Monday, January 21, 2008
By tradition, my wife's birthday becomes very important here. We always fill the house with balloons. A lot of attention is given to a special gift for her. This year I found the perfect gift. My wife originally came from Argentina. She is now a US citizen. She has fallen in love with the the American Civil War in general. Her hero of that time is General Ulysses S. Grant. By incredible luck I was able to find an 1885 first edition of General Grant's autobiography. She will receive this gift on Thursday. I will also take her to her favorite restaurant- Aqui.
Ladies I hope that your husbands or domestic partners remember your birthday and anniversary!!!
Tags: Elena's Birthday
Friday, January 11, 2008
By Bradley K. Martin
Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- China and the U.S.-South Korean alliance have begun planning for military intervention in case the Kim Jong Il regime in North Korea collapses, according to two newly published studies -- one of which foresees a race to occupy and control the impoverished communist country.
``If the international community did not react in a timely manner as internal order in North Korea deteriorated rapidly, China would seek to take the initiative in restoring stability,'' says a Jan. 3 report by Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The report says its unnamed Chinese sources see North Korea as stable for the moment, ``but they worry that the potential for instability may grow.''
Meanwhile, U.S. and South Korean military planners were scheduled to complete by the end of 2007 a contingency plan for controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction and dealing with refugees fleeing North Korea in the event of a collapse, according to an article in the January/February issue of the U.S. Army journal Military Review.
To beat China to the punch, joint planners should go farther and prepare for a South Korean occupation of the North, argues the author, Army Capt. Jonathan Stafford.
``A failure to prepare for this monumental task risks losing the Korean dream of reunification to Chinese hegemony,'' he writes. ``If South Korea cannot occupy the DPRK immediately and effectively, China will.''
DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
The authors of the CSIS-USIP report said Chinese specialists in North Korean affairs they interviewed hoped for a multilateral approach to North Korea rather than a contest for hegemony.
``In the event of instability in North Korea, China's priority will be to prevent refugees from flooding across the border,'' says the report, entitled ``Keeping an Eye on an Unruly Neighbor.'' If Chinese troops need to go into North Korea, ``China's strong preference is to receive formal authorization and coordinate closely with the United Nations,'' it says.
China's People's Liberation Army has contingency plans for at least three possible missions in the country, the report says. One is humanitarian: refugee assistance, or helping with the aftermath of a natural disaster. The second is policing the country to maintain order. The third is to secure North Korea's nuclear weapons and fissile material, or clean up nuclear contamination in the event of a strike -- the report does not specify by whom -- on North Korean nuclear facilities near the border.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman on Jan. 8 denied knowledge of the plan, according to Agence France Press. ``I have never heard of nor seen the so-called plan mentioned in the report,'' AFP cited the spokeswoman saying.
Regarding nuclear-related contingencies, ``some Chinese experts say explicitly that they favor holding a discussion on stability in North Korea in official channels with the United States,'' the report says.
China is the organizer and host of ongoing talks with the U.S., North and South Korea, Japan and Russia on denuclearizing the North.
Stafford in his article argues that ``the Chinese have been busy laying the political, diplomatic and historical foundations for an occupation and perhaps even an annexation of North Korea.''
``China wants to develop its landlocked, economically backward northeast by gaining access to nearby North Korean seaports,'' Stafford writes. ``China could achieve all this by establishing a puppet state or by fully incorporating North Korea into China proper.''
Urging that Americans ``take the threat of regime collapse in North Korea as seriously as China does,'' Stafford says the U.S. ``should begin creating the diplomatic conditions now to justify and support a South Korean-led occupation of North Korea.''
The U.S. should stay in the background and leave it to South Koreans, who share a language and culture with North Korea. Keeping American soldiers from setting foot in North Korea ``wouldalso strengthen the U.S. diplomatic case for preventing Chinese forces from moving into the country.''
Not all experts see an advantage for the first country to move into North Korea if it collapses, especially after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
``The reconstruction will be a mess, and a lot of people will get hurt even under the best possible scenarios, so everybody who will be in charge of post-Kim Korea is likely to be discredited,'' Andrei Lankov, North Korea specialist at Seoul's Kookmin University, wrote Jan. 8 on the blog OneFreeKorea in response to the Stafford article.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bradley K. Martin in Tokyo at
Tags: North Korean Collapse
Thursday, January 10, 2008
- How To Live Forever
The lastest issue of The Econmist magazine had a fascinating article. The title of the article is How To Live Forever. It points out that we have not defeated ageing yet. But we are in range of a cure for ageing.
To understand any possible magical cure for ageing, we have to establsih some basic principles. People,like machines, literally wear out. However a machine can always be repaired and its life span extended indefinitely provided we are willing to spend the money. All of us calssic car buffs understand that.
People often feel that a machine is worth repairing. Nature does not take the same view. We humans consider survival an imperative. After all, we cannot reproduce if we are not alive. Those of you who speak German know the phrase "Bleib ubrig." It means in a literal sense "stay alive." In a broader philosophical sense it means that if one is no longer alive nothing matters anyway.
The problem is that the individual's desire not to age is opposed another evolutionary force-the disposable soma. The soma (ancient Greek word for body) is all the body's cells with the exception of sex cells. The soma's mission is to get those sex cells and thus the organism's genes into the next generation.
