#. 84. May 5, 2003
U.S. TROOPS FIRE ON IRAQI PROTESTERS--AGAIN!
IRAQ'S BIN LADEN CONNECTION--IT'S BECHTEL!!
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: WANTED FOR WAR CRIMES!!!
MEANWHILE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE:
BIG BROTHER SHUTS DOWN MUSLIM-AMERICANS' CREDIT CARDS, BANK ACCOUNTS
*OXY OIL CO. IMPLICATED IN COLOMBIA BLOODBATH
*ANTI-WAR ACTIVISTS FACE REPRESSION IN MEXICO
*ISLAMIC TERRORISTS IN VENEZUELA?
*CUBA NEXT IN U.S. GUN-SIGHTS?
CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: YELLOW
By Bill Weinberg
with Subuhi Jiwani, Special Correspondent
THE IRAQ FRONT
1. U.S. Troops Fire on Protesters--Again
2. Bush Declares "Victory"; Allies Carve Up Suffering Iraq
3. Hysterical Irony Department: Rummy Does Baghdad
4. Powell Plays Good Cop in Damascus
5. Gen. Franks: Wanted for War Crimes
6. Dollar vs. Euro Shadow War Behind Iraq Occupation?
7. U.K. Advisor: It's the Oil, Stupid!
8. WTO Architect to Oversee Iraqi Agriculture
9. Christian Fundamentalists to Produce Iraqi TV
10. Jordan Disses Chalabi
11. "Saddam Letter" Urges Resistance
12. U.S.-Iran Shadow Struggle for Shia Iraq
13. Violence Follows Earthquake in Turkish Kurdistan
14. Central Command to Evacuate Saudi Arabia
15. Did U.K. Rein in "Shock And Awe"?
16. Computers Stolen in Raids on U.K. Anti-War Group
THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. Violence Answers Abbas' Call for Moderation
2. 700,000 Strike in Israel
3. "Jewish Cabal" Behind British Foreign Policy?
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Taliban Leader Pledges Jihad
2. Vietnamization of Afghanistan?
3. Massacres in Northern Afghanistan
4. HRW: No Press Freedom in Afghanistan
5. Al-Qaeda Big Arrested in Karachi: Authorities
1. Labor Unrest in Nigeria's Petro-Zone
2. Ethnic Warfare Disrupts Nigeria Elections
THE ANDEAN FRONT
1. Oxy Petroleum Complicit in Colombia Massacre: Lawsuit
2. Islamic Terrorists in Venezuela: SouthCom
THE MEXICO FRONT
1. Anti-War Activists Face Death Threats
2. Tarahumara Tree-Defender Framed on Weapons Charges
3. Personal Data on 65 Million Mexicans Sold to U.S. Feds
1. Cuba Next?
2. Vieques Free at Last--But Toxic Legacy Persists
1. North Korea: Sanctions "Green Light for War"
2. Two Counties Pull Out of Indian Point Emergency Plan
NEW YORK CITY
1. Workers Protest Austerity
2. WTC Site Redevelopment Plan Still Mired in Controversy
3. 9-11 Litigation Grinds On
THE WAR AT HOME
1. High Court Approves Detention Pending Deportation
2. Big Brother Turns Off Muslim-Americans' Credit Cards
3. Big Brother Shuts Down Muslim-Americans' Bank Accounts
4. CIA, Pentagon Seek Domestic Spying Powers
5. Kucinich Blasts Bush
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. White House Suppresses Report on 9-11 Intelligence Lapses
2. Bechtel's Bin Laden Connection
3. Official Islamophobia Advances at Pentagon
THE IRAQ FRONT
1. U.S. TROOPS FIRE ON PROTESTERS--AGAIN
On April 28, US troops opened fire on a group of Iraqi demonstrators in Falluja, around 30 miles west of Baghdad, killing at least 13 and wounding 75 others. Al-Jazeera TV said the troops fired after someone in the crowd threw a stone. The protesters were demonstrating against the US military presence in Iraq, al-Jazeera said. US Central Command in Qatar said the troops shot at armed Iraqis who had fired on the soldiers. But witnesses said that the demonstrators, who had been protesting at a local school, were not armed. (UK Guardian, April 29)
On April 30, US troops again opened fire on protesters in Fallujah, killing at least one and wounding 16 others. The violence erupted as 1,000 residents marching down Fallujah's main street stopped in front of a battalion headquarters of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, in a compound formerly occupied by Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The protesters carried signs condemning the Monday shootings. Protesters reportedly started throwing rocks at the compound and troops opened fire, scattering the crowd. Maj. Michael Marti, an intelligence officer for the division's 2nd Brigade, said soldiers in a passing convoy opened fire when rocks were thrown at them and a vehicle window was broken by what was believed to be automatic weapons fire. Protesters later returned to pick up the wounded. Fallujah is a Sunni Muslim city and Baath Party stronghold. (AP, April 30)
The incidents come less than two weeks after US troops opened fire on protesters in Mosul, killing at least ten. See WW3 REPORT #82
In an ironic development, a few hundred Iraqi Communists celebrated May Day by marching in the Fardus Square--where crowds pulled down a huge bronze statue of Saddam Hussein after US troops took the city . (BBC, May 1)
See WW3 REPORT # 81
2. BUSH DECLARES "VICTORY"; ALLIES CARVE UP SUFFERING IRAQ
On May 1, President George Bush addressed troops on the aircraft carrier
Abraham Lincoln returning home from the Persian Gulf, calling the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein "one victory in a War on Terror." (NYT, May
In the following days, the US announced that post-war Iraq will be divided into three zones that will come under US, British and Polish command, with six European nations among the ten contributing troops for the "international stability force." US, with some 135,000 troops in Iraq, is to reduce that number by over 100,000 in the next four months, leaving only a division to control Baghdad.
Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Albania, Bulgaria and Ukraine have all committed troops. All forces will be under the command of US Gen. Tommy Franks. Australia--the third leg of the US-UK "coalition"--does not want to send peacekeepers, and is expected to retain only a small specialist presence in the country. France, Germany and Russia, which led international opposition to the war, are excluded.
