Tag Archives: september 11

FBI StagedTerror Plots – Convincing You the Threat is Real

Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I.

By DAVID K. SHIPLER

War on Terror – Saving us from ourselves.

THE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.

When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of “inert material,” harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.

This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.

Carefully orchestrated sting operations usually hold up in court. Defendants invariably claim entrapment and almost always lose, because the law requires that they show no predisposition to commit the crime, even when induced by government agents. To underscore their predisposition, many suspects are “warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. But not always, recorded conversations show. Sometimes they are coaxed to continue.

Undercover operations, long practiced by the F.B.I., have become a mainstay of counterterrorism, and they have changed in response to the post-9/11 focus on prevention. “Prior to 9/11 it would be very unusual for the F.B.I. to present a crime opportunity that wasn’t in the scope of the activities that a person was already involved in,” said Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer and former F.B.I. agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups. An alleged drug dealer would be set up to sell drugs to an undercover agent, an arms trafficker to sell weapons. That still happens routinely, but less so in counterterrorism, and for good reason.

“There isn’t a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God,” a former federal prosecutor, David Raskin, explained.

“You’re not going to be able to go to a street corner and find somebody who’s already blown something up,” he said. Therefore, the usual goal is not “to find somebody who’s already engaged in terrorism but find somebody who would jump at the opportunity if a real terrorist showed up in town.”

And that’s the gray area. Who is susceptible? Anyone who plays along with the agents, apparently. Once the snare is set, law enforcement sees no choice. “Ignoring such threats is not an option,” Mr. Boyd argued, “given the possibility that the suspect could act alone at any time or find someone else willing to help him.”

Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech — comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.

Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk: for example, Waad Ramadan Alwan, an Iraqi in Kentucky, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded roadside bomb near Bayji, Iraq, and Raja Khan of Chicago, who had sent funds to an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan.

But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find. Take the Stinger missile defendant James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer with a criminal record that included no violence or hate crime, despite his rants against Jews. “He was searching for answers within his Islamic faith,” said his lawyer, Clinton W. Calhoun III, who has appealed his conviction. “And this informant, I think, twisted that search in a really pretty awful way, sort of misdirected Cromitie in his search and turned him towards violence.”

THE informer, Shahed Hussain, had been charged with fraud, but avoided prison and deportation by working undercover in another investigation. He was being paid by the F.B.I. to pose as a wealthy Pakistani with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group that Mr. Cromitie apparently had never heard of before they met by chance in the parking lot of a mosque.

“Brother, did you ever try to do anything for the cause of Islam?” Mr. Hussain asked at one point.

“O.K., brother,” Mr. Cromitie replied warily, “where you going with this, brother?”

Two days later, the informer told him, “Allah has more work for you to do,” and added, “Revelation is going to come in your dreams that you have to do this thing, O.K.?” About 15 minutes later, Mr. Hussain proposed the idea of using missiles, saying he could get them in a container from China. Mr. Cromitie laughed.

Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts of the recorded conversations is like looking at the inkblots of a Rorschach test. Patterns of willingness and hesitation overlap and merge. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Mr. Cromitie said, and then explained that he meant women and children. “I don’t care if it’s a whole synagogue of men.” It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 to lead him, with three co-conspirators he recruited, to plant fake bombs at two Riverdale synagogues.

“Only the government could have made a ‘terrorist’ out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope,” said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a “fantasy terror operation” but called his attempt “beyond despicable” and rejected his claim of entrapment.

The judge’s statement was unusual, but Mr. Cromitie’s characteristics were not. His incompetence and ambivalence could be found among other aspiring terrorists whose grandiose plans were nurtured by law enforcement. They included men who wanted to attack fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport; destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago; carry out a suicide bombing near Tampa Bay, Fla., and bomb subways in New York and Washington. Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.

