Member since: Mon Mar 3, 2008, 02:08 PM
Number of posts: 33,466
Member since: Mon Mar 3, 2008, 02:08 PM
Number of posts: 33,466
Domenico & I have a moral duty to say that it’s not Assad govtt that used sarin, or any other gas...
The Belgian journalist said on Monday he was certain Bashar Assad’s regime was not responsible for the chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21st.
Pierre Piccinin said he and the Italian journalist he was held alongside, La Stampa’s Domenico Quirico, got the information from overhearing a rebel conversation and would release full details later.
“Domenico and I have a moral duty to say that it’s not Bashar al-Assad government that used sarin, or any other gas, in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, we’re certain of that after a conversation that we interrupted,” Piccinin told Belgian TV channel RTL.
Piccinin’s claim stands in stark contrast to declassified intelligence reports from France and the U.S., which put the blame for the deadly attack on Assad’s regime.
He did not provide proof during the interview, saying he and Quirico will release their information simultaneously at a later date.
“I had tried to tell the story of the Syrian revolution but … the revolution turned into something else,” Quirico said.
Still missing in Syria is an Italian Jesuit priest, Paolo Dall’Oglio, a well-known figure who activists said had gone to meet with al-Qaida-linked militants. The priest went missing in July.
Dall’Oglio is a critic of the regime of President Bashar Assad, which the rebels are fighting to overthrow. The government a year ago expelled him from Syria, where he had lived for 30 years.
Posted by Catherina | Tue Sep 10, 2013, 12:22 AM (0 replies)
Italian journalist held in Syria released
19 hours ago
Quirico, 62, is a well-known war correspondent in Italy who worked from African hot spots including Libya, Sudan, Darfur and Mali.
The government gave no immediate information about Piccinin, a historian and teacher who speaks Arabic.
Married with two children, Quirico was able to contact his family after his release.
Another Italian, Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, is still missing in Syria and was last seen in the Syrian town of Raqqa, where he hoped to free hostages.
Quirico had entered Syria from Lebanon without an official visa and went missing in early April between Damascus and the flashpoint central city of Homs.
Posted by Catherina | Tue Sep 10, 2013, 12:03 AM (0 replies)
More: 2nd captive, Domenico Quirico, 'create a caliphate, extend it entire Middle East-North Africa'
Quirico seems to agree with Peccini’s assessment.
Italian journalist Domenico Quirico disembark from the airplane on September 9, 2013 at Ciampino military airport in Rome (AFP Photo)
“I am extremely surprised that the United States could think about intervening, knowing very well how the Syrian revolution has become international jihadism – in other words Al-Qaeda," Quirico said, as quoted by Italy’s Quotidiano Nazionale.
The 62-year-old La Stampa journalist believes that radical Islamic groups operating in Syria to topple Assad “want to create a caliphate and extend it to the entire Middle East and North Africa.”
In a number of news appearances, both Quirico and Piccinin shared stories of how they were subjected to two mock executions, beaten, and starved during their five-month captivity.
"These have been very tough months. We were beaten on a daily basis, we suffered two mock executions," Quirico told reporters upon his arrival in Rome, AFP reported.
"There was sometimes real violence...humiliation, bullying, mock executions...Domenico faced two mock executions, with a revolver," Piccinin told RTL.
Both men were kidnapped in Syria last April by a group of armed men in pickup trucks who were believed to be from Free Syrian Army.
According to Piccinin, the captors soon transferred them over to the Abu Ammar brigade, a rebel group "more bandit than Islamist."
"We were moved around a lot...it was not always the same group that held us, there were very violent groups, very anti-West and some anti-Christian," Piccinin said.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 11:52 PM (0 replies)
Syria: Assad not Responsible for Ghouta Gas Attack, Says Freed Hostage Pierre Piccinin
Belgian hostage held with Italian war reporter Domenico Quirico by Syrian rebels said captors denied Assad involvement
By Umberto Bacchi : September 9, 2013 2:00 PM GMT
Belgian writer and Syrian hostage Pierre Piccinin said Assad is not to blame for the Ghouta Chemical gas attack (RTL)
A Belgian writer held hostage for five months in Syria has said that his own rebel captors denied that President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Ghouta massacre.