State Department official Paul Bremer has reportedly been chosen to take over from Gen. Jay Garner as chief administrator of the occupation. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is said to be unhappy with the move. "Jay Garner is doing a truly outstanding job for the nation. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat untrue and mischievous," Rumsfeld said. "The White House has made no announcement regarding other appointments." He declined to comment on Bremer's planned role, saying: "I could, but I won't." (Australia Herald Sun, May 3)
Oxfam and eight other aid organizations have signed a joint demand for the UN to be given a central role in overseeing Iraq's transition to a new government. UNESCO officials in Iraq say that basic services such as sewage and waste disposal are not being provided, resulting in outbreaks of disease. (Glasgow Sunday Herald May 4) Morten Rostrup, president of Doctors Without Borders said Baghdad's 34 hospitals are still in chaos after being looted and left without power and water. "People are suffering and dying due to this," he said. "I find it very surprising there did not seem to be any plan for assessing health needs after the war." (Newsday, May 4) Said Oxfam director Barabara Stocking: "The occupying power has to provide the security and they are not. That's their legal obligation under the Geneva Convention." (BBC, May 3)
Schools opened again last week for the first time since the bombing began, but few students showed up. The streets remain in chaos, strewn with weeks of rotting garbage as well as war wreckage. (NYT, May 4) Four were killed and several badly injured May 1 when a Baghdad gas station exploded into flames--apparently after local Iraqis celebrating restoration of electricity fired in the air, accidentally hitting a petrol tanker. Doctors fighting to save lives had to work in the dark when the electricity went down again that night. (Newsday, May 2)
3. HYSTERICAL IRONY DEPARTMENT: RUMMY DOES BAGHDAD
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad aboard a commando troop plane dubbed "Let's Roll" April 30 to meet with his generals in one of Saddam Hussein's opulent palaces. Rumsfeld toured the city in a 21-vehicle motorcade, stopping to inspect power plants recently been brought back to life by US military engineers. On one leg of the tour, he wore a flak jacket over his blazer and tie and put on a helmet. In an address aimed at the Iraqi people, he warned that foreign fighters "are seeking to hijack your country for their own purposes"--apparently without any irony. "Please help remove the threat by approaching coalition forces with any information you may have about the activities and the whereabouts of any foreign fighters in your area." Rumsfeld added: "Iraq belongs to you. The coalition has no intention of owning or running Iraq."
Jay Garner, administrative leader of the occupation, boasted that electricity has been restored to 50% of Baghdad and water to 65%. Said Garner: "Damn fellas, we ought to be beating our chests every morning. We ought to look in the mirror and get proud and suck in our bellies and stick out our chests and say, 'Damn, we're Americans'-- and smile." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 1)
4. POWELL PLAYS GOOD COP IN DAMASCUS
Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Damascus May 3, and applauded his government for closing the offices of terrorist groups. Although Powell did not name the groups, an aide identified them as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. (NYT, May 4) However, the next day, Powell's rhetoric turned more bellicose as he warned Syria that there will be consequences if it does not adopt to the Middle East's "new environment." (BBC, May 4)
Meanwhile, Lebanon's government reportedly rebuffed Powell's call to replace Hezbollah militias with Lebanese forces in the south of the country. An-Nahar, a leading independent newspaper, reported that President Emile Lahoud told Powell in Beirut May 3 that Hezbollah is a "legal political party" whose guerrilla war helped end Israel's 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon . (AP, May 4)
See also WW3 REPORT #81
5. GEN. FRANKS: WANTED FOR WAR CRIMES
Iraqi civilians are preparing a complaint to present in the Belgium courts accusing US commander Gen. Tommy Franks and other Pentagon officials of war crimes. The complaint accuses US forces of the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians, bombing a Baghdad marketplace, the shooting of an ambulance, and failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals. Brussels attorney Jan Fermon is representing some ten Iraqis who say they were victims or eyewitnesses to the atrocities . (Washington Times, April 28)
See also WW3 REPORT #79
The web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead. Each incident is listed separately, noting the location, number dead, weaponry used and media source. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 2,197 and the maximum at 2,670.
See also WW3 REPORT #83
6. DOLLAR VS. EURO SHADOW WAR BEHIND IRAQ OCCUPATION?
Carmelo Ruiz Marrero, writing for the Puerto Rico weekly Claridad April 25, identified one possible imperative behind the US drive to topple Saddam Hussein: since November 2000, Iraq had been conducting oil sales in euros rather than dollars. While Iraq was the only OPEC member to do so, the move is apparently under consideration by fellow OPEC member Venezuela, whose populist leader Hugo Chavez is seeking to expand markets beyond the US, which is hostile to his regime. Last April, an OPEC official said the organization had no plans to accept euros for oil, but left open the possibility that the move might be contemplated in the future. "In other words," writes Ruiz, the Iraq campaign is "an economic war between the United States and European Union, with Iraq as the political-military ball."
7. U.K. ADVISOR: IT'S THE OIL, STUPID!
Sir Jonathan Porritt, head of the UK's Sustainable Development Commission, which advises Prime Minister Tony Blair on ecological issues, said the prospect of winning access to Iraqi oil was "a very large factor'' in the US-UK decision to attack Iraq. "I don't think the war would have happened if Iraq didn't have the second-largest oil reserves in the world,'' Porritt said in a TV interview. (Bloomberg, May 1)
The New York Times reported April 30 that at a meeting between Gary Vogler, an officer in the US reconstruction team, and two of Iraq's deputy oil ministers, Mazeb Muhammed Ali Jumaa and Hussein Suliman al-Hadithy, in the still-darkened halls of the Oil Ministry, the deputies were warned not to take any actions without the prior approval of occupation authorities.
See also WW3 REPORT #83
8. WTO ARCHITECT TO OVERSEE IRAQI AGRICULTURE
Dan Amstutz, newly appointed to oversee reconstruction of Iraqi agriculture, is a former senior executive of Cargill, the world's biggest grain exporter, and served in the Reagan administration as a negotiator in the Uruguay Round of world trade talks which gave birth to the World Trade Organization. Kevin Watkins, policy director for the international aid group Oxfam, predicted Amstutz would "arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric", and seek to dump cheap US grain on the Iraqi market rather than encourage the country to rebuild its once-vital agricultural sector. "Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," Watkins said. "This guy is uniquely well-placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market--but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country." (UK Observer, April 27)
9. CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS TO PRODUCE IRAQI TV
The new Arabic-language satellite TV news station for Iraq is being produced in a studio--Grace Digital Media--controlled by rabidly pro-Israel fundamentalist Christians. Grace Digital Media is led by evangelical millionaire Cheryl Reagan, whose empire also includes Grace News Network. The network recently produced a documentary entitled "Israel: Divine Destiny" which was screened at the National Press Club in September 2002. The film is about "Israel's destiny and the United States' role in that destiny," according to Grace News Network. According to its web site, Grace News Network is "dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's presence in the world today." It proclaims: "Grace News Network will be reporting the current secular news, along with aggressive proclamations that will 'change the news' to reflect the Kingdom of God and its purposes." The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which runs Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and the Arabic-language Radio Sawa, has contracted a Grace Digital studio for the Iraq broadcasts.
( Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman on Essential.org).
