they’ve sounded notes about amnesty for former Gadhafi loyalists and pledged to retain most government bureaucrats.

But the May killing of the security guards is a big reminder that there is much the west does not know about the post-Gadhafi Libyan leadership — and the bands of private mercenaries that made their way to Libya to cash in on the revolution. Was Marziali, pictured above, and his Secopex guards casualties of the fog of war? Did Secopex in fact have any connection to the Gadhafi regime?

‘Secopex’s story does hold water ....’

Paris might have been expected to fight for the Secopex employees. It might have been expected to condemn Marziali’s killing. Instead, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, a key supporter of the rebels, declaimed any official links with Secopex.

“Those companies are private, as you’ve said: in other words, they have no relations with the public or in particular the French government,” he told a reporter on June 1, weeks after the killing. For good measure, Juppe referred to “reprehensible” activities taken “all over the place” by private security contractors.

By then, Marziali’s four employees had been freed and unceremoniously sent back to France. What they spent their time in Libya doing remains a mystery.

Secopex may not be familiar in the United States, but it’s one of France’s leading private military companies, one that industry observers compare to U.S. security giant DynCorp. Founded in 2003 by Marziali, a charismatic ex-paratrooper, the company got a brief burst of Anglophone attention in 2008, when it sought to station armed guards aboard commercial ships to protect them from Somali pirates — an idea that proved farsighted. Marziali even boasted of having a contract with Somalia’s interim government to build it an anti-pirate coast guard.

Secopex hasn’t said much about the killing or the detention. Its website announces that the company hasshut down operations until September. But its representative, Wallier, agreed to answer Danger Room’s questions — or some of them, at least.

According to Wallier, the Secopex team had been in Benghazi “for several weeks making contacts.” (That account was confirmed by another industry source who requested anonymity.) It scrounged a meeting with the Transitional National Council to pitch its services protecting the Cairo-Benghazi route. The meeting, scheduled for May 12, was important enough for Marziali to personally oversee it. He arrived in Benghazi on May 11 — the same day he died.

But Wallier did not address one of the biggest points of dispute with the Libyan government: whether Secopex met with any members of Gadhafi’s government.

According to the industry source — whose business interests are not in conflict with Secopex’s — the rebels who stopped the Secopex team discovered their passports had Tripoli entry stamps.

“When asked to explain how they got to Tripoli and what they did, they said they had been on a [security] detail for communications businessmen, but yes, they were in contact with Gadhafi intelligence and that they were asked to establish communications to supporters in Benghazi,” the source told Danger Room. “They claimed they refused the offer but could not explain how they got through the battle lines…. I think they were dirty. Their story didn’t hold water at all.”

Wallier did not respond to Danger Room’s questions about alleged Secopex interaction with Gadhafi intelligence; rumored interaction on behalf of “communications businessmen”; or possible entry into Tripoli. Nor did she respond to a request to interview the surviving Secopex guards.

Shortly after the deadly incident, the Transitional National Council pledged to conduct an inquiry into those allegations. But it is unclear if any such inquiry exists. Several efforts at contacting representatives for the interim Libyan government proved unsuccessful.

One thing is not in dispute: Ten days after the Secopex guards were taken into custody, the Libyans released them without charge, sending them back to France. Outside of Secopex, the incident has been all but forgotten.

Forgotten, perhaps, but not resolved. It could be argued that after the initial shooting, the Libyan rebel government acted responsibly by releasing the Secopex guards without charge, instead of keeping them detained. But if their release is an implicit admission of error, the Transitional National Council has never owned up to it — nor apologized to Secopex, France and Marziali’s family. Will that be the style in which it governs Libya?

By the same token, Secopex hasn’t fully explained what it was doing in Libya, a country that has become awash in private security firms and mercenaries. And with Gadhafi still on the loose and NATO sending mixed signals on putting peacekeepers into a wealthy country, it’s unlikely that private security firms are done with Libya.

