Merchant of Death Bout, Rice, Bush, Ney and Obama

In an AP release via TPM:
One of the world's most notorious arms dealers was arrested Thursday in Bangkok on allegations that he supplied Colombian rebels with arms and explosives, Thai police said.

Russian Viktor Bout was arrested in his hotel room in the capital, Bangkok, on a warrant issued by a Thai court, said Police Lt. Gen. Pongpat Chayapan, head of the Crime Suppression Bureau.
This guy is a real nasty piece of work, but in the article there is no mention of Bout's ties to Iraq, American Contractors, or bushies. From a 2004 Mother Jones article:
But now the Bush administration has hired at least one company tied to Bout's network for the war effort in Iraq. Records obtained by Mother Jones show that as recently as August, Air Bas, a company tied to Bout and his associates, was flying charter missions under contract with the U.S. military in Iraq. Air Bas is overseen by Victor Bout’s brother, Serguei, and his long-time business manager, Richard Chichakli, an accountant living in Texas; in the past, payments for Air Bas have gone to a Kazakh company that the United Nations identifies as "a front for the leasing operations of Victor Bout’s aircraft."

Concerns about Bout’s work for the United States date back to May, when Senator Russ Feingold asked the Pentagon and the State Department to scour their files for any evidence of contracts with companies tied to Bout. An inquiry conducted by the State Department found, according to a State Department source, that "there were allegations that raised our concerns, and we shared those concerns with the Department of Defense." Months later, however, the Pentagon has yet to respond, and officials there would not say whether they are looking into the State Department’s concerns.

Air Bas, meanwhile, has continued to fly U.S. military missions into Baghdad and the northern Iraqi air base of Balad, landing most recently on August 4, according to refueling records kept by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC). The records make no mention of the specific Pentagon unit that employs Air Bas, though they confirm, according to the DESC, that the flights have been approved by military commanders for "official government purposes." Officials with the Army and Air Force said they knew of no contract with Air Bas; Central Command and the Marines did not return Mother Jones’ calls. "We deal solely with the prime [contractors]," says Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman. "We don’t have any control over who they get to subcontract."

Chichakli, for his part, says Air Bas "is a contractor of the United States Army. That is something I don’t think I will discuss with you."

He says Victor Bout has no ties to the company. According to the U.N., Air Bas was established in 2002 in Texas and quickly set up offices in the United Arab Emirates, in the same building where Victor Bout had once operated another airline, Air Cess. As an umbrella company for several Bout enterprises, Air Cess had become notorious during the 1990s for its role funneling weapons and cargo to militias in Angola. Both Serguei Bout and Chichakli helped run Air Cess, according to U.N. reports. After the company went out of business, Chichakli and Serguei Bout founded Air Bas, purchasing several Air Cess planes. The U.N. concluded in a 2003 report on arms trafficking in Somalia that Air Bas was a "front operation" that the Bout family was using to maintain a presence in the Persian Gulf.

Rumors of Bout doing work for the Bush Administration have circled through the diplomatic and intelligence communities for a few years. Following the 2002 arrest in Belgium of a Bout associate, Sanjivan Ruprah, the Netherlands-based International Peace and Information Service reported that Ruprah’s seized laptop computer held a letter to a Federal Bureau of Investigation contact detailing plans for Bout to exploit ties to the Northern Alliance to help the U.S. efforts to overthrow the Taliban. "Victor and I have discussed various aspects of coordination with yourselves regarding Afghanistan," Ruprah wrote to the FBI, according to the report. "We have very good relationships [with anti-Taliban forces]." The FBI did not respond to requests for comment.

In late 2002, an investigator for the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity reported that Chichakli had told him that Bout had been flying U.S. troops into Afghanistan. In an interview with Mother Jones, Chichakli denied saying anything about a Bout role in Afghanistan. Victor Bout is believed to be living in Russia, where he has been isolated since 2000 when international publicity of his activities forced him into seclusion. Born in Tajikistan, he is known to carry at least five passports and use as many aliases. Speaking from his offices in Richardson, Texas, Chichakli said the continued concern over Bout’s activities was unfounded. He declined to put Mother Jones in touch with Bout. "Victor said if anybody calls you, unless it’s Jesus himself, with an ID, don’t bring him to me," Chichakli said.
Chichakli has long since left the USA to, likely, join Bout in Russia. But we do know what kind of shipments were tied to Bout and Chichakli's Iraq involvement. And we know that Bout's access to contracts in Iraq grew:
THE UNITED STATES seems to be missing some guns in Iraq. Somehow, the U.S. military has lost track of 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 80,000 pistols that were supposedly delivered from our caches to Iraqi security forces.

It was classic bureaucratic bungling, the Government Accountability Office concluded last month in a report criticizing the Pentagon's failure to keep proper records

and track weapons flows. But there may have been another factor -- the government's dangerous and bumbling use of bad guys.

Consider the case of one particular bad guy, Viktor Bout -- a stout, canny Russian air transporter who also happens to be the world's most notorious arms dealer.

When the U.S. government needed to fly four planeloads of seized weapons from an American base in Bosnia to Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in August 2004, they used a Moldovan air cargo firm tied to Bout's aviation empire. The problem is that the planes apparently never arrived. When Amnesty International investigators tried two years later to trace the shipment of more than 99 tons of AK-47s and other weapons, U.S. officials admitted they had no record of the flights landing in Baghdad.