Another New York City subway plot, which recently went to trial, needed no help from government. Nor did a bombing attempt in Times Square, the abortive underwear bombing in a jetliner over Detroit, a planned attack on Fort Dix, N.J., and several smaller efforts. Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it’s not easy to tell the difference.

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The meaning of 9/11’s most controversial photo

The meaning of 9/11’s most controversial photo

Thomas Hoepker’s photo of New Yorkers apparently relaxing as the twin towers smoulder says much about history and memory

In the photograph Thomas Hoepker took on 11 September 2001, a group of New Yorkers sit chatting in the sun in a park in Brooklyn. Behind them, across brilliant blue water, in an azure sky, a terrible cloud of smoke and dust rises above lower Manhattan from the place where two towers were struck by hijacked airliners this same morning and have collapsed, killing, by fire, smoke, falling or jumping or crushing and tearing and fragmentation in the buildings’ final fall, nearly 3,000 people.

Young people chat as the World Trade Centre smokes in the background Thomas Hoepker chose not to publish this photograph in a book about 9/11. Photograph: Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Ten years on, this is becoming one of the iconic photographs of 9/11, yet its history is strange and tortuous. Hoepker, a senior figure in the renowned Magnum photographers’ co-operative, chose not to publish it in 2001 and to exclude it from a book of Magnum pictures of that horribly unequalled day. Only in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the attacks, did it appear in a book, and then it caused instant controversy. The critic and columnist Frank Rich wrote about it in the New York Times. He saw in this undeniably troubling picture an allegory of America’s failure to learn any deep lessons from that tragic day, to change or reform as a nation: “The young people in Mr Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.”

In other words, a country that believes in moving on they have already moved on, enjoying the sun in spite of the scene of mass carnage that scars the fine day. Indeed, I can’t help thinking the five apparently unmoved New Yorkers resemble the characters in the famous 1990s television comedy Seinfeld, who in the show’s final episode are convicted under a Good Samaritan law of failing to care about others.

Rich’s view of the picture was instantly disputed. Walter Sipser, identifying himself as the guy in shades at the right of the picture, said he and his girlfriend, apparently sunbathing on a wall, were in fact “in a profound state of shock and disbelief”. Hoepker, they both complained, had photographed them without permission in a way that misrepresented their feelings and behaviour.

Well, you can’t photograph a feeling. But another five years on since it surfaced in 2006, it seems pointless to argue about the morality of the people in the picture, or of the photographer, or his decision to withhold the picture from publication. It is now established as one of the defining photographs of that day – with the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Centre’s destruction approaching, the Observer Review republished it this August as the 9/11 photograph.

It is the only photograph of that day to assert the art of the photographer: among hundreds of devastating pictures, by amateurs as well as professionals, that horrify and transfix us because they record the details of a crime that outstripped imagination – even Osama bin Laden dared not expect such a result – this one stands out as a more ironic, distanced, and therefore artful, image. Perhaps the real reason Hoepker sat on it at the time was because it would be egotistical to assert his own cunning as an artist in the midst of mass slaughter.

Today, the meaning of this photograph has nothing to do with judging individuals. It has become a picture about history, and about memory. As an image of a cataclysmic historical moment it captures something that is true of all historical moments: life does not stop dead because a battle or an act of terror is happening nearby. Artists and writers have told this truth down the ages. In his painting The Fall of Icarus, the Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel depicts a peasant ploughing on as a boy falls to his death in the sea beyond: it is a very similar observation to Hoepker’s. WH Auden’s lines on this painting in his poem Musée des Beaux Arts apply perfectly to the photograph: “In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster …”

Stendhal similarly captures the dissonance of history in his novel The Charterhouse of Parma. A young man volunteers to fight for Napoleon at Waterloo, but instead of a defining moment of courage all he experiences are random, marginal, meaningless accidents on the edges of the great day.

