Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time to Dump the Liar

The lies of the Zionists are becoming apparent.
The Liar-in-Chief: Benjamin Netanyahu

Gül, speaking at a British think-tank during an official visit to Britain, said Israel has become a burden on its allies because of its current policies, lamenting that it builds houses in East Jerusalem despite promises that it is committed to peace with Palestinians. “Maybe not everyone says openly what they think, but you can hear it when microphones are accidentally left on,” he said, apparently referring to a recent conversation between US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during which the French leader called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “liar.”

Sarkozy: “I can’t stand him anymore, he’s a liar.”

Obama: “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”

Time to dump the liar.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Rise of the Military's Secret Military

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only wars being waged by the United States. There is an ever expanding role to the Special Operations Command across the globe with clandestine missions and targeted assassinations. Special Forces currently operate within 75 countries (countries we are not at war with). That number is expected to increase to 120 (60% of the total nations on the planet). Those operations are not cheap. The details are not always available because of their clandestine nature, but that seems to be the way wars will be fought in the future. The following article examines that state. Marilyn

The US military's secret military
Special US commandos are deployed in about 75 countries around the world - and that number is expected to grow.

by: Nick Turse

Somewhere on this planet a US commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you're done ... for the day. Without the knowledge of much of the general American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world's countries. This Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, and deserves further attention.

After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden's chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the US military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it's well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has often remained out of the public scrutiny.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. "We do a lot of travelling - a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq," he said recently. This global presence - in about 60 per cent of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged - is evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

The rise of the military's secret military

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.

Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army's "Green Berets" and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para- rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States' most specialised and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.

One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes US citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal "kill/capture" campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls "an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine".

This assassination programme has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.

Growth industry

From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM's baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3bn to $6.3bn. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8bn in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.

Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command - the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 - indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. "I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000," he said at a June breakfast with defence reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.

During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3 per cent to 5 per cent a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.

A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite US forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that "as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia".

During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association's annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before September 11, 2001, the lit portions of the planet - mostly the industrialised nations of the global north - were considered the key areas. "But the world changed over the last decade," he said. "Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south ... certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren't."

To that end, Olson launched "Project Lawrence", an effort to increase cultural proficiencies - like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs - for overseas operations. The programme is, of course, named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as "Lawrence of Arabia"), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I. Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed "Lawrences of Wherever".

While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Col. Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government. According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85 per cent of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.
Special Operations Command won't disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. "We're obviously going to have some places where it's not advantageous for us to list where we're at," says Nye. "Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have - it may be internal, it may be regional."

But it's no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while "white" forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. In the Philippines, for instance, the US spends $50m a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.

Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism's National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, the US' most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland.

So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. "Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises."

The Pentagon's power elite

Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces - like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines - a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.

With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, and influential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research like electronically beaming messages into people's heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM's prime contracts awarded to small businesses - those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons - have jumped six-fold.

Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theatre commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself. As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM "is a microcosm of the Department of Defense, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defense Agencies".

Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialised Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military.

Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as "the president's private army", today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive's private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.

In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once "special" for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.

That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman image at home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: "I am convinced that the forces ... are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer."

Recently at the Aspen Institute's Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that US Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, "Are you talking about unattributed explosions?"
What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasised, US Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada's entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where the US' elite troops now operate each year, and it's only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a "special" force this large, this active, and this secret - and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won't be coming from Olson or his troops. "Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it," he said in response to questions about SOCOM's secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military's secret military, said Olson, wants "to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do".

Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of and a new senior editor at, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).
A version of this article originally appeared on
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: TomDispatch, Alternet

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Clash of Civilizations: Myths and Realities

"Multiculturalism" is the new manufactured evil that is lying in wait to eradicate the purity of the Western world. In the absence of a real threat, Tarak Barkawi of the University of Cambridge, argues that one has to be manufactured. He believes that Neo-Liberalism and its social, political, ideological, and military policies are the biggest threats to Western values, not multiculturalism. The murdering rampage of Anders Breivik is based in manufactured threats to the values of his nation -- the Muslim population of Norway is less than 3% of that of the total nation.Marilyn

The biggest threat to Western values
Multiculturalism does not pose a significant danger to Western values - but neoliberalism does.

by Tarak Barkawi (excerpted from Al-Jazeera)

The paranoid style in politics often imagines unlikely alliances that coalesce into an overwhelming threat that must be countered by all necessary means.

In Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington conjured an amalgamated East - an alliance between "Confucian" and "Islamic" powers - that would challenge the West for world dominance. Many jihadis fear the Crusader alliance between Jews and Christians. They forget that until recently, historically speaking, populations professing the latter were the chief persecutors of the former.

Now Anders Breivik has invoked the improbable axis of Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism, together colonising Europe. As he sees multiculturalism as essentially a Jewish plot, Breivik has managed to wrap up the new and old fascist bogies in one conspiracy: communists, Jews and Muslims.