10. JORDAN DISSES CHALABI
Jordan's government has harshly condemned Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress who is seeking a leading role in post-war Iraq. Foreign Minister Marwan al-Muasher predicted that the long-exiled Chalabi, who was flown into Iraq by the Pentagon, would not be the choice of the Iraqi people to head a post-Saddam government. "Ahmad Chalabi is a divisive character," he said in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press. "I think if the Iraqis are given a free choice, he would not emerge as the leader of Iraq. If he is pushed as the leader of Iraq, he will be seen as a U.S. agent." In a separate interview on CNN, King Abdullah of also questioned Chalabi's credibility. "I would imagine that you would want somebody who suffered alongside the Iraqi people. This particular gentleman I think left Iraq when he was 11 or seven, what contact does he have with the people on the street?"
In Baghdad, Chalabi retored to CNN: "This is largely uninformed. Thousands of my countrymen came to visit me in Baghdad. There is no such feeling. People are happy. They congratulate me on helping persuade the United States to come and liberate Iraq."
Jordanian courts convicted Chalabi in absentia in 1992 on fraud and embezzlement charges after the 1989 collapse of the Bank of Petra which he founded and ran. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but was not extradited from Britain. (Reuters, April 27)
See also WW3 REPORT #83
11. "SADDAM LETTER" URGES RESISTANCE
A "Saddam letter" letter faxed to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi urged Iraqis to rise up against the "infidel, criminal, killer and cowardly occupier." It was dated April 28, the day of Saddam Hussein's 66th birthday. The letter urged unity against the US, saying the only issue now is that of occupation, and Iraqis should "not trust those who talk about the Sunnis and the Shias." There are "no priorities other than the expulsion of the infidel, criminal, murderous and cowardly occupier", it said. "The day of liberation and victory will come", the letter continues, and "right will triumph this time, like it does every time, and the coming days are going to be more beautiful." Said the paper's editor, Abdul Bari Atwan: "We can't verify it because we don't know where he is, he is on the run. I have seen his signature before and it looks like it. I think it is authentic." (BBC, April 30)
12. U.S.-IRAN SHADOW STRUGGLE FOR SHIA IRAQ
While Iran may be seeking to extend its Shia-based revolution into Iraq, one optimistic soul believes a pro-U.S. Iraq may spark the Iranian counter-revolution--pulling Iran's Shi'ites away from the radical ayatollahs. In an April 29 New York Times op-ed, Reuel Marc Gerecht, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, juxtaposes Iraq's "revolutionary clerics" like Muqtada al-Sadr and Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim against those such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani "who accept the creation of a pluralistic, secular democracy under American guidance." Writes Gerecht: "United States officials can resist the radical factions while also being careful not to run roughshod over the duties and prerogatives of the traditional clergy. Washington must be willing, however, to exercise decisive force to curtail those who seek to sabotage the foundations of liberal democracy. If the Iranians are financing their preferred clerics, then we must do so as well. Above all, America must hold its ground until democratic institutions take hold. If it is patient, the odds are decent that Iraqi Shi'ites will support democratic government. If they do so, they may bury forever, in both Iraq and Iran, the spirit of Ayatollah Khomeini."
The Times reported April 29 that the US military had signed a peace accord with the People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian guerilla group which Saddam Hussein had sponsored and is also on the US terrorist list. The accord comes two weeks after US air strikes on the group's Iraq bases--and raises the possibility that Washington may clandestinely adopt the group as a pawn against Tehran. See WW3 REPORT #82
The Times also said it was unclear whether the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Tehran-sponsored Shi'ite group with an active armed wing, had attended an April 29 meeting of Iraqi factions in Baghdad brokered by US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. At the meeting it was agreed that a conference would be held in one month to determine the shape of Iraq's new government. SCIRI had boycotted previous US-brokered meetings. See WW3 REPORT #81
Press accounts confirmed that Abdel Majid al-Khoei, the Shi'ite cleric beaten to death by militants in Najaf last month, had received $13 million from the CIA. One hundred-dollar bills apparently fell from his cloak as he was being beaten and stabbed. (Newsday, May 2)
For more on the Shi'ite factions, see WW3 REPORT #83
For more on the American Enterprise Institute, see WW3 REPORT #65
13. VIOLENCE FOLLOWS EARTHQUAKE IN TURKISH KURDISTAN
On May 1, a 6.4 earthquake centered in the town of Bingol in Turkish Kurdistan left thousands homeless, over 125 dead and at least a thousand more missing--including over 30 children in a government-built school dormitory, still trapped under rubble with hope fading fast that any may be alive. Angered by slow and inadequate aid efforts, hundreds of local Kurds took to the streets in the aftermath of the quake, hurling stones at army troops, who fired into the air to disperse crowds. (Newsday, May 4)
Turkish leaders are clearly worried about unrest among the Kurds--and about the example set by Kurdish self-rule across the border in Iraq. On April 30, when US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FLA), senior member of the House International Relations Committee and co-chair of the Caucus on US-Turkish Relations, met with leading politicians in Istanbul, MP Onur Oymen reportedly protested to him that the sign at the Iraqi border reads "Welcome to Kurdistan" rather than "Welcome to Iraq"--and demanded that US forces change it. Wexler reportedly responded "That is a good idea, I will take it with me to Washington." Turkish officials also protest that Kurdish authorities in Iraq have issued their own passport stamps reading "Kurdistan." (KurdishMedia.com, April 30)
14. CENTRAL COMMAND TO EVACUATE SAUDI ARABIA
The Pentagon's Central Command announced that its major air operations center for the Persian Gulf region is to shift from Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base to al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar over the next months. (NYT, April 28).
The move comes as many in the region predict a struggle within OPEC between Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to raise global oil prices, and occupied Iraq. See WW3 REPORT #80
15. DID U.K. REIN IN "SHOCK AND AWE"?
The London Times reported May 2 that "Britain played a defining role in blocking an American plan to open the Iraq war with up to six days of "shock and awe" air-strikes on Baghdad." Citing "defense sources," the paper claims the Pentagon cut the planned bombing campaign in half after Air Marshal Brian Burridge, commander of British Forces in the Persian Gulf, argued that it would have disastrous political consequences.
See also WW3 REPORT #78
16. COMPUTERS STOLEN IN RAIDS ON U.K. ANTI-WAR GROUP
THE PALESTINE FRONT
Three computers have been stolen in two separate raids on the London office of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a leading anti-war group. Computers containing research, future plans and the names and address of CND members and Parliamentary contacts were taken from offices on north London's Holloway Road, over one weekend in April. CND officials said other valuable goods were not touched. Said one CND spokesperson: "The police commented that the break-in was very suspicious and unusual in its execution, not like any normal burglary they attended." (BBC, May 1)
1. VIOLENCE ANSWERS ABBAS' CALL FOR MODERATION
On April 29, hours after new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
(nom de guerre Abu Mazen) pledged to rein in militants, a new suicide
martyr operation claimed three lives and injured 50 in a Tel Aviv seaside
bar. For the first time, it appears that the martyr was not Palestinian.