History is not a heroic story, nor memory a block of marble inscribed with imperishable words of grief and rage. As Tony Blair – whose own response to this act of inhuman cruelty was to have such historic consequences – says of that day in his book A Journey, “It is amazing how quickly shock is absorbed and the natural rhythm of the human spirit reasserts itself … We remember, but not as we felt at that moment.”

Personally I remember the shock of that moment perfectly. I have nightmares about it, which is strange, considering I am not an American and witnessed it only on television in Hackney, London. But I had come to love New York deeply and it felt like – it was – an attack on everything I held dear. Yet arguments about the meaning and, urgently, the response to this colossal act of violence started immediately. For every horrific account you can read of that day a horror has been caused, either directly or indirectly, by the “war on terror” that resulted: 12,000 killed by suicide bombers in Iraq …

And so, 10 years on, the meaning of this photograph is that memories fade fast. The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it.

SOURCE

10 Lies Enshrined by H.Res. 391 to “Never Forget” 9/11

10 Lies Enshrined by H.Res. 391 to “Never Forget” 9/11

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The official version of the events of 9/11 are deemed written in stone according to a new 5-page House Resolution (pdf) which was passed to Never Forget 9/11. The intention is great, in theory. However, the facts are completely warped.

Enumerated below is a summary of the points of the Resolution, with links providing outright refutation, or questions surrounding such statements.

Whereas,

1. The fourth plane was prevented from being used as a weapon against America by brave passengers: While this narrative is emotionally compelling, the facts of flight 93 remain open for debate. For starters, there are too many inconsistencies with the notion that cell phone calls could have been made from the plane that day. Thus, this storyline seems immediately debunked considering the faulty source of supposed communication. Most likely the plane was shot down, as Donald Rumsfeld said on video. The size of the debris field also indicated a break-up prior to impact.

2. The attacks destroyed both towers of the World Trade Center, as well as adjacent buildings: This seems to acknowledge Building 7 — a building that was not mentioned by the 9-11 Commission report. Building 7 was undeniably a controlled demolition, never having been hit by a plane. WTC lease-owner Larry Silverstein is even on video admitting to the planned demolition.

3. The attacks targeted symbols of America’s success and were intended to assail its noble principles, values and freedoms. Since 9/11, the United States has grossly assailed its own principles, values, and freedoms in the reaction to the attacks through preemptive wars, torture, removal of Habeas Corpus, and all of the atrocities to freedom that the PATRIOT Act and the Department of Homeland Security have inflicted. The current principles don’t seem so noble when your child is being fondled by the TSA.

4. Memorials have been constructed to honor the victims of these attacks and to pay tribute to the heroic action of those who have served our communities and our country: First responders who risked their lives were first deceived about the air quality by the EPA, made to fight and beg for sufficient health care, run through a terror watch list, and have been denied a place at 10th Anniversary Ceremony, which is supposedly being given to honor courage and resolve. Quite a tribute!

5. 10 years after 9/11, 2001, the U.S. continues to fight terrorists and other extremists. All major terror groups, and their actions — most notably Al Qaeda — have in fact been supported by the U.S. government, while the anti-terror apparatus now ignores even its own justification by turning it on average, law-abiding, peaceful Americans. Are we supposed to honor that this misguided war continues with no end in sight?

6. Numerous laws have been enacted to assist victims of terrorism, combat terrorism at home and abroad, and support members of the Armed Forces: The American government lied them into wars of aggression, allowed private insurers to steal death benefits from the families of veterans, and demonized returning veterans as potential terrorists. Bravo!

7. To express gratitude to the efforts of personnel involved in the removal of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had been dead 9 times over before the staged hoax of his “removal.” His initial training and funding provably came from the CIA, and the FBI could never provide evidence of his involvement in the September 11th attacks. At this point, who cares about bin Laden anyway? He seems to be just one of the many puppets being used to continue the phony War on Terror.

8. The terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world since 9/11/01 remind us of the hateful inhumanity of terrorism: Excellent point, so long as the Western-backed NATO “humanitarian missions” are included as terrorist attacks being referred to.