Nature takes the view that every oranism is going to die eventually. If it is not disease then an accident or a homicide will destroy the organism. Threfore in the eyes nature it is not economically feasible to invest in repairs when those same resources could be used for reproduction. We have makeshift body repairs including healing of wounds and anti bodies to fight diseases.
Aubrey de Gray is a researcher in Cambridge, England. His background is in engineering and not in life sciences. He sees ageing having seven components as follows:
1) Cell loss
2) Aoptosis resistence (the tendency of cells to refuse to die when they are supposed to.)
3) Gene mutations to the cell nucleus
4) Gene mutations in the mitochondria (the cell's power packs)
5) The accumulation of junk inside the cell
6) The accumulaton of junk outside the cells
7) The accumulation of inappropriate chemical links in the material that supports cells
Dr. de Grey believes that managing your wear and tear may not be as complicated asit looks. He links the last five items on his list to one word - oxidation. We all know about ani-oxidant creams and supplements. If Dr. de Grey is right ,they do some good and are taking us in the right direction.
He sees the biggest source of ageing is chemical activity of the mitochondria. These are the places where sugar is broken down and reacted with oxygen to produce energy needed to power a cell. In we humans a massive amount of oxygen is used in this process. A lot of it goes missing. Instread of reacting with carbon from the sugar to form carbon dioxide, it forms highly-reactive molecules called free radicals. These radicals go around oxidizing other molecules such as DNA and protein. This creates all sorts of problems. Dr. de Grey feels that if we can free up radicals and their relatives we can slow ageing. He sees antioxidants as the chemicals to use to get rid of radicals.
This ties right in with the research of the late Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California Berkeley. He bgan his career studying cancer. He found that damage to certain genes caused cancer. This limited their ability to fight tumours by stopping cell division in the toxic invaders. He gradually changed his focus to the more general damage that oxidation can do and what might be done about it.
He looked at Vitamin C and went past this to two other chemicals as follows:
1) Acetyl carnitine
2) Lipoic acid
When he fed these chemicals to elederly rats, their vigor and memry improved. He conclude dthat these helped a mitochrondrial enzyme called carnitine acetyltransferase to do its job. Boosting their levels seem to compensate for oxidative damage. Dr. Ames further came to the conclusion that high doses of Vitamin B and other vitamins could limit the damage causes by oxidation.
One way that might let people outlive their limits imposed by disposable somas is to accept the machine anology. When you take your car to the repair shop, you expect your mechanic to replace the worn or defective parts. This is roughly what those proposing an idea called partial immortalization have in mind. They propose to make the new part sof the human body with Stem cells. Stem cells are different from other cells in that they have permission from nature to multiply indefinitely.
All of this runs up against 3 billion years of nature on this planet (And God knows howe many billions of years on other worlds.) There are all sorts of genetic locks on cells to stop them from reproducing once they arrive at their physiological destination. One lock is called the Hayflick lock after its discoverer Leonard Hayflick. Some partial immortlizers hope to completely abolish the Hayflick lock all together.
In theory every part of the body except the brain could be replaced in this way. Even in this most complicated part of our body, stem cells are being used to treat Parkinson's disease and other ailments.
Neither prevention or repauir is ready to roll out. But ther is one way that has been proven to extend life--eat less!!
My wife, Elena E. Torello, MD, will comment on the moral and ethical aspects of extending life.Tags: | Edit Tags
The election buzz in the United States ignores problems that may explode into the campaign.
The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries in the United States have generated huge political buzz and media commentary, but very little of this has focused on the foreign-policy challenges facing the country in general and the war on terror in particular. This pattern may be understandable in light of the money, power and influence at stake in winning the presidency in the November 2008 election; but it also represents a certain retreat from reality, in the context of the current potential for a rapid development of crisis involving US forces in two regions: the Persian Gulf and Pakistan.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001The United States's national intelligence estimate (NIE) published on 3 December 2007 - entitled Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities - offered what was in the context of escalating tension over the issue a radical reassessment of Iran's nuclear plans. The NIE judged that Tehran's "nuclear-weapons program" ceased as a result of international pressure in 2003, and that a resumption of the effort was unlikely before 2010-15.
This conclusion was significantly different from the portrait of Iran presented by the George W Bush administration of an Iran that was intent on going nuclear as quickly as possible - an image of a threatening country reinforced by the president's combative remark on 9 January 2008 during his visit to Israel that there would be "serious consequences" if Iran "attacked our ships" (see "Bush rebukes Iran over naval stand-off", 10 January 2008). The overall effect of the NIE report was both to cool immediate concern about possible armed confrontation, and to undermine Washington's campaign to win support in the United Nations Security Council for a further tranche of sanctions on Iran.
At the same time, the assessment was also bad news for two significant groups within Iran (see Nasrin Alavi, "Iran: the uses of intelligence", 6 December 2007). The first was the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration itself, which has been facing increasing domestic opposition on account of its failure to fulfil the key election promise he made in 2005 - to deliver economic progress to Iran's poor. In light of this pressure at home, a belligerent America was an asset that helped the Iranian president use nationalist rhetoric as a unifying political diversion.
There is also political pressure on Ahmadinejad, who has recently been in the unusual position of implied criticism from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran's figurehead has usually defended the president when the latter is exposed to public criticism, but in the latest phase Ahmadinejad has been left without such protection (see Nazila Fathi, "A President's Defender Keeps His Distance", New York Times, 8 January 2008). Moreover, his adversaries are preparing for the important legislative elections on 14 March 2008 in hopes of making significant gains.