Israeli authorities said the attack was carried out by Asif Mohammed
Hanif, 21, who carried a British
passport listing his place of birth as Bhowani, India. Another British
passport holder, England-born Omar Khan Sharif, said to be his accomplice,
fled from the scene after his bomb failed to explode. (BBC, May 3)
On May 1, Israel retaliated, launching troop raids on Gaza City targets
to be Hamas strongholds, leaving 12 dead, including two children. At
their funeral procession the following day, Palestinians shouted "You,
Abu Mazen, are a collaborator of Israel and America." (NYT May 3)
Abbas' rise to power was accompanied by much official optimism that Israel and Palestine can finally move forward on the "road map to peace" being drawn up by the UN-US-EU-Russia "Qaurtet"--which would require Israel to halt settlement of the Occupied Territories in exchange for security guarantees. But it isn't just Hamas that is suspicious of the "road map." Geoffrey Aronson of the Foundation for Middle East Peace told the Financial Times May 1: "If you look at the road map, what penalty does Israel pay if it doesn't freeze the settlements? The road map calls for monitoring but there is no dearth of information. None of the quartet members intends to carry out intrusive enforcement." He posed as an alternative model the evacuation of 5,000 settlers from the occupied Sinai Peninsula after the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
See also WW3 REPORT #83
2. 700,000 STRIKE IN ISRAEL
Schools, transportation and public services ground to a halt in Israel April 30 as 700,000 workers began an open-ended strike to protest spending cuts and mass firing imposed by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The restructure to a free-market system and shrinking of the public sector comes during one of the longest recessions in Israel's 55-year history. Still, Israelis have fared far better in the same period than Palestinians, whose economy has shrunk by nearly half over the past three years. (NYT, May 1)
3. "JEWISH CABAL" BEHIND BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY?
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Tam Dalyell, one of Britain's most senior and respected Labor Party MPs, accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of being "unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers." Dalyell named Lord Michael Levy, Blair's personal envoy to the Middle East, New Labor ideologue Peter Mandelson and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. While Levy is an observant Jew, neither Mandelson (whose father was Jewish) nor Straw (who is said to have Jewish ancestry) considers himself Jewish. Dalyell told the Sunday Telegraph: "I am fully aware that one is treading on cut glass on this issue and no one wants to be accused of anti-Semitism, but if it is a question of launching an assault on Syria or Iran...then one has to be candid." (Jerusalem Post, May 4)
See also WW3 REPORT #77
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. TALIBAN LEADER PLEDGES JIHAD
In a telephone interview with Reuters from a secret location, a man purporting to be Mullah Mohammad Hasan Rehmani, former Taliban governor of Kandahar and a close associate of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said: ''The Taliban will continue their jihad and struggle for peace, implementation of Islamic Sharia law, and against America and its agents... The jihad will continue as American troops are occupying Afghanistan.'' Afghan officials say Rehmani fled to Pakistan with many senior Taliban leaders after the regime was ousted. (Rueters, BBC, May 4)
See also WW3 REPORT #82
2. VIETNAMIZATION OF AFGHANISTAN?
The number of US soldiers killed in Afghanistan since operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001 is now 30. But not a single soldier was killed as the result of hostile action in the first three months of the main offensive. The frequency of casualties has risen ominously, and in April alone four soldiers were killed. Writes journalist Ian Mather in Afghanistan:
"In private, US special forces officers are now saying that Afghanistan is in danger of developing into another Vietnam. They see ominous parallels between the heavy-handed attempts at 'pacification' which are alienating Afghan villagers and similar ham-fisted actions that turned the Vietnamese against the Americans."
(The Scotsman, May 4)
See also WW3 REPORT # 24
3. MASSACRES IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
The UN mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission issued a joint statement condemning the summary execution of 38 civilians in fighting between Taliban forces and the troops of local governor Gul Muhammad Khan in Badghis province. Homes and shops were reportedly looted by Muhammad Khan's forces in Akazi village. Local forces pursuing Taliban-loyal warlord Juma Khan are also accused of executing 26 prisoners. (NYT, April 28)
Fighting between government forces and Taliban guerillas in northern Afghanistan has spilled over into ethnic violence in which Tajik militias allied with the government are attacking Pashtun civilians. See WW3 REPORT # 49
4. HRW: NO PRESS FREEDOM IN AFGHANISTAN
Attacks and threats against Afghan journalists have increased sharply in recent weeks, Human Rights Watch said May 2, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day. "Press freedom in Afghanistan is under assault," said John Sifton, a researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "Army, police and intelligence forces are delivering death threats and arresting Afghan journalists, effectively silencing them." Many of the threats and arrests have occurred after journalists criticized cabinet members in the Afghan government, including Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Minister of Education Younis Qanooni; and leading political figures in Kabul such as the former president Burhanuddin Rabbani. HRW said many of the threats are delivered by members of the Amniat-i-Melli, the intelligence arm of the Afghan government, on behalf of the political organization Shurai-Nazar, a loosely coordinated group of former Mujahedeen parties. "Powerful people in Kabul are using their cronies in security forces to try to silence their critics," Sifton said. (HRW press release, May 2)
5. AL-QAEDA BIG ARRESTED IN KARACHI: AUTHORITIES
Pakistani police announced the capture of Walid Mohammed bin Attash, AKA Tawfiq bin Attash, a high-level al-Qaeda operative believed responsible for 2000 attack on USS Cole in Yemen, and allegedly linked to the 9-11 attacks. He was reportedly photographed by the CIA at a January 2000 Kuala Lumpur meeting with Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, two of the 9-11 hijackers. Bin Attash, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, was arrested in Karachi with five others. (Financial Times, May 1)
1. LABOR UNREST IN NIGERIA'S PETRO-ZONE
