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Big Sis Refuses To Answer Congress On Bullet Purchases

Big Sis Refuses To Answer Congress On Bullet Purchases

Steve Watson

Speaking at CPAC with Infowars and We Are Change reporter, Luke Rudkowski, Congressman Timothy Huelscamp revealed this week that the Department of Homeland Security has refused to answer questions from “multiple” members of Congress regarding its recent purchase of huge amounts of weapons and ammunition.

“They have no answer for that question. They refuse to answer to answer that,” Huelscamp said.

“I’ve got a list of various questions of agencies about multiple things. Far from being the most transparent administration in the world, they are the most closed and opaque,” the Congressman added.

“They refuse to let us know what is going on, so I don’t really have an answer for that. Multiple members of Congress are asking those questions,” he added.

“It comes down to during the budget process, during the appropriations process, are we willing to hold DHS’s feet to the fire?”

“We’re going to find out… I say we don’t fund them ’til we get an answer. Those type of things really challenge Americans. They are worried about this administration,” Huelscamp urged.

Watch the clip below:

The Congressman’s comments come in the wake of a demand for answers from New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance on the same subject.

“I would like a full explanation as to why that has been done and I have every confidence that the oversight committee ….should ask those questions,” said Lance, adding that he shared a belief, “that Congress has a responsibility to ask Secretary Napolitano as to exactly why these purchases have occurred.”

The DHS has purchased over 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the past year – enough to wage a 20 year plus war. Earlier this month, Forbes Magazine called for a “national conversation” on the matter.

During the CPAC interview, Congressman Huelscamp also spoke briefly about why he voted twice against the National Defense Authorization Act, stating that it was because of the lack of detail regarding the provision in the bill to allow for incarceration of Americans without due process.

“I think it’s something that is so Constitutionally suspect,” Huelscamp said. “It’s one of those things, if you’re not absolutely crystal clear on a Constitutional issue like that, we shouldn’t take those chances.”

“I gather there are folks on the other side who think they covered that. I just don’t think we did a good enough job,” the Congressman added. “And based on how hard it was for Senator Paul to get an answer out of the administration, very clearly we need to make it absolutely clear that there are Constitutional protections in this country.”

The Congressman also spoke with regards to the recent and ongoing furor over the Obama administration’s intentions for using drones domestically and it’s withholding of information on it’s overseas drone program.

“One of the difficulties I have as a member of Congress is the failure of this administration to provide information on what is actually going on,” Huelscamp said.

“When we take office we sign an oath to office, but we also sign a little card that says we have access to classified military intelligence, and I’ll just tell you, this administration and prior administrations are not very clear or transparent with the folks that actually control their budget.”

“Every member of Congress should know the answers to those questions, and whether or not they can share them,” the Congressman concluded.SOURCE

Venezuela’s Maduro urges Obama to halt “plot” against rival

Venezuela’s Maduro urges Obama to halt “plot” against rival

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s acting president urged U.S. leader Barack Obama to stop what he called a plot by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency to kill his opposition rival and trigger a coup before an April 14 election.

Nicolas Maduro said the plan was to blame his opponent’s murder on the OPEC nation’s government and to “fill Venezuelans with hate” as they prepare to go to vote following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Maduro first mentioned a plot against his rival, Henrique Capriles, last week, blaming it on former Bush administration officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. Both rejected the allegations as untrue, outrageous and defamatory.

“I call on President Obama – Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, officials at the Pentagon and at the CIA are behind a plan to assassinate the right-wing presidential candidate to create chaos,” Maduro said in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday.

Maduro, who is Chavez’s preferred successor, said the purpose of the plot was to set off a coup and that his information came from “a very good source.”

During his 14 years in power, the charismatic but divisive Chavez, who died March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer, often denounced U.S. plots against him and his “revolution.” Critics dismissed those claims as a smokescreen to keep voters focused on a sense of “imperialist” threat.

In kicking off the opposition’s campaign in the provinces on Saturday, Capriles said Maduro would be to blame if anything happened to him.


Capriles, a 40-year-old centrist state governor who cites Brazil as his economic model for Venezuela, accuses Maduro of using his boss’s death as a mawkish campaign tool ahead of the April 14 vote.

Maduro, 50, a former bus driver who is trumpeting his working-class roots like Chavez, has a lead over Capriles of more than 10 percentage points, according to two recent opinion polls. Both were conducted before Chavez’s death.

Maduro has sought to emulate the late president’s common touch and emotional bond with voters but has struggled – beyond copying Chavez’s bombastic rhetoric against foes at home and abroad.

In Sunday’s interview, recorded at the military museum where Chavez’s body was carried in a somber funeral procession on Friday after 10 days of mourning, Maduro said he had cried more when Chavez died than when his own parents passed away.

Later on Sunday, his campaign team plans to launch Maduro’s official Twitter account in another move reminiscent of Chavez. Chavez’s @chavezcandanga account had drawn more than 4 million followers before his death – making it the second most-followed presidential account after Obama’s.

The election campaign began in a particularly nasty atmosphere, with both sides accusing each other of dirty tricks, and Capriles and Maduro landing very personalized blows.

At stake in the election is not only the future of Chavez’s leftist revolution but also the continuation of Venezuelan oil subsidies and other aid crucial to the economies of leftist allies around Latin America, from Cuba to Bolivia.

Venezuela boasts the world’s largest oil reserves. SOURCE

Private Contractors Run Secret Spy Missions in Africa in search of “Kony” and providing the excuse for future enagement

Contractors run U.S. spying missions in Africa

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By Craig Whitlock

— Four small, white passenger planes sit outside a hangar here under a blazing sun, with no exterior markings save for U.S. registration numbers painted on the tails. A few burly men wearing aviator sunglasses and short haircuts poke silently around the wing flaps and landing gear.

The aircraft are Pilatus PC-12s, turboprops favored by the U.S. Special Operations forces for stealth missions precisely because of their nondescript appearance. There is no hint that they are carrying high-tech sensors and cameras that can film man-size targets from 10 miles away.



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To further disguise the mission, the U.S. military has taken another unusual step: It has largely outsourced the spying operation to private contractors. The contractors supply the aircraft as well as the pilots, mechanics and other personnel to help process electronic intelligence collected from the airspace over Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

In October, President Obama sent about 100 elite U.S. troops to central Africa to scour the terrain for Joseph Kony, the messianic and brutal leader of a Ugandan rebel group. But American contractors have been secretly searching for Kony from the skies long before that, at least since 2009, under a project code-named Tusker Sand, according to documents and people familiar with the operation.