The second group which felt a cold chill from the NIE report is Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the army within an army that had such a high status in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution and the bitter war with Iraq that followed in 1980-88. The institution has grown soft and not a little bloated, especially as it has expanded its business activities. As a result it has lost some of its standing in Iranian society, an uncomfortable and unfamiliar circumstance.
An earlier column in this series suggested that one of the main dangers of a military confrontation between the United States and Iran might arise not from a conscious, high-level decision to go to war but through a deliberate provocation on either side (see "America and Iran: the spark of war",20 September 2007). The incident on 6 January 2008 involving Revolutionary Guard speedboats and three powerful US warships came close to turning into such a spark. From the radical Iranian point of view, the timing could hardly have been better - Bush's visit to the region meant that the incidents were guaranteed to provoke a strong response that in turn would help to remind Iranians of the guard's political symbolism and status.
In addition to his weekly openDemocracy column, Paul Rogers writes an international security
monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; for details, click here
Paul Rogers's most recent book is Why We're Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007) - an analysis of the strategic misjudgments of the post-9/11 and why a new security paradigm is needed
In this light, it is most likely that the crisis was provoked by radical elements within the guard rather than from senior levels of the government. But for all that, it is unlikely to be an isolated event. Rather, more such incidents, with a risk of even edgier incidents, can be expected.
Many senior officers within the US's central command would be very reluctant to go to war with Iran, knowing the likely consequences. This, combined with the sheer weight and number of US forces in the Persian Gulf region, means that radical elements within Iran are in something of a "win-win" situation (see "The Persian Gulf: a war of position", 8 February 2007). They can seek to provoke the US military and garner benefits from either an armed US response (by showing their own power) or the absence of a response (by assuming a prominent role as defenders of the revolution).
The impact of the NIE report, therefore, is more double-edged than first realised. The risk of a confrontation remains high in spite of its more sanguine assessment, and in some ways it may even have increased that risk.
Meanwhile, the possibility of direct US military intervention in Pakistan has also increased (see "The Pakistan-Afghanistan abyss", 4 January 2008"). A White House meeting on the issue included Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and senior national-security advisers to review the need for increased action in the western part of the country (see Steven Lee Meyers, David E Sanger & Eric Schmitt, "US Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan", New York Times, 6 January 2008). The region is now considered crucial to US counter-terrorism strategy, a status fuelled by the belief that regime change in Pakistan has become a core aim for the al-Qaida movement and its associates. The cited report quoted one official saying: "After years of focussing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize - creating chaos in Pakistan itself.
What appears tobe planned is an increase in CIA operations in Pakistan, a closer liaison between the CIA and the US military, including the ability to bring in US forces when required, and an enhanced programme to train Pakistani forces. The Bush administration has been cautious as to whether it could persuade the Pervez Musharraf regime to accept a greater US role, but holds that Musharraf's transfer of army command on 28 November 2007 has created new opportunities. The new head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is expected to be more sympathetic to US concerns (see Ann Scott Tyson & Robin Wright, "U.S. Officials Review Approach in Pakistan", Washington Post, 7 January 2008).
In early December 2007, the head of the United States special-operations command (Socom) paid his second visit to Pakistan within three months. Admiral Eric T Olson's trip included a visit to the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, an 85,000-strong paramilitary force that is expected to receive training and support from Socom (see Howard LaFranchi, "Can US woo Al Qaeda's own haven?", Christian Science Monitor, 27 July 2007)
Pakistan has therefore become much more central to US operations in southwest Asia, a fact that in itself this raises three difficult issues. The first is that Pakistan's army has not concentrated on counterinsurgency capabilities in the past, as it has been much more geared towards the perceived threat from India. This means that any US involvement would almost inevitably be substantial and might ultimately involve regular troop deployments. The consequences for this in a country where there are already deep suspicions of the US could be considerable, not least for the vulnerable supply-lines for US troops that pass through Pakistan to Afghanistan (see "A Pakistani dilemma", 15 November 2007.
The second issue is that the remaining concerns that sectors of the Pakistani army and the powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency arenot loyal to Musharraf, so that any increase in US involvement threatens the president's own position.
The third, and perhaps most significant issue is that the new White House pressure on Pakistan means that the other approach to the militia problem - negotiation and compromise - is almost entirely ruled out (see Syed Saleem Shahzad, "US wants Pakistan to bite the bullet", Asia Times, 9 January 2008). There may be little or no purchase in the idea of negotiations with the al-Qaida movement itself, but there have been a number of cases where deals have been made with local Taliban elements based in Pakistan (See Antonio Giustozzi, "The resurgence of the neo-Taliban", 14 December 2007). These indicate at least the possibility that there are other ways to defuse a dangerous conflict than by relying on military force, especially when that involves the United States.
As an Pakistani official comments to the Asia Times: "We have actually been thrown into a deep quagmire where we are not left with many options. The CIA's presence in Pakistan had made it impossible for Pakistan to handle the Taliban problem independently and through dialogue. On the other hand, there is no military solution on the horizon against the Taliban and another [Pakistani army] operation against militants would cause more than serious repercussions".
Meanwhile, back in the United States the primary election campaign is approaching full flow with virtually no mention of these issues. In regard to both Iran and Pakistan, however, the potential for sudden crises and even overt conflict involving US forces, may now be higher than just a month ago.
