Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pearls of the Sun God, Part 2

We continue from Part 1 examining the events in Somalia, which have taken an interesting turn.

Anyone following the news from the Horn of Africa knows that the TFG, together with AMISOM, launched an offensive to clear Al Shabaab terrorists from Mogadishu and its environs.

From AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: TFG/AMISOM Commence Operations to Secure Final Sector of Mogadishu, October 10, 2011:

10 civilian deaths from continued Al Shabaab mortaring in Heliwa and Karaan Districts last week have prompted the Somali National Army, supported by AMISOM, to undertake operations in the North of the Mogadishu.

Operations are aimed at securing the former Arafat Hospital and the Pasta Factory on the Industrial Road, and driving the Al Qaeda linked extremists out of the city.

And, more recently, from AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: Control of Deynile Critical to Security of Mogadishu, October 21, 2011:

Mogadishu, 21 October, 2011; AMISOM Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha, today undertook a tour of the frontline following the commencement yesterday of operations in support of the Somali National Army, aimed at pushing al-Qa'ida linked extremists from the strategic Deynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

"Deynile is of vital strategic importance as it controls access to the Afgoye Corridor which links the capital to the terrorist-controlled areas of southern Somalia, allowing them to reinforce and resupply their fighters in Masla and Balaad in the far northeastern edges of the city," he said following his tour.

"The Afgoye Corridor is also home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and securing it will allow humanitarian aid, which the extremists have so far been restricting, to finally reach them," he said. "The extremists have also been using the suburbs of Deynile as a base to assemble improvised explosive devices, including car and truck bombs such as those recently employed to target civilians in the capital."

He said that the success of this operation was critical for the security of Mogadishu. "As was to be expected, given Deynile's significance, the operation has encountered heavy resistance but steady progress is being made. In the face of this resistance, AMISOM has suffered casualties," he added.

The offensive has had some success - which generates new problems. As we previously pointed out, control of key economic areas in Mogadishu served as a source of income for Al Shabaab, as the organization "taxed" merchants and businesses.

Of course, we have also been told a big part of the problem in Somalia now is a famine.

But, then, the famine is starting to look a little suspicious.

We now consider an article entitled Somalia: Manufacturing a famine by Rasna Warah, October 19, 2011:

On July 18 this year, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea tabled a report to the UN Security Council.

The report stated that United Nations agencies, international humanitarian aid organisations and local Somali non-governmental organisations had been forced to move their operations or cease them entirely in many parts of Somalia, mainly due to "an alarming void in international humanitarian aid and development assistance," and also because of "threats from elements of Al Shabaab," who control much of southern Somalia.

Two days later, the UN's World Food Programme — the largest distributor of food aid to Somalia — declared that Bakool and Lower Shebelle, two regions in southern Somalia, had been hit by the worst famine in 20 years.

The UN agency further claimed that 3.7 million people across the country — almost half the total Somali population – were in danger of starving, of which 2.8 million were in the south.

This declaration led to a massive multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign by UN and international humanitarian agencies. Meanwhile, journalists began referring to the famine as a "biblical event." By September, Time magazine was reporting that the famine had expanded and that a full 12.4 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda were at risk from hunger.

The magazine also stated that in southern Somalia, 63 per cent of the population was either starving or at risk of it.

These figures did not convince many Somali analysts, including Ahmed Jama, a Nairobi-based agricultural economist and former consultant with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

"I was disturbed by the WFP announcement because Lower Shebelle is Somalia's breadbasket and had even experienced a bumper harvest last year," he told this writer.

Skipping down:

But was there really widespread famine, or were the famine figures exaggerated or misinterpreted? FSNAU's estimates for Somali populations "in crisis" in the period August-September 2011 were highest in the most fertile southern parts of Somalia, and were highest in those areas controlled by Al Shabaab.

Significantly, there were only 490,000 people (less than one-eighth of Nairobi's population) in Somalia who were experiencing what the IPC classifies as "famine" or a "humanitarian catastrophe."

In fact, about half of the nearly four million people that the WFP claims are starving are actually experiencing what is known as a "humanitarian emergency"; the rest are in an "acute food and livelihood crisis."

Therefore, I think the widely reported "famine" in Somalia is highly exaggerated. What Somalia is experiencing is generalised food insecurity, not widespread famine. Unfortunately, most media organisations have failed to mention or comprehend this fact.

Is it possible that the "famine" in Somalia was "manufactured" to raise funds? The sequence of events leading to the famine appeal certainly raises suspicions. According to Jama, the timing of the famine declaration in July was probably a response to the shortfall of funds that WFP has recently been experiencing and also to divert attention from the criticism that the UN agency was subjected to after the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia released its 2010 report in March last year.

Then, WFP was castigated by the UN Monitoring Group for colluding with corrupt Somali contractors who are known to sell or divert food aid. Sources interviewed by the Monitoring Group — an entity mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor arms embargo violations in Somalia — estimated that up to half of the food aid reaching Somalia was regularly diverted, not just by Somali transport contractors, but by WFP personnel and NGOs operating in Somalia. That 2010 report led some donors, notably the US, to withdraw funding to WFP’s operations in Somalia.