The previously unreported practice of hiring private companies to spy on huge expanses of African territory — in this region and in North Africa, where a similar surveillance program is aimed at an al-Qaeda affiliate — has been a cornerstone of the U.S. military’s secret activities on the continent. Unlike uniformed troops, plainclothes contractors are less likely to draw attention.

But because the arms-length arrangement exists outside traditional channels, there is virtually no public scrutiny or oversight. And if something goes wrong, the U.S. government and its partners acknowledge that the contractors are largely on their own.

U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent, declined to discuss specific missions or its reasons for outsourcing the gathering of intelligence.

In response to written questions from The Washington Post, the command stated that contractors would not get special treatment in case of a mishap. Instead, they “would be provided the same assistance that any U.S. citizen would be provided by the U.S. Government should they be in danger.”

Perils of the job

There is precedent for the use of contractors in spying operations. The military hired private firms to conduct airborne surveillance in Latin America in the 1990s and early 2000s, with sometimes-disastrous results.

In 2003, for instance, one American was killed and three others were taken hostage by Colombian insurgents after their plane crashed in the jungle. The contractors, who were working for Northrop Grumman on a Defense Department counter-narcotics program, endured five years of captivity before they were freed in a raid by Colombian police.

Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and an expert on military contracting, said the Pentagon typically turns to the private sector for “deniability,” but he added that “it rarely turns out that way.”

“When things go bad, you can have two scenarios,” he said. “Either the contractors are left holding the bag, complaining about abandonment, or else some kind of abuse happens and they’re not held accountable because of a mix of unclear legal accountability and a lack of political will to do something about it.”

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Indeed, contractors knowledgeable about the central Africa mission appear to be aware that the downing of one of their planes could have far-reaching implications.

“From a purely political standpoint it is obvious the fallout of such an incident would be immense, especially if hostile forces reached the crash site first,” Commuter Air Technology, an Oklahoma defense firm, wrote in May 2010 in response to a U.S. Africa Command solicitation to expand operations. “This could turn into a prisoner/hostage situation at worst, or at the least a serious foreign relations incident highly damaging to both AFRICOM and the U.S.”

The warning was prescient. That summer, a PC-12 surveillance aircraft operated by a New Jersey contractor as part of Tusker Sand was forced to make an emergency landing in Obo, an isolated town in the Central African Republic where Kony’s forces had terrorized the population.

On board were a handful of Americans working for the firm R-4 Inc., as well as a Ugandan military officer and a Congolese officer.

The unexpected appearance of two foreign soldiers and some Americans aroused the suspicions of tribal leaders, who had been kept in the dark about Tusker Sand by their national government. They detained the crew for several hours as they debated what to do.

“We felt like we were going to prison,” said one of the American contractors involved, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.

The contractor said that his group contacted State Department and United Nations officials but that they declined to intervene. It was even harder to track down Africa Command officials, whose headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany.

“Eventually, we were able to talk our way out of it,” the contractor said. “That’s all we did over there, pay people off and talk our way out of situations.”

Dwight Turner, vice president of overseas operations for R-4, said he was not personally familiar with the incident. He confirmed that his company had been involved in Tusker Sand but declined to comment further.

A growing appetite

When Tusker Sand began in late 2009, it consisted of a single PC-12, operating out of a Ugandan military hangar at Entebbe airport. The hangar also housed a Gulfstream aircraft for the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni.

According to the contractor who worked for R-4, the presidential palace was so protective of Museveni’s plane that the Americans were required to push their PC-12 out of the hangar by hand, instead of with a tractor, to avoid inadvertent scrapes.

The U.S. military’s appetite for surveillance quickly grew. On June 11, 2010, the Africa Command participated in an “Industry Day” to drum up interest. More than 50 private contractors were invited to develop proposals to expand Tusker Sand and Creek Sand, the program aimed at al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates mainly in Mali.

Unclassified documents prepared for the event show that the military wanted contractors to provide at least a combined 44 personnel for the programs, with double that number if the Africa Command decided to “surge” either one of them. At a minimum, contractors were told that they would have to keep planes flying for 150 hours a month.

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Among the jobs to be outsourced: pilots, sensor operators, intelligence analysts, mechanics and linguists. The expectation was that the personnel would be veterans; most needed to certify that they had passed the military’s survival, resistance and escape training course, because of the possibility of aircrews being downed behind enemy lines.

Contractors would have to supply the surveillance gear, including electro-optical and infrared sensors that work in the dark, and a laser-emitting sensor that can peer under the jungle canopy. All had to be concealed within the body of the plane with retractable mounting to avoid attracting suspicion.

Another document stipulated that prospective firms fly “innocuous” aircraft that would “blend into the local operating area.” In a PowerPoint presentation posted on a federal government Web site for contractors, the Africa Command warned firms bidding for the work that African countries would be “uncomfortable” with activities that might look suspicious, adding: “Don’t want covert aircraft, just friendly looking aircraft.”

In addition to expanding Tusker Sand and Creek Sand, the Africa Command said it wanted to start a drone-based program, dubbed Tusker Wing, to search for members of Kony’s militia,?the Lord’s Resistance Army.

That plan envisioned contractors using blimps equipped with cameras as well as ScanEagles, small and unmanned aircraft that can be launched with a catapult but stay aloft for 22 hours at a time, according to Gene Healey, a contractor who helped prepare a study for the Africa Command.

Healey said the Africa Command was initially enthusiastic about Tusker Wing but canceled the program, without explanation, before it got off the ground. Africa Command officials declined to comment.

Nonetheless, the number of manned surveillance flights for Tusker Sand has gradually increased. A new contractor, Sierra Nevada Corp., began operating PC-12 flights out of Entebbe in August.

Michelle Erlach, a spokeswoman for Sierra Nevada Corp., based in Sparks, Nev., declined to answer questions about Tusker Sand or the firm’s activities in Africa. “I cannot give any details on that,” she said.

The Africa Command declined to answer questions about the contract for Tusker Sand, saying it was “proprietary in nature.”

Allies on the Hill

Tusker Sand could soon receive another boost.


Pak-US: The New Scenario

Pak-US: The New Scenario

by Asif H Raja

Would troops withdrawal be over by 2014?