By Anthony Boadle Wed Jan 9, 3:40 PM ET
HAVANA (Reuters) -, a former CIA agent who exposed its undercover operations in in a 1975 book, died in , the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma said on Wednesday.
Agee, 72, died on Monday night, the newspaper said, calling him a "loyal friend ofand staunch defender of the peoples' struggle for a better world."
His widow, German ballet dancer Giselle Roberge, told friends he had been in hospital since December 15 and did not survive surgery for perforated ulcers.
Agee worked for the CIA for 12 years in Washington,, and . He resigned in 1968 in disagreement with U.S. support for military dictatorships in Latin America and became one of the first to blow the whistle on the CIA's activities around the world.
His expose "Inside the Company: CIA Diary" revealed the names of dozens of agents working undercover in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. It was published in 27 languages.
The CIA declined to comment on his death.
Florida-born Agee said working as a case officer in South America opened his eyes to the CIA'sgoal in the region: to prop up traditional elites against perceived leftist threats through political repression and torture.
"It was a time in the 70s when the worst imaginable horrors were going on in Latin America -- Argentina, Brazil,, Uruguay, , , -- they were military dictatorships with death squads, all with the backing of the CIA and the U.S. government," he told the British newspaper The Guardian in an interview published last year.
"That was what motivated me to name all the names and work with journalists who were interested in knowing just who the CIA were in their countries," he said.
U.S. CALLED HIM TRAITOR
The U.S. government called Agee a traitor and said some of the agents he exposed were murdered, an allegation he rejected.
Agee went to live in London but was deported by Britain in 1976 at the request of then Secretary of State. The U.S. government revoked his passport three years later, saying he was a threat to national security.
, the wife of former U.S. President , who was CIA director in 1976, blamed Agee in her memoirs for the murder of the Athens station chief, Richard Welsh, in 1975. Agee denied any connection and sued her for $4 million, forcing her to revise the book to settle the libel case.
In his autobiography "On the Run," Agee detailed how he was hounded from five NATO countries, including the, and , after incurring the CIA's wrath. He said the agency sought to discredit him with accusations that he was a drunkard and a womanizer.
In 1980 he went to live inwhere the leftist government of Prime Minister granted him a passport and a haven until its fall in 1983.
Agee sought refuge in's and lived between and after gaining German citizenship through marriage in 1990.
In 2000, Agee set up an online travel agency in Cuba catering to Americans willing to defy a U.S. travel ban and visit the Communist-run island. The business folded due to tighter enforcement of sanctions by.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Tags: Philip Agee
Monday, January 7, 2008
A WHISTLEBLOWER has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.
Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.
She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.
Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.
The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims.
However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”
She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.
“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials,” she said.
Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.
The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.
Edmonds, a fluent speaker of Turkish and Farsi, was recruited by the FBI in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Her previous claims about incompetence inside the FBI have been well documented in America.
She has given evidence to closed sessions of Congress and the 9/11 commission, but many of the key points of her testimony have remained secret. She has now decided to divulge some of that information after becoming disillusioned with the US authorities’ failure to act.
One of Edmonds’s main roles in the FBI was to translate thousands of hours of conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political targets that had been covertly recorded by the agency.
A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997, which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. Before she left the FBI in 2002 she heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.
“What I found was damning,” she said. “While the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding what was going on.”
The Turks and Israelis had planted “moles” in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. “The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,” she said.
They were helped, she says, by the high-ranking State Department official who provided some of their moles – mainly PhD students – with security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities. These included the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent.
In one conversation Edmonds heard the official arranging to pick up a $15,000 cash bribe. The package was to be dropped off at an agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who was working for the network.
The Turks, she says, often acted as a conduit for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, because they were less likely to attract suspicion. Venues such as the American Turkish Council in Washington were used to drop off the cash, which was picked up by the official.
Edmonds said: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.”
The Pakistani operation was led by General Mahmoud Ahmad, then the ISI chief.
Intercepted communications showed Ahmad and his colleagues stationed in Washington were in constant contact with attachés in the Turkish embassy.
Intelligence analysts say that members of the ISI were close to Al-Qaeda before and after 9/11. Indeed, Ahmad was accused of sanctioning a $100,000 wire payment to Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, immediately before the attacks.
The results of the espionage were almost certainly passed to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist.
Khan was close to Ahmad and the ISI. While running Pakistan’s nuclear programme, he became a millionaire by selling atomic secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. He also used a network of companies in America and Britain to obtain components for a nuclear programme.
Khan caused an alert among western intelligence agencies when his aides met Osama Bin Laden. “We were aware of contact between A Q Khan’s people and Al-Qaeda,” a former CIA officer said last week. “There was absolute panic when we initially discovered this, but it kind of panned out in the end.”
It is likely that the nuclear secrets stolen from the United States would have been sold to a number of rogue states by Khan.
Edmonds was later to see the scope of the Pakistani connections when it was revealed that one of her fellow translators at the FBI was the daughter of a Pakistani embassy official who worked for Ahmad. The translator was given top secret clearance despite protests from FBI investigators.
Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.
Following 9/11, a number of the foreign operatives were taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or somehow aided the attacks.
Edmonds said the State Department official once again proved useful. “A primary target would call the official and point to names on the list and say, ‘We need to get them out of the US because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans’,” she said. “The official said that he would ‘take care of it’.”