But for now, Secopex is. “Mr. Marziali was a man of honor, having served his country for 25 years. He would not have worked against French interests,” Wallier said. “Under the circumstances, Secopex will not be returning to Libya.”.....

All the technical collection means can’t tell you anything about intent.... LOL

All the technical collection means can’t tell you anything about intent.... LOL

Arrests of secret agents. A bizarre assassination plot. A fatal explosion at a missile base with an outcome quite convenient for a nation’s sworn enemy.

The dramatic tales of espionage and covert action have flowed fast from Iran in recent weeks. They include pilotless drones controlled by a foreign power buzzing overhead, computer viruses planted to wreak havoc on volatile materials, and mysterious deaths with no one to blame.

With the Middle East in turmoil, Iran is not the only country in the region to see a surge in espionage. At times of major political, economic and social unrest, the use of agents on the ground, eyes in the sky and computerized intelligence gathering increase, experts say.

“When it comes to the Arab Spring, espionage is 100% full speed ahead,” said Loch Johnson, Regents professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia.

  • In Iran, the recent revelations of espionage — defined as the gathering of information, along with covert actions, designed to manipulate or cause damage to an opponent — are merely scratching the surface.

This week, an Iranian parliamentarian said his country arrested 12 Central Intelligence Agency operatives, claiming they had been working with Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, and other regional groups to damage the country’s military and nuclear program.

The news came less than a week after Lebanon-based armed Islamist group Hezbollah had reportedly rounded up dozens of spies in Iran and Lebanon.

It also followed the deaths of 17 of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, killed in a massive explosion at the Alghadir missile base in Tehran —a blast that also felled the chief architect of Iran’s missile program, Major General Hassan Moghaddam.

One theory is that an aggressive malware worm called Stuxnet, planted by Western or Israeli operatives, detonated one of the missiles.

Last month came the revelation of a strange plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. A federal court in New York has charged two men — one a member of Iran’s special foreign actions unit, the Quds Force — with conspiracy to kill.

The U.S. Justice Department says the accused tried to hire a man they thought belonged to a Mexican drug cartel to bomb Adel Al-Jubeir while he ate at his favourite restaurant in Washington.

Iran and most other countries in the oil-rich Middle East have long held the interest of Western nations, such as the United States, which has been “up to their scuppers” in espionage there for decades, Prof. Johnson said.



They also have lines into Syria, where protesters are calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, and Egypt, now experiencing its second uprising, this time against the military.

The United States and other countries — not the least of them Israel — want to gather enough information to gauge the eventual outcome of the unrest.

But the Zioconned United States appears to have been selective in its extra-judicial covert actions and assassinations machinations by the infamous White House Murder INC, in the Levant.....

“There’s no doubt that we used [espionage] in Libya to help overthrow [Muammar] Gaddafi, as part of the package to rid the world of him. But when it comes to Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, KSA, Qatar the gutter....for example … we keep our hands fully in the cookie jar...,” Prof. Johnson said.

“I don’t think we’d wanted any leaks or any indication we were meddling there because that would have delegitimized their efforts,” he said.

Syria might be another story because of its rocky relationship with the United States — and its alliances with Iran and Lebanon, where the Iranian- and Syrian-funded group Hezbollah has become part of the government.

Of course, the oil-rich Middle East became a hot target long before the successful efforts to overthrow leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Western nations were alarmed by the tensions caused by the Sunni/Shia rivalry across the region, argues Daniel Mulvenna, a retired intelligence officer and lecturer on intelligence and counterterrorism based in Washington.

“And now, has it accelerated with all of the regime changes? Absolutely,” he said.

“All of the regime changes that have taken place and are likely to continue taking place are having an impact on all of these relationships.”

He said people needed to acknowledge the nuances and internal struggles within countries that carry out espionage and covert actions, especially those the West considered malicious or even potentially evil.

“There’s a tendency for us to think Iran moves with one voice. It doesn’t. Or that China moves with one voice. It doesn’t. There are stresses and strains in China and in Russia,” he said.