Rasna then goes on to explain how the European Union has invested a considerable amount of money - 175 million Euros over the past 15 years - to develop the agricultural infrastructure of the Shabelle region of Somalia - "Somalia's breadbasket" - and the question presents itself as to how a famine could occur in a "breadbasket" whose infrastructure has been built up with so much investment over more than a decade. Later on, Rasna points out that the EU funds this through the UN, and relies on UN reports to assess the effectiveness of the program - without any independent or EU audits.

An opportunity for someone? To divert and profit from control of international aid? And, perhaps more... after all, there is international traffic of ships, aircraft, and trucks moving that international aid, from developed countries to Somalia, and then the ships, aircraft and trucks go back... I wonder if they are empty when they go back.

The interesting turn, though, is a Kenyan armed invervention, prompted - supposedly - by lawlessness that spilled over from Somalia into Kenya.

From Kibaki gambles on regional war with Al Shabaab, October 21, 2011 (also available here):

Panic in Lamu

Some witnesses say the kidnappings along Kenya's coast were carried out by groups linked to the Somali pirates whose operations have come under pressure from heavier international maritime policing in the region. The kidnappings generated panic. The resort town of Lamu, favoured by (relatively) wealthy European tourists, emptied within days and this at the start of the tourist high season, which this year was forecast to generate a record US$1 billion in revenue.

Those abductions were further aggravated by the kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp. This was the shot that sent Kenya's armed forces into south-central Somalia. Invoking Article 61 of the United Nations charter on territorial integrity, some 1,600 Kenyan troops launched their first cross-border military offensive, Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation), since the end of the Shifta War in 1967. Derided in the region for their lack of fighting experience, the Kenyan armed forces have deployed mechanised infantry with aerial cover from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. We hear that Somali TFG troops will be joining them in the battle for Afmadow.

The real prize, though, is the port city of Kismayo. Both Kenya's military and its Amisom counterparts believe that the capture of Kismayo, from which Al Shabaab now derives much of its revenue, will choke off the militants.

Kismayo... in Part 1 we discussed how Al Shabaab taxes, among other things, the charcoal industry, which exports charcoal to the Arabian Peninsula. But, a port town is important for moving other commodities, as well.

By the way: the Kenyan attack seems to be supported by US drone activity which has resulted in losses of some of our drones.

Either way, Kismayo is important to Al Shabaab, and Al Shabaab is preparing to defend it. From Kenya-Somalia: A risky intervention, October 20, 2011:

On the move

"Many people have been leaving in the last three days. No-one wants to get caught up in the fighting, I have sent my family to the villages," said a resident of Afmadow, a town 140km north of Kenya's border.

Describing the intervention as a "joint Kenya-Somali operation", the commander of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces in the border area, Gen. Yusuf Hussein Dhumal, told IRIN from his base in Tabta, 65km north of the Kenyan border, that his forces were in control of Qoqani, 50km south of Afmadow town.

"We are being delayed by heavy rains. Our aim was to be in Afmadow by now but the rains have made that impossible. We will push until we chase them [Al-Shabab] from Kismayo."

Mohamed Ahmed Ilkase, a reporter for Somali national TV travelling with the Somali forces, told IRIN Al-Shabab was reportedly regrouping in Afmadow.

A resident of the port city of Kismayo, 500km south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said Al-Shabab had been reinforcing its positions in the city and conscripting people "to fight the enemy. They have been bringing many militias since Monday [17 October] and have been calling on residents to register to fight."

He said families had started leaving the city. "Some are going south [towards Kenya], while many others are going north to Mogadishu."

Al Shabaab has time to dig in to defend Kismayo, conscripting local people to fight. The time is available because heavy rains are slowing the movement of the military forces trying to seize the town... heavy rains in a region that has a famine caused by drought.

Of course, it is not uncommon for an area devastated by drought to have heavy rain, which still does not make up for an extended time of below-average rainfall. And, it is not uncommon in arid regions of the world for sudden heavy rain to bring vehicular movement to a standstill.

We consider an excerpt from an article entitled Taliban Heroin Flooding Kenya on its Way To Europe and The Americas from December 14, 2009 (the post appears to be a copy of an article from The Standard (Kenya), to which I link in the sidebar, but I have (curiously) not been able to find the article there; italics, boldface and other formatting are in the original):

Kenya is fast becoming a key hub for trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan to the rest of the world.

According to reports by the United Nations, "30 to 35 metric tonnes" of Afghan heroin pass through East Africa each year.

This is two-thirds the volume going through West Africa. The largest ever drug haul in Kenya, in December 2004, was 1.1 metric tonnes with a street value of over Sh13 billion.

The proceeds from the drugs are used to finance terrorism activities in Northern Africa and some other sub-Saharan states. It is also suspected that the illicit drug trade supports the unending conflict in neighbouring Somalia.

The Taliban, among whom the world's most notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden hides, are reported to earn $100 million (Sh8 billion) a year from protecting the drug trade. Drug barons are rumoured to sit in Afghan government positions raking in billions more. The UN puts the potential export value of Afghan narcotics at about $3.4 billion (Sh270 billion) a year. So much is grown that destroying it all is impossible: With stockpiles of 10,000 metric tonnes awaiting export, the UN this year proposed creating a "flood of drugs" in the country to destroy the value of opium.