The four suspects on the list were released from interrogation and extradited.
Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.
“The people provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information,” she said.
“The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points’, which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.”
One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat.
“He was one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001,” she said.
Once acquired, the nuclear secrets could have gone anywhere. The FBI monitored Turkish diplomats who were selling copies of the information to the highest bidder.
Edmonds said: “Certain greedy Turkish operators would make copies of the material and look around for buyers. They had agents who would find potential buyers.”
In summer 2000, Edmonds says the FBI monitored one of the agents as he met two Saudi Arabian businessmen in Detroit to sell nuclear information that had been stolen from an air force base in Alabama. She overheard the agent saying: “We have a package and we’re going to sell it for $250,000.”
Edmonds’s employment with the FBI lasted for just six months. In March 2002 she was dismissed after accusing a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving Turkish nationals.
She has always claimed that she was victimised for being outspoken and was vindicated by an Office of the Inspector General review of her case three years later. It found that one of the contributory reasons for her sacking was that she had made valid complaints.
The US attorney-general has imposed a state secrets privilege order on her, which prevents her revealing more details of the FBI’s methods and current investigations.
Her allegations were heard in a closed session of Congress, but no action has been taken and she continues to campaign for a public hearing.
She was able to discuss the case with The Sunday Times because, by the end of January 2002, the justice department had shut down the programme.
The senior official in the State Department no longer works there. Last week he denied all of Edmonds’s allegations: “If you are calling me to say somebody said that I took money, that’s outrageous . . . I do not have anything to say about such stupid ridiculous things as this.”
In researching this article, The Sunday Times has talked to two FBI officers (one serving, one former) and two former CIA sources who worked on nuclear proliferation. While none was aware of specific allegations against officials she names, they did provide overlapping corroboration of Edmonds’s story.
One of the CIA sources confirmed that the Turks had acquired nuclear secrets from the United States and shared the information with Pakistan and Israel. “We have no indication that Turkey has its own nuclear ambitions. But the Turks are traders. To my knowledge they became big players in the late 1990s,” the source said.
How Pakistan got the bomb, then sold it to the highest bidders
1965 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s foreign minister, says: “If India builds the bomb we will eat grass . . . but we will get one of our own”
1974 Nuclear programme becomes increased priority as India tests a nuclear device
1976 Abdul Qadeer Khan, a scientist, steals secrets from Dutch uranium plant. Made head of his nation’s nuclear programme by Bhutto, now prime minister
1976 onwards Clandestine network established to obtain materials and technology for uranium enrichment from the West
1985 Pakistan produces weapons-grade uranium for the first time
1989-91 Khan’s network sells Iran nuclear weapons information and technology
1991-97 Khan sells weapons technology to North Korea and Libya
1998 India tests nuclear bomb and Pakistan follows with a series of nuclear tests. Khan says: “I never had any doubts I was building a bomb. We had to do it”
2001 CIA chief George Tenet gathers officials for crisis summit on the proliferation of nuclear technology from Pakistan to other countries
2001 Weeks before 9/11, Khan’s aides meet Osama Bin Laden to discuss an Al-Qaeda nuclear device
2001 After 9/11 proliferation crisis becomes secondary as Pakistan is seen as important ally in war on terror
2003 Libya abandons nuclear weapons programme and admits acquiring components through Pakistani nuclear scientists
2004 Khan placed under house arrest and confesses to supplying Iran, Libya and North Korea with weapons technology. He is pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf
2006 North Korea tests a nuclear bomb
2007 Renewed fears that bomb may fall into hands of Islamic extremists as killing of Benazir Bhutto throws country into turmoil
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Los Angeles Times
About every three days, unknown to most Americans, an elite team of federal scientists hits the streets in the fight against nuclear terrorism.
The deployments are part of an effort since 2001 to ratchet up the nation's defenses. More than two dozen specialized teams have been positioned to respond to threats of nuclear terrorism, and as many 2,000 scientists and bomb experts participate in the effort. Spending on the program has more than doubled since it was launched.
And a national policy is evolving that aims to create a system of deterrence in which scientific analysis could quickly identify the state sponsors of an attempted or successful nuclear device attack and enable the United States to retaliate. A key report on the approach, known as nuclear forensics, is due in February.
The counterterrorism efforts are becoming routine. Scientists fly over cities in specially equipped helicopters and airplanes using radiation detectors to search for signs of weapons. They blend into crowds at major sporting events, wearing backpacks equipped with special instruments that can identify plutonium or highly enriched uranium.
So far, they have not encountered a terrorist.
But the teams have not become complacent. If the federal government's many layers of defense against nuclear smuggling break down, these unarmed weapons designers and physicists, along with experts from the FBI, are the last hope of staving off a catastrophic
Without hesitation, they are supposed to rush up to a ticking nuclear explosive (or a dirty bomb that would simply disperse radioactive material) and defuse it before it's too late - a situation depicted often by Hollywood, but one that potentially is becoming less fictional every year.
"After everything else fails, we come in," said Deborah A. Wilber, the scientist who directs the Office of Emergency Response at the National Nuclear Security Administration. "I don't believe it is a question of if it will happen. It is a question of when."
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the office has created 26 rapid-response units. If a device is located, two other specialized teams would rush to the scene, one from a base in Albuquerque, N.M., where a fueled jetliner is on 24-hour alert. Another FBI team would depart from rural Virginia.