Ever since the troop drawdown plan announced by Obama in December 2010 staring July 2011 and completing in December 2014, I have been mentioning that the senior military leadership of USA and other power centres with vested interests may not stick to the timetable and may extend the stay. A cold war is gong on between Obama administration and Pentagon. Gen David Petraeus disagreed with Obama’s decision to withdraw 33000 US troops from Afghanistan by October 2012 and wanted slower pullout. Pentagon, ISAF leadership, US corporations, defence, security and construction contractors, drug mafia, Karzai regime, Afghan security forces, India and Israel are desirous of extended stay. Their selfish interests clash with political ambitions of Obama’s administration and aspirations of Afghans vying for freedom. The US Generals doesn’t want to return home disgraced and defeated as had happened in Vietnam. They are least concerned about the poor state of US economy, the continuing bloodshed, hazards faced by soldiers in the field and adverse world opinion. They are obsessed with the idea of victory in whatever shape, which they know cannot be achieved within the left over time of three years. Their heavy salaries and drug profits are added attractions to prolong their stay particularly when they reside in safe confines of overly fortified military bases.

The US and NATO generals somehow are misled with the belief that given the time and resources, over a period of time the Taliban now deprived of al-Qaeda’s wholesome support would get exhausted and in not too distant future they would be forced to negotiate on American conditions. They are confident that in next 3-4 years the ANA duly backed by the US airpower and technological support would be able to take on the Taliban more effectively. Above all, they want to create a psychological impact that the US has not been defeated and have no plans to abandon Afghanistan till at least 2024. In their view this message would surely dishearten fence sitters within Taliban to jump the fence and join the ranks of moderates who have given their willingness to the US political settlement plan.

The civil contractors of USA are rolling in money and would like the war to continue for times to come. Large chunk of billions of dollars invested in Afghanistan to equip ANA and to carryout development projects are pocketed by them. The lucrative drug trade in which Afghan feudal lords, CIA and NATO are deeply involved is flourishing has converted Afghanistan into biggest narcotic country of the world. Part of the drug money is utilized to meet heavy war expenditures and covert war expenses. Inept, corrupt and unpopular Karzai regime cannot survive without the physical presence of ISAF and American aid. Karzai whose writ doesn’t extend beyond his palace has agreed to all the clauses of the Afghan-US strategic partnership and has conveyed his willingness to let the US military retain military bases for next ten years. He got his unpopular decision endorsed by Loya Jirga which was boycotted by Taliban Shura.

The Afghan Army and Police are not showing worthwhile signs of improvements in security duties and in discipline matters. Desertion rates as well as cases of ill-discipline are high. They are so far ineffective in Pashtun dominated southern and eastern Afghanistan. Belated efforts made to correct the ethnic imbalance by inducting larger number of Pashtuns in the two organizations have backfired. Kabul administration believes that recent spate of terrorist attacks in Kabul had been made possible by Pashtun soldiers and policemen.

India has got involved in Afghanistan because of its strategic and economic interests. Helped by USA, India has dug its heels firmly and is using Afghan soil to destabilize the Pakistan regions contiguous to Afghanistan through covert means. Having spent $1.5 billion in development projects in Afghanistan, India now wants to extract tens of billions in return for its initial investment by having a lion’s share in mining of all future mineral resources related projects. In order to become the most influential country in Afghanistan and to fill up the power vacuum in the aftermath of the US departure, India is directing all its energies to washout whatever little influence Pakistan has in Afghanistan.

India’s aim is to make western border of Pakistan hostile so that it could put its arch rival in a nut cracker situation by posing a twin threat in any future Indo-Pak war, or be in a position to continue launching two-directional covert war against Pakistan. Once Afghanistan is bagged by India, it will enable it to fulfill its long cherished dream of encircling Pakistan and thus keeping it perpetually in a state of quandary. Indo-Afghan strategic partnership agreement has brought India closer to the realization of its dream. The US is playing a key role in promoting India to become a lead country in Afghanistan and in isolating Pakistan.

Strong foothold of India in Afghanistan will enable it to expand its economic and political influence in Central Asia. It is this long-term objective of India to gain access to Central Asian markets that it managed to dovetail its place in Pak-Afghan trade transit agreement. This underhand deal facilitated by USA will allow Indian goods to be shipped through Pakistan’s land route via Wagah. In order to reduce land locked Afghanistan’s dependence upon Pakistan, India built a road connecting Chahbahar with Daranj in Afghanistan. India also coaxed Karzai to build dams over River Kabul as part of its strategy to coerce and humble Pakistan. It has already constructed dozens of dams over three rivers flowing into Pakistan from occupied Kashmir and plans to build several dozens more dams entirely in violation of Indus Water Treaty to be able to manipulate water flow in accordance with its wicked designs.

True to its reputation, Israel is silently playing the devil’s role by remaining in the background. While it is persistently stoking up fires of antagonism between ISAF and its opponents, it is also playing its part to divide Afghan Taliban and to destabilize Pakistan. Initially it successfully deflected phenomenon of suicide attacks from its homeland towards Iraq and then further shifted its expertise to Afghanistan. In Badakshan, Mossad has established a large cultural centre where Muslim suicide bombers belonging to various nationalities of the region are indoctrinated and trained. Attacks on mosques, shrines, worship places, funerals and religious scholars/clerics are mostly masterminded by Mossad to denigrate Islam and to accentuate ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions in Pakistan. Besides inflaming sectarian fire, Deobandi-Barelvi divide is also being subtly widened. Special technology in FM Radio in use by Maulana Fazlullah in Swat which couldn’t be jammed by the Army was provided by Israel. Long-range sniper rifles and Uzi sten guns were also provided by Israel to militants in Swat.

Israel is also strengthening Indian armed forces by providing latest state-of-art weapon systems and has become India’s largest arms supplier. The two countries are cooperating in the nuclear field as well. What India cannot procure from USA is being provided by Israel. Both USA and Israel are desirous of making India a counterweight to China. In reality, this is a smokescreen to justify supply of sophisticated arms and nuclear technology to India. India knows that it is no match to China’s military and economic strength and it will be sheer folly to antagonize the sleeping giant and upcoming super power. India’s chief target is Pakistan and its frenzied force modernization program is geared towards humbling Pakistan on the battlefield. While Pakistan is being systematically weakened from within since 2002, India is being armed to teeth to deliver the decisive blow at the opportune time.