This last comment is interesting; if the Afghan opium fields were suddendly destroyed, for example, by spraying herbicide on or by burning the opium plants, there is still enough Afghan heroin in the "pipeline" to supply the world until another harvest - and, perhaps, for longer. This stuff has been getting stockpiled under the watch of US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

Skipping down:

On November 24, a ministerial declaration supporting UN efforts against drugs and organised crime was signed in Kenya. Dated December 8, the report quotes Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director on the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) as saying: "Drugs are enriching not only organized crime but also terrorists and other anti-Government forces,"

He describes the situation as a worrisome development.

"In East Africa... 30 to 35 tonnes of Afghan heroin [are] trafficked each year causing a dramatic increase in heroin addiction and spreading of HIV and Aids in the slums of Nairobi and Mombasa."

The official said the rise is also connected to state failure in Somalia.

"Mainly because of the drastic situation in Somalia, he said, East Africa was becoming a free economic zone for all sorts of trafficking — drugs, migrants, guns, hazardous wastes and natural resources."

West Africa has traditionally been associated with the international drug trade but Kenya now leads states in East Africa that have emerged as favourites for drug traffickers.

Obviously, this development of Kenya becoming a hub for drug-trafficking is not something that happened over night. For example, drug-trafficking through Kenya was addressed in an article entitled Traffickers' drugs haven in Kenya by Karen Allen, May 9, 2006


It is something that worries Titus Naikuni, chief executive of Kenya Airways.

His airline crews have been amongst those used as drug mules.

Five of his staff have been arrested over the past year, trying to bring narcotics into Europe.

With extra security measures now in place, he says his employees are aware that international drug cartels are now targeting them.

The travel industry is used to move drugs from Kenya to Europe.

It is interesting that the previously-described "panic in Lamu" is resulting in a dramatically-decreased number of tourists coming in from Europe to Kenya. Decreased business might have an impact on the travel industry... at a minimum, fewer tourists means that honest customs and immigration officials (assuming some can be found) have more time to examine aircraft, passengers and cargo, and thus to detect drug shipments.

We now consider an excerpt from a recent report, Termites at Work: Transnational Organized Crime and State Erosion in Kenya by Peter Gastrow, September, 2011:

While to the onlooker Kenya appears to be in a relatively healthy state, it is in fact weakening due to a process of internal decay. Endemic corruption and powerful transnational criminal networks are “white-anting” state institutions and public confidence in them. Termites are at work, hollowing out state institutions from the inside. As a result, development is being hampered, governance undermined, public trust in institutions destroyed, and international confidence in Kenya’s future constantly tested.

The country is perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world, ranked far down at 154th on a list of 178 countries that feature in the 2010 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.5 Close to 90 percent of Kenyans surveyed rated their country as being between corrupt and extremely corrupt, while only 8.5 percent regarded it as slightly corrupt.6 Bribery has become a normal part of life. In 2010, 58.6 percent of persons who sought the services of the Nairobi City Council paid bribes, 54.4 percent of those who sought the services of the police did the same, and 47.8 percent who sought the services of the judiciary also resorted to bribes.7 It is this corruption- ridden environment that enables criminal networks to thrive. They can buy protection, information, and power.

I wonder if the corruption includes collaborating with transnational cartels that traffic in Afghan heroin (and Latin American cocaine)?

Kenya's intervention in Somalia is not about stabilizing Somalia, a neighbor which has been in chaos for decades. The intervention is about control of a route for moving heroin from Afghanistan where it is produced, via Iran and Pakistan, to the Somali port of Kismayo, from which heroin is trafficked through the lawless areas of southern Somalia and across the border into Kenya, and from there smuggled to lucrative markets in Europe and elsewhere.

And, the US is actively supporting this intervention, just like the US occupies Afghanistan, where the heroin is now comfortably produced and even stockpiled.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This One Before, Part 3

In Part 1 we began to examine an incident in which US government agents were ambushed in Mexico, and reviewed how most of the weapons the Mexican drug cartels use are in fact military-grade weapons that cannot have come from gunshops and gunshows on the US side of the border. In Part 2 we considered the attack more in-depth, and saw how it must have been a deliberate attack targeting US agents, and how those agents were likely sold out by US authorities.

In a related series, we saw in Take A Long Holiday, Part 1 how the Palestinian Authority's key leaders have been involved in trafficking heroin for decades, and we saw some of the impact this has on Palestinians in the West Bank. In Take A Long Holiday, Part 2, we considered the movement of drugs through western Africa, looking at cocaine moving from Latin America to Europe, and connections from Islamic terrorist groups leading the other way through Latin America, all the way to the US border.

There have been a great many very predictable developments since then. In fact, I have not blogged about this because it is playing out pretty much the way I had anticipated. I do feel, though, that it is time for an update.

We now consider in its entirety an article entitled Mexico unlikely base for terrorism, from October 14, 2011:

MEXICO CITY –The alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States has cast Mexico into the news as a potential staging area for a terrorist operation.

But experts say the likelihood of such a plot going undetected in Mexico by U.S. authorities is low and that Mexico's drug cartels would be unlikely to become involved in such a plot.

U.S. officials alleged Tuesday that an Iranian-American and a member of Iran's Quds Force sought to enlist a Mexican drug cartel in a plot to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir in Washington, perhaps by bombing a restaurant he was known to frequent.