US oil drilling contractor Transocean Inc. announced May 4 it had evacuated foreign hostages freed after being held on offshore rigs by striking Nigerian workers for over two weeks. The first of about 60 former captives docked safely in the eastern Nigerian oil hub of Port Harcourt and were driven away in waiting vehicles. The boats arrived from the M.G. Hulme, one of four rigs operated by Transocean. Some 400 people were working on the rigs when they were seized. Nearly 100 foreign workers, including 35 Britons and 17 US citizens, were held on four rigs since April 16 when workers began a strike to protest the dismissal of five union executives. The strikers agreed to start freeing their captives after talks convened by the Nigeria Labour Congress at the request of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Hulme is on contract to TotalFinaElf and the other three are drilling for Royal Dutch/Shell. (Reuters, May 4)
See also WW3 REPORT #78
2. ETHNIC WARFARE DISRUPTS NIGERIA ELECTIONS
THE ANDEAN FRONT
Violence and charges of ballot fraud marred Nigerian legislative elections May 3, as a second day of gunfights between ethnic militias and the army in the southern oil city of Warri prevented citizens from casting ballots. Ethnic Ijaw militants in speedboats engaged the military in gun battles outside the city's naval base. The Ijaws boycotted the elections, accusing President Olusegun Obasanjo's government of colluding with rivals to alter electoral boundaries and weaken their voting power. Independent election monitors also reported incidents of armed thugs stealing ballot boxes in southeastern Anambra State. Officials reported a very low turnout across much of Africa's most populous nation. But Nigeria's electoral commission expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the vote. (AP, May 3)
1. OXY PETROLEUM COMPLICIT IN COLOMBIA MASSACRE: LAWSUIT
A federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles April 24 accuses Occidental Petroleum of complicity in a 1998 attack on civilians in a village in Colombia. The suit was filed on behalf of Luis Alberto Mujica, a Colombian national whose mother, sister and cousin were among 17 civilians killed in the Dec. 13, 1998 aerial attack on the village of Santo Domingo. The suit claims Occidental provided key intelligence and ground and air support to the Colombian military in the attack. "Occidental has been a chief architect of US foreign policy toward Colombia, which continues to reward the company--despite its track record--with increasing US military aid to protect its oil operations," the California-based groups Amazon Watch and Global Exchange said in a joint statement on the suit. Occidental pledges to "vigorously contest" the charges. "Occidental has not and does not provide lethal aid to Colombia's armed forces," a statement from the company said. Airscan Inc., an aviation security firm based in Rockledge, FLA, was also named as a defendant. (AFP, AP, April 24)
The case, brought by the International Labor Rights Fund and the Center for Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, charges that both Oxy and Airscan assisted in the attack. Airscan's "Skymaster" plane--which provides aerial surveillance for Oxy's Cano Limon oil pipeline--accompanied the Colombian air force during the bombing, using its infrared and video equipment to pinpoint targets on the ground. While the strikes allegedly targeting suspected rebels, no rebels were killed.
"Occidental Petroleum is directly funding the killings and displacement of innocent communities in the Colombian countryside. As much as the company likes to deny it, Oxy is cozy with branches of Colombian military such as the 18th Bridgade and the Airforce," said Liza Smith of Global Exchange. "This is the same military that has the worst human rights records in the hemisphere."
US military aid specifically slated to protect Oxy's oil operations in Colombia reached $131 million in 2003. Another $110 million is proposed in 2004 for the protection of Oxy's Cano Limon pipeline.
The company is being sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act.
( Amazon Watch press release, April 24)
See also WW3 REPORT #69
2. ISLAMIC TERRORISTS IN VENEZUELA: SOUTHCOM
In a March speech in Miami, US Southern Command chief Gen. James Hill said that radical Islamic groups are deeply involved in Latin America's "narco-terrorist" networks. Speaking at the North-South Center, a Miami think-tank, Hill charged that agents of Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the "tri-border area" of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay--as well as on Venezuela's Margarita Island.
Said Hill: "As traffickers exchange drugs for arms and services in the transit countries, transit nations become drug consumers as well. Narco-terrorism fuels radical Islamic groups associated with Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Gamaat, and others. These groups, operating out of the tri-border area, and other locales, like Margarita Island off Venezuela, generate hundreds of millions of dollars through drug and arms trafficking with narco-terrorists. Simply put, direct drug sales and money laundering fund worldwide terrorist operations. That is fact, not speculation."
Hill said the threat to the region does not come from any foreign power. Rather, "today's foe is the terrorist, the narco-trafficker, the arms trafficker, the document forger, the international crime boss, and the money launderer." The new threat, he added, "respects neither geographical nor moral boundaries."
( US State Department press release, March 12)
See also WW3 REPORT #s 59 & 9
THE MEXICO FRONT
1. ANTI-WAR ACTIVISTS FACE DEATH THREATS
Organizers with the Mexican chapter of the anti-war group Not In Our Name report that a passing black car fired shots at them as they held a work meeting at a cafe in the Roma section of Mexico City April 29. Activists Aracely Cortes and Gabriel Perez also received telephone death threats. (NOIN, Mexico, press release, May 1)
2. TARAHUMARA TREE-DEFENDER FRAMED ON WEAPONS CHARGES
On March 29, Isidro Baldenegro, a Tarahumara Indian leader in the mountain village of Coloradas de la Virgen, Chihuahua, was arrested along with his colleague Hermenegildo Rivas Carrillo. The arrests were carried out by Grupo Orion, a special anti-narcotics division of the state police, based in Baborigame, a nearby village with an army base. The two were charged with illegal possession of arms. Witnesses state the police planted AK-47s and handguns at the scene after the arrest. The Tarahumara men were forced to hold the arms for a photo which was published in the Chihuahua newspapers. Two months earlier, Isidro's brother, Trinidad Baldenegro, and Gabriel Palma Lopez were arrested in similar circumstances. There were no arrest or search warrants in either case.
The Tarahumara of Coloradas, who have suffered over thirty years of terrorism by narco-cacique Artemio Fontes, used a combination of legal action and blockades to stop an illegal logging operation controlled by Fontes on traditional village lands in March. Fontes, a known drug trafficker, murderer, and cattle thief, is believed responsible for the murder of Isidro's father, Julio Baldenegro, in 1986, along with other Tarahumara leaders. Fontes is now reported to be behind the illegal arrests.
The local environmental groups Sierra Madre Alliance and Fuerza Ambiental have organized a campaign to free Isidro and Hermenegildo. Fifteen national indigenous organizations have sent petitions to the federal government to free the Tarahumara men. Deputy Hector Sanchez, president of the Indigenous Affairs Commission in Mexico's Congress, has pledged to investigate the case.