The missing Bosnian weapons could simply be a paperwork problem (and it's not certain that they are among the missing weapons the GAO discovered; they may be an additional loss). But Bout's involvement as the transporter raises bleak possibilities far beyond bureaucratic error -- including the possibility that the arms were diverted to another country or to Iraqi insurgents killing American troops.

That's because Bout is about as bad as bad guys get. For more than a decade before he landed on U.S. payrolls, Bout's air cargo operations delivered tons of contraband weapons -- ranging from rifles to helicopter gunships -- to some of the world's most dangerous misfits.

He stoked wars across Africa, supplying Charles Taylor, the deposed Liberian president now on trial for war crimes. He ferried $50 million in guns and other cargo, and he even sold air freighters to the Taliban, whose mullahs shared their lethal inventories with Al Qaeda's terrorists in Afghanistan.

Bout also has a well-known record for working both sides of the fence. His planes armed both the Angolan government in Africa and rebel forces arrayed against it. He cut weapons deals with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance government before betraying it by arming the Taliban.

By the late 1990s, much of this was known to U.S. intelligence, which had targeted him for an early form of rendition in the hopes of putting him out of business. But then, just two years after the 9/11 attacks, Bout turned up as a linchpin in the U.S. supply line to Iraq. Air Force records obtained by The Times show that his planes flew hundreds of runs into the high-security zone at Baghdad International Airport, delivering everything from guns to drilling equipment to frozen food for customers from the U.S. Army to mega-contractor KBR Inc. The military officials who oversaw his flights knew nothing about the war-stoking background of the Bout network.

How did Bout go from being persona non grata to a valued U.S. contractor? Some European intelligence officials believe that Bout made a deal with the U.S., secretly using his talents to aid the invasion of Afghanistan and getting a payday as an Iraq contractor. But there is also ample evidence that U.S. officials simply dropped the ball when it came to checking contractor bona fides as they rushed to set up supply lines into Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Bout's planes were used as what former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz described as "second-tier contractors." The Army or the Army Corps of Engineers would hire KBR or other prime contractors to fly in supplies, and the firms would then hire Bout planes, either directly or through air charter services.

One problem was that although the companies had nominal responsibility to know the background of their hires, no one at the Pentagon seemed to share in that role. Department of Defense officials should have known about him -- even if U.S. intelligence didn't share its knowledge, there was plenty of public information available that should have soured the military on allowing him into Iraq under U.S. auspices. Defense officials could have circulated an informal "no fly" list to make sure that gunrunners like Bout were not hired. But "it was 'do it now, the fewer questions asked the better,' " said Air Force National Guard Lt. Col. Christopher Walker, who oversaw the air operations in Baghdad in 2004.
Actually Col. Walker... Just like we know that most of those 200,000 missing weapons ended up in Turkey, we also know that the US government was actively pushing for Bout's participation knowing full well his arms dealing record:
The Trafficker Viktor Bout Lands
US Aid for Services Rendered in Iraq
By Jean-Philippe Rémy
Le Monde
May 18, 2004

On the question of the freezing of foreign assets, several countries, such as France, Great Britain, and the United States, are presently submitting their own documents, while they wait for a Security Council vote. According to one diplomatic source, it's by virtue of this "tidying up" that Viktor Bout's name disappeared from the British list submitted in April, although it was still at the head of that list in January's version. According to this same source, who corroborates the information that has appeared in the Financial Times, the initiative came from the United States, which put pressure on London to obtain this clemency.

As for the French list - on which Mr. Bout's name still figures -, it has been "rejected", even if "the affair is still being discussed in New York", a British source who describes the issue as "sensitive", complains that "leaks" should have occurred with regard to this issue. "It was inevitable," comments a specialist. "This decision has not made everyone in London happy. Some officials, like those who wanted to see Viktor Bout judged by the International Criminal Court will make a scandal out of it."

During the last decade, Viktor Bout has had time to iron out the initial problems of his system and to look for support on all sides. His businesses started in 1993, when this former student at the Institute for Military Interpreters in Moscow who speaks - in addition to the Russian and the Uzbek he inherited from his birth in Tashkent - English, French, and Portuguese, bought some cut-price airplanes: several Antonov, an Iliouchine, and a helicopter. His specialty then consisted of flying this fleet -which counted up to sixty vehicles - under different flags of convenience, bypassing borders, rules, and embargos, and developing a flourishing triangular commerce.

At one end of the chain, he exports weapons from the former Soviet bloc to Africa or Afghanistan. He's paid cash on the spot, or in kind in the natural resources of a region, which he takes care of transporting also. His area of activities in Africa cuts through the region of war exploitation of diamonds and other precious minerals. One of the investigators who participated for years in the tracking down of the one he finally calls "Viktor", has followed his instructive traces all the way to Afghanistan. Originally a supplier to the Kabul government while it was at war against the Taliban, the arms merchant soon managed to equip the theology students also.