One of the men, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding Iranian and U.S. passports, was said to have met in the Mexican border city of Reynosa with a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who he thought was a member of a violent drug cartel.

The barrage of 251,287 unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks released more than a month ago suggest that American diplomats maintain a steady focus on Iran's activities in Latin America. In Mexico, that meant keeping an eye on a mosque in Torreon, watching the impact of Iran's "dynamic" new ambassador, gauging public attitudes toward Iran and coaching agents at Mexico's National Security and Investigation Center – CISEN in its Spanish initials – the domestic intelligence agency.

Strategic Forecasting Inc., an Austin, Texas, global intelligence firm commonly called Stratfor, on Wednesday described as unlikely any use of Mexico as a staging ground for a terrorist attack emanating from the Middle East.

It noted that while the U.S.-Mexico border is porous and prone to security breaches, the U.S. government has "extremely active intelligence capabilities" embedded in Mexico. It added that Mexico is generally hostile to enemies of the United States, not wanting to risk possible intervention by U.S. forces should its territory be used in any attack.

The cartels have pragmatic interests in maintaining their core business of narcotics smuggling without greater interference, it added.

"Any plan to use Mexican drug cartels to carry out attacks against the U.S. would threaten the very existence of the cartel," a Stratfor analysis said.

"Mexican drug cartels are already facing challenges – struggling with one another and with the Mexican government for control over transportation routes that will allow them to transit cocaine from South America to the U.S. Any foray into international terrorism would be bad for business," Stratfor said.

So, the experts feel that Mexican drug cartels are not getting in bed with terrorists from the Middle East and Southwest Asia - at least not to the point of being willing to commit terrorist attacks on their behalf.

Of course, this opens up a whole line of questions regarding what could result in the Persian Gulf based on the allegations of this plot, and that, in turn, opens the door to speculation about who might be telling how much of the truth and who might benefit from the lies. But, this series does not deal with the Persian Gulf.

Then there is the question about illegal activities in the Western Hemisphere: drug trafficking, trafficking of weapons and other contraband, bribery and corruption... all these things go hand-in-hand. And, terrorism is financed through these activities. Terrorist organizations are big into trafficking drugs to fund their activities - so much so that they often lose sight of their political agenda, and focus on their profit motive - and into trafficking arms, which they use for terrorist attacks and for security for their other illegal activities.

It is increasingly difficult to separate terrorism from other illegal activities.

For an overview of what is publicly known about the "Fast and Furious" scandal, we consider excerpts from NRA's LaPierre: 'Fast and Furious' Was Plot Against Second Amendment, dated October 14, 2011:

The government-sanctioned gunrunning operation Fast and Furious was a plot to undermine Second Amendment rights in the United States, National Rifle Association officerWayne LaPierre charged on Friday in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.

"It's the only thing that makes any sense," LaPierre said. "Over a period of two or three years they were running thousands and thousands of guns to the most evil people on earth. At the same time they were yelling '90 per cent... of the guns the Mexican drug cartels are using come from the United States.'

That was a phony figure from the very start. Even the Wikileaks cables from our own State Department prove they are coming from Central America, they are not coming from the U.S. Every police officer will tell you that they're coming from Russia, they're coming from China, most of them are coming from Central America and a lot of them are coming from defections from the Mexican Army," said LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president and CEO.

But LaPierre said that President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were determined to make it appear that most weapons used by the Mexicans came from north of the border, "so they could stick more gun legislation on honest American gun owners of the United States."

LaPierre insisted that the whole Fast and Furious scandal, in which he said "thousands and thousands" of weapons were allowed to cross into Mexico, would never have come to light at all if it hadn't been for the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona in December.

"We wouldn't know about this at all if [Terry] had not been killed and some of the good, honest, decent federal agents down the line had enough of the stench coming out of Washington and started to use the Whistleblower Act to go public and call the Justice Department out on this whole rotten, stinking scheme.

"Otherwise thousands of guns would still be going over the border into the Mexican drug cartels and the president and the attorney general and the secretary of state would all be running around going '90 percent of the guns come from America' in an attempt to seek political advantage and in an attempt to enact more gun control laws on honest American citizens and use this whole issue politically against the Second Amendment of the United States."

LaPierre summarizes the scandal nicely:

"Look at what has happened," he said. "We had our Department of Justice under the Obama administration running thousands and thousands of guns over the border and watching them go directly into the hands of some of the most evil people on earth, the Mexican drug cartels.

"At the same time they were letting the reputation of good, honest, decent Americans, law-abiding American gun dealers, be ruined.

"They ordered these sales to be made, they even overrode the InstaCheck system and ordered the dealers to make the sales. Then, when it all starts coming out, there's a massive cover-up."!

LaPierre compares the activities of the Obama Administration with those of a Latin American dictatorship, then offers an excellent assessment:

"What has happened in Fast and Furious is the equivalent of our Justice Department becoming willing co-conspirators with the Mexican drug cartels in their crimes."

Our Justice Department has become willing co-conspirators with the Mexican drug cartels.

Keep that in mind.

The claim that 90% of the arms used in the drugs wars come from the US has documentation that seems to support the claim, until one parses the supporting passages.