The whole thrust of Indo-US-Israeli nexus is directed against Pak Army and ISI, the two pillars which are braving extremely heavy odds doggedly and keeping the adversaries at bay. Different techniques have been applied to cow down the two institutions but all their onslaughts have been thwarted. The underlying aim of discrediting and enfeebling Army and ISI is to gain access to nuclear and missile sites. Propaganda was used as a tool to tarnish the image of the two institutions and to create an impression that Pak nukes were unsafe and liable to fall into wrong hands. For this purpose, extremist threat was overplayed and the Army ridiculed that it is incapable of defeating the militants and protecting the nuclear arsenal. It was a well-conceived effort to frighten the world and to force Pakistan to accept the US proposal of joint security apparatus of nukes, or to hand over the nukes to USA/UN for safe custody, or to open it for inspection by IAEA.

When Pakistan turned down the proposal of joint control and asserted that its multi-layered safety and security system was second to none, the propagandists then took up a new theme asserting that sympathizers of Jihadis working inside the nuclear facilities could steal the nukes and hand them over to the militant groups thus jeopardizing world security. This theme was also applied upon the Army and ISI, alleging that some elements within these organizations were sympathetic towards al-Qaeda and Taliban. Idea was to make the heads of nuclear facilities, Army and ISI carryout pruning. The thrown outs were to be subsequently cultivated by CIA for their own use.

In order to impoverish the economy of the country, the secret arrangement worked out between Washington and democratic government in Islamabad in 2008 was to push back the country into the stranglehold of IMF, make it accept its tough conditions, bleed the state economy, destroy the public sector enterprises through massive corruption and ineptness, create acute energy crisis and bring the country to a stage of a failed state. The underlying idea was to present fait accompli to the people to opt for survival or for nuclear program. Zardari on his maiden visit to Washington as President of Pakistan in September 2008 had asked the so-called Friends-of-Pakistan to provide $100 billion to enable him to solve the problems of Pakistan. On the quiet he had put Pakistan’s program on sale.

A month earlier PM Gilani had issued an executive order placing the ISI under America’s chosen man Rahman Malik. This step was taken on the direction of the US which felt that without cutting the long arm of the ISI, its sinister objectives against nuclear program will be difficult to achieve. Section-S dealing with external operations troubled the adversaries of Pakistan the most. Apart from disbanding S-Section and the one dealing with Kashmir, large-scale weeding out was to be undertaken to shunt out conservative and anti-American elements and replacing them with liberal minded pro-American and pro-Indian officers.

The PPP had carried out such an exercise in its two tenures under Benazir Bhutto. In the first tenure, retired Lt Gen Kalue was made the DG ISI. He was mandated to destroy the file of Murtaza Bhutto and record maintained on anti-state activities of Al-Zulfiqar. The nuclear program was put on hold to allay the US concerns and officers dedicated to Kashmir cause were posted out. Kashmir House signboard in Islamabad was removed when Rajiv visited Pakistan in 1989. In her second stint, the long arm of ISI was truncated.

The current regime was all set to settle the Kashmir dispute on Indian terms by accepting Line of Control as the border. This is evident from Zardari’s statement on the occasion of oath taking ceremony when he was anointed president. He said that the nation will soon hear goods news about Kashmir. He is on record having declared Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists. He also tried to compromise Pakistan’s minimum nuclear deterrence by stating that Pakistan will not exercise first strike nuclear option. Despite the passage of 18th Amendment the legislature under Gilani is a dummy and real powers are still in Zardari’s hands with Salman Faruqui, his principal adviser acting as de facto PM. But in the wake of gathering storm around him, Zardari has bunkered himself in Presidency and keeps his chopper ready to fly off.

Gilani’s outbursts against the Army and ISI betrayed his inner anxieties and were at the behest of his master in Presidency who has lost his sleep and is haunted by memogate. Petrified Husain Haqqani, supposedly the key actor in memo scandal is hiding in PM’s House and cursing the DG ISI who took the bold initiative and revealed the country-breaking memo and nailed him. Haqqani’s dream of becoming prime minister or national security adviser has shattered. Scared stiff Wajid Shams is feigning illness to avoid facing Abbottabad judicial commission since he knows his linkage with 2 May fiasco will get established. Ill-reputed Asma Jahangir who committed the blunder of defending the most reviled man under the misplaced hope that she will earn fame is ruing her decision since she is getting badly exposed and noose around his client’s neck is tightening. Shameless Babar Awan in his bid to get in good books of Zardari and to get another prized appointment is using all his tricks to malign Supreme Court but has got soiled himself. Supreme Court is playing its cards dexterously to reach to the bottom of memo case and all eyes are focused on Chief Justice Iftikhar. To conclude I would not hesitate in saying that credit for nailing Haqqani goes to Pasha. Had he not obtained the incriminating material, Haqqani would have still been Ambassador in Washington.


Who Is Flying Unmanned Aircraft in the U.S.?

Who Is Flying Unmanned Aircraft in the U.S.?

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

Drones are designed to carry surveillance equipment – including video cameras, infrared cameras and heat sensors, and radar – that can allow for sophisticated and almost constant surveillance. They can also carry weapons. Traditionally, drones have been used almost exclusively by military and security organizations. However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses drones inside the United States to patrol the U.S. borders, and state and local law enforcement are increasingly using unmanned aircraft for investigations into things like cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the search for missing persons.

Any drone flying over 400 feet needs a certification or authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, part of the DOT. But there is currently no information available to the public about who specifically has obtained these authorizations or for what purposes. EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request in April of 2011 for records of unmanned aircraft activities, but the DOT so far has failed to provide the information.

“Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. “As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.”

Dozens of companies and research organizations are working to develop even more sophisticated drones, so their use is poised for a dramatic expansion in the coming years. Meanwhile, news reports indicate that the FAA is studying ways to integrate more drones into the national airspace because of increased demand from federal, state, and local governments. EFF’s lawsuit asks for immediate response to our FOIA request, including the release of data on any certificates and authorizations issued for unmanned aircraft flights, expired authorizations, and any applications that have been denied.

“The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives,” said Lynch. “We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why.”

For the full complaint:

For more on this case:


Electronic Warfare: Israel’s Secret Iran Attack Plan:

Israel’s Secret Iran Attack Plan: Electronic Warfare

by Eli Lake

For much of the last decade, as Iran methodically built its nuclear program, Israel has been assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran’s defenses in the case of a pre-emptive aerial strike.