After September 11, Viktor Bout was suspected of having furnished weapons to bin Laden, who was then sheltered by the Taliban. That didn't stop the United States, according to a source from the Belgian secret service, from entrusting him with arms shipments to the Northern Alliance, then at war against the Taliban. Since then, he had reappeared in Somalia at the head of a new airline and weapons supply company. Iraq at this rate is just one more episode. "That's the problem with Viktor, he always has some authority that protects him, because he does too many favors," the investigator sighs. [link]
Just who was providing that pressure and protection on the American side? According to Wayne Madsen (I know, sometime conspiracy writer Wayne Madsen!) Condoleeza Rice had specifically ordered people to look the other way and let Bout do his thing:
After Bush was inaugurated in 2001, Sharjah police sent a special police unit to Sharjah airport to capture Bout and hand him over to U.S. authorities, but the White House declined. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told U.S. intelligence that when it came to Bout, "look but don’t touch.” After 911, Rice inexplicably called off all operations aimed at Bout. Law enforcement and intelligence agents considered such a move amazing, considering Bout’s direct links to smuggling arms to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, as well as to other areas of the world that were rife with Islamist terrorist groups.

Next door to Sharjah is Dubai, the center of CIA spying in the region, according to U.S. intelligence sources. Dubai’s Dolphin Energy Ltd. was a quarter-owned by Enron before the firm’s collapse. Dolphin’s CEO was UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Bout was reported by the UN to be using Flying Dolphin Airlines, which operated scheduled flights between Dubai and Kandahar between October 2000 and January 2001, to ship arms to the Taliban. Flying Dolphin was owned by Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Saqr al Nahayan, a former UAE ambassador to the U.S. and a relative of the President of the UAE, who is also the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Flying Dolphin was registered in Bout’s favorite home base of Liberia although its main office was in Dubai.

In addition, Bout’s Texas-based Air Bas had rights to refuel at U.S. bases in Iraq. One of Bout’s airfreight companies, Airbus, was subcontracted through another firm called Falcon Express of Dubai, by Kellogg, Brown and Root, the subsidiary of Halliburton. Air Bas also had links to Falcon Express.

In July 2001, Osama bin Laden was reported to have received kidney treatment at the American Hospital in Dubai with the blessing of the Dubai and UAE governments. At the time of his hospitalization, Osama Bin Laden was reported by the French newspaper Le Figaro and Radio France International to have been visited on July 12, 2001, by Larry Mitchell, the CIA chief in Dubai who was said to have had close contacts with all the Gulf royal families. Mitchell was reportedly called back to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on July 15, 2001. The Carlyle Group, with George H. W. Bush, James Baker III, and the Bin Laden family as major principals, bought a 42 percent stake (from a previous 4.9 percent stake) in Le Figaro after the paper on October 31, 2001, reported on the Bin Laden meeting with the CIA station chief in Dubai.
Madsen also mentions other possible Bout links in another article:

Additional ties between southern Christian fundamentalists, Texas oil interests, and Russian-Israeli mobsters and weapons smugglers uncovered. According to informed Washington insiders, there is increasing evidence of financial links between key "Christian Right" GOP notables and an international ring of Russian-Ukrainian-Israeli mobsters tied to notorious Russian weapons smuggler Viktor Vasilevich (aka Anatoliyevich) Bout.

Bout, whose U.S. assets were frozen by the Treasury Department, continues to provide various contractor services in Iraq and is considered by Condoleezza Rice to be out-of-bounds for U.S. law enforcement authorities. When she was National Security Adviser, Rice pre-empted an attempt by Sharjah, United Arab Emirates authorities to arrest Bout. To U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Rice was very clear when it comes to Bout: "Look, but don't touch" was her direct order to the CIA and FBI. It appears that Bout has gone from arms smuggler for Al Qaeda and the Taliban to arms runner for the Bush administration. Bout's British Gulf International Airline, registered in Sao Tome and Principe and Kyrgyzstan and based in Sharjah, is a regular visitor to Baghdad International and airports in the north of Iraq. Bout also made a financial windfall from contracts let to his airline companies by the former Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority led by L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer. Bout also benefited from contracts let to his Dubai-based Falcon Express Cargo by Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Bout's British Gulf International contracted to U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. Bout once provided arms to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Federal prosecutors are already examining links between indicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Italian Mafia hit men who have been charged with murdering Florida businessman Gus Boulis, former Christian Coalition director and Georgia Republican Lt. Governor candidate Ralph Reed, and indicted Texas GOP Representative Tom DeLay. Abramoff associate Adam Kidan has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation of Abramoff, especially deals involving the shake down of various Indian tribes in shady casino deals.

According to Viktor Bout's Wiki:

Some of Bout's alleged arms customers include:

In addition to his services as an arms dealer and importer/exporter of weapons and ammunition, Viktor Bout has allegedly offered some sort of private military assistance to the Afghan Northern Alliance and United States in those countries' on-going war on terrorism. According to journalists Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah, Bout approached the American intelligence community (specifically the FBI, possibly the CIA as well) sometime after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center with a contract of services to help combat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. While the American agencies have not disclosed their final decision on the matter, documentation has been obtained by Braun and Farah which indicated that these agencies were interested enough to allow Bout to fly to the United States on at least two occasions for face-to-face discussions of his sales pitch. (It is important to note that trips of this nature would have required a temporary waiver of his American travel ban, evidence of which Braun and Farah also claim to have obtained.
The US government knew who he was and what he was doing and they still met with him for business, allowing him to travel here for meetings despite bans on his travel, and regardless of whether the Madsen stories are true or not.