For example, in an excerpt from FIREARMS TRAFFICKING: U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico Face Planning and Coordination Challenges, dated June, 2009, pages 14-16 (pgs 19-21 of 83 in the pdf):

According to U.S. and Mexican government and law enforcement officials and data from ATF on firearms seized in Mexico and traced from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2008, a large portion of the firearms fueling the Mexican drug trade originated in the United States, including a growing number of increasingly lethal weapons. As is inherently the case with various types of illegal trafficking, such as drug trafficking, the extent of firearms trafficking to Mexico is unknown;10 however, according to ATF, a large number of guns are seized from criminals by the military and law enforcement in Mexico, and information on many of these guns is submitted to ATF for the purposes of tracing their origins and uncovering how the guns arrived in Mexico.11 ATF maintains data on the firearms that are seized in Mexico and submitted for a trace, and, from these firearms trace requests, ATF officials told us, they are often able to detect suspicious patterns and trends that can help identify and disrupt arms trafficking networks on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Using ATF's eTrace data, which currently serves as the best data we found available for analyzing the source and nature of firearms trafficked and seized in Mexico, we determined over 20,000, or 87 percent, of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2008 originated in the United States. Figure 3 shows the percentages of firearms seized in Mexico and traced from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2008 that originated in the United States. Over 90 percent of the firearms seized in Mexico and traced over the last 3 years have come from the United States.

Around 68 percent of these firearms were manufactured in the United States, while around 19 percent were manufactured in third countries and imported into the United States before being trafficked into Mexico. ATF could not determine whether the remaining 13 percent foreign sourced arms had been trafficked into Mexico through the United States, due to incomplete information.

While the eTrace data only represents data from gun trace requests submitted from seizures in Mexico and not all the guns seized, it is currently the only systematic data available, and the conclusions from its use that the majority of firearms seized and traced originated in the United States were consistent with conclusions reached by U.S. and Mexican government and law enforcement officials involved personally in combating arms trafficking to Mexico. In 2008, of the almost 30,000 firearms that the Mexican Attorney General’s office said were seized, only around 7,200, or approximately a quarter, were submitted to ATF for tracing.

The report goes on to explain difficulties in how the system operates, and how those difficulties prevent a greater number of weapons from being traced. Furthermore, the report then indicates that experience of law enforcement personnel on both sides of the border supports this conclusion that 90% of the firearms come from the US.

However, look at what the report actually says. For 2008, 30,000 firearms were seized. Only 7,200 were submitted for tracing. Only 90% of those - about 6,480 firearms - were traced back to the US. That leaves over 23,000 firearms - 78% of the total seized - unaccounted-for regarding origins, and it means only a little over 20% of the firearms are actually traced back to the US.

Footnote 10 from the above passage is educational:

10While there is no data on the total number of firearms trafficked to Mexico, the Government of Mexico maintains data on the number of firearms seized in Mexico. Information, such as serial numbers, on many of these seized firearms is submitted to ATF's National Tracing Center for tracing. ATF's National Tracing Center attempts to trace the firearms using the information submitted. Between fiscal years 2004-2008, around 52 percent of trace requests from Mexico that were submitted to ATF's National Tracing Center identified the first retail dealer. Furthermore, according to ATF, the identification of the country of manufacturing origin of a firearm does not depend on identifying the first retail dealer but rather on the initial description of the firearm.

Again, there are no statistics on the total number of weapons trafficked to Mexico. There are only statistics from the US side of the border regarding what has been submitted to US authorities for tracing, and in this case, the number that came up was 52% of the trace requests identified a retailer, presumably in the US.

Let's go with the higher 90% figure, which is really 90% of 24% - because only 24% of the weapons seized in Mexico are submitted to US authorities for tracing.

That still leaves over three-quarters of the weapons seized in Mexico coming from somewhere else.

In other words, the Obama Administration is misleading everyone.

The political reason is obvious. As LaPierre points out (and as we knew), the political agenda is to generate propaganda that can be used to destroy our right to keep and bear arms. And, when all the dust settles, this is what the Obamanistas will plead guilty to.

But what is really going on?

LaPierre mentions - as have I, previously - that the cartels are mainly getting their weapons from Russia, China, and Central America, in addition to through defections from the Mexican Army.

Of course, this trend was noticed years ago. We consider an excerpt from Globalization and Transnational Organized Crime: The Russian Mafia in Latin America and the Caribbean by Bruce Michael Bagley, dated November 15, 2002, pages 9-10:

The third prong of the Russian mafia's strategy of expansion abroad over the 1990s focused on penetration of the Western Hemisphere, initially the United States and Canada. By the mid-1990s, frustrated by the disappointing results of their Asian strategy, Russian organized crime groups became increasingly interested in and focused on new opportunities for criminal activity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specifically, they realized that the region offered open markets for Russian and Soviet bloc arms in exchange for drugs to be smuggled back to Europe and Russia and easy access to global financial networks for money laundering purposes. Moreover, the region's relatively weak states and deeply imbedded "culture of corruption" provided a familiar environment reminiscent of the one in post-Soviet Russia in which Russian criminal organizations had originally arisen and flourished. In effect, the Russian mafia adapted the previous Soviet-era tactics of forging ties in the Americas via attractive offers of cheap weapons and "technical assistance." This time around, however, the technical assistance proffered was in the realm of money laundering rather than in the use of sophisticated Soviet weaponry.

These arms-trafficking ties go back for years.