9. The Nation is indebted to all personnel serving in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan in advancement of national interests. The interests served are actually global corporate interests, not American interests, as they have provably weakened America financially and morally.

10. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in the defense of freedom and liberty against the tyranny of terror and not diminished the pain caused by the senseless loss of 3,000 persons killed on 9/11/01. They were not the only ones. Mass tyrannical invasions and drone strikes have killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more around the world. It’s true that freedom fighters, defending their homeland from outside invasion, have been tortured and maimed. Wait, who’s defending freedom and liberty, and who is initiating violence and tyranny?

This Resolution is an appalling attempt to convince the nation to lie to itself, despite polls which continue to show that a majority of Americans think we overreacted, overspent and weakened ourselves through the War on Terror. This proposal by Eric Cantor wishes to enshrine a false view of both history and the present . . . and set it in stone for the future. How can America hope to reverse the race downhill to tyranny and infamy without analyzing facts? We need to voice our outrage over this despicable cover-up and propagandizing of a national tragedy — that tragedy being 9/11 AND the decade of worldwide oppression that has followed. Indeed, let us never forget.

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” I am become Death, the destroyer of Worlds” – Israels Doomsday Weapon: Leviathan

Doomsday weapon: Israel’s submarines

Alex Fishman

The day the Twin Towers collapsed in Manhattan, September 11, 2001, IDF submarine “Leviathan” of the advanced Dolphin model was on a training sail somewhere at sea – the exact location of Israel’s submarines will always remain classified, even dozens of years after the fact.

At one point, the submarine rose to the surface to take a break. The sub’s commander, then-Lt. Colonel Oded, looked through the periscope and saw a calm, blue sea. However, one crew member soon informed him that he just saw the New York towers collapsing on television. Oded’s first reaction was laughter: What kind of movie are you watching there? How could the Twin Towers collapse? Yet soon after, the official announcement arrived from Israel.

The training session ended abruptly. Orders started to pour in from Navy headquarters. The submarine went into high alert and sank into the water for a lengthy period of several weeks. “In such case,” Oded says, “nobody knows where you are except for your crew and your direct commanders. Even your family doesn’t know. They don’t know what you’re doing or when you’ll be back. They know nothing.”


What does a terror attack at the World Trade Center have to do with an Israeli submarine going on high alert? This question shall remain unanswered as well. We can only guess: When the US experiences an unprecedented terror event whose implications are still unclear, nobody knows how the superpower would respond and what will happen in the Middle East as result. At such moments of uncertainty, Israel’s first walls of defense are its long-range strategic arms – the most secretive one is the submarine fleet.

Israel’s enemies must be made to understand that should they dare use any weapon of mass destruction, their own fate will be sealed. According to foreign reports, Israel’s Dolphin fleet plays a crucial role in the game of deterrence with its second strike capability.


Virtual passport

Just like Israel’s submarine fleet is secretive, so are its commanders. Colonel Oded, 44, has recently completed his tenure as the fleet’s commander, ending a chapter of more than 20 years where he performed almost every command post in the fleet. “If a layman would see submarine troops from the side, he would not understand how we can withstand it,” Oded says in a rare interview. “It’s a group of people who perform missions at very certain locations and feel like home there. People wake up for their shifts, eat breakfast and follow a routine in the least trivial locations one can imagine.”

When I ask Oded whether his troops’ passports would be filled with stamps, had they theoretically stamped them at border control, he smiles and says nothing. Indeed, we can imagine that these virtual passports would have been full of stamps. The Navy’s submarines, as opposed to other vessels, never dock at foreign ports, including friendly ones. This is the nature of the service: The submarines only dock in Israel.


Exceptional soldiers

In order to serve on a submarine, one needs more than to excel at school and accumulate more and more knowledge. Such soldiers need a specific mental makeup that enables them to be isolated for lengthy periods of time from their natural environment, while living with 40 other people under crowded conditions and an intensive, tense operational atmosphere.