As far as Barrack Obama's involvement? He is the one presidential candidate that actually tried to do something about all of this. From the HuffPo in October, 2007:
The scandal surrounding the conduct of Blackwater contractors in Iraq is just the most recent example of contractors and criminals run amok in that ill-conceived war. Since the occupation began, the U.S. military and its contractors have relied on shady characters and even criminals to do the outsourced business of supplying the troops, delivering weapons and making sure the mail arrives.

One such wanted criminal, Viktor Bout, was paid tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while illegally flying transport missions for the United States in Iraq. Bout is the notorious Russian weapons merchant whose fleet of aging Soviet aircraft rivals that of some NATO countries in its size and capacity. By marrying his access to Soviet bloc weapons with his airlift capacity, Bout established himself as the world's premiere purveyor of illicit weapons to the world's tyrants-- a one-stop shopping source for everyone from Charles Taylor and his armies of child soldiers of Sierra Leone and Liberia to the Taliban in Afghanistan, from Jonas Savimbi in Angola to the FARC rebels in Colombia.

As shown in the new book Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible by former Washington Post correspondent Douglas Farah and the Los Angeles Times' Stephen Braun, Bout flew hundreds of flights for the Pentagon and its contractors in Iraq. He did so despite having been: 1) identified by U.S. and British intelligence as a supplier of weapons, ammunition and aircraft to the Taliban and, indirectly, to al Qaeda; 2) the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant at the request of the Belgian government; 3) named in almost a dozen U.N. public reports as the chief illegal provider of weapons to Africa's rogue regimes, and; 4) the subject of an executive order signed by George W. Bush in July 2004 making it illegal to do any business with Bout. The executive order was followed by an order from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in May 2005, freezing the assets of Bout, his senior partners and main companies, again making it illegal for U.S citizens or their government to do business with any of the named entities.

Yet the flights in Iraq went on, at the request of Halliburton, KBR and others, on behalf of the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, until early 2006. Farah and Braun, based on flight and refueling records from Iraq, estimate Bout's companies may have flown up to 1,000 flights as a secondary contractor for the U.S. government. Each flight cost about $60,000 -- not a bad chunk of taxpayer dollars. Bout managed to up his profit margin considerably by having his pilots apply for and receive special refueling cards that allowed them to gas up for free when they landed in Iraq.

Using an Amnesty International report as a starting point, the authors trace a deeply troubling incident that, based on a July GAO report, was not unique. The GAO report found that tens of thousands of weapons purchased by the U.S. military and destined for delivery in Iraq remain unaccounted for.

Some of weapons--200,000 AK-47 assault rifles--were transported by Bout's aircraft before going AWOL. One of his airlines, Aerocom, registered in Moldova, obtained a contract from the Pentagon in August 2004 to fly the weapons from Bosnia to Iraq, along with millions of rounds of ammunition.

But, according to Amnesty International and the authors, there were several problems with the deal. Aerocom was already named in U.N. reports to illicit weapons trafficking in Africa, and Bout was on UN and U.S. sanctions lists. The day before the first flight, the Moldovan government canceled the Aerocom aircraft's air-operations certificate, making taking off illegal. Still, the flights went on, although there is no record of them ever landing in Iraq or of the weapons being delivered to their declared destination.

Blackwater is just one piece of an entire outsourcing system for which there is no accountability. Congress is presently debating a number of bills that would reign in this whole mess of outsourcing gone wild. The House overwhelmingly passed this week a bill by Rep. David Price to bring better oversight and legal accountability. On the Senate side, Senator Barack Obama was the first Senator to introduce legislation on this subject last February. Obama has also added in a section to ensure that critical U.S. military functions are not simply handed over to contractors like Viktor Bout.
Does this count as good foreign policy and legislation leadership by Barack Obama? I think so...

Anyways... After reading all of that I want you to read this from lukery in 2006, where Bout's name pops up in connection with various neocons, Jack Abrhamoff, Dennis Hastert, Bob Ney and other favorite Tom DeLay destinations:

Summary: In this post, we see that:

1. The US turned a blind eye to the Kosovo Liberation Army's heroin dealing, which financed al-Qaeda
2. Perle & Feith financed the KLA, and there was 'spillage' to al-Qaeda
3. Hastert was bribed with this heroin money
4. The KLA sent weapons to the 'islamofascists' in Chechnya
5. Perle & Feith sent weapons to the 'islamofascists' in Chechnya
Abramoff, Viktor Bout, Bob Ney, and Sibel also get honorary mentions.

Firstly, here again is Daniel Ellsberg in the interview which we dug up last week:
Ellsberg: Let me suggest two interviews with her that have come out since the VF article that go a good deal further than VF chose to print. VF did print ten pages and they got a lot but there was a lot that the reporter had, David Rose, that didn't get into the article, and a lot of that is in these two other interviews - both at antiwar.com, Chris Deliso and Scott Horton. In those interviews she finally reveals more of what she wished that VF had put out. Namely, if I can summarize it quickly, Al Qaeda, she's been saying to congress, according to these interviews, is financed 95% by drug money - drug traffic to which the US government shows a blind eye, has been ignoring, because it very heavily involves allies and assets of ours - such as Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan - all the 'Stans - in a drug traffic where the opium originates in Afghanistan, is processed in Turkey, and delivered to Europe where it furnishes 96% of Europe's heroin, by Albanians, either in Albania or Kosovo - Albanian Muslims in Kosovo - basically the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army which we backed heavily in that episode at the end of the century.