Security experts acknowledge spycraft has changed — it is far more technological and, some argue, far less human than it was in the days of the Second World War.

The Internet has opened the way to an open-sourced style of intelligence gathering, with agents poring through websites, blogs, IP addresses and social media sites before synthesizing the data into a piece of intelligence, said Christian Leuprecht, a security expert and associate professor of political science at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“If you want to learn about discontent in China, you don’t need to send ‘spies’ there, you just need to get on social networks and connect with diaspora communities,” he said, adding major evidence of discontent leading up to the Arab Spring was readily available online ahead before the uprisings in Tunisia or Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

The knack is knowing how to interpret such information.

Wesley Wark, an intelligence and national security expert at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said, “That is the newest intelligence challenge that’s posed by things like the Arab Spring — a sense that maybe the only way you’re ever going to know what is really the climate of political change and societal thinking is to be able to tap into those sources. But how do you do it and how do you do it quickly?”

The new era of espionage also means spies are far from James Bond-style characters, but could be colleagues sitting a cubicle away, as suggested by Haiyan Zhang, a former senior analyst to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She was fired in 2003 after Canada’s spy agency suspected her of having engaged in intelligence gathering when she worked with China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

The new era also means more pilotless drones and cyber attacks — including something like Stuxnet — things that just make everything far “less human,” Prof. Johnson said.

“I’m very troubled by it because it’s become too easy to kill people when you’ve got a robot plane and all you see on the screen is someone who’s 6 ft. 5 and bin Laden’s 6 ft. 5, so maybe that’s bin Laden, let’s take him out,” he said.

“Or there’s a car travelling across the desert and we know one guy and that’s the bad guy and five others, so what, let’s get the one who’s bad. It’s all too easy, and it’s going to get worse and worse as we build more [drones].”

But Mr. Mulvenna, who spent 45 years working in intelligence, 25 of them on the ground in the Middle East, says a spy’s work cannot be done purely by machine.

“Human intelligence operations have never been more important,” he said.

“All the technical collection means can’t tell you anything about intent. The drones can’t look inside the head of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and tell you what he’s going to do.”....


Monday, November 21, 2011

CIA forced to curb spying in Lebanon....LOL, This story is utter bullshit and Grand Disinformation made BY CIA...


Petraeus allowed the CIA assets in Lebanon to become indistinguishable from Mossad's, making Americans again a target in what became a friendly environment once again after the blow-up of the 70s that saw agency Beirut station chief William Buckley tortured and executed....and the WHOLE CIA station's ubiquitous meeting in MENA on the 7th floor of the crimnal US Embassy in Lebanon....wiped out in a Blast in BEIRUT in 1983...84....and US Marines HQ.....

Petraeus lined up US intelligence priorities in Middle East with Israel's. He knows who is boss after his "misstatement" on Israel before Congress re: Israel and its drag on US policies in MENA and Beyond....
Disinformation Galore by the CIA-MOSSAD Evils...., C'est l'arbre qui cache la foret....CIA forced to curb spying in Lebanon....LOL, This story is utter bullshit and Grand Disinformation made BY CIA... I know first hand, CIA has hundreds upon hundreds of informants/agents in Lebanon's highest echelons in every area of interest....

The agency's crucial post in Beirut is affected after the arrest of several informants this year, sources say.....LOL, this is utter disinformation through and through....sure they lost a few...., but CIA/NSA and MOSSAD have a crucial listening post in Lebanon...[ SCS, the special collection services where they collaborate actively on special projects...] and nowhere it is proven that these super secret programmes have been compromised....YET...LOL

CIA assassins and their Western Zioconned brotherly services have access to hundreds upon hundreds of informants in Lebanon's highest echelons...and in ALL areas of interest still, PLUS, you have 12000 Zioconned Western troops in South Lebanon....MOST of them Military Intelligence Geeks....enough said I think, but Hezbollah did defeat them ALL it seems by penetrating their inner sanctums....LOL

CIA forced to curb spying in Lebanon....LOL, This story is utter bullshit and Grand Disinformation made BY CIA... I know first hand, CIA has hundreds upon hundreds of informants/agents in Lebanon's highest echelons in every area of interest....

