Panetta Faces Budget Questions in Senate Confirmation Hearing
Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ likely successor, is on Capitol Hill Thursday to answer questions before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Panetta has received support from both sides of the aisle and is all but assured confirmation, but faces questions over the future of a Defense Department managing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and in light of budget constraints across the government.
The New York Times’ The Caucus blog is liveblogging updates throughout the hearings.
Panetta said he supports “the commitment of the president to try to take action to reduce the deficit,” but did not directly support a proposed $400 billion in defense cuts over the coming decade. President Obama has asked for long-term cuts in the Pentagon’s budget on top of the $78 billion already introduced by Secretary Gates. Panetta said the U.S. didn’t need to “choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong national defense.”
Panetta said the death of Osama bin Laden, the “spiritual leader of al-Qaida,” impacted their operations but that the network remains dangerous and we “have to pay attention to these nodes that are developing” in places like Yemen and North Africa.
He also said the U.S. needs to work on building a “relationship of trust with Pakistanis” because “it is in the interest of both countries” because both nations are threatened by the existence of terrorist groups. Panetta described the U.S.-Pakistan alliance as among the “most critical and yet one of the most complicated and frustrating relationships” the U.S. has.
Answering a question from Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., about the worst-case outcomes for Afghanistan, Panetta said “We not only create another safe haven for al-Qaida and their militant allies, but the world becomes a much more threatened place because of that loss, particularly in that region.”
Addressing concerns about sustainability, Panetta said Afghanistan’s government needs to begin raising the revenue it would need to cover its own expenses.
With regard to U.S.-supported NATO air strikes on Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya and a possible post-Gadhafi political plan, Panetta said “we have a lot more work to do in order to ensure that if Gadhafi does step down, Libya will be a stable country,” but said he felt confident leaders could emerge from the current opposition coalition.
“To promote the national security by providing for a Secretary of Defense; for a National Military Establishment; for a Department of the Army, a Department of the Navy, and a Department of the Air Force; and for the coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with the national security.”—
Signed by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1947, the National Security Act would establish the Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council.
Libyan papers show UK worked with Gaddafi in rendition operation
A secret CIA document shows that British and Libyans worked together to arrange the removal of a terror suspect to Tripoli
Documents found in Tripoli suggest that MI6 enjoyed a close relationship with Gaddafi’s intelligence services. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian
Evidence that British intelligence agencies mounted their own “rendition” operation in collaboration with Muammar Gaddafi’s security services has emerged with the discovery of a cache of Libyan government papers in an abandoned office building in Tripoli.
A secret CIA document found among the haul shows that the British and Libyans worked together to arrange for a terrorism suspect to be removed from Hong Kong to Tripoli – along with his wife and children – despite the risk that they would be tortured. The wording of the document suggests the CIA was not involved in the planning of the rendition operation, but was eager to become engaged during its execution and offered financial support.
Other papers found in the building suggest MI6 enjoyed a far closer working relationship with Gaddafi’s intelligence agencies than has been publicly known, and was involved in a number of US-led operations that also resulted in Islamists being consigned to Gaddafi’s prisons.
On Sunday, one of the victims, Abdul Hakim Belhaj – now commander of the anti-Gaddafi militia in Tripoli – demanded an apology from London and Washington and said he was considering suing over his rendition to Tripoli and subsequent torture.
For several years, senior MI5 and MI6 officers have sought to deny that their agencies have been guilty even of complicity in the rendition operations mounted by the US after 9/11, and the subsequent torture of the victims.
The discovery of the papers suggests that on one occasion, at least, the British ran their own “rendition to torture” operation. The victim was named by the CIA as Abu Munthir. He is thought to have been a man who used this nom de guerre while living in the UK, where he is said to have encouraged a group of British Muslims to mount a bomb attack on an unspecified target in the south-east of England. The plotters were under surveillance by MI5 and counterterrorism detectives at the time that Abu Munthir was detained in Hong Kong in March 2004 before being sent to Libya.
While five members of the gang were jailed for life after a trial at the Old Bailey, and a sixth received a 10-year sentence in Canada, the fate of Abu Munthir and his family remains unknown.
The papers were discovered by staff of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO, in the unmarked offices of Libya’s external security agency. A number of the documents detail meetings between the British and Libyans during the period of rapprochement that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Gaddafi was being persuaded to abandon his nuclear weapons programme.
The fact that MI6 and Libyan intelligence enjoyed a close relationship at this time is known: the Secret Intelligence Service made no secret of its role in the successful WMD negotiations, and when Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa defected last March, MI6 organised the flight. The papers show that Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counterterrorism at MI6, played a key role in nurturing this relationship.