Like his terrorist counterparts who kill in the name of various Islamic sects, Breivik is willing to slaughter people for an invented purity. Modern Norway is a latecomer to the world of nations, becoming sovereign only in 1905. Vikings, Arctic explorers and international humanitarians all went into imagining the place.

Given how readily jihadi texts are dismissed as ravings, it is notable how much attention has already been paid to Breivik's wacky ideological brew. This is a worrying portent of the line of analysis that says that the "root causes" of Breivik's madness - immigration and cultural difference - must be addressed. Otherwise, European societies will lose their social cohesion, to choose one current euphemism for the Volk.

To the extent such a view takes hold, the far right may be forgiven for concluding that terrorism works. As for the rest of us, now facing terrorist re-imaginings from both sides of obscure battles in a mythic past, we may long for the leftist and anti-colonial insurgents of bygone days. They at least could offer plausible accounts of what they were up to.

To be sure, tactically speaking, Breivik thought through his operation. Unlike many jihadis, however, he lacked the courage to face men armed like him, and to offer his own life for his beliefs as well as the lives of others. Nonetheless he wanted at his court appearance to strut about in some kind of military uniform.

Smartly tailored uniforms, an abhorrence of cultural difference, and a desire for racial purity are all of a piece with fascist mysticism. As with jihadi ideology, it is precisely the non-rational elements of fascism that give it emotive, and hence political, power. For what Breivik and others see as under threat in the West is the vital source of meaning, of ultimate values, which they associate with the communion of a purified people.

Since the West faces no obvious threat of such existential scale and significance, one must be fabricated. It is here that the unlikely alliance of left wing parties and Islam plays its role, purportedly importing on a mass scale Muslims to colonise Europe. In Norway, Muslims account for less than three per cent of the population; in the UK, less than five per cent. Even so, the fantastical fear of the "loss" of Europe to Islam animates many on the right. It is part of mainstream electoral politics in Europe, and has long been an element of right wing discourse in the US.

In this vision of danger, multiculturalism plays a key role. Many will have noted Breivik's odd invocation of "cultural Marxists", folks I have only spotted in small numbers in university departments and cafes frequented by graduate students. Breivik's reference is in part to the Frankfurt School, a group of German Jewish scholars who fled Hitler for the Western cosmopolis of New York.

The idea is that "Jews" have encouraged cultural mixing in the West, fatally compromising its purity and thus its values, while Muslims and Jews retain their cultural strength and identity. Europe must therefore declare "independence" and fight the Muslim-Jewish-Marxist hordes, apparently starting by killing their children.

We can only assume that Breivik has confused the computer fantasy games he played - using a busty blonde avatar named "conservatism" - with political analysis. What is truly frightening, however, is that the core of this vision of multiculturalism as a threat to the West is shared by leading political parties in the France, the UK, Germany and Italy, among others. This is why there is every chance that Breivik's murderous and cowardly rampage will achieve some of its aims. Immigration, it will be argued, has unbalanced "our" people. It is already being curtailed in all the leading Western powers.

Shut up, obey, and collaborate

The irony is that the West brought us empire on a global scale and drew its cultural, economic, and political strength from interconnections with all parts of the world. The cosmopolis of New York, London and Paris - a "brown" not a "white" West - are more appropriate beacons of a West flush with power and confidence in its values than the imaginary purification achieved through concentration camps and closed borders.

But just what might be corroding values in the West?

This was one of the questions that animated the Frankfurt School and those who influenced it. They focused on the interaction between capitalism and culture. They noted the ways in which capitalism progressively turned everything into something that could be bought or sold, measuring value only by the bottom line. Slowly but surely such measures came to apply to the cultural values at the core of society. Even time, as Benjamin Franklin told us, is money, a doctrine which horrified Max Weber in his searing indictment of the capitalist mentality as an "iron cage" without "spirit".

Note for example the ways in which the great professional vocations of the West - lawyers, journalists, academics, doctors - have been co-opted and corrupted by bottom line thinking. Money and "efficiency" are the values by which we stand, not law, truth or health. Students are imagined as "customers", citizens as "stakeholders". Professional associations worry about the risk to their bottom line rather than furthering the values they exist to represent. Graduates of elite Western universities, imbued with the learning of our great thinkers, are sent off to corporations like News International. There they learn to shut up, obey, and collaborate in the dark work of exploitation for profit, for which they will be well rewarded, at least financially speaking.

Thanks in part to the grip of corporate power on the media and on political parties, few today in the West can imagine any other politics than those of big money. In the US, and increasingly even in Europe, the income differential between the poor and the wealthy already resembles that of banana republics. The downtrodden are asked to bear the burden of a financial crisis created by bankers. America's wealthy fly their children to summer camp in tax-free private jets amid a real rate of unemployment of over fifteen per cent.

Neoliberalism has only accelerated these processes at the heart of capitalist society. Here is a far more convincing threat to Western values and "social cohesion" than the lunatic fears of fascists. Notably, this is a threat that emanates from within, not without. It is precisely social democratic parties like Norway's Labour Party - Breivik's target - which have sought to contain the corrosive effects of capitalism and ensure the survival of the West's most humane values.