“People who cannot withstand the pressure drop out in the screening process and during the courses,
” Oded says. “There is only one way to minimize the fear and improve the ability to function during emergencies: Sisyphean training. For that reason we constantly engage in simulating extreme scenarios, so when things happen in real life the soldiers are trained and already experienced those things during training sessions.


“When you arrive at the sub after the course, you feel that nobody is better than you, but very quickly you realize that you have much to learn from the people around you,
” Oded says. “The veteran non-commissioned officer is much more professional than you in his area of expertise. The secret of the submarine’s power is the accumulated knowledge of everyone on board. Each soldier is an expert, so you learn to appreciate and trust them…you learn very quickly that the quality of the soldiers is so high that you cannot just issue orders.”


Not like in the movies

So what happens to a young man who one day becomes privy to the State of Israel’s deepest secrets? “If we developed the right person, and his ego is at a healthy place, not much happens,” Oded says. “The heavy responsibility and significance of the work merely increase the need for modesty. Even though it’s quite surprising and fascinating to discover what this country can do, we don’t tell our parents or anyone else. Never. Everything stays within the submarine. This is one of the reasons why the friendships formed between the soldiers and officers don’t exist elsewhere. We develop a culture where secrecy means life or death.

In the movies we often see a submarine commander receiving a mysterious message, walking over to the safe, pulling out an envelope and discovering a dramatic mission for the first time. Yet when Oded is asked whether this happens in real life, he bursts into laughter. “This happens in the movies. These are precisely the things that are not done in real life, because the sub commander works completely independently, and at times has no contact whatsoever with his superiors. Hence, he must have all the information available to him and be familiar with the mission’s big picture, so he can make the right decisions.


Having fun in the shower

At the end of the 1980s, Oded completed a degree in electrical engineering and physics at the Technion. Upon graduation, he was appointed as commander of a missile boat that specializes in anti-submarine warfare (the Navy ensures that future sub commanders serve on such boats first, as there is no better way to learn how they behave when confronting a submarine.) After two years, Oded embarked on a submarine commander’s course – an intensive eight-month track with a personal mentor. In 1999 he was assigned to command the old-model submarine “Gal.” The only thing he is willing to say about that period is: “It was a very operational year, with plenty of counter-terror activity.” In 2001, he was appointed as the second commander of “Leviathan,” a new model Dolphin sub.

When asked how it feels to command “Leviathan,” a submarine that is three-times larger than the previous sub he led, Oded first speaks about the improved shower experience. “When you are sailing for weeks and your only way to take a shower is to use the air-conditioner’s water, yet suddenly you have a shower, only then you understand the meaning of this,” he says.

“Suddenly there is a convenient space for service, in submarine terms of course. Suddenly your sub has more than one floor. There are also more arms and more advanced sonar systems. There is also a leap in atomization and in command and control capabilities. It’s like flying into space. Moreover, it’s a very quiet submarine that can perform its mission with greater secrecy.

Doubling the fleet

At this time the Navy is preparing to double Israel’s submarine fleet from three to six in the next five years, making it one of the region’s largest and most advanced fleets. As result of this process, Oded was not only required to double the submarine fleet’s manpower, but also to create a larger cadre career officers for a lengthy service term, as the need for professional expertise will only be growing. Hence, the Navy realized it must offer these soldiers the army’s best service terms. For example, sub troops can study almost anything they want, as long as they stay in the force. Notably, a sub officer is required to serve nine years at least.

Oded says that doubling the fleet’s size is “not only a challenge for the army; it’s a challenge for the State.” When asked whether Israel needs such large fleet, especially in an era of cutbacks, Oded has no hesitation: “I have no doubt we need it. A large submarine fleet gives us much more than a multiplier effect in strategic and security terms.”

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