A U.S. intelligence assessment this summer, described to The Daily Beast by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, concluded that any Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would go far beyond airstrikes from F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and likely include electronic warfare against Iran’s electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers.

For example, Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance cellphone signal that commands a cell network to “sleep,” effectively stopping transmissions, officials confirmed. The Israelis also have jammers capable of creating interference within Iran’s emergency frequencies for first responders.

In a 2007 attack on a suspected nuclear site at al-Kibar, the Syrian military got a taste of this warfare when Israeli planes “spoofed” the country’s air-defense radars, at first making it appear that no jets were in the sky and then in an instant making the radar believe the sky was filled with hundreds of planes.

Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran’s big-city electric grids, which are not “air-gapped”—meaning they are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack—officials say.

A highly secretive research lab attached to the U.S. joint staff and combatant commands, known as the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), discovered the weakness in Iran’s electrical grid in 2009, according to one retired senior military intelligence officer. This source also said the Israelis have the capability to bring a denial-of-service attack to nodes of Iran’s command and control system that rely on the Internet.

Tony Decarbo, the executive officer for JWAC, declined comment for this story. The likely delivery method for the electronic elements of this attack would be an unmanned aerial vehicle the size of a jumbo jet. An earlier version of the bird was called the Heron, the latest version is known as the Eitan. According to the Israeli press, the Eitan can fly for 20 straight hours and carry a payload of one ton. Another version of the drone, however, can fly up to 45 straight hours, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

Unmanned drones have been an integral part of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, gathering intelligence and firing missiles at suspected insurgents. But Israel’s fleet has been specially fitted for electronic warfare, according to officials.

“They would have to take out radar and anti-aircraft. They could also attack with missiles and their drone fleet.”

The Eitans and Herons would also likely be working with a special Israeli air force unit known as the Sky Crows, which focuses only on electronic warfare. A 2010 piece in The Jerusalem Post quoted the commander of the electronic warfare unit as saying, “Our objective is to activate our systems and to disrupt and neutralize the enemy’s systems.”

Fred Fleitz, who left his post this year as a Republican senior staffer who focused on Iran at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in his meetings with Israeli defense and intelligence officials, they would always say all options were on the table.

“I think Israel has the capabilities with their air force and mid-air refueling to take on these sites,
” said Fleitz, who is now managing editor of Lignet.com. “They would have to take out radar and anti-aircraft. They could also attack with missiles and their drone fleet.”

Whatever Israel ultimately decides to do about Iran’s program, one mission for now is clear. A senior Israeli official told The Daily Beast this month that one important objective of Israel’s political strategy on Iran was to persuade Iranian decision makers that a military strike against their nuclear infrastructure was a very real possibility. “The only known way to stop a nuclear program is to have smashing sanctions with a credible military threat. Libya is the best example of this,” this official said.

At the same time, if past practice is any guide, the Israelis would not likely strike at the same moment that their officials are discussing the prospect in the press. In other words, if Israel is openly discussing a military strike, it is unlikely to be imminent.

But if Israel goes radio silent—like it did in when it attacked a suspected nuclear site in Iraq in 1981—that may be an early warning sign that a strike is nearing.

When Sam Lewis was U.S. ambassador to Israel during the transition from the Carter to Reagan administrations, he warned the new administration there was a chance then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin might bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

“I had given a full alert to the new administration about the dangers,” Lewis recalled in an interview. “We’d been having discussions with the Israelis about how they wanted to stop the project, there was a lot of news and then it all dried up.”

Lewis and his staff had moved on. Then without warning on June 7, 1981, in something called Operation Opera, Israeli jets flew in the dead of night via Jordanian air space and incinerated the nuclear facility that was under construction southeast of Baghdad. “I did feel after the fact that we should have assumed this bombing was going to take place,” Lewis said. “After it was over, I was not surprised, I was annoyed by having been misled by the quiet as it were.”

There may be a lesson for the Obama administration as it tries to calibrate what Israel will do on Iran. Since taking office, the president has made major efforts to avoid any surprises in the relationship with Israel, particularly on the issue of Iran. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, tasked their first national security advisers to establish an unprecedented system for regular consultation between the two countries, featuring regular video-teleconferences.

They formed a standing committee on Iran as well, to check the progress of sanctions, share intelligence, and keep both sides informed. Despite all of this, Netanyahu has refused to give any assurance to Obama or his top cabinet advisers that he would inform or ask permission before launching an attack on Iran that would likely spur the Iranians to launch a terrorist attack on the United States or Israel in response, according to U.S. and Israeli officials familiar with these meetings. The Telegraph first reported the tension over the weekend.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “expressed the desire for consultation on any contemplated future Israeli military action, and [Ehud] Barak understood the U.S. position,” said one official familiar with the discussions.

The Israelis may be coy this time around because of the experience of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In 2007, the Israelis presented what they considered to be rock-solid evidence that Syria was building a covert nuclear facility at al-Kibar. They asked President Bush to bomb the facility, according to the new memoir from Condoleezza Rice.

“The president decided against a strike and suggested a diplomatic course to the Israeli prime minister,” she wrote. “Ehud Olmert thanked us for our input but rejected our advice, and the Israelis then expertly did the job themselves.”

One American close to the current prime minister said, “When Netanyahu came into office, the understanding was they will not make the same mistake that Olmert made and ask for something the president might say no to. Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”


Rise of the Machines

New Police Drone Near Houston Could Carry Weapons

By Stephen Dean

CONROE, Texas — A Houston area law enforcement agency is prepared to launch an unmanned drone that could someday carry weapons, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Conroe paid $300,000 in federal homeland security grant money and Friday it received the ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter made by Vanguard Defense Industries of Spring.

A laptop computer is used to control the 50-pound unmanned chopper, and a game-like console is used to aim and zoom a powerful camera and infrared heat-seeking device mounted on the front.

“To be in on the ground floor of this is pretty exciting for us here in Montgomery County,
” Sheriff Tommy Gage said.
He said the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) could be used in hunting criminals who are running from police or assessing a scene where SWAT team officers are facing an active shooter.
Gage said it will also be deployed for criminal investigations such as drug shipments.

“We’re not going to use it to be invading somebody’s privacy. It’ll be used for situations we have with criminals,” Gage said.