Pierre Piccinin said that he and fellow hostage Domenico Quirico, an Italian war reporter, heard their jailers talking about the chemical weapon attack and saying that Assad was not to blame.
Quirico confirmed to La Stampa newspaper that they had eavesdropped such a conversation through a closed door but added that he had no evidence to substantiate what he heard.
Piccinin said the captives became desperate when they heard that the US was planning to launch a punitive attack against the regime over the gas attack in the Damascus suburb.
"It wasn't the government of Bashar al-Assad that used sarin gas or any other gas in Ghouta," Piccinin told Belgian RTL radio after he was released.
"We are sure about this because we overheard a conversation between rebels. It pains me to say it because I've been a fierce supporter of the Free Syrian Army in its rightful fight for democracy since 2012," Piccinin added.
Quirico said he listened to a Skype conversation between three individuals, whose names he could not confirm. One identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general.
The three contended that insurgents had used gas in Ghouta to trigger Western intervention.
See post 6 for article on 2nd freed hostage.
News video. I'm too tired to translate. It says what the article says.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 11:42 PM (17 replies)
Iran-Contra Redux? Prince Bandar Heads Secret Saudi-CIA Effort to Aid Syrian Rebels, Topple Assad
Monday, 09 September 2013 11:14 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Report
The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. "Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras," says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. "So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Juan González: At the G-20 Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russian and China officials, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are urging the United States not to bomb Syria in response to last month’s chemical weapons attack. The U.N.’s Ban Ki-moon said, quote, "Let us remember: Every day that we lose is a day when scores of innocent civilians die. There is no military solution." Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said a U.S. strike without authorization from the U.N. Security Council would be illegal. But on Thursday the Obama administration declared there is, quote, "no viable path forward" in the U.N. Security Council on Syria. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has accused Russia of holding the U.N. Security Council hostage.
Samantha Power: I was present in the meeting where the U.K. laid down the resolution. And everything in that meeting, in word and in body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted by Russia, in particular. And our view—again, our considered view, after months of efforts on chemical weapons and after two-and-a-half years of efforts on Geneva, on the humanitarian situation, is that there is no viable path forward in the Security Council.
Amy Goodman: That’s U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
One nation that has been pushing for a U.S. military strike is Saudi Arabia. The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States, is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. The Wall Street Journal reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. The Journal also reports intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operation center in Jordan to train and arm handpicked Syrian rebels.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C., is Adam Entous, national security correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. He co-wrote the recent piece, "A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works to Build Support to Topple Assad."
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Adam. Why don’t you just start where you begin your piece, A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works to Build Support to Topple Assad"? Americans know him most famously as "Bandar Bush," because this former Saudi ambassador to the United States was so close to the Bush family. He was the ambassador who was there, for example, September 11, 2001. What is his connection to the Syrian rebels?
Adam Entous: Well, I mean, he—he really didn’t have a strong connection to these rebels until a couple years ago, when the king of Saudi Arabia decided to put him in the job of intel chief last summer. And since then, he’s been very aggressive in arranging arms shipments and funding for these rebels. Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan, and also worked with CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras. So, in many ways, this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar. And it’s amazing to see, you know, the extent to which veterans at the CIA were excited to see him come back, because, you know, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis.
Juan González: Well, your article provides enormous detail—for instance, the role of Jordan and the training, not only byCIA, but by Saudi forces. Could you talk about Jordan’s role now in the training of the rebels?
Adam Entous: Right. So, what happened was, is, initially, the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and, to a certain extent,CIA in more of an observatory capacity, had set up their operations for arming the rebels out of Turkey. And about a year ago, a little over a year ago, you know, the Saudis were watching as these arms were flowing in, and were concerned that they were going to what the Saudis and what the Americans would consider to be the wrong rebels, and this would include Islamist groups, Muslim Brotherhood-connected groups. And so they decided to pull out of Turkey and move to Jordan.
They convinced the king of Jordan, who was a little—a little bit reticent initially to accept this being done in their territory, because they were worried about reprisals, where, for example, there are large refugee camps for Palestinians just north of the Jordan-Syria border, inside Syria, and the fear for the Jordanians was that the Syrians would literally push those refugees into Jordan and further destabilize the kingdom. What we found in our reporting is, is that Bandar spent many hours with the king and with his military chiefs, reassuring them that the Saudis would support the Jordanians through this. And then CIA Director David Petraeus was involved, as well, in helping assure the Jordanians that the U.S. would have Jordan’s back.