It was known at the time that the KLA consisted largely of drug-dealers, and they still do. They're dominating the politics, pretty much, of Kosovo right now. Now, all of these people are, for various reasons, allies, or clients, of the US - and the fact that they get a large amount of their income from the heroin trade is something the US just regards as the price of doing business with them. That means that not only is the heroin coming into our markets where it furnishes, according to Sibel based on her FBI experience, some 14% of our heroin - up from 4% before the invasion of Afghanistan.

The major effect of that is that terrorist gangs are taking a cut of this, including Al Qaeda, which essentially taxes this traffic as it goes through the various lands where each 'band' pays a percentage as they hand it off. In other words, the US is in effect, endorsing - well, 'endorsing' is too strong a word - 'permitting', definitely permitting, or 'not acting against,' a heroin trade - which not only corrupts our cities and our city politics, AND our congress, as Sibel makes very specific - but is financing the terrorist organization that constitutes a genuine threat to us. And this seems to be a fact that is accepted by our top leaders, according to Sibel, for various geopolitical reasons, and for corrupt reasons as well. Sometimes things are simpler than they might appear - and they involve envelopes of cash. Sibel says that suitcases of cash have been delivered to the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, at his home, near Chicago, from Turkish sources, knowing that a lot of that is drug money.

Now this from a 2000 MotherJones article about the KLA called Heroin Heroes:
German Federal Police now say that Kosovar Albanians import 80 percent of Europe's heroin. So dominant is the Kosovar presence in trafficking that many European users refer to illicit drugs in general as "Albanka," or Albanian lady.

The Kosovar traffickers ship heroin exclusively from Asia's Golden Crescent. It's an apparently inexhaustible source. At one end of the crescent lies Afghanistan, which in 1999 surpassed Burma as the world's largest producer of opium poppies. From there, the heroin base passes through Iran to Turkey, where it is refined, and then into the hands of the 15 Families, which operate out of the lawless border towns linking Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia. Not surprisingly, the KLA has also flourished there. According to the State Department, four to six tons of heroin move through Turkey every month...
The ascent of the Kosovar families to the top of the trafficking hierarchy coincided with the sudden appearance of the KLA as a fighting force in 1997. As Serbia unleashed its campaign of persecution against ethnic Albanians, the diaspora mobilized. Hundreds of thousands of expatriate Kosovars around the world funneled money to the insurrection. Nobody sent more than the Kosovar traffickers -- some of the wealthiest people of Kosovar extraction in Europe. According to news reports, Kosovar Albanian traffickers launder $1.5 billion in profits from drug and arms smuggling each year through a shadowy network of some 200 private banks and currency exchange offices...
Daut Kadriovski, the reputed boss of one of the 15 Families, embodies the tenacity of the top Kosovar drug traffickers. A Yugoslav Interior Ministry report identifies him as one of Europe's biggest heroin dealers, and Nicovic calls him a "major financial resource for the KLA." Through his family links, Nicovic says, Kadriovski smuggled more than 100 kilos of heroin into New York and Philadelphia. He lived comfortably in Istanbul and specialized in creative trafficking solutions, once dispatching a shipment of heroin in the hollowed-out accordion cases of a popular traveling Albanian folk music group.

Interesting. I wonder if the that's the sort of thing Sibel was talking about in this interview with Chris Deliso (and elsewhere):
"SE: These are organizations that might have a legitimate front – say as a business, or a cultural center or something. And we've also heard a lot about Islamic charities as fronts for terrorist organizations, but the range is much broader and even, simpler.

CD: For example?

SE: You might have an organization supposed to be promoting the cultural affairs of a certain country within another country. Hypothetically, say, an Uzbek folklore society based in Germany. The stated purpose would be to hold folklore-related activities – and they might even do that – but the real activities taking place behind the scenes are criminal.

CD: Such as?

SE: Everything – from drugs to money laundering to arms sales. And yes, there are certain convergences with all these activities and international terrorism."
We don't exactly know which 'cultural' groups she is talking about, and it maybe doesn't particularly matter. I presume they are somewhat interchangable. However, in Giraldi's article about Sibel, he refers to the "American Turkish Cultural Alliance" - I presume that was an error on his part, and that he actually meant Turkish American Cultural Alliance (TACA) - which is thought to be one of the groups that was delivering the bribes to Hastert. TACA has previously been implicated in drug crimes. The ATAA is another social/cultural/business group which comes up again and again. Both the ATAA and TACA are headquartered in Chicago.

That's a pretty sweet cover. They could fill all of the instrument cases with teh heroin, and if they were clever, and if they were bribing certain State Dept officials, they could probably organise some sort of diplomatic passports for the travelling folklorists, which would enable them to happily waltz through customs.