The teams would first attempt to disable a bomb's electrical firing system and then quickly transfer the weapon to the Nevada desert. There, the bomb would be lowered into the G Tunnel, a 5,000-foot deep shaft, where a crew of scientists and FBI agents would attempt to disassemble the device behind steel blast doors, and log the evidence.
About 1,000 nuclear weapons scientists and an additional 500 to 1,000 FBI professionals participate in the effort, though not full time. Increased investment in the project reflects an acknowledgment that the nation has long been vulnerable to terrorists seeking to plant a nuclear device. But the increased effort is also reaching for something greater than defense: a Cold War style of deterrence.
The same scientists are also experts in the rapidly evolving field of nuclear forensics, which aims to track nuclear materials to their country of origin. Even if a bomb is exploded, fallout can be measured and assessed so that the terrorists and their state sponsors might be identified and held accountable. A retaliatory strike could be the response.
The idea is to raise the stakes against foreign nations, forcing them to take better care of their own nuclear fuels or else find themselves in the cross hairs of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
A majortechnical and policy analysis of this approach is being conducted by some of the nation's top nuclear-weapons experts, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and led by Stanford University physicist Michael M. May. The report is due early next year.
In the meantime, the United States is retrieving and locking down nuclear fuels abroad, has created a line of radiation detectors at foreign and domestic ports and has increased its intelligence efforts. If those and other measures fail, the emergency response teams are the last hope, but one nobody should rely upon, said Charles B. Curtis, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which pushes for stronger efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.
"It is a very, very, very difficult problem, but not impossible," said Curtis, a former Energy Department deputy secretary.
Vahid Majidi, a nuclear weapons chemist and head of the FBI's directorate for weapons of mass destruction, appears more confident. Asked how good his chances would be to find a nuclear bomb in Manhattan within 24 hours, he said, "Quite reasonable."
He added: "I am not sitting on my hands waiting for some detector to go off. We will use every asset at our disposal. Technology is a very small portion of what we do."
Tags: Nuclear Terrorism
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The television channels had predicted that wild weather would hit us in Northern California on Thursday between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM. That time came and went. Things were quiet. We thought the storm had passed us by. After we went to bed on Thursday night, all sorts of hell broke loose. Heavy rains rolled in. Violent winds buffeted our house. Fiberglass roof sections from our storage area blew off. I got up during the night and worked on the computer. I then came back to bed. When I got up again there was no power in the house. I immediately activated our emergency plan. I got out battery-powered lanterns and an old-fashioned 1970s style big and bulky short-wave radio receiver. It worked like a charm. I was soon listening to TV stations on radio. I had a good idea of what was going on.
My wife is a doctor. She had to go to work regardless of how bad conditions were. A 45-minute commute ended up taking her almost 1.5 hours. Her car was slipping and sliding around the road. I decided to go out in my vehicle. It was rainy and the winds were high. Power was out everywhere I went. I did get lucky and find Gunther’s Restaurant on El Camino Real open and will full power. They explained to me that they were right next door to the South San Francisco Police Department and never had power outages. I had a hot and a hardy breakfast. I then made my way to a shopping center with an AT&T shop. I charged up my computer with power. I drove home through pounding rain and high winds that made it difficult for me to control my Saturn VUE. I arrived at home and put my vehicle in the garage. I got upstairs. I fired up the lanterns and turned on my short wave radio receiver. I called friends. I fixed myself a bourbon and ginger ale. I was out in the rain and heave winds clearing drains and clearing off tree branches that fell. I later walked the dogs through soaking rains. As bad as it got where I was, I had luck on my side.
Winds hit 110 miles per hour in the Sierra Mountains and in Los Gatos. Flood waters raged in areas like Bay Point. The Bay Bride and the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge were closed to traffic. Many people lost their cars and suffered heavy property damage. One unlucky lady was drowned. Waves went as high as 25 feet.
As I sat through that raging storm, I had a lot of time to think and reflect. This life we call civilization is very fragile. All that we have can be taken away from us at any time. I realized how alone and helpless we can all be. I came to know how vital something we take for granted like electric power is.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
By George Friedman
The endgame of the U.S.-jihadist war always had to be played out in Pakistan. There are two reasons that could account for this. The first is simple: Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda command cell are located in Pakistan. The war cannot end while the command cell functions or has a chance of regenerating. The second reason is more complicated. The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.
U.S. strategy in Pakistan has been to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and rely on him to purge and shape his country’s army to the extent possible to gain its support in attacking al Qaeda in the North, contain Islamist radicals in the rest of the country and interdict supplies and reinforcements flowing to the Taliban from Pakistan. It was always understood that this strategy was triply flawed.
First, under the best of circumstances, a completely united and motivated Pakistani army’s ability to carry out this mission effectively was doubtful. And second, the Pakistani army was — and is — not completely united and motivated. Not only was it divided, one of its major divisions lay between Taliban supporterssympathetic to al Qaeda and a mixed bag of factions with other competing interests. Distinguishing between who was on which side in a complex and shifting constellation of relationships was just about impossible. That meant the army the United States was relying on to support the U.S. mission was, from the American viewpoint, inherently flawed.
