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Teenage Protester Killed in Drone Strike

The attentive, unassuming young man sitting near me in the pictures on the right is Tariq Aziz.

He was 16 when we met last October, just a year older than my own teenage son, although with his neatly trimmed beard and traditional shalwar kameez he looked more like the grown men alongside him.

Tariq had travelled many hours to the relative safety of Islamabad from his home in Waziristan, a rugged Pakistani tribal area on the border with Afghanistan.
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Drone strike: Tariq Aziz, circled, was at the same meeting, sitting just yards away from Jemima
He was there to join a protest about the plague of American 'drones' - the remote-controlled aircraft that have left a bloody trail of death and fury among the innocent villagers who struggle to earn a living in the unforgiving mountainous region.

I was there to distribute digital cameras so that the people from Waziristan could record the damage and death caused by the drones, as part of a campaign to prove that innocent civilians are dying.

Bad Guys

Pentagon Sets up New Spy Agency to Eavesdrop on a Changing World

Defense Clandestine Service will focus on global threats and emerging economic and military powers
Leon Panetta
© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Leon Panetta, the defence secretary, is a former director of the CIA.
The Pentagon is to create a new spy service to focus on global strategic threats and the challenges posed by countries including Iran, North Korea and China. The move will bring to 17 the total number of intelligence organisations in the US.

The Defense Clandestine Service is supposed to work closely with its counterpart in the CIA, the National Clandestine Service, recruiting spies from the ranks of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and deploying them globally to boost the flow of intelligence on perceived long-term threats to US national interests.

US military news website Insidedefense said the defence department had asked Congress for authority for spies to work undercover posing as businessmen when conducting covert operations abroad.

The move by the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, emerged in briefings to US journalists.

"You have to do global coverage," a senior defence official said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new service would seek to "make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements", the Washington Post quoted the official as saying.

USA

Mother of tortured U.S. citizen appeals case to Supreme Court

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© unknown
On Monday, the mother of a U.S. citizen who was allegedly tortured at a naval base in Charleston asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other government officials on behalf of her son.

Jose Padilla, a convicted terrorist, had sued Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials over his alleged torture at the naval base, but a district court judge granted Rumsfeld immunity and dismissed the case, Padilla v. Rumsfeld. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the dismissal in January.

"If the appeals court's ruling is allowed to stand, government officials will have a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison," said Ben Wizner, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the Fourth Circuit. "It is precisely the role of the courts to ensure that allegations of grave misconduct by Executive Branch officials receive fair adjudication. That vital role does not evaporate simply because those officials insist that their actions are too sensitive for judicial review."

Padilla was arrested as an "enemy combatant" in May of 2002 after returning to the U.S. from Egypt. He was detained at a U.S. navy prison in South Carolina for nearly four years without charge.

Sherlock

Afghanistan Massacre: U.S. investigators Visit Afghan Shooting Site

Robert Bales
© Pic: DVIDS
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, right, has been named as the soldier accused of killing civilians in Afghanistan
Army criminal investigators have now completed their first visit to the outpost where Staff Sgt. Robert Bales served and the two villages where he is alleged to have killed 17 Afghan civilians, according to a US official.

The official declined to be identified or discuss what evidence had been gathered due to the sensitivity of the investigation. The Army will also not say when investigators were there or if they are going back, due to concerns over their safety in the vicinity of the villages.

It was the first visit by U.S. investigators, who had been staying away out of respect to angry villagers. CNN's Nic Paton Walsh reported last week that the American investigators had not been able to return to the crime scene.

Until now the Army has been relying on evidence collected by Afghan officials at the two villages. American investigators hoped to dig out of walls whatever bullets are left and examine the trajectories of bullets fired, CNN reported earlier this week.

Comment: For more information on this story read the Sott Focus: US Soldiers Look Deep Inside Their Souls - Find Vacuum - Decide To Kill Afghan Villagers by Joe Quinn.

Also read:
Child witnesses to Afghan massacre say Robert Bales was not alone
Robert Bales: Mass Murderer and PTSD Poster Boy


Eye 1

Proposed Increase in Internet Surveillance Powers Threatens British Ruling Coalition

David Cameron
© David Moir/Reuters
British plans to extend the state's powers to monitor emails and other social media, and set up secret courts to hear evidence gathered by intelligence agencies, are threatening to destroy the country's ruling coalition.