This from Vanity Fair:
One counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds’s case has told Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990’s. That inquiry found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior American politicians in at least two major cities—Washington and Chicago. Toward the end of 2001, Edmonds was asked to translate some of the thousands of calls that had been recorded by this operation, some dating back to 1997.
Vanity Fair has established that around the time the Dickersons visited the Edmondses, in December 2001, Joel Robertz, an F.B.I. special agent in Chicago, contacted Sibel and asked her to review some wiretaps. Some were several years old, others more recent; all had been generated by a counter-intelligence that had its start in 1997. “It began in D.C.,” says an F.B.I. counter-intelligence official who is familiar with the case file. “It became apparent that Chicago was actually the center of what was going on.”
In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates.

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes.

Back to the MoJo article:
With the KLA in power -- and in the spotlight -- the top trafficking families have begun to seek relative respectability without decreasing their heroin shipments. "The Kosovars are trying to position themselves in higher levels of trafficking," says the U.N.'s Tony White. "They want to get away from the violence of the streets and attract less attention. Criminals like to move up like any other business, and the Kosovars are becoming business leaders. They have become equal partners with the Turks."
As their business reaches a saturation point in Europe, Kosovar traffickers are looking more to the West. It's a smart business move. The United States has seen a marked shift from cocaine to heroin use. According to recent DEA statistics, Afghan heroin accounted for almost 20 percent of the smack seized in this country -- nearly double the percentage taken four years earlier. Much of it is distributed by Kosovar Albanians.

The Clinton administration has launched a vigorous crackdown on Colombian heroin. As the campaign intensifies, some White House officials fear Kosovar heroin could replace the Colombian supply. "Even if we were to eliminate all the heroin production in Colombia, by no means do we think there would be no more heroin coming into the United States," says Bob Agresti of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Look at the numbers. Colombia accounts for only six percent of the world's heroin. Southwest Asia produces 75 percent."

Perhaps most alarmingly, Kosovar drug dealers associated with the KLA have begun to form partnerships with Colombian traffickers -- the world's most notorious drug lords. "We have an all-new situation now," says Europol's Storbeck. "Colombians like to use Kosovar groups for distribution of cocaine. The Albanians are getting stronger and stronger, and there is a certain job sharing now. They are used by Turks for smuggling into the European Union and by Colombians for distribution of cocaine."

Washington clearly hopes the KLA will disentangle itself from its drug-running friends now that it's in power, but this may not be easy. "The KLA owes a lot of debts to the traffickers and holy warriors," says Koutouzis. "They are being pressured to assist other insurrections." Already, the OGD has reports of KLA weapons being routed to the newest Muslim holy war in Chechnya.
Lots of interesting stuff, including the bit about Chechnya, which reminds me of this from my interview with Mathieu Verboud:
Mathieu Verboud: Yes. In the film, we expand on these notions with ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi, who recently wrote a very interesting article about Sibel. He has suspicions that Douglas Feith and Richard Perle may have helped, or been instrumental, in establishing false end-user-certificates that enabled weapons to be sent over to the Chechen guerillas - many of them being very closely linked to Al-Qaeda.

And then there's the Bosnia Defense Fund. This is from Madsen (I haven't seen this sourced elsewhere, FYI, but I do know that Madsen gave this testimony to a hearing in Congress):
The Muslim operation in the Balkans was largely supported by official (CIA, DIA, and Special Operations) U.S. assistance but also by unofficial help. This was mainly carried out by private military contractors like MPRI and financial support networks like the Bosnia Defense Fund, established in the mid-1990s at a Riggs Bank account in Washington, DC. The principal movers behind the Bosnian Defense Fund were Richard Perle and Douglas Feith. In fact, Feith’s law firm, Feith and Zell (FANZ) set up the Bosnia Defense Fund. According to a former Riggs legal adviser, when objections were raised about the hundreds of millions of dollars collected from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Malaysia, the UAE, Iran, Jordan, and Egypt that were being detected by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) being sent from Washington to Sarajevo, Bosnia, and reports that there was “spillage” of these funds into the hands of Al Qaeda units in the country, Perle’s response at one contentious meeting was, “just make it fucking happen.”
Tim Spicer and Victor Bout are reportedly both involved in the Bosnia Defense Fund, too. Starroute has more - including:
Of course, one thing that any unified theory of Bob Ney is going to have to explain is that 1996 trip to Bosnia funded by the National Security Caucus Foundation -- just before the NSCF funded a burst of Abramoff trips to the Northern Marianas, Moscow, and Pakistan (where Abramoff had been lobbying for the lifting of sanctions related to Pakistan's nuclear program.)

I'll end with this quote from Starroute:
This stuff may go round and round in circles -- but they're fairly small circles, and the same names and locations keep reappearing.
You need to know that when some of these people go down, as Bout appears to be now, there are still a bunch of Republicans that have yet to get nailed for their participation in all of this... Heroin and whatever else drug deals, black market weapons deals (Nuclear weapons deals as well) with terrorists, and US politicians in the thick of all of these deals. And they are, for the most part, GOP criminals and neoconservatives that have been pretty well connected to these modern day "Iran-Contra" like treasonous acts. Many of them are the same ones repeating history all over again.