Note to CIA: if you weren't so close to Mossad in Lebanon, you might be treated differently. No sympathy for an agency owned and operated by Israel's assassins and close partners within the Infamous White House Murder INC,....

The agency's crucial post in Beirut is affected after the arrest of several informants this year, sources say.....LOL, this is utter disinformation through and through....sure they lost a few....!

The CIA was forced to curtail its spying in Lebanon, ....LOL LOL LOL where U.S. operatives and their agents collect crucial intelligence on Syria, terrorist groups and other targets, after the arrests of several CIA informants in Beirut this year, according to U.S. officials and other sources.

"Beirut station is out of business," a source said, using the CIA term for its post there. The same source, who declined to be identified while speaking about a classified matter, alleged that up to a dozen CIA informants have been compromised, but U.S. officials disputed that figure.

U.S. officials acknowledged that some CIA operations were suspended in Beirut last summer. It's unclear whether full operations have resumed. Beirut is considered a key watching post for turmoil in the Middle East.

Senior CIA officials have briefed congressional staffers about the breach, and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, visited Beirut recently to interview CIA officers. Committee staff members want to determine whether CIA operatives used sloppy practices that revealed sensitive sources and methods.

Much in the case remains unclear, including the extent of the damage and whether negligence by CIA managers led to the loss of the Lebanese agents.

According to the source, CIA case officers met a series of Lebanese informants at a local Pizza Hut, allowing Hezbollah and Lebanese authorities to identify who was helping the CIA. U.S. officials strongly disputed that agents were compromised at a Pizza Hut.

U.S. officials also denied the source's allegation that the former CIA station chief dismissed an email warning that some of his Lebanese agents could be identified because they used cellphones to call only their CIA handlers and no one else.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, and Lebanon's internal security service have used software to analyze cellphone calling and location records to help them identify a network of alleged Israeli spies since 2007, according to several people familiar with the case. Dozens of people were arrested.

In 2010, U.S. counterintelligence officials determined that the CIA's Lebanese agents could be traced the same way, the source said. But the station chief allegedly ignored the warning. "He said, 'The Lebanese are our friends. They wouldn't do that to us,' " the source said.

The Times is withholding the former station's chief's name because he remains undercover. He now has a supervisory role at CIA headquarters in operations targeting Hezbollah. The CIA declined to make him available for comment.

"Espionage has always been a complex business," said a U.S. official, who declined to be identified in discussing the Lebanon case. "Collecting sensitive information on adversaries — who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst — will always be fraught with risk."

Hezbollah is "an extremely complicated enemy," the official added. "It's a determined terrorist group, a power political player, a mighty military and an accomplished intelligence organization — formidable and ruthless. No one underestimates its capabilities."

In June, Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, announced the arrest of three of its members. He said two were "affiliated with the CIA, and one more might be affiliated with either the CIA, European intelligence or Mossad," Israel's foreign intelligence service.

Nasrallah did not disclose their names, explaining that he wanted to protect their families, "whom I know personally." He said that CIA officers, working under diplomatic cover at the U.S. Embassy, had recruited them in early 2011.

The U.S. Embassy dismissed the charge. "These are the same kind of empty allegations that we have heard repeatedly from Hezbollah," it said in a statement.

Lebanon's security service was able to isolate the CIA informants by analyzing cellphone company records that showed the numbers called, duration of each call and location of the phone at the time of the call, the source said.

Using billing and cell tower records for hundreds of thousands of phone numbers, software can isolate cellphones used near an embassy, or used only once, or only on quick calls. The process quickly narrows down a small group of phones that a security service can monitor.

In 2005, an Italian prosecutor used cellphone calling and location records to help identify 26 Americans who he said took part in a 2003 abduction of a Muslim cleric on a street in Milan. A judge later convicted 23 Americans, including the CIA's former Milan base chief, in absentia for their role in the "extraordinary rendition" case.