When the Queen reads an annual agenda-setting speech to parliament on May 9, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to unveil sweeping legal reforms to give police and security forces the power to monitor all digital communications and establish special courts that can review top secret intelligence information.

But before the new laws have even been introduced they have ignited a storm of controversy with back-bench Conservative MPs and Liberal Democrat leaders both warning of a potential invasion of privacy and attacks on individual legal rights.

War Whore

North Korea: 'Mobile Weapons' Capable of Striking US

Pyongyang, North Korea - A senior North Korean army official says his country is armed with "powerful mobile weapons" capable of striking America.

Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho emphasized the importance of defending the North against the U.S. and South Korea as Pyongyang marked the 80th anniversary of the nation's army Wednesday.

He told officials at the April 25 House of Culture that the weapons could defeat the U.S. "at a single blow."

North Korea made another unusual claim Monday, promising "special actions" that would reduce Seoul's government to ashes.

North Korea is believed to have nuclear weapons but not the technology to put them on long-range missiles. A rocket launch that the U.S. claimed was a North Korean attempt to test missile technology failed this month.

War Whore

Memory Failure at the Pentagon

Pentagon
Call it a mantra, a litany, or a to-don't list, but the drip, drip, drip of Afghan disaster and the gross-out acts accompanying it have already resulted in one of those classic fill-you-in paragraphs that reporters hang onto for whenever the next little catastrophe rears its ugly head. Here's how that list typically went after the Los Angeles Times revealed that troops from the 82nd Airborne had mugged for the camera with the corpses or body parts of Afghan enemies: "The images also add to a troubling list of cases -- including Marines videotaped urinating on Taliban bodies, the burning of Korans, and the massacre of villagers attributed to a lone Army sergeant -- that have cast American soldiers in the harshest possible light before the Afghan public."

That is, of course, only a partial list. Left out, for instance, was the American "kill team" that hunted Afghan civilians "for sport," took body parts as trophies, and shot photos of their "kills," not to speak of the sniper outfit that posed with an SS banner, or the U.S. base named "Combat Outpost Aryan." (For Afghans, of course, it's been so much worse. After all, what Americans even remember the obliterated wedding parties, eviscerated baby-naming ceremonies, blown away funerals, or even the eight shepherd boys "armed" with sticks recently slaughtered by helicopter, or any of the "thorough investigations" the U.S. military officially launched about which no one ever heard a peep, or the lack of command responsibility for any of this?)

When a war goes bad, you can be thousands of miles away and it still stinks like rotting cheese. Hence, the constant drop in those American polling numbers about whether we should ever have fought the Afghan War. Yes, war strain will be war strain and boys will be boys, but mistake after mistake, horror after horror, the rise of a historically rare phenomenon -- Afghan soldiers and policemen repeatedly turning their guns on their American "allies" -- all this adds up to a war effort increasingly on life support (even as the Obama administration negotiates to keep troops in the country through 2024).

Bad Guys

Jon Corzine Is the Original George Zimmerman

Jon Corzine
© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Jon Corzine is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee about the demise and bankruptcy of the company of MF Global.
So the Senate Banking Committee is beginning hearings today on the MF Global scandal, hearings entitled, "The Collapse of MF Global: Lessons Learned and Policy Implications." Apparently the government has already moved to the reflective, introspective, South Park-ian, "You know, I learned something today!" stage in its examination of the scandal, despite the fact that the government's official "response" hasn't even started yet, i.e. authorities have yet to arrest a single person in this brazen billion-dollar theft story.


To make an obvious comparison: Much like the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, the outrage here goes beyond the fact of the horrific crime. An equally profound insult in both cases lay in the fact that that serious crime obviously had been committed, and yet authorities refused to act for months. This situation with former Goldman chief and U.S. Senator Jon Corzine and the officials of MF Global involves a less physically savage offense, but the authorities' refusal to act is every bit as incredible.

Nobody disputes the fact that MF Global officials dipped into customer accounts and took over $1.6 billion of customer money. We not only know that company officials reached into customer accounts, we know they brazenly lied to bondholders, ratings agencies and investors about the firm's financial condition ("MF Global's capital and liquidity has never been stronger," wrote the CFO of MF Global's holding company, on the same day Moody's downgraded it to junk status).