It could have been used to help firefighters in the recent tri-county wildfires, he said, and it also could be handy in future scenarios like a recent search for a missing college student in The Woodlands.

In 2007, Local 2 Investigates uncovered a secret Houston Police Department test of a different kind of drone, fueling a nationwide debate over civil liberties and privacy.

A constitutional law professor and other civil liberties watchdogs told Local 2 Investigates that questions about police searches without warrants would crop up, as well as police spying into back yards or other private areas.

HPD fueled that 2007 controversy even further by suggesting that drones could be used for writing speeding tickets.
The backlash prompted Mayor Annise Parker to scrap HPD’s plans for using drones when she took office.

Gage said he is aware of those concerns.
No matter what we do in law enforcement, somebody’s going to question it, but we’re going to do the right thing, and I can assure you of that,” he said.

He said two deputies are finishing their training and should be ready to fly police missions within the next month.
Tapped to operate the Montgomery County Sheriff’s helicopter UAV are Sgt. Melvin Franklin, a licensed pilot, and Lt. Damon Hall, who heads the department’s crime lab and crime scene unit. The sheriff said Hall’s SWAT team background will assist the department in using the new tool on hostage standoffs or active shooter events.

The ShadowHawk chopper was displayed on a small conference room table as it was unveiled Friday. It displayed a sheriff’s logo and flashing blue lights on the side. On the front of the chopper, a grapefruit sized back unit houses the camera and Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor that can detect heat from a gun or a suspect’s body.

Deputies said they can quickly switch between day and night vision on the camera, which is zoomed and moved from side to side by a game-like console inside a police command vehicle on the ground.

The display shows up on a small TV-like box, while the actual flight controls are handled from a laptop computer.
Michael Buscher, chief executive officer of manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries, said this is the first local law enforcement agency to buy one of his units.

He said they are designed to carry weapons for local law enforcement.
“The aircraft has the capability to have a number of different systems on board. Mostly, for law enforcement, we focus on what we call less lethal systems,” he said, including Tazers that can send a jolt to a criminal on the ground or a gun that fires bean bags known as a “stun baton.”
You have a stun baton where you can actually engage somebody at altitude with the aircraft. A stun baton would essentially disable a suspect,” he said.
Gage said he has no immediate plans to outfit his drone with weapons, and he also ruled out using the chopper for catching speeders.

“We’re not going to use it for that,” he said.
Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said, “I’m tickled to death” about using the drone, pointing out that in his years of police work he could imagine countless incidents having ended more quickly and easily.

“It’s so simple in its design and the objectives, you just wonder why anyone would choose not to have it,” said McDaniel.
At the same time Houston police were testing a different drone, the Miami-Dade Metro Police department was also taking test flights of a helicopter UAV, and the Federal Aviation Administration said that department is now using its drone for local police work.

The San Diego Police Department also made local headlines in 2008 for beginning its own flights with a fixed-wing UAV.
But Les Dorr, an FAA spokesman in Washington, said very few local police departments actually have the required certificate of authorization (COA) to fly police missions nationwide.

He said Montgomery County is the first COA by a local police department in all of Texas.

In September 2008, the Government Accountability Office issued a 73-page report that raised issues about police drones endangering airspace for small planes or even commercial airliners.

The report’s author, Gerald Dillingham, told Local 2 Investigates that 65 percent of the crashes of military drones on the battlefield were caused by mechanical failures.
He said a police UAV could lose its link to the ground controllers if wind knocks the aircraft out of range or the radio frequencies are disrupted.

“If you lose that communication link as the result of that turbulence or for any other reason, then you have an aircraft that is not in control and can in fact crash into something on the ground or another aircraft,
” said Dillingham.

Pilots of small planes expressed those concerns in the original 2007 Local 2 Investigates reporting on police drones, and the FAA reported then that police departments across the country were lining up to apply for their own drones.

At Montgomery County, Franklin said an onboard GPS system is designed to keep the UAV on target and connected with the ground controllers. He said coordinates are plotted in advance and a command is given for the UAV to fly directly to that spot, adjusting to turbulence and other factors. He said he and the other controller can alter “waypoints” quickly on the laptop to move the chopper to areas that had not previously been mapped out. He said the aircraft moves at a speed of 30 knots, which he said makes it unsuitable for police pursuits.
Small aircraft pilots have expressed concerns that drones cannot practice the “see and avoid” rule that keeps aircraft from colliding in mid-air. Since the camera may be aimed somewhere else, pilots said police controllers may not be able to see and avoid other aircraft in the area during a sudden police emergency.

Gage said he would take every concern into account as his UAV is deployed.

The only routine law enforcement flights inside the United States over the past four years have been the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Their border flights over Texas and Arizona have included one crash, where the drone lost its link to the ground controller.


The American Army Cometh

US forces ‘massing on Afghanistan-Pakistan border’

By Dean Nelson

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated dramatically in recent months as American officials increased pressure on Pakistan to launch an offensive against the Haqqani Network, which mounts attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan from bases in North Waziristan.

Islamabad has fiercely resisted American pressure, claiming its forces are overstretched and stating its priority is to fight Taliban factions which have declared war on Pakistan, rather than those, like the Haqqanis, who focus on cross-border attacks on Nato forces.

Last month Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently accused Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service of plotting the attack on the US embassy in Kabul with Haqqani network fighters and claimed the militant group was a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

Islamabad and Washington have traded accusations since then, but the massing of American troops on the Afghan border appears to suggest some understanding may have been reached.

According to Pakistan Army sources, the U.S had informed Islamabad about the planned build-up and described it as part of a “cordon and search operation” in which Haqqani Network fighters will be pushed over the Afghan border from North Waziristan and then “encircled, arrested or killed” by American forces lying in wait.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul declined to comment on the build-up. A spokesman for the Pakistan Army said it had not been informed about the number of American troops on the border but it was reported that American and Afghan troops had established curfews in eastern Khost province, conducted house to house searches, established checkpoints and occupied hilltops close to Ghulam Khan on the Pakistan side of the border.

The Haqqani Network and militant allies have increased in strength on both sides of the border over the last two years and have been blamed for a summer increase in cross-border raids on Nato positions in eastern Afghanistan.


Coming Soon From the Air Force: Mind-Reading Drones

Coming Soon From the Air Force: Mind-Reading Drones

By Spencer Ackerman
April 19, 2011 |

Scientifically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before drones become self-aware and kill us all. Now the Air Force is hastening that day of reckoning.