Tarak Barkawi is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There is No Dignity Without Freedom

The stirrings of working people across the world are causing panic among those in power. All means are used to silence free speech. In Syria, one of the latest victims (martyrs) is Ibrahim Qashoush who led freedom protests across Syria in his most famous song "Yalla Irhal Ya Bashar" (Come on Bashar, Leave). The song was in response to Bashar Assad's speech to the Syrian people June 20th, 2011. Assad basically marginalized the freedom quest by his people and blamed the call to freedom on saboteurs. Qashoush was murdered by agents of the Syrian regime and his throat was slit and voice box removed in a symbolic gesture to terrorize the civilian population. Humans can tolerate only so much indignity. There is a certain nobility to the courage and sacrifice of many Arab citizens as they face horrendous odds under brutal tyrannies that are propped and maintained by imperialist powers and multi-national corporations.

Silencing the Voice of Freedom in Syria

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Will the President Protect American Lives from Israeli Attacks

American lives are worth protecting --- except from Israeli aggression. Marilyn

by: Sami Jadallah
Veterans Today

It is hard to believe the total silence of Obama’s White House, Clinton’s State Department, Justice Department, the FBI and Home Land Security and lack of taking legal actions against those who openly call on Israel to kill and murder unarmed American civilians aboard the Freedom Flotilla heading toward Gaza.

Dead sailors on board the USS Liberty

I can only wonder what the reaction of the White House, the Justice Department, the Homeland Security if any one citizen or resident of the United States, specially if this citizen happens to be of Arab decent or a practicing Muslim, openly call on a foreign country to kill and murder a White or Black, or an American Jew or a Democrat or a Republican of for that matter, just your average American Joe? I am sure all government departments and agencies will move against those who openly called on and advocate the murder of Americans, but this is not the case with Joshua Trevino. Calling on Israel to kill Americans is not a crime in the US.

Never expected the day will come when an American, albeit a Republican and a Tea Party member to call on a foreign country, Israel, to take out and kill Americans while the entire government agencies remain in total silence. I always thought or at least we all have been told that advocacy and calls for murder are illegal and in violation of American penal codes.
But it seems this is not the case when Israeli is a party, then all American laws goes out of the window and no one within this great country dare to speak out, not even the President of the United States who promised to protect the American people. Question will President Obama dares to take on Israel when it kills Americans? I doubt it.

President Obama will not be the first nor the last president who will succumb to the local political pressure and dare not take any actions when the lives of Americans are put in harm way, even killed by Israel. President Lyndon Johnson did just that when he failed to muster the courage as Commander in Chief and failed to order a commission of inquiry into the cold blooded murder of American sailors on board the USS Liberty in June of 67, when some 40 sailors were killed and more than 100 injured by repeated Israeli attacks on the US navy ship.

Wounded sailors aboard the USS Liberty, 1967

The former Bush administration speechwriter Joshua Trevino did just that when he twitters his calls to the IDF to shoot and kill Americans on board the Freedom Flotilla. Joshua Trevino is quoted as saying” Dear IDF, if you end shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla, well, most Americans are with that including me”. I wonder who in the hell is Joshua Trevino to claim to speak for “most Americans” who are cool with Israel killing and murdering Americans?

To those who do not know Joshua Trevino, he is a Red State American, who could not get himself to vote for someone like John McCain, who is also the co-founder of and is Vice President of Communication at Texas Public Policy Foundation and key activists in the American Tea Party. Mr. Joshua is extending his expertise and concern beyond Texas and reaching out to the Israeli state and its army to kill Americans.

It seems the White House and State Department are also “cool” with that and in fact, the State Department spokesperson gave Israeli Army, a wink perhaps a green light that it is absolutely Ok if Israel used deadly force to stop the Freedom Flotilla even if this entail the killings of American on board, just like it was OK to kill the American Furkan Dogan (19) who was killed by Israeli navy on board Freedom Flotilla One.

USS Liberty after the Israeli attack

Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson went further labeling the entire 1.5 million people of Gaza “terrorists” and warning those American on board with tough legal action stating “We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration,” Nuland said. Perhaps Victoria Nuland can enlighten us Americans and tell us when the US classified the entire population of Gaza as “terrorists”?

It would be interesting to know these American laws that forbid American civilians from carrying on humanitarian mission even when these mission are designed to break an illegal siege and blockade of a territory by a country that claims it ended its occupation.

Perhaps Israel can order Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the House of Representative to rush through Congress a law that deems Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza legal and consistent with US laws and allowing US government to prosecute those who break the siege and the blockade. You never know, any thing Israel asks for Israel always get, even if this means the justification and cold blooded murder of Americans. Israel is the only country that always gets away with killing and murdering Americans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paying Lip Service to Human Rights

Human Rights laws are vehemently protected by civilized nations (supposedly), except when it comes to the Palestinian people and their right to live in safety and dignity. Political pressure of unprecedented scale continues against people of conscience who are concerned about the well-being of those living under a brutal occupation. This is the latest attempt to silence those people.