And last summer they created this operation center. And what would happen—what is happening now is you have actually more CIA officers now there at that base than there are Saudi personnel. They fly weapons in. The Saudis are the ones who are doing the bulk of this. They buy the weapons in—largely in places like Eastern Europe, to a certain extent Libya, and they bring them to this base, which has a landing strip and storehouses for the weapons to be stored. The Saudis and the Jordanians draw on defectors, largely, from the Syrian military, which already have a good degree of military training. And they’re brought to this base, where different intel agencies train them. And the Americans are there. The Brits are there. The French are there. The Saudis, UAE is there. And they train them, and then they send them into the fight. And this—but very, very slowly, this process has been built up over the last couple months.
Juan González: And you report, as well, again in a replay of Afghanistan, that CIA is not only training some of these rebels, but actually has put key figures of the Free Syrian Army on the payroll.
Adam Entous: Right. It’s a very interesting development, which we learned of as part of the reporting, which is, you know, we are—you know, the United States is not at war with Syria, so this is obviously being done covertly withCIA. The Saudis were instrumental in getting the CIA to agree to pay these salaries. And the idea is, if these—if these FSA commanders receive American money, the U.S. is building loyalty and building relationships that would last into the future. And that’s the main rationale with these payments that are being made.
And it’s part of, generally, an effort by the Saudis to gradually increase the extent of the U.S. investment in the war in Syria. And it’s been slow-going, as far as the Saudis are concerned, because the CIA is—remains, you know, divided and skeptical about whether or not this is—this has a chance of succeeding. And that’s why you see, for example, the number of CIA-trained rebels entering Syria is incredibly small, given the number of months that this has been going on. For example, Congressman—excuse me, Senators McCain and Graham were told on Monday by Obama that an initial group of 50 rebels trained by the CIA were getting ready to enter, and this is after months of work at this base in Jordan, and the number is incredibly small.
Amy Goodman: Can you talk about Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar and the chemical weapons story?
Adam Entous: Right. So, you know, as you know, the U.S. right now is poised for military action in response to a very large alleged case of chemical weapons use on August 21st. You know, over the course of the last year, there have been these scattered reports of chemical weapons being used in much smaller quantities. Generally speaking, the U.S. intelligence community has been skeptical initially of those. The Saudis played an early and important role in trying to bring evidence of chemical weapon use to the West for analysis. And we were told, as part of the research for the story, that the Saudis had a—were brought by members of the Free Syrian Army, which is the Western-backed rebel group, a Syrian who had been exposed to an agent, a chemical agent. The Saudis arranged for that Syrian to be flown to Britain for treatment and to be tested. What the British found when they did the testing was that this Syrian was exposed to sarin gas, which the U.S. and British and French intelligence believe is only in the possession of the Syrian regime. That was sort of the first case that was—offered credible evidence that chemical weapons had been used.
And what you saw in the months that followed was, first, Saudi intelligence, so Bandar’s intelligence agency, concluded that chemical weapons were being used on a small scale by the regime. Followed by that, the Brits and the French were convinced of the same conclusion. It took U.S. intelligence agencies really until—until June to reach that conclusion. And that’s what led the Obama administration, at least publicly—it was cited by the Obama administration as the trigger for Obama’s decision to instruct the CIA and authorize the CIA to start arming the rebels at this Jordan base.
Juan González: Now, you write not only about the role of Prince Bandar, but also the current Saudi ambassador to the United States and his close connections to Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham and also to the Obama administration. Could you elaborate?
Adam Entous: Sure. So, Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir replaced Bandar as the ambassador here, and he is—you know, has the kind of access to the circles of power in Washington that few, if any, ambassadors have. He gets meetings with the president. He meets constantly with the top White House advisers, as well as members of Congress. And he sort of used the Saudi playbook from the 1980s in Afghanistan. In the case of Afghanistan, you’re probably familiar with the Tom Hanks portrayal of Charlie Wilson, Congressman Wilson, in supporting arming the rebels, the mujahideen, in Afghanistan. Well, in the case of Syria, the Saudis identified the core group as being Senators McCain, Senator Graham and former—former Senator Lieberman. That was the core group. And then Adel al-Jubeir, the ambassador—
Amy Goodman: We have about five seconds, Adam.
