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WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

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The secret wars of the CIA – II

The immediately preceding post talked about the recently terminated “kill or capture” covert program which the CIA ran for eight years without the knowledge of the U.S. Congress. It can be viewed here.

This post outlines the top-secret MKUltra program that the CIA ran during the 1950s and a large part of the 1960s, uncovered later by the New York Times and investigated subsequently by the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission. The CIA faced a lot of congressional ire following the disclosure and attempted hampering the process of investigations by destroying a large collection of documentation related to the program at the behest of then CIA Director Richard Helms. Investigations, nonetheless were carried out often relying on sworn testimonies and a retrieved cache of documents that survived the purge ordered by Helms. It is believed that the CIA still conducts some experiments and programs related to the MKUltra project although not at the same scale as was back in the time of its inception and research! However, these claims cannot be verified!

MKUltra was the code name given to a series of top secret mind control experiments devised by the CIA during the 1950s aimed at understanding the human mind and its functioning under the influence of psychotropic substances. It was commissioned into existence by then CIA Director Allen Dulles and headed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who was a Jewish American military psychiatrist and chemist. Sidney’s obsession with the program was so much that he quickly earned the titles “Black Sorcerer” and the “Dirty Trickster.” At the time, it was widely believed in the CIA that U.S. Prisoners of War (PoWs) were interrogated by mind control techniques by the Soviets, the Chinese and the North Koreans as a result of which the need for a similar program in the United States was felt.

The program was illegal ab-initio, owing to the facts that it neither had the approval of the U.S. Congress nor the consent of those who were made to participate in it, many of whom met with death or permanent incapacitation as a result of what they were subject to.

The CIA poured millions of dollars into this program with the objective of researching the many methods involved in ‘tweaking’ the mind! Budgets for this elaborate program were of course secretive and unofficial with the program director being assigned six percent of the CIA operating budget. It is estimated that at least $10 million USD was spent on the program.

This ominous program was conducted with some of the most infamous goals in mind. A document pertinent to the project outlines the the size and range of the effort, the process involving a comprehensive study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:

1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad-hoc basis.
17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

To accomplish what the CIA believed they could via MKUltra, an assortment of drugs were used, some of them being heroin, morphine, temazepa, mescaline, psilocybin, scopolamine, marijuana, alcohol, sodium pentothal and most prominently LSD, which dominated many MKUltra sub-programs! Several people suffered massive and permanently irreparable conditions as a result of these experiments and surprisingly no remarkable breakthrough was made despite massive investments and persistence, or so it is publicly believed!

Almost a year before the New York Times broke the story in the winter of 1974, Director Richard Helms abruptly ordered documentation pertaining to the program to be destroyed hence making large amounts of information permanently unavailable to the U.S. Congress. Following the expose on the program, the U.S. Congress created investigation bodies in the form of the Church Committee and the presidential Rockefeller Commission. Although reports of these commissions revealed little beyond what was already publicly known, they created a tight spot for the CIA particularly when it came to be known that subjects under the program were induced into taking part without their consent and knew little or nothing about what they were participants of! Senator Frank Church, who chaired the Church Committee, concluded that “prior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects” and noted that the “experiments sponsored by these researchers call into question the decision by the agencies not to fix guidelines for experiments.” This prompted President Gerald Ford to issue an executive order prohibiting “experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject

Following the news-break surrounding MKUltra, reports of many branches of the US Military conducting similar experiments continued to surface, the most prominent of them being that of Harold Blauer, a professional tennis player in New York and Frank Olson, a U.S. Army biochemist, both of whom died as a result of experiments conducted on them.

It is believed that 44 American colleges or universities, 15 research foundations or chemical or pharmaceutical companies, including Sandoz (currently Novartis) and Eli Lilly, 12 hospitals or clinics (in addition to those associated with universities), and 3 prisons participated in the MKULTRA program making it the most elaborated colluded yet secretive programs of the CIA and perhaps the most damaging of all!

The full extent of information and damages caused by the MKUltra program will never be known as it is still designated ‘top-secret’ and much of the documents related to the program do not exist. However, there is no doubting the fact that it became one of the most controversial scandals that the CIA was embroiled in!

Ironically, the entrance of the CIA loudly boasts a verse from Gospel of John 8:32, The Holy Bible which reads “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

With inputs from Wikipedia

The secret wars of the CIA – I

Once again the Central Intelligence Agency has come under fire, this time for not disclosing its secret “kill or capture” counter terrorism program to the U.S. Congress! As an independent U.S. Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers, the CIA is bound by statute to disclose all of its covert operations programs, in minimal measure, to the U.S. Congress and the Senate Intelligence Committee, neither of which this time around were aware of the existence of such a program which was put together by the Bush Administration eight years ago! Incumbent Director, Leon Panetta who became aware of this program sometime late in June, ordered its termination and proceeded to inform the Congress of its erstwhile existence and subsequent termination. As required by Title 50 of the United States Code Chapter 15, Sub Chapter III, “when it becomes necessary to limit access to covert operations findings that could affect vital interests of the U.S., as soon as possible, the President must report at a minimum to the Gang of Eight.”

For several years the CIA has had a very turbulent relationship with the U.S. Congress, often caught concealing many covert operations programs from the latter although mandated to disclose in minimal measure any and all activities undertaken under the ambit of national security. What is surprising is the level of secrecy surrounding the currently terminated program even within the CIA leadership! It is significant to note that former Director Gen. Michael Hayden did not inform his successor of the existence of such a program despite it being very highly likely of his affirmed knowledge of its existence, given his close proximity to the Bush Administration, the President and his Vice-President in particular.

As was believed during the news break of the existence of this program, it is now becoming increasingly clear that former US Vice President Dick Cheney directed, more than once, the CIA not to inform the US Congress about the so called “kill or capture” program. Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein has stated that “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago, I believe it was on the 24th of June, and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.” Reacting to comments on the CIA’s delinquent attitude, House Intelligence subcommittee Chairwoman Representative Jan Schakowsky stated that “It’s not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress.”

While the CIA leadership has been proactive in informing the Congress this time, it is highly unlikely that this incident will fade away without serious implications for the CIA and the White House. In the recent future, the Congress is likely to express support for the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill including a provision that would require the President to inform more than 40 members of Congress about covert operations. While the current administration has threatened to veto the final version of the bill should it include such a provision, it should be noted that mid last year, the Fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Bill was approved by House majority containing stipulations that 75% of money sought for covert actions would be withheld until all members of the House Intelligence panel were briefed on sensitive covert actions.

Now that the affair is out in the open, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Silvestre Reyes has announced that he considers an investigation into alleged CIA violations of the National Security Act, which requires with limited exception that Congress be informed of covert activities. Apparently he has support from fellow representatives who given the long standing Congressional-CIA relationship, the bitter acrimony and hatred involved, will not let the latter go off the hook, without some hard hitting at least!

This is a two-part series outlining CIA’s covert operations programs that have continued to operate without the knowledge of the US Congress. While this post outlines the recent disclosure of DCI Leon Panetta, the upcoming post will outline some of CIA’s most notorious covert programs that have brought it considerable controversies to court!

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