Washington has given Lebanon's government more than $1 billion in various forms of aid since 2006 and has proposed an additional $236 million in aid this fiscal year.

The Obama administration has struggled with the relationship since 2008, when Hezbollah fighters seized control of parts of Beirut. That resulted in an Arab-brokered peace deal that gave Hezbollah a major role in Lebanon's government.

The group's political arm now has 16 of the 30 seats in the Cabinet of Lebanon's prime minister, Najib Mikati. Hezbollah is also active in Lebanon's security and intelligence services....


الاستباحة المتمادية للبنان منذ ستين سنة ونيف، بفعل قرارات دولية زنرت لبنان جواً وبراً وبحراً وأمناً وسياسة وقضاءً واقتصاداً، وبفعل سياسات داخلية، ممن توالوا على السلطة، جعلت أمن اللبنانيين، غب التزامات وتنازلات وشبهات، تستدعي طرح أسئلة كبيرة، حول بلوغ الاستباحة الخارجية حد الإمساك بمفاصل أساسية في الدولة، ولعل وثائق وثرثرات «ويكيليكس» خير شاهد على تحول جزء من الطبقة السياسية الى «فرقة مخبرين» من «الدرجة العاشرة» عند السفارة الأميركية في بيروت
السفارة الأميركية كانت وما تزال تشكل بؤرة تجسسية على الأرض اللبنانية، والأنكى من ذلك أن عملها لا يحتاج الى تمويه أحياناً، بدليل أن معظم الاجتماعات مع المخبرين والمجندين تعقد في «المبنى الرقم 2» في عوكر أو في بعض المقاهي والمطاعم الواقعة ضمن بقعة جغرافية يسهل انتقال ضباط السفارة منها وإليها، لأسباب أمنية بحتة. واللافت للانتباه أن الضباط الأميركيين يتنقلون أيضاً ضمن مواكب دبلوماسية تابعة للسفارة الأميركية، مستفيدين من الحصانة الدبلوماسية التي توفرها الحكومة اللبنانية لهم ولغيرهم من البعثات الدبلوماسية العاملة على الأراضي اللبنانية

أن وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية الاميركية "سي اي ايه" زودت سفاراتها في بيروت ودمشق وعمان وأنقرة والقاهرة وقنصلياتها في شتى انحاء المنطقة بضباط وخبراء في جمع المعلومات, كما ضاعفت اعداد عملائها المحليين خصوصاً في بيروت ودمشق وقبرص, وهو ما فعلته ايضاً الاستخبارات الاسرائيلية الخارجية "الموساد" والعسكرية "أمان

It might not be an Asian century after all....?

It might not be an Asian century after all....?
By Spengler

Here's a thought experiment: if the United States and China maintain their present fertility rate and educational systems through the end of the century, which country will have the stronger economy? This is not a forecast, to be sure, just a point of perspective at a distant horizon.

University graduates (assumes constant fertility
and constant rates of participation in tertiary education)

Source: UN World Population Prospects, Nationmaster, Author's Calculations.

The United States will have about one-third more university students than China if everything holds constant, that is, if 21% of Chinese and 38% of Americans of college age actually matriculate. The quality of Chinese university graduates, moreover, is questionable; according to a 2005 McKinsey study, only one in 10 of China's recent engineering graduates was employable by multinational companies, leaving a competent core of 160,000, about the same as in the United Kingdom. China is working hard to raise the quality of its graduates, but success is hard to measure.

China will have a bigger working-age population, to be sure, but it won't be nearly five times the American level as in 2010, but a bit less than double at the end of the century - again, assuming constant fertility. Assumptions of this sort are dodgy, to be sure, but we don't observe a lot of two-child families in China even where the one-child policy no longer applies, and very few three-child families.

China is spending more on higher education, especially to bring its elite universities up to world standards, but the demographic impact is slow. Not quite 22% of 20-year-old Chinese are enrolled in a tertiary education program, a modest improvement from 19% in 2005.