Adam Entous: —worked to expand—sure—worked to expand that out to bring more people in, and in the end built a great deal more support within Congress for arming the rebels.
Amy Goodman: Adam Entous, we want to thank you for being with us and ask you to stay with us an extra 10 minutes after the show so we could talk to you about your latest piece, the U.S. deciding not to horse-trade with Russia on Assad, about the G-20 meeting, and we’ll post it online at democracynow.org. Adam Entous is the national security correspondent The Wall Street Journal. We’ll link to the story he wrote about the Saudi ambassador in Washington, past and present.
Watch Part Two of Interview, 'U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya'
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to "democracynow.org".
Part 2 is very interesting too.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 10:08 PM (6 replies)
Back in the Bubble, Will Congress Shift on Syria?
Getting lawmakers back to Washington, and away from constituents who oppose a Syria strike, is Obama's last shot at securing support.
By Shane Goldmacher
September 9, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.
The White House cranks up the pressure with classified, in-person briefings this week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama's best – and perhaps last – chance to convince reluctant members of Congress to support a Syria strike may be simply getting them out of their districts and back inside the Beltway bubble.
With constituent phone calls and emails running overwhelming against intervention, proponents of striking Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons are banking on getting lawmakers away from boisterous anti-war town halls and into somber, classified briefings about the details of chemical warfare and the costs of inaction.
The first big test will come on Monday evening, when top Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, are scheduled to deliver a classified briefing for the entire House.
"It's dead. Completely dead," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., an opponent of intervention and member of the House Intelligence Committee, told National Journal. "The House, for sure, it's not even going to be close." Nunes, elected in 2002, added he has "never been so sure about something in my whole career here."
The offensive comes as media-created vote tallies show Obama in deep trouble on a Syria war-authorization measure. Still, congressional nose-counters and strike proponents, which include both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, note that the majority of lawmakers still have not received classified briefings. "It's premature," said a Pelosi aide of the tallies.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., an opponent of involvement in Syria, explained the looming lobbying effort this way: "The strategy among leadership is to present you with a classified briefing and then, when the briefings are over, to tell you, 'Now you have more information than your constituents, so it's OK if you vote differently than they want you to vote.'"
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 09:16 PM (15 replies)
NSA accused of spying on Brazilian oil company Petrobras
Accusations that NSA is conducting intelligence-gathering operations that go beyond its core mission of national security
Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro - theguardian.com
Monday 9 September 2013 11.55 EDT
The US National Security Agency has been accused of spying on Brazil's biggest oil company, Petrobras, following the release of more files from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The latest disclosures, which aired on Brazil's Fantástico news program, have led to accusations that the NSA is conducting intelligence-gathering operations that go beyond its core mission of national security – often cited as the key distinction between the agency and its counterparts in China and Russia.
The revelations are likely to further strain ties between the US and Brazil ahead of a planned state dinner for president Dilma Rousseff at the White House in October. Bileteral relations have already been muddled by the earlier release of NSA files showing the US agency intercepted Brazilian communications and spied on Rousseff and her aides.
Petrobras is the largest company in Brazil and one of the 30 biggest businesses in the world. Majority owned by the state, it is a major source of revenue for the government and is developing the biggest oil discoveries of this century, which are in a pre-salt region deep under the Atlantic.
Fantástico revealed a top secret NSA file – given by Snowden to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – which shows Petrobras is among several targets for the agency's Blackpearl program, which extricates data from private networks.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 08:37 PM (8 replies)
I knew nothing about the Army spraying Zinc Cadmium Sulfite on US citizens in St Louis or Minneapolis
Saint Louis - Previously classified documents reveal new details about how and where the US Army sprayed chemical agents over thousands of unwitting residents of St. Louis, Missouri during the 1950s and 60s as part of a series of Cold War experiments.
KSDK reports that the Army sprayed zinc cadmium sulfide over parts of St. Louis, especially over the Pruitt-Ingo housing project northwest of downtown, where 10,000 low-income people, mostly minorities, lived. Around 70 percent of the project's residents were children under the age of 12.