Criminalising Palestinian solidarity - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Audacity of Hope

The inhuman Israeli siege (blockade) of the people of Gaza continues. People of conscience are diligent with their efforts to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis that is in progress. The American boat, the Audacity of Hope, will join a fleet of flotillas from 22 countries and around 1000 activists towards the end of June in an attempt to break the blockade. At this critical moment, the powers of tyranny are preparing as well.

The Israeli government has begun to ramp up its propaganda efforts, claiming the flotilla has ties to terrorism. The United States government has warned activists working against the blockade, with a State Department spokesman telling reporters earlier this month that “groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions” (State Department press briefing, 1 June 2011).

The injustice against the people of Palestine IS the provocation.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Bishop Desmond Tutu.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Moral Character of America is Worth Fighting For

The attack on the working people of this nation is coming from all directions. The media is misrepresenting what working Americans want. The money that is taken away from the poor and the disadvantaged is given to the rich in tax exemptions. Following are remarks by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, National Press Club, Washington, DC
May 20, 2011

Good morning. Thank you all for joining me here, and thank you to the National Press Club for inviting me to speak.

Friends, how can we make sense of the spectacle that's been unfolding across the American political landscape?

Politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio and a dozen other states are trying to take away workers' right to organize and bargain for a better life.

But that's not all. In state after state, politicians are attacking voting rights by imposing ID requirements, shortening early voting periods, blocking young people from voting because they're too "liberal" and even levying criminal penalties and fines for breaking arbitrary rules in the voter registration process. So it will be harder for people to vote—especially the least privileged among us. Just in Wisconsin, listen to the list of who doesn't have state-issued photo IDs that will be needed to cast a ballot under legislation that Gov. Scott Walker will sign next week: 23 percent of elderly Wisconsinites; 59 percent of Latina women; 55 percent of African American men overall; and 78 percent of African American men who are 18 to 24 years old.

Budget proposals unveiled in Washington and state capitals across our country this year revealed a despicable canvas of cruelty. In Michigan, a state senator thinks foster children should be required by law to purchase second-hand clothes. In Maine, the governor thinks more children should go to work. In North Carolina, the legislature thinks we should balance the state budget on the backs of autistic children. In Arizona, the state Senate president floats the idea of locking up protesting public employees in desert tent city jails. In New York, a billionaire mayor proposes to fire 5,000 teachers rather than tax the bonuses of the Wall Street executives who brought down the American economy.

And not just meanness. Destructiveness. A willful desire to block the road to the future. How else can you explain governors of states with mass unemployment refusing to allow high-speed rail lines to be built in their states? How else can you explain these same governors' plans to defund higher education, close schools and fire teachers, when we know that without an educated America, we have no future?

Here in Washington, the Republicans in Congress have defunded housing counselors and fuel aid for the poor, and they are blocking worker training and transportation infrastructure.

But the final outrage of these budgets is hidden in the fine print. In state after state and here in Washington, these so called fiscal hawks are actually doing almost nothing to cut the deficit. The federal budget embraced by House Republicans, for example, cuts $4.3 trillion in spending, but gives out $4.2 trillion in tax cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy individuals and corporations. Florida is gutting aid for jobless workers and using the money saved to cut already-low business taxes. At the end of the day, our governments will be in no better fiscal shape than when we started—they are just being used as a pass-through to enrich the already rich—at a time when inequality stands at historic levels.

Think about the message these budgets send: Sacrifice is for the weak. The powerful and well-connected get tax cuts.

All these incredible events should be understood as part of a single challenge. It is not just a political challenge—it's a moral challenge. Because these events signal a new and dangerous phase of a concerted effort to change the very nature of America—to turn this into an "I've got mine" nation and replace the land of liberty and justice for all with the land of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

You see, I believe the United States is not a place as much as it is an idea. For working people, the United States of America has offered, from its foundation, a promise that everyone can be full participants in national life. A promise that we the people make the rules so that hard work is rewarded with economic security and a fair share in the wealth we all help create. That promise has always been a work in progress. This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of our bloodiest war – a war that resulted in the extension of the American promise to the African Americans who did so much of the work of creating the United States.

We were the first country in the history of the world to embrace the idea that you don't have to own land to vote—that citizenship comes from where you live, not what you own or who your parents were. We were the first country to make land available to those who would work the land—in the Homestead Act. And in the modern era, when giant corporations dominated our economy, we pioneered the idea that we had a right to a voice on the job—a right made real when we came together to form unions and bargain collectively. And while Boeing and the Chamber of Commerce may not like it, the law of the land protects working people who exercise that right against any retaliation by their employers.

In the 1960s, public employees won those same rights. Working people remember that these rights were not easily won. The pivotal 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike began with two men crushed to death in a garbage truck, and ended with Martin Luther King giving his life for the cause of public workers' right to organize together.