The point of this exercise is not to forecast the winner. On the contrary: the comparison shows that small changes in assumptions can have a huge relative impact over time. China's young people work harder and focus better than their American counterparts; by some estimates, more than 30 million of them are studying classical piano.

Playing classical music does, in fact, make you smarter, by building attention span, memory and real-time analytic capability. China might offer subsidies rather than penalties for second and third children. And private universities might provide opportunities for millions of Chinese who can't find a place in the state schools.

And the United States might pull out of its present funk as it did in a sudden twice during the past century: in the first years of World War II, and during the first Ronald Reagan administration.

For the past two decades, the United States wasted the lion's share of its resources, first in pursuit of the Internet bubble and then in service of the housing bubble. The country's smartest kids were groomed for investment banking from childhood - literally. Now that the bubble has popped, it can't be excluded that Americans will go back to fundamentals. America always does the right thing, Winston Churchill observed, after it has exhausted the alternatives.

S&P 500 Index vs Shanghai Composite Stock Index (in US$)
January1, 2008=100

Nearly four years after the crash, the market value of China's economy languishes at around half its January 2008 level, while the American stock market has recovered to almost 90% of its pre-crash peak. Why should that be the case, when China is growing at 9% a year and America at 2% or 3%, with an administration hostile to business and the world's highest corporate tax rate?

A simple answer is that it is safer to buy the stocks of American companies that sell to China than to buy Chinese companies. The world learned in 2008 that even the freest and most transparent large economy, the United States, might crash due to the negligence and cupidity of regulators, congress, ratings agencies, and financial institutions. Without an open and rambunctious democracy that responds to errors and corrects them in the full light of day, modern capital markets don't work.

Another way to gauge China's problem is that its gross domestic product (GDP) quintupled over the decade through 2010, while its stock market doubled - so that market capitalization has fallen sharply relative to GDP. The value of Chinese companies represents a much smaller proportion of the Chinese economy than it did in 2000. America's stock market is worth roughly what it was a decade ago, while nominal GDP is half again as much. The ratio of market capitalization to GDP also shrank in America, but not nearly as far.

America has had its share of corporate fraud, for example, WorldCom and Enron. But investors by and large trust American corporations to report their earnings accurately, with the exception of the banks, who are a long way from recovering trust. China still looks like the Wild West to overseas investors, and not without reason: China is a great leap away from Western standards of governance and rule of law.

Growth is not a small consideration: if you put $1 into the Chinese market in January 2000, you would now have $2, but $1 invested in US stocks would still be $1. What is troubling is that just three years ago, the Chinese investor would have had not $5, but $2.

The risk to China is not a hard landing, but complacency about the country's visible success. China has accomplished the largest migration in history, and continues to shift nearly 15 million people a year from the countryside to cities. Its demographic problems will not impact the economy for two decades or more, because so many of its people are moving from rural poverty to urban productivity.

Although the overall Chinese population is poised to decline, the absolute number of Chinese engaged with the world economy will continue to rise rapidly for some time. And the present generation of university graduates, for all the deficiencies of tertiary education, is the largest, most qualified and most ambitious in Chinese history.

If China fails to promote fertility, though, the aging and eventual shrinkage of the population will pass a point of no return around 2040. The proportion of elderly dependents will jump to 40% in three decades, which is difficult but not impossible to manage; but unless China regains replacement fertility well before then, the elderly dependent ratio will rise to 60% by 2060, and the Chinese empire will implode.

China's elderly dependent ratio, assuming constant fertility

Source: UN World Population Prospects

China might fail on demographics, but it also might fail in a number of other ways. If the Communist Party resists democracy, corruption will remain out of control. China will lose entrepreneurs to the Anglo-Saxon world or other countries where capital is available in free markets. Inventors will form companies in the United States rather than China to ensure that intellectual property is protected.

Worst of all, China might draw precisely the wrong conclusion from America's financial crash, and conclude that a command economy offers advantages against a crisis-prone brand of capitalism. And it might conclude further that a weaker United States is in Chinese interests. And the danger is that China might do so just when America - after the 2012 presidential election - gets back on the right track.