Buried within a seemingly innocuous list of recent Air Force contract awards to small businesses are details of plans for robot planes that not only think, but anticipate the moves of human pilots. And you thought it was just the Navy that was bringing us to the brink of the drone apocalypse.

It all starts with a solution for a legitimate problem. It’s dangerous to fly and land drones at busy terminals. Manned airplanes can collide with drones, which may not be able to make quick course adjustments based on information from air traffic control as swiftly as a human pilot can. And getting air traffic control involved in the drones cuts against the desire for truly autonomous aircraft. What to do?

The answer: Design an algorithm that reads people’s minds. Or the next best thing — anticipates a pilot’s reaction to a drone flying too close.

Enter Soar Technology, a Michigan company that proposes to create something it calls “Explanation, Schemas, and Prediction for Recognition of Intent in the Terminal Area of Operations,” or ESPRIT. It’ll create a “Schema Engine” that uses “memory management, pattern matching, and goal-based reasoning” to infer the intentions of nearby aircraft.

Not presuming that every flight will go according to plan, the Schema Engine’s “cognitive explanation mechanism” will help the drone figure out if a pilot is flying erratically or out of control. The Air Force signed a contract Dec. 23 with Soar, whose representatives were not reachable for comment.

And Soar’s not the only one. California-based Stottler Henke Associates argues that one algorithm won’t get the job done. Its rival proposal, the Intelligent Pilot Intent Analysis System would “represent and execute expert pilot-reasoning processes to infer other pilots’ intents in the same way human pilots currently do.” The firm doesn’t say how its system will work, and it’s yet to return an inquiry seeking explanation. A different company, Barron Associates, wants to use sensors as well as algorithms to avoid collision.

And Stottler Henke is explicitly thinking about how to weaponize its mind-reading program. “Many of the pilot-intent-analysis techniques described are also applicable for determining illegal intent and are therefore directly applicable to finding terrorists and smugglers,” it told the Air Force. Boom: deal inked on Jan. 7.

Someone’s got to say it. Predicting a pilot’s intent might prevent collisions. But it can also neutralize a human counterattack. Or it can allow the drones’ armed cousins to mimic Israel in the Six Day War and blow up the manned aircraft on the tarmac. Coincidentally, according to the retcon in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, April 19, 2011 — today — is the day that Skynet goes online. Think about it.

The Air Force theorist Col. John Boyd created the concept of an “OODA Loop,” for “Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action” to guide pilots’ operations. Never would he have thought one of his loops would be designed into the artificial brain of an airborne robot.


Darpa’s Hologram Goggles Will Unleash Drone Hell

Darpa’s Hologram Goggles Will Unleash Drone Hell

By Noah Shachtman

The Pentagon’s mad-science arm wants robotic death-from-above, on demand. And the key to getting it done just might be holograms.

Let me explain. Right now, authorizing and targeting air strikes is a process that’s sometimes bureaucratic, and sometimes dangerous as hell. Bureaucratic as in the Stanley McChrystal phase of the Afghanistan war, when it took a gaggle of lawyers, intelligence analysts, air controllers, and commanders at multiple layers to put steel on target.

The result was fewer civilian casualties — but more U.S. troops, locked in firefights without air support. Dangerous as hell as in the Libya war, where NATO jets are accidentally offing Libyan rebels with such alarming regularity that the opposition forces are now painting their vehicles’ roofs pink, to distinguish them from Gadhafi’s rides.

Darpa believes there might be a single technological fix to both problems: Give a single guy on the ground a direct data link to the drone (or manned plane) circling above. That would eliminate the multilayered, bureaucratic approach, in which information is often passed through IM windows and static-ridden radio connections. That same lone “Joint Terminal Attack Controller,” or JTAC, might be low-profile enough to slip into a situation like Libya without causing too much of an international ruckus.

The program to make this all happen is called Persistent Close Air Support, or PCAS. And the goal is to give that controller the ability to “request and control near-instantaneous airborne fire support.”

Darpa and the Air Force Research Lab recently handed out big contracts to the usual suspects — Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — for the next phase of the PCAS project.

But the military also gave a million bucks to the relatively tiny Vuzix Corp. of Rochester, New York. Which is a little odd, at first blush, because Vuzix is an eyewear company, specializing in augmented reality specs.

But a little augmented reality may be just what a JTAC needs, in order to call in those airstrikes on his own. Rather than staring down at a bunch of maps and computer screens — and calling up intelligence analysts at headquarters for more info — it’d be better (and faster, and less prone to error) if he could get all of that data right on his augmented reality goggles. Oh, and if there was an integrated head-tracker, so the attached computer could basically see what the JTAC sees.

“It is all about speeding up the CAS [close air support] mission and eliminating friendly fire issues that can occur if the user on the ground may not have the whole picture of what is around them,” Vuzix executive Stephen Glaser tells Danger Room.

“The head tracker knows where the user is looking, so the information the user is seeing changes as he moves or turns his head. Theoretically you could look up in the sky and a little green triangle would appear telling you, you have an F-16 30 miles out at 21,000 feet. It could also tell you what type of ordnance the plane was carrying, so you could make a quick decision if that plane would be appropriate for the mission.”

Some of this can be done today with pilots’ heads-up displays. But those require so much power and light, a JTAC would need to lug around an extra 8 pounds of batteries to make it work. (And it still wouldn’t work in direct sunlight.) That’s where the holograms come in.

Vuzix’s setup uses a more-or-less traditional microdisplay, then mates that up to a flat piece of glass called an optical waveguide. The light from the display travels down the glass and bounces around inside the glass parallel flats. Those beams are directed to holographic film, which bounces the image to the eye.

If the plan works, the system will be tiny — just 3 mm thick. And when the display is off, it’ll be totally see-through. Glaser notes: “This will ultimately allow us to design the display right into a pair of sunglasses, so no one will know you are even wearing a display.” Which could make the goggles good for civilians, as well as troops ordering in a robotic, lethal hail.


Osama Bin Laden Assassinated by U.S. Strike

Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Strike

May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed, sources told ABC News.

His death brings to an end a tumultuous life that saw bin Laden go from being the carefree son of a Saudi billionaire, to terrorist leader and the most wanted man in the world.

Bin Laden created and funded the al Qaeda terror network, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Saudi exile had been a man on the run since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the ruling Taliban regime, which harbored bin Laden.