It must be remembered that the mujahideen’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan shaped the current Pakistani army. Allied with the Americans and Saudis, the Pakistani army — and particularly its intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — had as its mission the creation of a jihadist force in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. The United States lost interest in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Pakistanis did not have that option. Afghanistan was right next door. An interesting thing happened at that point. Having helped forge the mujahideen and its successor, the Taliban, the Pakistani army and ISI in turn were heavily influenced by their Afghan clients’ values. Patron and client became allies. And this created a military force that was extremely unreliable from the U.S. viewpoint.
Third, Musharraf’s intentions were inherently unpredictable. As a creature of the Pakistani army, Musharraf reflects all of the ambivalences and tensions of that institution. His primary interest was in holding on to power. To do that, he needed to avoid American military action in Pakistan while simultaneously reassuring radical Islamists he was not a mere tool of the United States. Given the complexity of his position, no one could ever be certain of where Musharraf stood. His position was entirely tactical, shifting as political necessity required. He was constantly placating the various parties, but since the process of placation for the Americans meant that he take action against the jihadists, constant ineffective action by Musharraf resulted. He took enough action to keep the Americans at bay, not enough to force his Islamist enemies to take effective action against him.
Ever since Sept. 11,Musharraf has walked this tightrope, shifting his balance from one side to the other, with the primary aim of not falling off the rope. This proved unsatisfactory to the United States, as well as to Musharraf’s Islamist opponents. While he irritated everybody, the view from all factions — inside and outside Pakistan — was that, given the circumstances, Musharraf was better than the alternative. Indeed, that could have been his campaign slogan: “Vote for Musharraf: Everything Else is Worse.”
From the U.S. point of view, Musharraf and the Pakistani army might have been unreliable, but any alternative imaginable would be even worse. Even if their actions were ineffective, some actions were taken. At the very least, they were not acting openly and consistently against the United States. Were Musharraf and the Pakistani army to act consistently against U.S. interests as Russian logistical support for U.S. operations in Afghanistan waned, the U.S./NATO position in Afghanistan could simply crack.
Therefore, the U.S. policy in Pakistan was to do everything possible to make certain Musharraf didn’t fall or, more precisely, to make sure the Pakistani army didn’t fragment and its leadership didn’t move into direct and open opposition to the United States. The United States understood that the more it pressed Musharraf and the more he gave, the less likely he was to survive and the less certain became the Pakistani army’s cohesion. Thus, the U.S. strategy was to press for action, but not to the point of destabilizing Pakistan beyond its natural instability. The priority was to maintain Musharraf in power, and failing that, to maintain the Pakistani army as a cohesive, non-Islamist force.
In all of this, there was one institution that, on the whole, had to support him. That was the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army was the one functioning national institution in Pakistan. For the senior leaders, it was a vehicle to maintain their own power and position. For the lowest enlisted man, the army was a means for upward mobility, an escape from the grinding poverty of the slumsand villages. The Pakistani army obviously was factionalized, but no faction had an interest in seeing the army fragment. Their own futures were at stake. And therefore, so long as Musharraf kept the army together, they would live with him. Even the less radical Islamists took that view.
A single personality cannot maintain a balancing act like this indefinitely; one of three things will happen. First, he can fall off the rope and become the prisoner of one of the factions. Second, he can lose credibility with all factions — with the basic political configuration remaining intact but with the system putting forth a new personality to preside. Third, he can build up his power, crush the factions and start calling the shots. This last is the hardest strategy, because in this case, it would be converting a role held due to the lack of alternatives into a position of power. That is a long reach.
Nevertheless, that is why Musharraf decided to declare a state of emergency. No one was satisfied with him any longer, and pressure was building for him to “take off his uniform” — in other words, to turn the army over to someone else and rule as a civilian. Musharraf understood that it was only a matter of time before his personal position collapsed and the army realized that, given the circumstances, the collapse of Musharraf could mean the fragmentation of the army. Musharraf therefore tried to get control of the situation by declaring a state of emergency and getting the military backing for it. His goal was to convert the state of emergency — and taking off his uniform — into a position from which to consolidate his power.
It worked to an extent. The army backed the state of emergency. No senior leader challenged him. There were no mutinies among the troops. There was no general uprising. He was condemned by everyone from the jihadists to the Americans, but no one took any significant action against him. The situation was precarious, but it appeared he might well emerge from the state of emergency in a politically enhanced position. Enhanced was the best he could hope for. He would not be able to get off the tightrope, but at the same time, simply calling a state of emergency and not triggering a massive response would enhance his position.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled for Jan. 8 and are now delayed until Feb. 18. Given the fragmentation of Pakistani society, the most likely outcome was a highly fragmented parliament, one that would be hard-pressed to legislate, let alone to serve as a powerbase. In the likely event of gridlock, Musharraf’s position as the indispensable — if disliked — man would be strengthened. By last week, Musharraf must have been looking forward to the elections. Elections would confirm his position, which was that the civil institutions could not function and that the army, with or without him as official head, had to remain the center of the Pakistani polity.
Then someone killed Benazir Bhutto and changed the entire dynamic of Pakistan. Though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party probably would have gained a substantial number of seats, it was unlikely to sweep the election and seriously threaten the military’s hold on power. Bhutto was simply one of the many forces competing for power. As a woman, representing an essentially secular party, she was unlikely to be a decisive winner. In many ways, she reminds us of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was much more admired by Westerners than he ever was by Russians. She was highly visible and a factor in Pakistani politics, but if Musharraf were threatened, the threat would not come from her.