Military-grade weapons move one way, drugs move back the other way.

As I have stated, criminals get firearms the way they get drugs - illegally. If a plane, boat or truck goes one way carrying drugs, why can't it go back the other way carrying firearms. This is what they would have us believe regarding the US - drugs come north, weapons move south.

But, the drug trade is not confined to the US/Mexican border.

As I have repeatedly pointed out - and as anyone should know - the drug trade is global. Particularly, I have repeatedly pointed out how cocaine moves from Latin America through Africa to Europe, and how heroin moves from South Asia through the Balkans to Europe, and now through Africa to Europe and the Americas. Military-grade weapons move through Africa, too; Islamic terrorist organizations use them for jihad in Africa and against Israel, but some of the weapons make it to the Americas where they equip drug cartels.

So, why don't we hear about all this - the drugs moving through Africa, the ties that Islamic terrorists have with Latin America, the weapons-trafficking to Mexico of Russian and Chinese arms...? Sure, when it was politically convenient, we hear about an alleged Iranian plot, though there are questions that are raised regarding that, which are outside the scope of this series. But, Hezbollah - an Iranian proxy - has been active in Latin America for many years. Why don't we hear about that?

It is a question of money.

"What has happened in Fast and Furious is the equivalent of our Justice Department becoming willing co-conspirators with the Mexican drug cartels in their crimes."

From US Prosecutors Confirm Classified Information Colors Zambada Niebla's Case, dated October 4, 2011:

Prosecutors in the Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla case on Monday, Oct. 3, filed a motion in federal court in Chicago rebutting the accused Mexican narco-trafficker's argument that he has been denied access to critical evidence in preparing his defense due to a tardy call by the prosecution for national-security procedures to be invoked in his case.

In their pleadings, prosecutors again affirm the government's position that there was no immunity deal offered to the accused narco-trafficker or to the leadership of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization.

The pleadings filed by the prosecution do not address directly why the government is seeking to invoke national-security procedures for Zambada Niebla's case.

However, the government's motion does confirm that "classified materials" related to the case do exist, but also insists those classified materials do not support Zambada Niebla's immunity claims.

To date, no U.S. media outlet, other than Narco News, has reported on the US government's effort to invoke national security in the Zambada Niebla case.

Monday's filing by prosecutors confirms that Zambada Niebla's case does raise national security issues that require, according to those prosecutors, that special procedures be established by the court — under a 30-year-old law known as the Classified Information Procedures Act — to assure that classified materials do not become public during the court proceedings.

Zambada Niebla, son of one of the leaders of the Sinaloa "Cartel," arguably the most powerful international narco-trafficking organization on the planet, argues in his criminal case that he and the other leadership of Mexico's Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization, were, in effect, working for the U.S. government for years by providing US agents with intelligence about rival drug organizations.

The Sinaloa Cartel is in bed with the US government.

From Court Pleadings Point to CIA Role in Alleged "Cartel" Immunity Deal, September 11, 2011:

The fingerprints of the CIA have surfaced in a controversial federal criminal case pending in Chicago against Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, an alleged kingpin in the Sinaloa "drug cartel."

US government prosecutors filed pleadings in the case late last week seeking to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), a measure designed to assure national security information does not surface in public court proceedings.


"That is a very reasonable conclusion [that the CIA is likely involved in this case in some way]," says a former federal agent familiar with national security procedures. "Seeking CIPA protection, yup, there is hot stuff to hide."

Does this look like something we have seen before?

From Cracking the Case: An Interview With Sibel Edmonds by Scott Horton, August 22, 2005:

SH: Okay, and you mention when you talk about criminal activity, drug-running, money-laundering, weapons-smuggling...

SE: And these activities overlap. It's not like okay, you have certain criminal entities that are involved in nuclear black market, and then you have certain entities bringing narcotics from the East. You have the same players when you look into these activities at high-levels you come across the same players, they are the same people.

SH: Well, when we're talking about those kind of levels of liquid cash money we probably also have to include major banks too, right?

SE: Financial institutions, yes.

And, from 'The Stakes Are Too High for Us to Stop Fighting Now' An interview with FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds by Christopher Deliso August 15, 2005:

SE: The fact that there are no investigations -- I will give you an analogy, okay? Say if we decided to have a "war on drugs," but said in the beginning, "right, we're only going to go after the young black guys on the street level." Hey, we already have tens of thousands of them in our jails anyway, why not a few more? But we decided never to go after the middle levels, let alone the top levels...

It's like this with the so-called war on terror. We go for the Attas and Hamdis -- but never touch the guys on the top.

CD: You think they [the government] know who they are, the top guys, and where?

SE: Oh yeah, they know.

CD: So why don't they get them?

SE: It's like I told you before -- this would upset "certain foreign relations." But it would also expose certain of our elected officials, who have significant connections with high-level drugs- and weapons-smuggling -- and thus with the criminal underground, even with the terrorists themselves.

The analogy with the "war on drugs" is right on the money, because it is really the same war these days.

Here is what is going on: the drug cartels are paying off the Obama Administration at the highest levels. The Obamanistas are assisting one cartel in eliminating its rivals. The Sinaloa Cartel passes intelligence to the US on the other cartels; US and Mexican authorities eliminate these rivals. Agencies get drug busts, and politicians get paid to steer government operations against some cartels and away from another. And, the Obamanistas help arm one cartel in its fight against the others, in addition to taking direct action against the other cartels. In return, the Obamanistas get an opportunity to disarm the American people, and this becomes the cover story if they get caught.