Funds are urgently needed both for legal costs and to help the prisoners' families, as well as to stop the illegal logging of Tarahumara lands. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to:
Sierra Madre Alliance POB 41416 Tucson, Arizona 85717
(Sierra Madre Alliance action alert, April 12)
3. PERSONAL DATA ON 65 MILLION MEXICANS SOLD TO U.S. FEDS
A private company sold US law enforcement agencies an array of data about millions of Mexican citizens--including blood types and tax identification numbers--sparking a scandal in Mexico. ChoicePoint, the Atlanta-based company that purchased the data from a Mexican supplier for resale to US immigration and police agencies, said it would only stop selling the data if it is determined the information was obtained illegally. ChoicePoint marketing director James Lee said he had told Mexican investigators the name of the Mexican firm from which the data was obtained for $250,000. Mexican investigators would not name the firm. One investigator acknowledged that the number of names in the ChoicePoint files coincided with those on Mexico's voter rolls--about 65 million. But the official added there are "many, many businesses that collect records of voter numbers." (AP, May 1)
1. CUBA NEXT?
Cuban President Fidel Castro's government came under international criticism for its round-up and prosecution of 75 dissidents last month. After quick trials, the dissidents were sentenced to between six and 28 years in prison. They included journalists, poets, human rights advocates and labor activists. None were accused of violence--only of opposing the government. Three men who hijacked a ferry in a failed attempt to reach the US were also executed. Castro portrayed the dissidents as the vanguard of an imminent US attack on Cuba. Speaking at the traditional May Day celebration in Havana, Castro charged that the White House is planning to remove him from power through military intervention. Accusing the White House of "Nazi-Fascism," Castro warned: "If the solution were to attack Cuba like Iraq, I would suffer greatly because of the cost in lives and enormous destruction it would bring Cuba. But it might turn out to be the last of the [Bush] administration's fascist attacks, because the struggle would last a very long time." (Reuters, May 1)
James Cason, head of the US diplomatic mission in Havana (there is no formal embassy or diplomatic relations), had become a vocal supporter of the dissidents in the prelude to the arrests, attending and even hosting their meetings, and hailing them as the future leaders of Cuba--prompting Castro to denounce him as a "bully with diplomatic immunity." (Glasgow Sunday Herald, May 1)
Calling Cuba "an aberration in the Western Hemisphere," Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "We're reviewing all our policies and our approach toward Cuba in light of what I think is a deteriorating human rights situation." (NYT, April 29)
A US-backed resolution condemning the crackdown in the Organization of American States (OAS)--supported by Nicaragua and Costa Rica--remains stalled, with many nations protesting that Cuba has no ability to defend itself before the OAS, having been expelled from the organization 41 years ago. (Jamaica Observer, May 4)
More than 160 artists and writers, including Latin American Nobel laureates Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, have signed a two-paragraph declaration, "To the Conscience of the World", warning that US aggression against Cuba could be imminent. "A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries," the declaration reads, referring to the US and the war in Iraq. "At this very moment a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion."
Other long-time supporters of Cuba have been more critical of the crackdown. Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago wrote that "from now on, Cuba can follow its own course, and leave me out." (Sydney Morning Herald, May 3)
Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, author of the anti-imperialist classic "Open Veins of Latin America," wrote in a commentary for The Progressive April 26:
"The recent wave of executions and arrests in Cuba is very good news for the universal superpower, which remains obsessed with removing this persistent thorn from its paw. But it is very bad news--and very sad--for those of us who admired the valor of this tiny country, so capable of greatness, but who also believe that freedom and justice go together or not at all... The long prison sentences handed down in Cuba can only backfire. They make into martyrs for freedom of expression certain groups that operated openly from the house of James Cason, representative of Bush interests in Havana. Acting as if these groups constituted a grave threat, Cuban authorities paid them homage and granted them the prestige that words acquire when they are forbidden... The United States, that indefatigable mill of world dictators, does not have the moral authority to tutor anyone on democracy, though President Bush could certainly give lessons on the death penalty, which he championed as governor of Texas, signing warrants for the execution of 152 people. But do true revolutions, those that are generated from below, like Cuba's, need to learn bad habits from the enemies they are fighting? The death penalty has no justification... The revolution, which was capable of surviving the fury of ten American presidents and twenty CIA directors, needs the energy that comes from participation and diversity to face the dark times that surely lie ahead."
The crackdown came weeks after Cuba filed a protest with the US over the treatment of five Cubans convicted of spying. The March 12 statement charged that the five are being held incommunicado to obstruct an upcoming appeal. Rafael Dausa, head of the Foreign Ministry's North America department, told a Havana press conference that the accused agents, who are being held in five different federal prisons, were all placed in solitary confinement around Feb. 28. The Cubans were convicted by a Miami court in June 2001 of conspiracy and espionage. Three were sentenced to life in prison, one received a 15-year term and the other 19 years. They are charged with being part of a ring that infiltrated US military bases and Cuban exile groups. They said at the trial that they caused no harm to the United States and gathered information solely to defend their homeland from terrorist attacks by Cuban exiles. The five are seeking a new trial outside of Miami and insist their conviction was influenced by the vocal anti-Castro exile establishment in the city. (Reuters, March 14)
In one sense, Colin Powell is correct that Cuba constitutes "an aberration in the Western Hemisphere." In US-backed Colombia today--as in US-backed Peru in the 1990s and US-backed El Salvador in the 1980s--dissidents simply disappear in the night never to be heard from again.
2. VIEQUES FREE AT LAST--BUT TOXIC LEGACY PERSISTS
On May 1, residents on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques came on horseback, bicycle and foot to beaches that were under control of the US Navy for nearly 60 years. The celebration began with an outburst of anger, as activists set fire to former Navy vehicles, took sledgehammers to former base fixtures, and burned American flags to mark the Navy's long-awaited departure. Puerto Rico's Gov. Sila Calderon was on hand the previous day for a ceremony in which the Navy handed over 15,000 acres of the island's land to the US Interior Department, whose Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with overseeing a massive cleanup and transformation of the area to a wildlife refuge. Since a Marine jet dropped two errant 500-pound bombs and killed a civilian guard on the firing range in April 1999, protesters have repeatedly invaded the range to obstruct maneuvers. Over the years, more than 1,000 protesters were arrested for trespassing on the range. But many Vieques residents want the land turned over to the local municipality rather than the federal government. Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano said he wants the Puerto Rico government to lobby Congress to turn the land over for local control. But removing 60 years of accumulated toxins from Navy munitions will be a burden on whoever has control of the land. Gov. Calderon has asked Washington to put Vieques on the National Priority List for an environmental cleanup. "EPA will work to expedite the listing of the site so that cleanup can begin as soon as possible," said Christie Whitman, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. (AP, May 2)
See also WW3 REPORT #s 74 , 27 & 9
1. NORTH KOREA: SANCTIONS "GREEN LIGHT FOR WAR"
In London talks between the UK and North Korea on de-escalating the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, a North Korean diplomat reportedly said the imposition of economic sanctions would be taken as a "green light for war." The comments came after the Bush administration turned down a North Korean offer to halt it's nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees. (Financial Times, May 1)