The documents also show that British intelligence agencies provided intelligence reports on individuals of interest to Tripoli, helped the Libyans identify at least one organisation using particular telephone numbers in the UK, and were intimately involved in a number of US operations that saw Islamist terrorist suspects rendered to Libya. Since the ousting of Gaddafi it has become apparent that the regime’s enemies were tortured routinely while imprisoned, and at least one rendition victim, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, later died in what the Libyans claimed was a suicide.
The CIA fax that details the UK-Libya rendition operation is potentially the most damning for the UK authorities, however. It was sent to Tripoli on 23 March 2003 and marked SECRET/US ONLY/EXCEPT LIBYA. “Our service has become aware that last weekend LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] deputy Emir Abu Munthir and his spouse and children were being held in Hong Kong detention for immigration/passport violations,” it says. “We are also aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect Abu Munthir’s removal to Tripoli, and that you had an aircraft available for this purpose in the Maldives.”
The fax goes on to explain that although Hong Kong had no wish to see a Libyan aircraft land on its territory, “to enable you to assume control of Abu Munthir and his family”, the operation would work if the Libyans were to charter an aircraft registered in a third country, and that the US would assist with the cost. The Hong Kong authorities were also insisting that the Libyans offer an assurance that the family’s human rights would be respected, but human rights groups would say that such assurances were worthless.
Whitehall officials on Sunday defended the actions of the intelligence agencies and their links with Libya, saying this was “ministerially authorised government policy”. They said there were genuine fears some Libyan dissidents living in the UK posed a potential threat to national security, because of the group’s links to Islamic extremists. They were cut in 2009.
MI5 and MI6 have continued to maintain they have not been complicit in torture and rendition despite the emergence of a growing body of evidence to the contrary. For example, the last Labour government tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the high court disclosing evidence that MI5 knew Binyam Mohamed was being tortured in Pakistan before an officer was sent to interrogate Also, a secret telegram signed by Jack Straw while he was foreign secretary, which was disclosed in a second court case, showed that the government had decided a number of British nationals should be sent to Guantánamo Bay, but only after MI5 had interrogated them in Afghanistan.
him. Despite this, the agencies have continued to insist they were guilty only of being “slow to detect the emerging pattern” of rendition by the US, a defence that was accepted by the intelligence and security committee, the Westminster body that was established to offer political oversight of the agencies.
The secret CIA fax is the first sign that the British went much further than being merely complicit, and were directly involved in rendition to a country where the victim could expect to be tortured.
Abu Munthir was thought to be the link man between a group of British jihadists, whom he had met in Luton, and Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, who has been accused of being a senior figure in al-Qaida.
A month after Abu Munthir’s detention in Hong Kong and removal to Tripoli, 18 men were arrested in police raids across the south of England. Two other men were arrested in New York and Ottawa and several were seized in Pakistan. It was alleged at a trial at the Old Baileythat Abu Munthir had encouraged members of the group to mount attacks in the UK, rather than wage jihad in Afghanistan.
One of those held in Pakistan was Salahuddin Amin, then 29, from Luton, who was questioned 13 times by MI5 officers in between being tortured by agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was shown a photograph of Abu Munthir, and told that he too was in detention.The secret interrogation policy that MI5 and MI6 officers were instructed to follow during such operations was disclosed by the Guardian last month. Amin was later deported to the UK and is one of the men now serving life sentences.
The questioning of Amin by the ISI, under torture, appears to have been co-ordinated with the questioning of other suspects held by Scotland Yard at Paddington Green police station in west London. It now appears that it was also co-ordinated with the questioning – quite possibly also under torture – of Abu Munthir in Tripoli.
Al-Qaeda A Fairy Tale Invented by CIA, Mossad
An American investigative journalist claims that Al-Qaeda is a made up invention by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli spy agency Mossad “In the US, the Zionist propagandists are spinning the fanciful tale that Iran was involved with “al-Qaeda,” the fairy tale organization concocted by Mossad and the CIA, in carrying out the 9/11 attacks,” Wayne Madsen wrote in an article published in Global Research.
Madsen was referring to the latest US allegation that Iran was involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
On December 22, a US federal judge in Manhattan alleged that Iran, together with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, had been involved in the 9/11 attacks.
The court, meanwhile, withdrew Saudi Arabia’s name from the 10-year-old case, even though 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi nationals.
Tehran has condemned Washington’s allegations as amateurish and baseless scenarios.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the US is jeopardizing international peace and security by repeating such groundless claims.
He added that the US role in founding the al-Qaeda and supporting it is common knowledge.
The American journalist concluded that Iran is now facing an undeclared war being waged by the West and Israel.
“It is a war of computer viruses like the Israeli-developed Stuxnet, propaganda, support for armed insurgents, covert assassinations and sabotage, and political pressure against Iran’s friends around the world. This softening up of Iran is expected by the West to make a final military assault on the country a cake walk. ”