And one last thought that should keep you getting really pissed off:

Title: Victor Bout ( Sibel's Money Launderer, Arms Dealer for AlQaeda Speaks Farsi)
Source: PBS Frontline
URL Source: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/sierraleone/bout.html
Published: Feb 14, 2005
Author: Matthew Brunwasser
Post Date: 2005-02-14 16:37:36 by OKCSubmariner
Ping List: *TerrorismCoverup*

Posters Note:

Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator, has alleged that semi-legit international organizations involved in investigations of arms dealing and money laundering operating out of the United Arab Emirates were involved in helping AlQaeda conduct the 9-11 attacks. Edmonds has referred to Farsi translations that showed this which were deliberately mishandled by protected espionage agents Edmonds knew within the FBI and Air Force. Victor Bout is a Russian arms dealer and money launderer who speaks fluent Farsi and was involved in trafficking arms and money laundering for AlQeda in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is a place where AlQaeda bagman and 9-11 hijacker AlShehhi received laundered monies he distributed for the 9-11 attacks.

It is highly likely that Sibel Edmonds has been referring in part to Victor Bout's and Russian operations. Victor Bout is being protected by the Russian government who refuses to turn Bout over to US authorities even though they do know where he is and Bouts works for the Russians. Interpol is an international organization that US intelligence works closely with. However, the Russian branch of interpol is semi-legit (just as Edmonds describes) and is protecting Bout and Bouts and the Russian arms and money lauderign operations with AlQaeda. Putin has said publicly that the Russians gave Bush prior warning of ALQaeda hijacked airliner attacks in the US prior to 9-11. Given Victor Bout's arms dealing and money laundering for the Russians, Putin probably had a basis to warn Bush PRIOR TO 9-11.

As a note to end this: There is a lot of speculation in this blog post, but there are clearly a lot of undisputed facts to back up any of these possibilities. Even the facts on their own, without the speculation and conspiracy thoughts, are enough to point to some very real treason from within the US government.

[update] I just wanted to be clear that while the Sibel Edmonds part of all of this is a GOP problem for the most part, it is a bi-partisan issue to a certain degree, and covered in this excerpt from a Lukery interview with Edmonds:
'Buckle up, there's much more coming.'

Luke Ryland: Why has the US failed on this story so dramatically for 6 years?

Sibel Edmonds: It's a combination of things, obviously. You need to consider that the entire US press corps has failed on this story; not only the regular print and TV media, but the alternative media has failed on this too.

Part of the reason is that journalists are simply too close to their official sources. Those sources might tell the journalist that there's nothing to the story, and so the journalist gives up on it, or the official sources might 'request' that the journalist to stay away from the story, and the journalist is then concerned about losing access to the source in the future.

Another reason is the partisanship. With the foreign press, there is no partisanship, and that's one reason why they have been more effective at covering this case, and I'm not just talking about the recent Times articles here. With the US media, it appears as though if there is no clear partisan angle, then there's no story. As you know, this case is spread over two administrations, and that appears to make it difficult for the reporters to cover the story. Even within one news organization you might have one journalist who wants to use the story to indict Clinton, and another who wants to use the story to bash Bush, and in the end neither of them write about the story because it doesn't fit their partisanship, their 'narrative', so they just drop it altogether.

I had such high hopes for the alternative press, and they do a lot of good work, but partisanship repeatedly gets in the way there too, on both sides.

The US media also suffers from a pack mentality. I was told by one executive that they weren't doing the story because it was 'old news' because 60 Minutes did a single segment in October 2002, even though they only covered a tiny part of the case. This executive literally told me that he'd only cover the story if it was 'hot and sexy.' I often think that I'd need to be able to hire Britney Spears to be a spokesperson - and this is not just for my case, but for any of the many other solid, important cases at the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Apparently this is what it would take to get any coverage.

Of course, given the pack mentality, if any of these stories does become 'hot and sexy' then all the journalists focus on the same issues and there's no differentiation in their reporting.

The other major problem in the US is the focus on symptoms, rather than root causes. My case is a good example, but there are lots of others too. Look at the early reporting on my case in 2002, the Washington Post broke the story in July 2002 about the espionage in the translation bureau and then they dropped the story after two weeks. They stopped reporting on it when more important information came out and the State Secrets Privilege was invoked. To this day not a single US reporter has asked 'Why was the State Secrets Privilege been invoked here? What is going on?'

Just this week I was approached by a major US outlet who wanted to do a story on Kevin Taskesen! [Ed note: Taskesen was an incompetent FBI translator who got his job because his wife worked in the administrative office] This is absolutely the most trivial element of the case, and it has already been reported at length. I told them that they could learn everything they needed to know by watching 60 Minutes, 2002. Again, the US media needs to start looking at the root causes of these problems, not the symptoms.

Just another reason why many people who follow these things dread another Clinton admin. as much as they do any Republican admin. getting near the White House. And an important note in that interview on Nukes and Turkey:

Luke Ryland: Two weeks after the first article in the Times about the involvement of high-level US officials being involved with Turkish and Israeli interests in supplying the nuclear black market, President Bush quietly announced that the US will start supplying nuclear technology to Turkey. Do you think that is a coincidence?

Sibel Edmonds: The timing is certainly very, very suspicious. The proposals that are being floated are very suspicious too. There are reports that Turkey will build an enrichment facility, and that Turkey will become the key supplier of nuclear fuel to other Muslim countries who want nuclear power plants. None of this makes any sense.