The spraying was meant to simulate the airborne dispersal of biological warfare agents. Residents were not told that they were being sprayed with zinc cadmium sulfide.
"This was a violation of all medical ethics, all international codes and the military's own policy at that time," Lisa Martino-Taylor, a sociologist who has extensively studied secret military experiments from the Cold War era, told KSDK. Martino-Taylor filed hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain documents that proved the military used unwitting Americans as human guinea pigs.
In 1994, the New York Times reported that zinc cadmium sulfide was sprayed over an elementary school in Minneapolis, where former students later reported an unusually high number of stillbirths and birth defects.
Minneapolis Called Toxic Test Site in '53
Published: June 11, 1994
In a 1953 cold war experiment, the Army sprayed clouds of toxic material over Minneapolis dozens of times and may have caused miscarriages and stillbirths, a public television station here has reported.
The sprayings in Minneapolis and other cities were described then as part of an effort to develop an aerosol screen to protect Americans from fallout in case of an atomic attack, according to the report on Wednesday night by KTCA.
The material sprayed in Minneapolis was zinc cadmium sulfide, a suspected carcinogen, and the Army was actually testing how chemicals would disperse during biological warfare, the station reported.
One of the sites sprayed in Minneapolis was a public elementary school where former students have reported an unusual number of stillbirths and miscarriages, the report said.
Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, issued a statement saying the Government "must be held accountable to their citizens for its actions" and promised to assist constituents who might have been injured.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 08:28 PM (0 replies)
Besides Petrobras, e-mail and internet services provider Google’s infrastructure is also listed as a target. The company, often named as collaborating with the NSA, is shown here as a victim.
Other targets include French diplomats – with access to the private network of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France – and the SWIFT network, the cooperative that unites over ten thousand banks in 212 countries and provides communications that enable international financial transactions. All transfers of money between banks across national borders goes through SWIFT.
Greenwald defends the decision to omit the names. “It’s a question of responsible journalism”, says Greenwald. “These documents contain information regarding spying against terrorists, matters of national security which should not be published, because nobody doubts that the United States, just as any other country, has the right to spy in order to guarantee national security. But there is much more information on spying on innocents, against people who have nothing to do with terrorism, or on industrial issues, which need to be made public.”
The documents are classified as “top-secret”, to be seen only by those named by the Americans as “Five Eyes” – the five countries allied in spying: the United States, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The yearly profits of Petrobras are over 280 billion reais – US$ 120 billion. More than the GDP of many countries. And there are plenty of motives for spies to want access to the company’s protected network.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 07:28 PM (0 replies)
NSA Spied on Brazil Oil Company, Petrobras—What WikiLeaks Cables Reveal About Possible Motivation
By: Kevin Gosztola Monday September 9, 2013 1:06 pm
Globo TV’s “Fantastico” program reported top secret documents from former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, which were provided to program by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, include a May 2012 presentation used to “train new agents step-by-step on how to access and spy upon private computer networks—the internal networks of companies, governments, financial institutions—networks designed to precisely to protect information.”
“The name of Petrobras—Brazil’s largest company—appears right at the beginning, under the title: ‘MANY TARGETS USE PRIVATE NETWORKS,’ Globo noted.
Several slides feature the name Petrobras, as the presentation explains how target companies can be monitored.
The motivation for being interested in the operations of Petrobras is, for the most part, clear. The United States Energy Information Agency (EIA) highlighted in a brief on the country dated February 28, 2012, how Brazil recently discovered “large offshore, pre-salt oil deposits” that “could transform Brazil into one of the largest oil producers in the world.”
Though before the discovery of the Tupi field in 2007, an unclassified cable sent on June 13, 2006, containing “business-confidential information,” shows US firms “involved in upstream petroleum sector operations” complained about “Brazil’s inadequate climate for foreign investment.” Representatives from Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and El Paso indicated “Petrobras’ dominance meant that independent players, even well-funded one, needed to tread lightly.
“While doing business in Brazil was certainly easier than operating in Bolivia, we were told, in many ways the majors found investment conditions worse than those in Venezuela,” according to the cable.
Posted by Catherina | Mon Sep 9, 2013, 07:16 PM (1 replies)