The US is currently considering harsh sanctions aimed at destabilizing the North Korean regime. See WW3 REPORT #83
2. TWO COUNTIES PULL OUT OF INDIAN POINT EMERGENCY PLAN
New York's Westchester and Rockland counties have refused to turn over documents to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concerning mass evacuation plans in the event of accident at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The county governments say they do not wish to implicitly endorse an unworkable plan. In February, FEMA said it could not provide "reasonable assurance" for evacuation plans citing a lack of information and set a May 2 deadline for submission of documents by four counties--Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange. (NYT, May 3) The controversy comes days after a fire and power failure prompted a shutdown of both the Indian Point reactors. Criticism was also sparked by an April 21 letter from the Entergy Corp. which owns the plant, to security officers at the site, alerting them to the likelihood that they will have to work "five 12-hour days and occasionally six 12-hour days" to prepare for an anti-terror drill this summer. (NYT, April 30)
See also WW3 REPORT #s 68 , 52 & 40
NEW YORK CITY
1. WORKERS PROTEST AUSTERITY
Thousands of union members rallied outside New York's City Hall April 29 to protest sweeping budget cuts announced by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Banners read "We've just begun to fight" and "Don't balance the budget on our backs." The rally was led by AFSCME DC 37, representing city workers--now facing some 4,500 lay-offs. The rally also included a 1,000-strong contingent from the anti-war coalition United for Peace & Justice. (NYT, April 30)
The rally came days before the city's biggest-ever subway fare hike took effect, jacking up the price of a ride from $1.50 to $2--just as the city is moving to close token booths in many stations, with the iconic tokens now phased out by the digital Metro-Cards. Several fire houses are also slated top be closed under budgetary austerity, prompting local protests in Queens neighborhoods. (Newsday, May 1)
See also WW3 REPORT #11
2. WTC SITE REDEVELOPMENT PLAN STILL MIRED IN CONTROVERSY
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC) has appointed a 13-member panel including Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC, to screen public suggestions for a memorial to the 9-11 dead at the World Trade Center site. The chosen design will be incorporated into architect Daniel Libeskind's "Memory Foundations" plan which preserves the original foundations of the Twin Towers. In an effort to cultivate a democratic image, plans can be submitted to www.wtcsitememorial.org by a May 29 deadline. A public hearing on the plans will be held at the Borough of Manhattan Community College Tribeca Performing Arts Center May 28. (Newsday, April 28, 29)
Meanwhile, part of Libeskind's own memorial plan calls for a "wedge of light"--an open plaza where sunlight would shine "without shadow" each Sept. 11 from 8.46 AM (when the first plane hit) to 10.28 AM (when the last tower fell). But Brooklyn architect Eli Attia, a constant critic of the design process, contends that by his own calculations the Millennium Hilton Hotel and other buildings would cast the plaza into shadow at that critical period. Says his web site: "By 10:28 every Sept. 11, the so-called Wedge of Light will in fact be a wedge of darkness and shame." Libeskind dismissed his claims, calling him "one of the sore losers." (Newsday, May 2)
Mayor Bloomberg is said to have his own complaints--that he has been effectively squeezed out of the plans by Gov. George Pataki, Libeskind, the LMDC and the Port Authority, the state agency that owns the site. Bloomberg's plan to transfer the site to the city in exchange for LaGuardia and Kennedy airports--currently run by the PA but owned by the city--remains stalled. (NY Observer, April 28)
See also WW3 REPORT #82
3. 9-11 LITIGATION GRINDS ON
THE WAR AT HOME
Lawyers for American and United airlines are arguing that suits brought against them by relatives of 9-11 victims should be dismissed. Meanwhile, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected a motion for dismissal of a similar case against the four airports involved in the attacks--Newark, Portland Maine, Boston's Logan and DC's Dulles. The Port Authority is also being sued as owner of the WTC. (Newsday, May 2, 4)
1. HIGH COURT APPROVES DETENTION PENDING DEPORTATION
On April 29, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the government does not have to allow bond hearings for immigrants who are awaiting deportation hearings after serving criminal sentences. The ruling allows the government to hold "lawful permanent residents" (LPRs) who face deportation, without granting them an opportunity to argue that they do not present a flight risk or a danger. The case, Demore v. Kim, concerns the constitutionality the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which mandates the detention of "aliens" awaiting deportation proceedings following convictions for a wide range of crimes designated "aggravated felonies."
The ruling comes in the case of Korea-born California resident Hyung Joon Kim, who was jailed by immigration authorities a day after completing a three-year sentence for burglary and petty theft in California. In 1999, a federal district court in San Francisco ruled in favor of a bond hearing for Kim. The INS appealed, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Kim's right to a bond hearing. Striking down that decision, Chief Justice William Rehnquist emphasized that "this court has firmly and repeatedly endorsed the proposition that Congress may make rules as to aliens that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens." Rehnquist was joined by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Calling the ruling "devoid of even ostensible justification in fact and at odds with the settled standard of liberty," Justice David Souter led the minority opinion, joined by John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
A day after the ruling, several attorneys posted messages to the Detention Watch Network e-mail list, warning that immigration agents had already started waiting in courtrooms and detaining LPRs who could fit the criteria outlined in Demore v. Kim.
( Immigration News Briefs, May 2)
The text of decision is on-line
2. BIG BROTHER TURNS OFF MUSLIM-AMERICANS' CREDIT CARDS
An April 15 article in New York's City Limits magazine investigated the closing of American Express and Discover credit card accounts held by Muslims living in the US--and the implications of such actions for Muslim-American immigrants, both with and without legal immigration status.
Farooq Firdousâ a Pakistani businessman who owns a computer store on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklynâ has been a legal resident of the US for 11 years and obtained his green card in 1997. He received a call in the summer of 2002 from an American Express representative requesting that he send the company three years of tax returns, six months of bank statements and a job verification letter for "security reasons." His wife, Yasmin Khan, who is from India, received a similar phone call. Both were informed that if the paperwork was not submitted in 15 days their credit cards would be cancelled. When the couple asked for the requests in writing, the rep refused to comply. The couple next received a letter stating that their credit cards were cancelled because of "information received from a consumer reporting agency." Firdous says that he not once never missed a payment. His good credit was proved by the fact that he was granted a Citibank Master Card just days after the cancellation of his AmEx card. Additionally, the status on his cancelled AmEx card reads "Paid/Never Late." Firdous is one of twelve Pakistani-Americans with good credit whose credit cards were cancelled for "security purposes." The FBI has also reportedly visited Firdous' store three times and his home twice.
Individuals without green cards were questioned in detail by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services during "special registration" interviews about their credit card accounts, according to Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney at the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's as if being South Asian and Muslim and using a credit card is a huge crime," she said.
American Express vice president of public relations Tony Mitchell did not give City Limits any information about the couple's accounts, even though the couple had given permission for their accounts to be made accessible to the press. He said, "We routinely monitor all of our card accounts. As a part of that, we may ask a card member for additional information to gain a fuller picture of the account and to access the current credit and financial condition of the cardholder."