We even know that eighteen days before the firm went bust, company officers discussed how quickly to return money to customers, and even contemplated, in writing, the possibility of not returning the money right away. This is from a risk-assessment document prepared by company officers entitled "Break the Glass":
...Who do we want to be after the storm? How quickly do we want to send cash back to clients, what is the message if we do not send immediately, what is the strategy if we want to keep the customer and wait until the storm passes?
In the wake of the 2008 crash it's often been said that one of the major problems in getting the public to grasp the crimes committed by banks and financial companies is the extreme complexity of the transactions used. The mortgage-backed-securities scam by itself was really just a common fraud scheme, but it was cloaked in the extremely complex verbiage and advanced math of derivatives transactions, which made it possible for bankers to bluff their way through an argument that no crimes had been committed.

Attention

Should Failed CEOs Be Allowed to Remain on Corporate Boards?

Board Games
© Minyanville
Board Games
Is it inappropriate for disgraced CEOs to remain on the boards of public companies?

This is the issue New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin looks at in his latest article.

Sorkin cites examples like former Fannie Mae CEO James Johnson, who, despite having stepped down from the government-sponsored enterprise in 1999, is considered to have set in motion the 2008 collapse of the housing market. Today Johnson sits on the boards of Goldman Sachs and Target. Last week, prominent Sequoia Fund manager David M. Poppe wrote a public letter to his investors urging them to vote against Johnson's re-election to Goldman's board.

Other fallen CEOs who still sit on corporate boards include Chuck Prince, notorious for guiding Citigroup to disaster, who is now a director at Xerox and Johnson & Johnson, and Stanley O'Neal, who similarly brought Merrill Lynch to the brink of collapse, and is now a board member at Alcoa.

Persons of the moment Eduardo Castro-Wright, a Wal-Mart vice chairman who has been a principal figure in the retail giant's bribery scandal, and Andrea Jung, who stepped down as Avon CEO because of a bribery investigation, will also undoubtedly see their directorships at MetLife and Apple receive heightened scrutiny.

Yoda

Working Class Hero: Marcel Vervloesem Against the Pedocratic Elite

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This is a story about how one Belgian man single-handedly cracked an international child pornography ring. Or at least, it appears to be. The story goes like this: 9 June this year, and two men meet in Amsterdam. One is Robbie Van Der Planken, 23, a veteran of the local sex industry who started working in the city's boy brothels at the age of 12. The other is Marcel Vervloesem, a 46-year-old Belgian who heads the so-called Morkhoven Action Group, whose avowed aim is "to look for missing persons and to defend people who are discriminated against in the broadest sense of the word, using any means necessary". Vervloesem is searching for a boy who disappeared in Berlin in 1993, and who he believes is now working in an Amsterdam brothel. He thinks Robbie may be able to help him with his investigation.

Unknown to Robbie, Vervloesem is not alone. Other members of the Action Group are covertly watching the meeting. And they've noticed something odd - a stranger taking pictures. So they follow him, all the way to his home in the seaside town of Zandvoort. His name is Gerrit-Jan Ulrich and he's a 49-year-old computer salesman. He's also Robbie's longtime lover. Vervloesem approaches Ulrich and tells him about his investigation. Two days later, Ulrich calls the Belgian late at night and invites him over to his flat.

When they meet, Ulrich apparently tells Vervloesem that he is at the centre of an international child pornography network. In his flat he has five computers hooked up to phone lines on which he runs a bulletin-board service called Apollo. Punters dial up, pay a fee and can then gain access to tens of thousands of illegal photographs. He gives Vervloesem a computer disk containing 9,000 pictures, together with other disks which contain the names and bank details of Apollo customers from all over the world.

Comment: This disgusting hit piece against Vervloesem was published 14 years ago. Since then, what Vervloesem was uncovering has turned out to be true. He is currently dying of cancer in the psychiatric wing of a Belgian prison, arrested and sentenced after being framed for molesting children.

Zandvoort File: Story of Marcel Vervloesem and the Elite Peophile Networks

There is an international network of pedophiles in high places everywhere and, despite their best efforts, they haven't been able to hide it completely:

Beyond the Dutroux Affair: The reality of protected child abuse and snuff networks in a world ruled by psychopaths

Belgian Supercop Exposes Elite's Network of Orgies

Dutroux: High-level Belgian pedophile ring ignored

Belgium's X Files: Dutroux Affair Uncovered Pedophile Networks

Belgian Porn Scandal Leads to Florida Raid

Men Who Hate Women: The Franklin Scandal and the Truth About Our Leaders