In a video filmed two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, bin Laden gloated about the attack, saying it had exceeded even his “optimistic” calculations.

“Our terrorism is against America. Our terrorism is a blessed terrorism to prevent the unjust person from committing injustice and to stop American support for Israel, which kills our sons,” he said in the video.

Long before the Sept. 11 attacks, bin Laden was known as an enemy of the United States. He was suspected of playing large roles in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.

In addition, authorities say bin Laden and his al Qaeda network were involved in previous attacks against U.S. interests — including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, failed plots to kill President Clinton and the pope, and attacks on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

Bin Laden also used his millions to bankroll terrorist training camps in Sudan, the Philippines and Afghanistan, sending “holy warriors” to foment revolution and fight with fundamentalist Muslim forces across North Africa, in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia.

Until the capture of one of his top al Qaeda lieutenants in March 2003, there had been no confirmation of his whereabouts — or even that he was still alive — since late 2001, when he appeared in a series of videotapes later released to news organizations.

In recent years, several audio recordings of bin Laden have been authenticated by U.S. officials and made public. In an 18-minute videotape weeks before the 2004 U.S. presidential election, bin Laden threatened fresh attacks on the United States as well as his intent to push America into bankruptcy.

Young Man With a Privileged Life

Born in 1957, bin Laden was a son of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest construction magnate. Saudi sources remembered him as a typical young man whose intense religiosity began to emerge as he grew fascinated with the ancient mosques of Mecca and Medina, which his family’s company was involved in rebuilding.

Bin Laden attended schools in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, and was encouraged to marry early, at the age of 17, to a Syrian girl and family relation. She was to be the first of several wives. He attended King Abdul-Aziz University and was slated to join the family business. He soon chose a different path, however.

Former classmates of bin Laden recall him as a frequent patron of nightclubs, who drank and caroused with his Saudi royalty cohorts. Yet it was also at the university that bin Laden met the Muslim fundamentalist Sheik Abdullah Azzam, perhaps his first teacher of religious politics and his earliest radical influence.

Azzam spoke fervently of the need to liberate Islamic nations from foreign interests and interventions, and he indoctrinated his disciples in the strictest tenets of the Muslim faith. Bin Laden, however, would eventually cultivate a brand of militant religious extremism that exceeded his teacher’s.

He began his relationship with fundamental Islamic groups in the early 1970s. His religious passion exploded in 1979 when Russia invaded Afghanistan. Bin Laden left his comfortable Saudi home for Afghanistan to participate in the Afghan jihad, or holy war, against the Soviet Union — a cause that the United States funded, pouring $3 billion into the Afghan resistance via the CIA.

Turning Against the Saudi Elite

His active opposition to the Soviet Union and his monetary support in purchasing arms, establishing training camps, and building houses, roads and other infrastructure, cemented his position as a hero among many people.

In 1988, he and the Egyptians founded al Qaeda, (“The Base”), a network initially designed to build fighting power for the Afghan resistance.

Bin Laden’s politics became more radical during the war. Upon returning to his home in Saudi Arabia, he was widely honored as a hero. But he returned to a country that he perceived had stepped away from the fundamentals of Islam. He declared the Saudi ruling family “insufficiently Islamic” and increasingly advocated the use of violence to force movement toward extremism.

Bin Laden saw American influence in Saudi Arabia as counter to everything he believed. He fell into disfavor with the Saudi government and moved his family to Sudan where he established terrorist camps — training and equipping terrorists from a dozen countries.

Bin Laden would not compromise his religious beliefs and after three years of continued criticism of the Saudi royal family, his own family disowned him.

Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in the mid-’90s for his alleged activities against the royal family, after he had left the country for Sudan. He later was expelled from Sudan under U.S., Egyptian and Saudi pressure. In 1996, he took refuge in Afghanistan.

Back to Afghanistan

Former mujahideen commanders close to the Taliban said that, in Afghanistan, bin Laden bankrolled the hard-line Islamic militia’s capture of Kabul under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar. He became one of Omar’s most trusted advisers.

One of bin Laden’s main strengths among the Muslim people was that followers saw him as a true believer in the faith. In their eyes he transcended other leaders who are viewed as dictators who care little for Islam or the people they lead. Bin Laden entered their lives with a message they can follow and he had the cash at his disposal to carry out that message.

Bin Laden was said to personally control about $300 million of his family’s $5 billion fortune. His role as a financier of terrorism is pivotal, experts said, because he revolutionized the financing of extremist movements by forming and funding his own private terror network.

In 1998, he issued an edict openly declared war on America: “We — with God’s help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”

Bin Laden committed himself to expelling all Americans and Jews from Muslim holy lands. “Osama bin Laden may be the most dangerous non-state terrorist in the world,” Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s national security adviser, told ABC News.

Most Wanted Man on Earth

His place in American history is relatively new, but in a short time he left a violent mark.

In 1993, bin Laden was linked by U.S. officials to the bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six people. He is also believed to have orchestrated at least a dozen attacks, some successful, some not. Among the worst of these were two truck bombings, both on Aug. 7, 1998, of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Clinton responded with cruise missile attacks on suspected al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. In November 1998, the U.S. State Department promised $5 million to anyone with information leading to bin Laden’s arrest.

Despite attempts to apprehend him, bin Laden eluded the American government and continued plotting against it.

The same group, with bin Laden at the helm, is widely believed to be responsible for the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole.

Then came the stunning Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. On a clear, late-summer morning, two hijacked commercial jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. About an hour later, another hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon in the nation’s capital. A fourth hijacked jet did not reach its target, crashing in western Pennsylvania instead.

When the massive towers collapsed in flames, nearly 3,000 people perished. Among those lost in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were the 19 hijackers, most of whom have been linked to al Qaeda operations. Bin Laden denied involvement in the attacks, but he praised the hijackers for their acts. The U.S. government nevertheless regarded the terrorist leader as its prime suspect and stepped up the manhunt.

In March 2005, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf admitted that bin Laden had been in Pakistan in the spring of 2004 and was almost captured. Intelligence officials said they believed he was hiding in the rugged mountains that straddle the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. government even launched a series of television and radio ads in Pakistan trumpeting the $25 million reward for his capture.

In January 2006, a purported Bin Laden audio tape was released where a male voice threatens the United States with more attacks on U.S. soil.