From the beginning of this country, through our efforts and our ideas, working people have made the American Dream real. And what is that dream? It is the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules you will enjoy economic security and build a better future for your children. It is not that a few of us will be rich, but that all of us will be treated fairly, that we will look after each other, and that we will all have a share in the wealth we create together.

This spring working people are engaged in a great struggle to defend their dream. In Green Bay and Indianapolis, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and in Columbus, Ohio. And not just in the Midwest. In New York and Los Angeles, in Florida and Texas—in every corner of our nation.

This struggle began after last November's elections brought to power politicians in state capitals across the heartland who had a hidden agenda. An agenda worked out at posh resorts with the Koch Brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council and other shadowy groups. Politicians like John Kasich and Scott Walker campaigned promising to do something about jobs, only to reveal when they took office that their jobs agenda was to make them disappear. But their real passion was for eliminating the rights of working people and destroying their unions—who are standing in the way of their agenda.

In response, working people took to the streets. On April 4th, under the banner, "We are One," we came together all across America, and then we did so again on May 1st when we stood together with our immigrant brothers and sisters saying again that we truly are one.

In signs all across the rotunda in the Wisconsin state house, we proclaimed we were there to defend the principle that in America, we look after each other. One of the people who was there is here with us today, and I'd like to introduce him. Alex Hanna is a Graduate Assistant at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a co-president of the Teaching Assistants Associates of the American Federation of Teachers. Alex stood up for teachers and other public workers in Madison over the last couple of months, even as he built solidarity with workers in the Middle East. His family comes from Egypt and he strengthened links between movements for change around the world.

Thank you, Alex, for your inspiration.

Alex embodies the fact that we are not a nation of isolated individuals, we are a land of communities, of families. Our republic, our democracy, is an expression of our solidarity, our common values and our common life as a nation.

In America, firefighters rush into burning buildings every day, risking their lives to save people they have never met. Social workers care for other people's abused children, and home health workers provide care and companionship to those who need it. Every day you and I pay our Social Security taxes and Medicare, and that same money is sent out again to provide comfort and security to other people's parents and grandparents.

This is not just a matter of morality – but it also makes economic sense. And never more so than today. It will simply not be enough to beat back the Scott Walkers, the John Kasichs, and the Koch Brothers. America's economic fate depends on us coming together to educate our children, to invest in our infrastructure, to face the threat of climate change and to reverse the yawning economic inequality that threatens our future.

Let me be specific. Unemployment stands at 9%. Underemployment is at 16%. Housing prices are falling, and foreclosures remain at historic highs. Economic growth is hovering at around 2% annually—not enough to put a dent in unemployment, especially as tax cuts expire, as the Recovery Act winds down -- and state and local governments gear up for more deep cuts.

Yet instead of having a national conversation about putting America back to work to build our future, the debate here in Washington is about how fast we can destroy the fabric of our country, about breaking the promises we made to our parents and grandparents. Understand, the Ryan budget destroys jobs—it destroys almost all the jobs created during this recovery. It guts Medicare. It attacks Social Security, the one piece of our retirement security system that actually works. And now we see Speaker Boehner and his colleagues engaged in a new round of blackmail—with a ransom note that reads: "Cut Medicare, dismantle the government, destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs to fund more tax cuts for the rich, or we will cause the United States to default on its debts.

" Why is our national conversation in such a destructive place? Not because we are impoverished. We have never been richer. The American economy has never produced as much wealth as it does today. But we feel poor because the wealth in our society has flowed to a handful among us, and they and the politicians who pander to the worst instincts of the wealthy would rather break promises to our parents and grandparents and deny our children a future than pay their fair share of taxes.

America's real deficit is a moral deficit—where political choices come down to forcing foster children to wear hand-me-downs while cutting taxes for profitable corporations.

Powerful political forces are seeking to silence working people—to drive us out of the national conversation. I can think of no greater proof of the moral decay in our public life than that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would dare give a Martin Luther King Day speech hailing Dr. King at the same time that he drafted a bill to take away collective bargaining rights from sanitation workers in Wisconsin.

The ultimate goal of those who blame workers for Wall Street's economic crisis is to unravel the fabric of our common life in pursuit of greed and power.

In this environment, working people and our unions must do more than just protect our own right to a voice in the life of our nation. We must raise our voice to win a better future for all working families here in America and around the globe.

Here's what we are going to do. First, we are going to use that voice to end the Scott Walker agenda as a viable political strategy by winning recall elections in Wisconsin and citizen vetoes of destructive legislation in other states and retaking state houses.

Then we will spend the summer holding elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: Are they improving or degrading life for working families?

And moving forward, we are looking hard at how we work in the nation's political arena. We have listened hard, and what workers want is an independent labor movement that builds the power of working people—in the workplace and in political life.

Working people want a labor movement strong enough to help return balance to our economy, fairness to our tax system, security to our families and moral and economic standing to our nation. Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country.