And again, the US media is nowhere to be seen on this issue. Where are the journalists? Do you remember the noise made a couple of years ago when the US announced that it would supply India with nuclear technology? So far, nearly a week after the announcement and not a single major US media outlet has even reported on the deal! Think of the hypocrisy, with all the saber-rattling at Iran over enrichment.

If it's such a good idea to sell nuclear technology to Turkey, why isn't the White House out there selling the idea? Where are the arguments in the press saying that this will be good for regional stability, or that it will help reduce demand for oil, or even that it is simply good business because US firms will be able to sell their hardware and knowledge? There's nothing! Silence. What does that tell you?

Luke Ryland: What needs to be done?

Sibel Edmonds: The way they've structured this deal is that Congress has 90 days from the announcement, now 84 days, to block the 'agreement' otherwise it basically becomes law.

The first thing that we need to do is to make sure that this doesn't 'automatically' become law. We need the journalists, the experts, and the bloggers to raise hell over this issue, and we need to make sure that Congress investigates this properly before rubber-stamping it. The clock is ticking and we need to act now.

As you know, and this was even published in the White House press release on this issue, certain 'Turkish private entities' have been involved 'in certain activities directly relating to nuclear proliferation.' This includes supplying the A.Q. Khan network - which built Pakistan's nuclear bomb, and also supplied North Korea, Iran and other countries - but as the recent Times stories indicate, so much more as well.
Action is needed on this very serious issue... Read the rest!


Two Vermont Towns Vote to Indict Bush and Cheney

The two sanest towns in the nation:
Brattleboro, Vt., voted today in support of a measure calling on the town's police force to arrest and indict Bush and Cheney. The vote was 2012-1795.

Marlboro, Vt., passed a similar measure at its town meeting today at which the vote to indict Bush and Cheney was 43-25-3. That's 43 in favor and 3 abstaining. Thus Marlboro beat Brattleboro to it by a few hours. In Brattleboro, the indictment question was on the primary ballots for both parties.

Here's a kit for other towns to use:

Here is background on Brattleboro's indictment ballot initiative, written prior to the vote:

When citizens and voters go to the town meeting and primaries in Brattleboro, Vermont, on Tuesday, there will be a question on the back of all ballots, and a circle to mark Yes and one to mark No:

"Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities, and shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro police, pursuant to the above mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and prosecuted or extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them?"


Radio Plugs Melanie Morgan's Gaping Gas Chamber

More of a radio un-plug, as they kill Melanie Morgan's special brand of wingnut hate radio. But fear not far right wing dumpster divers! She still has other unscrupulous outlets to collect a check from:
Right-wing radio host Melanie Morgan — who once called for the editor of The New York Times to be “sent to the gas chamber” — has been fired from her job at KSFO 560 AM, but will continue her World Net Daily column. “[J]ust because Melanie Morgan is off the air doesn’t mean she’s off our radar,” said Media Matters spokesman Karl Frisch.
Yes. You can always count on World Nut Daily to help keep the wingnut welfare gravy train hauling GOP trash.


Is Clinton Running as the Republican VP Candidate?

I am not kidding here:

Via turnerresq's diary at dKos:

There has been quite a bit of news on the statement by Hillary Clinton that she and McCain had experience, and Obama simply has a speech.

"I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002," Clinton says.

This has gotten a lot of criticism on the web. And Keith has just weighed in. I don't have a link yet, but we've got what was just discussed on Countdown. He and Rachel Maddow were incredulous at her 3AM video, as well as her statements.

Rachel Maddow:

"That's what you say when you want to be John McCain's Vice Presidential choice. That's not what you say when you are trying to become the democratic nominee for president."



Absolutely on point. Hillary's statement is outrageous, essentially cutting an ad for McCain in the general if Obama is the nominee. Olbermann openly wondered why she was playing this card, and also cited the inability of Hillary advisers to point to where she has been tested on foreign policy.
And some Democratic supporters wonder why many independents look at her campaign and say they will never vote for her? She and her campaign are the epitome of the reasoning behind some in the left voting for 3rd party candidates.

Telecom Immunity and Chris Murphy

We already knew that he Rep. Chris Murphy opposes immunity for the telecoms but just to be on the safe side, and with another vote in the House coming up that includes immunity in it, I had to give a call. The gentleman that answered Rep. Murphy's phone (Call NOW! 202-225-4476) assured me that Chris Murphy would not support any legislation that included immunity.

The only reason I am posting on this is the fact that we need to remain vigilant on this issue. You know for a fact that there are a few in the right wing noise machine that are cranking out phone calls, Emails and faxes (never mind the GOP's failed fearmongering campaign) trying to persuade Representatives across the country to toss the Constitution in the garbage.

Fortunately the majority of Americans are against immunity for telecoms for the obvious reasons that it is illegal and unconstitutional, and I made certain to point that out in my phone call. Make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear.

You can find contact information for your Congressional Representative here. There is also a petition you can sign on to over at PFAW.

Musician Jeff Healey Dies of Cancer

There are a lot of songs that I love listening to running through my head right now:
Rock and jazz musician Jeff Healey died Sunday in a Toronto hospital after a battle with cancer, his publicist said.

He was 41.

Healey's battle with cancer began at age one when he lost his sight due to Retinoblastoma, a rare form of retinal cancer.

Man... I saw him play before he was big and the place rocked and everyone left that bar knowing that he was going places. RIP Jeff Healey...