China's greatest challenge is not American strength but American weakness. America has no designs on any part of Chinese territory (unless Hollywood decides to invade Tibet), and the Pax Americana in the Pacific creates a backdrop of stability in which China's economy has flourished. If China looks inward more than outward, and regards America as an enemy rather than as an un-threatening rival, it will decline....

Exposed: US press 'freedom' or ill-Freedom and a real Police State....

Exposed: US press 'freedom' or ill-Freedom and a real Police State....

By Pepe Escobar

Last week, independent journalist Sam Husseini went to a news conference by Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia at Washington’s National Press Club - where Husseini is a member.
Then he did something that is alien to United States corporate media culture. He behaved as an actual journalist and asked a tough, pertinent, no-holds-barred question. Here it is, as relayed by Husseini's blog:
I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture, detention of activists, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does your regime have - other than billions of dollars and weapons? [1]
Prince Turki, former Saudi intelligence supremo, former pal of al-CIAda leader Osama bin Laden, former Saudi ambassador to the US, reacted by changing the subject. [2]

Were this to happen in the Middle East, Husseini would have been duly kidnapped by Saudi intel, tortured and snuffed out. Ask the remains of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. For much less - saying out loud in an Arab League meeting that King Abdullah was a traitor, because he was encouraging the George W Bush administration to invade Iraq - the House of Saud did everything in its power, for years, to make sure Gaddafi was taken out.

Turki exhibits all the trademark democratic credentials of the House of Saud. He refers to the push for democracy in the Arab world as "Arab Troubles".

After the Turki shoot
According to Husseini, on the same day of the news conference he received "a letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club 'due to your conduct at a news conference'. The letter, signed by the executive director of the club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules prohibiting 'boisterous and unseemly conduct or language'."

Husseini, communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which showcases critical journalism from all over the world, is a calm, thoughtful man with impeccable credentials. The accusation is not only bogus - it is downright pathetic.

Was this a one-off? Obviously not. Flashback to January 2009, at the same National Press Club, during a news conference by then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. When Livni was asked a tough question - once again by Husseini - the mike was cut, and the conference abruptly terminated. My cameraman, Sebastian Pituscan, was there with me. [3]

So this is how the much-lauded "freedom of the press" myth in the US actually works. If you perform the job of an actual journalist, telling truth to power, forget about attending press conferences at the White House, Pentagon or State Department. You won't even be admitted in the building.

If you are an official from a "valuable ally" - such as the House of Saud or the regime in Israeli - you are assured a tough question-free pulpit anywhere you choose, especially if you're fluent in English.

But if you are an official from a "rogue" regime, the maximum you can aspire is to be humiliated in public, as it happened to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University in New York. Especially if you don't speak English, and most of what you say is lost in translation.

On the other hand, if you are a travelling US corporate media hack, you can get away with murder.

Example. During the Asian financial crisis, in 1997 and 1998, I went to countless press conferences where parachuted US hacks intimidated Asian leaders as if they were a bunch of hooligans (the hacks, not the leaders). Perky chicks emerging from some two-bit journalism school in the flyover states treated then-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as if he was a child rapist, because he had established capital controls.

Mahathir turned out to be right - as Malaysia overcame the crisis much earlier than those, such as Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea, that surrendered to the International Monetary Fund's dreadful "adjustments".

In 1989, Chinese students protesting in Tiananmen Square were hailed by US media as heroes standing up to tyranny. In 2011, American students protesting all across the country against financial tyranny are "lazy", "bastards", both, or downright criminalized.

United States corporate media could not possibly admit that repression in Tahrir Square by Egyptian riot police is exactly the same as repression in New York, Oakland, Portland or Boston by American riot police.

Still there's no word from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization about setting up a "humanitarian" no-fly zone over selected Occupy sites in US cities. They are still consulting with the House of Saud.

1. See the blog
2. Video of the exchange is
3. The exchange is
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