It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside—the outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be—now, in 2012 and beyond.

We will uphold the dignity of work and restore respect for working people. In this season's political battles, teachers, nurses and firefighters have been vilified. Decent jobs with economic security have been cast as more than America's workers deserve. Low-wage, part-time, temporary, no-benefit work is being sold as the "new normal" for our economy.

We know that only a dynamic, effective movement of working people working together can reclaim the value of work. Our unions must reach out to every working person in America—to those whose jobs have been outsourced and down-sized, to carwash workers in Los Angeles, to domestic workers who have few legal rights, to freelancers and young people who have "gigs" rather than jobs. And together with the AFL-CIO's construction and manufacturing workers, pilots and painters, plumbers and public employees, bakers and others, we will be heard.

The stakes are so high, for working families, for America. Will we be a country ruled by greed, by people who would cut or take pensions away from first responders, people who would take away the fundamental human rights of our workers, who would choose tax breaks for the richest among us over a future for all of us? Or will we be a country where we choose the future, where we look out for each other, where all of us have a voice?

We'll only win investments in our future if we again embrace the idea that we are one national community. That our very identity is bound up with the promise that all of us have a voice—in the workplace, at the ballot box—and that we are responsible in a deep sense for each other. The fabric of our government, our democratic republic, is about making that responsibility for each other real.

This is the message working people have always brought to our national conversation. It is the message Alex Hanna and hundreds of thousands of others took to the streets of the Midwest this spring and that we will take to the polling places of the heartland in recall elections and in citizen veto campaigns in the coming months. And it is the message we will continue to shout this year, and next, and the next, until we are heard.

The moral character of America is worth fighting for, and that is exactly what working people are going to do in the days and months to come. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Move Over AIPAC

CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Global Exchange, Interfaith Peace-builders, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, together with over 100 peace and justice groups, are organizing a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, called “Move Over AIPAC: Building a New US Middle East Policy,” and we would like to invite you to be a part of this important national happening! Timed to coincide with the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), we will bring activists and concerned citizens from around the country to learn about the extraordinary influence AIPAC has on U.S. policy and how to strengthen an alternative that respects the rights of all people in the region.

More generally, Move Over AIPAC is a campaign that aims to wean U.S. policy away from AIPAC’s grip towards an even-handed position that respects international law and the human rights of all people in the region.

We are concerned that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has a dangerous stranglehold over U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. AIPAC’s unrelenting support for the illegal policies of the Israeli government—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—in addition to its bellicose policies across the region, especially Iran, has been devastating for Palestinians and the Middle East, including Israel. It also harms our reputation around the world and squanders $3 billion a year subsidizing the powerful Israeli military when we need that money to rebuild the United States.

There are many ways you can take action to help transition our foreign policy and bring our war $$ home. Through this website you can contact your Congressperson, sign up to join us in DC, donate to support this campaign, and take action locally.

We invite ally organizations to endorse our DC actions and campaign. Email us if your group would like to endorse.

We welcome your input and comments. Contact us here.

Fast Facts:

#1: Between the years 1949 and 2010, the United States granted $61.3 billion in military aid to Israel.

#2: A whopping $30 billion in U.S. military aid has been promised to Israel for the years 2009 to 2018.

#3: Approximately 500,000 Israeli settlers live within the occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

#4: There are approximately four million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, according to 2007 census figures compiled by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and reported in Ha’aretz.

#5: Between September 29, 2000 and August 31, 2010, 1,084 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, including 124 minors. During the same period, 6,408 Palestinians were killed by Israelis, including 1,315 minors. These statistics, reported by B’Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reflect the extreme disparity in the capacity of the two parties to inflict trauma, loss, and death through acts of violence. Israel’s military dominance is largely a result of U.S. largesse through military aid, as well as access to sophisticated U.S.-designed military technology.

#6: Weapons purchased by Israel using U.S. military aid are used against civilians in violation of U.S. laws.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Israel/Palestine: Reframe the Conflict – Change the Discourse!

Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) , will be speaking at the Steynberg Gallery on Wednesday March 3rd 2010, 1531 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, 805-547-0278, 7 p.m.
The title of the talk is "Israel/Palestine: Reframe the Conflict – Change the Discourse!"
Admission is open to the public and free.


Dr. Jeff Halper has been a peace and human rights activist for more than three decades. Born in Minnesota in the United States, he participated in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s. Halper immigrated to Israel in 1973 after attending rabbinical school and resisting military service in the Vietnam War.

In Israel, Halper taught anthropology at Haifa and Ben-Gurion Universities. His academic research has focused on the history of Jerusalem in the modern era, contemporary Israeli culture, and the Middle East conflict. He is the author of Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century. During his mandatory Israeli military service, he refused to bear arms or serve in the occupied Palestinian territories. In 1997, Halper co-founded the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) to challenge and resist the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Israel has pursued a policy of expanding its civilian population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories (which includes the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem) through settlement construction and land confiscation. At the same time, Palestinian population growth has been severely limited, confined to shrinking enclaves.