Therefore, her murder is a mystery. It is actually a mystery on two levels. First, it is not clear who did it. Second, it is not clear how the deed was done. The murder of a major political leader is always hard to unravel. Confusion reigns from the first bullet fired in a crowd. The first account of events always turns out to be wrong, as do the second through fifth accounts, too. That is how conspiracy theories are spawned. Getting the facts straight in any murder is tough. Getting them straight in a political assassination is even harder. Paradoxically, more people witnessingsuch incidents translates into greater confusion, since everyone has a different perspective and a different tale. Conspiracy theorists can have a field day picking and choosing among confused reports by shocked and untrained observers.
Nevertheless, the confusion in this case appears to be way beyond the norm. Was there a bomber and a separate shooter with a pistol next to her car? If this were indeed a professional job, why was the shooter inappropriately armed with a pistol? Was Bhutto killed by the pistol-wielding shooter, shrapnel from the bomb, a bullet from a third assassin on a nearby building or even inside her car, or by falling after the bomb detonated? How did the killer or killers know Bhutto would stand up and expose herself through her armored vehicle’s sunroof? Very few of the details so far make sense.
And that reflects the fact that nothing about the assassination makes sense. Who would want Bhutto dead? Musharraf had little motivation. He had enemies, and she was one of them, but she was far from the most dangerous of them. And killing her would threaten an election that did not threaten him or his transition to a new status. Ordering her death thus would not have made a great deal of sense for Musharraf.
Whoever ordered her death would have had one of two motives. First, they wanted to destabilize Pakistan, or second, they wanted to kill her in such a way as to weaken Musharraf’s position by showing that the state of emergency had failed. The jihadists certainly had every reason to want to kill her — along with a long list of Pakistani politicians, including Musharraf. They want to destabilize Pakistan, but if they can do so and implicate Musharraf at the same time, so much the sweeter.
The loser in the assassination was Musharraf. He is probably too canny a politician to have planned the killing without anticipating this outcome. Whoever did this wanted to do more than kill Bhutto. They wanted to derail Musharraf’s attempt to retain his control over thegovernment. This was a complex operation designed to create confusion.
Our first suspect is al Qaeda sympathizers who would benefit from the confusion spawned by the killing of an important political leader. The more allegations of complicity in the killing are thrown against the regime, the more the military regime is destabilized — thus expanding opportunities for jihadists to sow even more instability. Our second suspects are elements in the army wanting to use the assassination to force Musharraf out, replace him with a new personality and justify a massive crackdown.
Two parties we cannot imagine as suspects in the killing are the United States and Musharraf; neither benefited from the killing. Musharraf now faces the political abyss and the United States faces the destabilization of Pakistan as the Taliban is splintering and various jihadist leaders are fragmenting. This is the last moment the United States would choose to destabilize Pakistan. Our best guess is that the killing was al Qaeda doing what it does best. The theory that it was anti-Musharraf elements in the army comes in at a very distant second.
But the United States now faces its endgame under far less than ideal conditions. Iraq is stabilizing. That might reverse, but for now it is stabilizing. The Taliban is strong, but it is under pressure and has serious internal problems. The endgame always was supposed to come in Pakistan, but this is far from how the Americans wanted to play it out. The United States is not going to get an aggressive, anti-Islamist military in Pakistan, but it badly needs more than a Pakistani military that is half-heartedly and tenuously committed to the fight. Salvaging Musharraf is getting harder with each passing day. So that means that a new personality, such as Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, must become Washington’s new man in Pakistan. In this endgame, all that the Americans want is the status quo in Pakistan. It is all they can get. And given the way U.S. luck is running, they might not even get that.
Dina, my wife's ancestors come from Northern Italy. She points out to me that her ancestors were civilized when my ancestors from Germany were still barbarians. Our Chinese friends tell us that they were civilized when all of we Europeans were still barbarians.
Dina when the rest of the world was a group of barbarians (Including Europeans, Jews, Chinese, Indians, etc.), you Iraqis had great cities like Babylon and wonderful innovations like Hamurapi's Code (The first written laws.) All of us are indebted to Iraqis for the wonder contributions they have made to civilization throughout the world.
I sincerely apologize to you and all other Iraqi readers if I gave an incorrect impression of your country.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
"At least I made it to 2008."
What profound pearl of wisdom do I have to share with you after 59 years on this earth?
I have several as follows:
1) Love is the most important thing in life.
2) Luck plays a much larger part in your life than you realize or wish to admit.
3) You should never regret what you did do; you should only regret what you did not do.
4) If you go out with the goal of having a very large number of sex partners, you will run one hell of a risk of catching all sorts of awful diseases. If you survive the process, you will find out at the end that 95% are about the same, 2.5% are awful and 2.5% are incredible. Unfortunately those 2.5% who are incredible are generally dumb or have awful personalities.
The most important thought I wish to share with you comes from my watching the great film No Country For Old Men. At the end of the film, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommie Lee Jones) is retired and enjoying life in a humble but satisfying way. The super and seemingly invincible villain Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) was badly injured at the end of the movie and in danger of being captured.
MY FRIENDS THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL OF YOU IN THE FILM IS THAT THE REAL WINNER IN LIFE IS THE PERSON WHO IS STILL ALIVE AND HAS LOVE IN HIS OR HER LIFE AT THE END OF EACH DAY!
MAY 2008 BE A WONDERFUL YEAR FOR ALL OF YOU!!!!!
Tags: New Year's Message 2008