Since 9-11, financial institutions have assisted the government in its efforts to freeze overseas accounts of terrorist groups, employing the same strategies used in the War on Drugs. They work with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, FinCEN--an arm of the Department of Treasury--and compare the names of customers with those on an 80-page list maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), also a part of the Treasury. This list contains the names of 5,000 suspected terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money-launderers. If banks are found to be doing business with any of the 5,000 "Specially Designated and Blocked Persons," they face $10 million in fines and up to 30 years in prison for responsible personnel.
Soon after 9-11, the FBI released "Project Lookout," a list of people it wanted to question in the wake of the attacks. This list was shared with hotels, airlines and private businesses, both domestic and international. But the proliferation of the list led to bootleg copies circulating among private businesses. Currently, 50 different versions exist, with typos and added names.
Other watchlists used in government and business administration include: "Denied Persons List" and an "Entities List" issued by the Commerce Department; "Debarred Parties List" released by the State Department's Office of Defense Controls"; "World Bank Debarred List," "Blocked Officials List," a "Bank Secrecy Act"; the FBI's "Violent Gang List"; and the USA Patriot Act's "Terrorist Exclusion List."
Joshua Salaam of the Council for American-Islamic Relations in Washington said the lists "are powerful, infiltrating Muslims' daily lives, affecting them more than they know and more than the general public knows."
Western Union was fined $3 million in March of this year for violating the reporting requirements of the USA Patriot Act. John Hall of the American Bankers Association provided an assurance of sorts when approached by City Limits. He said, "It's a delicate balancing act. We want to do our part in the war on terrorism, but at the same time we need to protect our customers' privacy. That's the bottom line."
3. BIG BROTHER SHUTS DOWN MUSLIM-AMERICANS' BANK ACCOUNTS
The Muslim American Society (MAS) met with Fleet Boston Financial Corp. officials in Boston April 3 to discuss the closing of 15 accounts of individuals or organizations with Arabic names. MAS executive director Mahdi Bray says that Fleet is a "test case" and the current effort to unearth the unexplained closings might reveal discriminatory practices in banking methods of national financial institutions.
Fleet spokesperson James E. Mahoney chose not to comment on the accounts in question, saying only that "there has been no purposeful discrimination on the part of Fleet." Mahoney said that Fleet, like other financial institutions in the US, had computer surveillance systems audited by federal authorities set up to detect "suspicious" activity. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency oversee banking, and all banks are mandated to report suspicious financial activity to them.
The guidelines for what is "suspicious" have been defined by the USA Patriot Act, and according to David Floreen of the Massachussetts Bankers Association, the act put strain on individual banks. As he told the Boston Globe: "The whole financial services industry, banks, credit unions, brokerages, and mutual funds, are all really struggling with the mandates placed on them by the USA Patriot Act and we are still waiting for major regulations that deal with customer identification. The bankers I have talked to have a sense of skittishness. They have to check names of customers against federal lists, and you donâ't want to discriminate or offend customers."
Merrie Najimy of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee points out the double-edged nature of reporting "suspicious" financial activity to the feds. "They have to flag people who have suspicious activity, and they are bound by law to confidentiality and cannot disclose to anyone that the account has been flagged." Noting that the wire transfer of money overseas by people with Arabic or Muslim names can be labeled "suspicious," Najimy views the program as problematic. "Anyone who comes to the states comes for a better income and they send money back to their homeland. Many of the account holders here don't believe they have had any suspicious activities." (Boston Globe, April 4)
4. CIA, PENTAGON SEEK DOMESTIC SPYING POWERS
In a provision quietly attached to an intelligence authorization bill now before closed sessions of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the White House is seeking to give the CIA and Defense Department the power to engage in domestic intelligence-gathering, with the right to demand personal and business records of US citizens and residents. (Newsday, May 4)
5. KUCINICH BLASTS BUSH
In a speech organized by a campus peace group at Stanford University, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, called for the US to drop its current unilateralist stance and "rejoin the world community." Warning that the wave of fear following 9-11 has been manipulated by the government, he told the crowd, "We have created the world of our nightmares when we could have created the world of our dreams." Criticizing the Nuclear Posture Review document released by the White House last year, Kucinich said. "When we look at our nuclear policy, we need to think about the implications for the world," Kucinich emphasized, warning that the "beginning of dichotomized thinking of us-vs.-them" may lead to "real conflict with the ability for devastating effect." He also harshly criticized the 2001 USA Patriot Act, warning that "fear is disempowering." (The Stanford Daily, May 3)
For more on the Nuclear Posture Review see WW3 REPORT #24:
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. WHITE HOUSE SUPPRESSES REPORT ON 9-11 INTELLIGENCE LAPSES
Newsweek reports April 30 that the White House is battling to keep secret an 800-plus-page report prepared by a joint congressional inquiry detailing the intelligence and law-enforcement failures that preceded the 9-11 attacks. The report was completed last December, but only a bare-bones list of "findings" with virtually no details was made public. Nearly six months later, a "working group" of Bush administration intelligence officials assigned to review the document has taken a hard line against further public disclosure. Sources told Newsweek that in some cases, the administration has even sought to "reclassify" some material that was already discussed in public testimony. Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and Republican Rep. Porter Goss are now preparing a letter of complaint to Vice President Dick Cheney.
The report is the fruit of nearly 10 months of investigations by a special staff hired jointly by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and overseen by Eleanor Hill, a former federal prosecutor and Pentagon inspector general. Hill's team got access to hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents from the CIA, FBI, NSA and other agencies. The staff also conducted scores of interviews with senior officials, field agents and intelligence officers--although they were not given access to some top White House aides, such as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The team's report was approved by the two intelligence committees last Dec. 10. But the administration "working group," overseen by CIA director George Tenet, had to first "scrub" the document and determine which portions could be declassified.
2. BECHTEL'S BIN LADEN CONNECTION
The long-sought bin Laden connection in Iraq has finally emerged--but, unfortunately the link is to the Bechtel Corp., which has been granted the top rebuilding contract by the Bush administration. Wrote the New Yorker May 5: "Bin Laden's estranged family, a sprawling, extraordinarily wealthy Saudi Arabian dynasty, is a substantial investor in a private equity firm founded by the Bechtel Group of San Francisco... The bin Ladens have a ten-million-dollar stake in the Fremont Group, a San Francisco-based company formerly called Bechtel Investments, which was until 1986 a subsidiary of Bechtel. The Fremont Group's web site, which makes no mention of the bin Ladens, notes that 'though now independent, Fremont enjoys a close relationship with Bechtel.' A spokeswoman for the company confirmed that Fremont's 'majority ownership is the Bechtel family.'"
See also WW3 REPORT #s 82 & 81
3. OFFICIAL ISLAMOPHOBIA ADVANCES AT PENTAGON
Rev. Franklin Graham, who has called Islam a "very wicked and evil" religion, led a Good Friday service at the Pentagon. (NYT, April 28)
See also WW3 REPORT #81
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