Under the guise of urban planning and civil law, the natural development of Palestinian towns and villages has been frozen by land expropriation, discrimination in planning and zoning policies, restrictions of building permits, and the demolition of Palestinian homes. According to ICAHD research, the Israeli military or civil authority has destroyed more than 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. This constitutes a massive violation of international law both by inflicting collective punishment on a civilian population, and by pursuing a goal of territorial acquisition through force.
“We think, as Israelis, that Jews and Arabs should live together,” Halper says. “Palestinians have rights of self-determination just like we have. We have to fight also for their rights. One of our slogans is ‘we refuse to be their enemies.’”

As the Coordinating Director of ICAHD, Dr. Halper has organized and led nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience against Israel’s occupation policies and authorities. He has put his own personal safety on the line, facing bulldozers in front of Palestinian homes and confronting Israeli soldiers. He also organizes Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals to help rebuild demolished Palestinian homes.

A tireless writer and speaker, Halper travels extensively to build international support for ICAHD and its international sister organizations, ICAHD-USA and ICAHD UK. He realized early on that the Israeli government did not intend for the Oslo peace process of the 1990’s to lead to the recognition of Palestinian rights. He developed the “Matrix of Control” framework that accurately predicted the course the Israeli Occupation would take as the Oslo process collapsed and Israel continued to build settlements, settler-only highways, and the Separation Wall. Dr. Halper was an early voice warning about the development of Israeli apartheid policies in the Occupied Territories, a subject on which he frequently speaks.

His book, Obstacles to Peace, is a resource manual of articles and maps on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and is published by ICAHD. Dr. Halper will be publishing An Israeli in Palestine in 2008, which follows his work against the Israeli Occupation.

For this work, the American Friends Service Committee nominated him, along with Palestinian activist Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Dr. Halper has also served on the steering committee of the United Nations Conference on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.


ICAHD is a non-profit organiation in Israel.
Registration # 58-032-757-5

ICAHD is a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. As our activists gained direct knowledge of the brutalities of the Occupation, we expanded our resistance activities to other areas - land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of "closure" and "separation," the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees and more. The fierce repression of Palestinian efforts to "shake off" the Occupation following the latest Intifada has only added urgency to our efforts.

As a direct-action group, ICAHD is comprised of members of many Israeli peace and human rights organizations. All of our work in the Occupied Territories is closely coordinated with local Palestinian organizations.

Since its founding, ICAHD's activities have extended to three interrelated spheres: resistance and protest actions in the Occupied Territories; efforts to bring the reality of the Occupation to Israeli society; and mobilizing the international community for a just peace. Our activities include:

* Resisting the demolition of Palestinian homes. ICAHD members physically block bulldozers sent to demolish homes. We also mobilize hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians to rebuild them as acts of resistance. In addition to its effectiveness as a means of raising awareness of the workings of the Occupation, house rebuilding has proven an effective vehicle of grassroots peace-making.

* Disseminating information and networking. Our familiarity with realities "on the ground" gives us special authority and insight in our frequent contacts with diplomats, fact-finding missions, the public and the media. We work closely with other peace and human rights organizations in Israel, in Palestine and internationally on campaigns to end the Occupation and secure a just peace for all. ICAHD also conducts informational tours of the Occupied Territories from a critical peace perspective, sends speakers on informational tours and participates in international conferences and gatherings.

* Providing strategic practical support to Palestinian families and communities. ICAHD aids Palestinians in filing police claims, in dealing with the Israeli authorities, in arranging and subsidizing legal assistance, and in general coping with the traumas and tribulations of life under Occupation. In this way we learn about the internal workings of the Occupation, which we then convey to the broader public. ICAHD also cooperates with other human rights organizations to present legal challenges to Israeli actions and policies in the Occupied Territories.

The Goal: A Just and Sustainable Peace

As Israelis, we believe that the only chance for a genuine peace is one that enables the Palestinians to establish what we have, a viable and truly sovereign state of their own. A just peace will also provide all the peoples of our region with the security, dignity, freedom and economic opportunities they deserve The future may witness the emergence of a regional confederation enhancing the viability of each of our societies to cope with a global reality.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gaza Freedom March

About 1400 nationals representing individuals and groups from 43 countries will join a projected number of 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza in a peaceful march to try and bring an end to the siege that has reduced the population to a virtual state of destitution and fear. The march is set for December 31st, 2009. Egypt has informed the organizers that it will not allow the marchers to enter Gaza from the Rafah border and has taken steps to stop the march, one of which is to build a series of walls and barbed wires. The organizers are vowing to continue with their plans and have issued a letter to Husni Mubarak, President of Egypt, and an open letter to his wife, reiterating their point of view and reasons. The march is scheduled to depart by 31 December from Izbet Abed Rabbo, an area devastated during last winter's Israeli assault, and head towards Erez, the crossing point to Israel at the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