I wonder... how much foreign drug-trafficking money is being laundered to the Democrats to accomplish this? And, I wonder how many Republicans are involved? Maybe there are no Republicans involved in this scandal, and that is why it is not being hushed up... unlike the Sibel Edmonds case, which involved corruption on both sides of the aisle, and was effectively silenced under Bush-43, despite Democrats who promised to follow up on it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

License to Intrude, Part 2

There is a great deal going on in the world, and keeping up with things can be challenging. So, as I was reviewing news from the Caucasus region, I was surprised when I came across an article addressing a situation related to a topic I had previously written about. At this point, I suggest you read Part 1.

And now, we begin by reviewing an excerpt from Facebook privacy row: Social network giant admits to 'bugs', dated September 28, 2011 (boldface in original):

In its latest privacy blunder, the social networking site was forced to confirm that it has been constantly tracking its 750 million users, even when they are using other sites.

The social networking giant says the huge privacy breach was simply a mistake - that software automatically downloaded to users' computers when they logged in to Facebook 'inadvertently' sent information to the company, whether or not they were logged in at the time.

Most would assume that Facebook stops monitoring them after they leave its site, but technology bloggers discovered this was not the case.

In fact, data has been regularly sent back to the social network's servers - data that could be worth billions when creating 'targeted' advertising based on the sites users visit.

The website's practices were exposed by Australian technology blogger Nik Cubrilovic and have provoked a furious response across the internet.

In a post entitled Logging out of Facebook is not enough, from September 25, 2011, Cubrilovic begins to provide an explanation as to how Facebook monitors the online activity of its users, even after they log out of Facebook. At the end of this post, he summarizes:

Specifically the datr and lu cookies are retained after logout and on subsequent requests, and the a_user cookie, which contains your userid, is only cleared once the session is restarted. Most importantly, connection state is retained through these HTTP connections. There is never a clean break between a logged in session and a logged out session - but I will have more on that in a follow-up post.

Interestingly, Facebook - until only a few days ago - was placing cookies on computers that identified the Facebook account associated with the computer, and what other websites the computer accessed, even after the Facebook user was logged out.

This information was being sent back to Facebook.

The most important of these cookies contained the user's ID. Reportedly, this cookie is now deleted on logout. But, there were other cookies. From Facebook Fixes Logout Issue, Explains Cookies, September 27th, 2011:

The Other Cookies

This leaves a number of other cookies, and I will be explaining the purpose of each one as per information from Facebook.

The datr cookie is set when a browser first visits The purpose of it, as per Facebook, is:

We set the 'datr' cookie when a web browser accesses (except social plugin iframes), and the cookie helps us identify suspicious login activity and keep users safe. For instance, we use it to flag questionable activity like failed login attempts and attempts to create multiple spam accounts.

The lu cookie is also set the first time a browser visits and is used to identify the browser pre-fill the users email address in the login form. The purpose of it, as per Facebook again, is:

the 'lu' cookie helps protect people using public computers. The data it contains is used to make subtle changes to the login form, such as prefilling your email address and unchecking the "Keep me logged in" option if we detect multiple users signing in with the same browser. If you log out, this cookie does not contain your user id and Facebook will not prefill the email field.

These cookies, by the very purpose they serve, uniquely identify the browser being used - even after logout. As a user, you have to take Facebook at their word that the purpose of these cookies is only for what is being described. The previous a_user cookie that was fixed identified your user account and has been fixed, these cookies identify the browser and are not re-associated with your logged in account.

Nik Cubrilovic compiled a table showing how cookies with particular identifying data were preserved on and even added to a computer after logout from Facebook. This includes information categorized as "act". Continuing with Facebook Fixes Logout Issue, Explains Cookies:

Most of the remaining cookies are not very interesting - they set things like the language of your browser and device dimensions. The most interesting cookie, for me (after the userid, obviously), was act. The values for this cookie for the requests I logged were 1316962370811/2;, 1316972790935/11; and 1317032073811/0;. It is a timestamp for each request, in milliseconds since UNIX epoch (1st January 1970). What interested me was that not only was the timestamp accurate to milliseconds (ie. thousandths of a second) but that an additional number was being added to it. My gut instinct was that the additional number (ie. the /11, /0 and /2 in those exaples) was being added to make the timestamp unique for each and every request. Facebook confirmed this:

It is a monotonically increasing counter of actions since the start of logging. As we shared, this is for the collection of performance data -- nothing else.

I understand the technical reason for that - they can store the timestamp as a primary key in their logging backend and not have to associate benchmarking of each request back to a user. I believe Facebook here when they say that although this is a unique identifier it isn't used to link back to a user id - but it is definitely being logged and it can be linked to a user.

A lawsuit has now been filed against Facebook regarding this matter.

For further background on the situation and the lawsuit, you can review: Lawmakers seek FTC probe of Facebook post-log out tracking by Elinor Mills, September 28, 2011; Facebook sued over tracking users after logout by Elinor Mills, September 30, 2011; and Facebook Sued for Tracking Users After Log-Off; Class-Action Status Sought by Joel Rosenblatt and Sara Forden, September 30, 2011.