The organizers are asking for signatures to their petition for the march in Gaza and for comments. They are also asking for similar activities in cities and towns around the world. The aim of the march is to point attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to push world leaders to act on pressuring Israel to end the siege and apartheid practices.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We Must Not Leave Them Alone

The Shministim are Israeli high school students who are refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories and who are being sentenced to prison for their conscientious objections. These 12th graders courageously chose prison to serving in an occupying army. Jewish Voice for Peace is republishing a letter these high school students wrote last year on Chanukah, JVFP states: "This is the message they carefully wrote together. One year later, as Shministit Or Ben-David sits in prison in Israel, and as Jews around the world prepare to celebrate the last night of Chanukah, it seems appropriate to share it with you again. We can't imagine a more important message during this festival of lights."

Dear friends and supporters,

During Chanukah the festive of lights, we, the Shministim, would like to take a moment to thank you for all you've done for us and for our struggle.

While we sit down with our families and light the first candle of the holiday, symbolizing the rebellion against an occupying army, some of us are still behind bars, denied the freedom to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones, denied the right to freedom of thought and political consciousness.

During this dark period of consecutive jail terms, military trials and attempts to break our beliefs, you were our light.

Each and every one of you who helped with the campaign, who sent a supporting letter, who sent the link of the website to a friend. You've let our struggle be heard around the world, the letters, the postcards and posters, the demonstrations, all of those actions fulfilled our wildest dreams.

We would like to thank you once again and wish you all a happy and free holiday.

in solidarity,
The Shministim

This is one of their videos

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan

by Jeremy Scahill
The Nation
23 November 2009

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."

The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi

The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It's very bare bones, and that's the point."

Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black" operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater, therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don't unless they ask."

According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"

Pakistan's Military Contracting Maze

Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. "The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets," he said. "It's not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people." Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls "Blackwater Vanilla," and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. "Good or bad, there's a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That's probably a good thing," said the source. "It's the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they're the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It's not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They're very good at what they do."

The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, "that's not entirely accurate." While he concurred with the military intelligence source's description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral's main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.

A spokesperson for the US State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. "We cannot help you," said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. "You'll have to contact the companies directly." Blackwater's Corallo said the company has "no operations of any kind" in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.

According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. "Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship," he said. "They've met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another." Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.
According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral's forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry's paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as "frontier scouts"). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater "is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral's folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they're having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they're executing the job," he said. "You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas." He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. "You've got BW guys that are assisting... and they're all going to want to go on the jobs--so they're going to go with them," he said. "So, the things that you're seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that--in some of those cases, you're going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house." Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, 'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work."

The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, "There's no real oversight. It's not really on people's radar screen."

In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by "a private American security contractor." The statement said, "Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments."

Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.

In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at "hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company's contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft." In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.

The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."

The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."

The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality." He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that. It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. "The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?" asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. "Let's forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren't about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory."

JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney's Extra Special Force

Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal's elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war--which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan--there is a concomitant rise in JSOC's power and influence within the military structure. "I don't see how you can escape that; it's just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it's inevitable, I think," Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, "I'm alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command," under which JSOC operates. "That's backward. But that's essentially what we have today."

From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater's 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators--which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater's alleged contracts with JSOC.

Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. "The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they've been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don't," said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. "They're known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they've got the experience. They're very valuable."

"They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia," said the military intelligence source. "They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they're talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It's a ridiculous revolving door."

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. "What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing," said Colonel Wilkerson. "That's dangerous, that's very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don't tell the theater commander what you're doing."

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. "I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good," says Wilkerson. "I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions." He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld "built up initially because Rumsfeld didn't get the responsiveness. He didn't get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse's mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch--read: Cheney and Rumsfeld--wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier."

Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. "When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn't tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, 'Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?' So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him--we rendered him home."

As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using "reprogrammed" funds "without explicit congressional authority or appropriation," according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA's authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end "near total dependence on CIA." Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations...before publication" of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.

The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the "darkest acts" in part to keep them concealed from Congress. "Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress," said the source. "They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: 'Preparing the Battlefield.'"
The significance of the flexibility of JSOC's operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA's is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress," she said. "If they are not, that is a violation of the law."

Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan

For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater's alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater's operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved--almost from the beginning of the "war on terror"--with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater's presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, "Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan." In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater's rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater "provides security for a US-backed aid project" in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. "We have no contracts in Pakistan," Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. "We've been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there."

Reports of Blackwater's alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. "The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar," he said. "That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities." Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are "wildly incorrect," saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has "found refuge from potential U.S. attacks" in Karachi "with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service."

In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan's intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi's Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, "The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in."

The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired "bungalows" in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate originally established "for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan." Its motto is: "Home for Defenders." The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.

The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations." Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members of the International Criminal Court."

If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater's alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. "Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we're going to go as a nation that are dangerous," he said. "It's as simple as that."