The judge presiding over the case is Magistrate Judge Paul Singh Grewal, who was appointed in 2010. In addition to legal experience in a wide range of subject areas, including civil rights and contract matters, Judge Grewal has his Bachelor of Science degree from MIT, and has particular experience regarding technology-related issues. Judge Grewal recently had the Google/Oracle mediation referred to him. Judging by his background, Judge Grewal would seem like an excellent presiding judge for a case of this kind.

This case is of interest. As the Electronic Privacy Information Center points out (pgs 5-6 of 14) in a September 29, 2011, letter submitted to the Federal Communications Commission regarding a Facebook feature called "Ticker" (superscripts refer to footnotes in original):

Ticker allows a user to see the Facebook posts of complete strangers — or even Facebook interactions between complete strangers — to which a friend of the user has connected. Facebook users were initially surprised by this phenomenon, prompting a host of negative comments on Facebook's blog,21 blog posts criticizing Facebook,22 advice on how to ensure the privacy of a user's post,23 advice on removing Ticker entirely,24 and even a petition to Facebook to remove Ticker.25 Frictionless sharing will amplify Ticker's problems because under the frictionless sharing model social apps will automatically post the user's activity to the ticker feeds of anyone to which the user is connected. Thus, in addition to being populated by traditional Facebook activities — "likes," comments, wall posts, picture posts, and so on—Ticker will soon be filled with detailed information about users' media consumption and lifestyle habits—the TV shows they watch, the books they read, the websites they visit, and the routes they jog, most likely without users affirmatively setting their preferences to share such information.

Users have already reported problems caused by the new availability of personal information on Ticker.26 And once social apps enter the picture, Facebook users could unknowingly share information about nearly every aspect of their lives, ranging from the embarrassing but otherwise innocuous revelation of questionable music taste ("[u]sers unaware of their Ticker broadcasts will be upset, for some time, that Ticketmaster told the world they'll be attending Boyz II Men's reunion show")27 to the potentially dangerous revelation that one is consuming the "wrong" political or religious content ("Once you are on the WP Social Reader app, everything you read within the app will automatically be shared in the following ways....").28 Indeed, the Iranian government has a history of retaliating against those who engage in politicized Facebook activity. For example, one Iranian-American graduate student who was politically active on Facebook received a threatening email that read "we know your home address in Los Angeles," and directed the user to "stop spreading lies about Iran on Facebook."29

Wow! The government of Iran is using Facebook information to target political dissidents. Aren't they one of the founding members of the "Axis of Evil"?

More background can be found in another Electronic Privacy Information Center document, entitled Complaint, Request for Investigation, Injunction, and Other Relief In the Matter of Facebook, Inc. and the Facial Identification of Users from June 10, 2011 (pgs 5-7 of 34):

21. Facial recognition systems include computer-based biometric techniques that detect and
identify human faces.18


25. The Chinese government is currently building an elaborate network infrastructure to enable the identification of people in public spaces. The "All-Seeing Eye" relies on the massive deployment of facial recognition technology.21

26. According to documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act, the US Department of Homeland Security is pursuing a far-reaching program to automate the identification and tagging of individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, based upon their facial images.22

27. Among other programs, DHS is promoting face recognition technology so that federal marshals can surreptitiously photograph people in airports, bus and train stations, and elsewhere leading to the creation of new capabilities for government monitoring of individuals in public spaces.23

28. Facial recognition technology and its application for mass surveillance was described by Adm. John Poindexter, the architect of "Total Information Awareness."24


30. Social networking services have played a transformative role in several regions of the world, but governments also seek access to images of political organizers to obtain actual identities and to enable investigation and prosecution.

31. In Iran, government agents have posted pictures of political activists online and used "crowd-sourcing" to identify individuals.25 There is also evidence that Iranian researchers are working on developing and improving facial recognition technology to identify political dissidents.26

32. Facebook currently grants government access to user information on merely a "good faith belief" that the disclosure is required by law or when it is necessary to protect Facebook from people it believes are violating its "Statement of Rights of Responsibilities."29

[In the original, footnotes numbered 27 and 28 are not found.]

So, it is not only the government of Iran. Information that is publicly available is being used by Communist China. And, assuming neither misconduct nor mistake on the part of Facebook executives and employees, the US government can arrive with a national security letter and have access to all this information about US citizens.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, a situation could develop where corruptible Facebook employees or executives might come to be working with rogue government agents, foreign powers and transnational organized crime. Possibilities include:

1) Your personal information, including biometric data, gets passed to cartels specializing in identity theft.

2) Foreign intelligence services target you for an espionage operation, because you work in a place of interest. For example, a job as mundane as that of a Facebook employee could be interesting, because of the information you can pass them on other people that they might recruit as spies.

3) Political leaders establish an "enemies" list; speak out against the policies of an administration, and you find yourself subject to enhanced searches at airports, you get an audit by the IRS, and your bank accounts get frozen because of some "mistake" that connects you to terrorism.

This is everything the Gestapo or the KGB ever wish they could have had, and more.

And, we haven't even looked at the extremely unlikely worst case scenario: where Facebook executives/employees are collaborating in activities they know to be illegal with politicians whose corruption they share.