Sunday, January 30, 2011

Without Internet, Egyptians find new ways to get online

"When countries block, we evolve," an activist with the group We Rebuild wrote in a Twitter message Friday.

That's just what many Egyptians have been doing this week, as groups like We Rebuild scramble to keep the country connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

Although one Internet service provider -- Noor Group -- remains in operation, Egypt's government abruptly ordered the rest of the country's ISPs to shut down their services just after midnight local time Thursday. Mobile networks have also been turned off in some areas. The blackout appears designed to disrupt organization of the country's growing protest movement, which is calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"[B]asically, there are three ways of getting information out right now -- get access to the Noor ISP (which has about 8 percent of the market), use a land line to call someone, or use dial-up," Jillian York, a researcher with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said via e-mail.

Egyptians with dial-up modems get no Internet connection when they call into their local ISP, but calling an international number to reach a modem in another country gives them a connection to the outside world.

We Rebuild is looking to expand those dial-up options. It has set up a dial-up phone number in Sweden and is compiling a list of other numbers Egyptians can call. It is distributing information about its activities on a Wiki page.

One of the dial-up numbers is run by a small ISP called the French Data Network, which said it was the first time it had set up such a service. Its modem has been providing a connection "every few minutes," said Benjamin Bayart, FDN's president, speaking in an online chat.

The international dial-up numbers only work for people with access to a telephone modem and an international calling service, however. So although mobile networks have been suspended in some areas, people have posted instructions about how others can use their mobile phones as dial-up modems.

The few Egyptians able to access the Internet through Noor, the one functioning ISP, are taking steps to ensure their online activities are not being logged. Shortly before Internet access was cut off, the Tor Project said it saw a big spike in Egyptian visitors looking to download its Web browsing software, which is designed to let people surf the Web anonymously.

"We thought we were under denial-of-service attack," said Andrew Lewman, the project's executive director. The site was getting up to 3,000 requests per second, the vast majority of them from Egypt, he said. "Since then we've seen a quadrupling of Tor clients connecting from Noor over the past 24 hours," he said.

Even with no Internet, people have found ways to get messages out on Twitter. On Friday someone had set up a Twitter account where they posted messages that they had received via telephone calls from Egypt. A typical message reads: "Live Phonecall: streets mostly quiet in Dokki, no police in sight. Lots of police trucks seen at Sheraton."

Others are using fax machines to get information into Egypt about possible ways to communicate. They are distributing fax machine numbers for universities and embassies and asking people to send faxes to those numbers with instructions about how to use a mobile phone as a dial-up modem.

Members of the hacker group Anonymous have also been getting in on the act. They are reportedly faxing some of the latest government cables from WikiLeaks which reveal human rights abuses under President Mubarak, to locations in the country, according to Forbes magazine.

We Rebuild describes itself as "a decentralized cluster of net activists who have joined forces to collaborate on issues concerning access to a free Internet without intrusive surveillance." It has set up an IRC for people who can help with ham radio transmissions from Egypt. They are trying to spread the word about the radio band they are monitoring so that people in Egypt know where to transmit. Some ham enthusiasts are setting up an FTP site where people can record what they hear and post the recordings. So far, they say they've picked up Morse code messages.

Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the National Association for Amateur Radio, said no one has picked up any voice transmissions from Egypt for the past couple of days. But it's possible that people in Egypt are transmitting over shorter-range frequencies that carry only 30 or 50 miles, he said.

One problem with ham radio is that most people who know how to use it in Egypt were probably trained by the military and may be opposed to the protests. Others may be wary of transmitting because they are worried about who might be listening.

During earlier protests in Iran and Tunisia, the governments clamped down on specific websites, but access to the Internet was not severed in such a wholescale fashion.

It is not unprecedented though. In a blog post Friday written with a colleague, York from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society noted that in 2005 the government of Nepal cut off the Internet connection there, and in 2007 the Burmese government did the same in that country.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt vigilantes defend homes as police disappear

(Reuters) - Egyptians armed with sticks and razors have formed vigilante groups to defend their homes from looters after police disappeared from the streets following days of violent protests.
Banks, junctions and important buildings previously guarded by the police and state security were left abandoned on Saturday and civilians have quickly stepped in to fill the void.

"There is no police to be found anywhere," said Ghadeer, 23, from an upscale neighbourhood. "Doormen and young boys from their neighbourhoods are standing outside holding sticks, razors and other weapons to prevent people from coming in."

She added: "The community is working together to stop this and protect ourselves."

Police withdrew from the streets when the army was sent in to take over security in Cairo. Witnesses have since seen mobs storming supermarkets, commercial centres, banks, private property and government buildings in Cairo and elsewhere.

Egyptians have called for army intervention to bring back law and order. On Saturday, many protesters changed: "No to plundering and no to destruction."

Dozens of shops across Egypt have painted display windows white to hide contents and discourage looting. A cash machine was broken in an upscale neighbourhood, witnesses said.

"They are letting Egypt burn to the ground," said Inas Shafik, 35.

Several government buildings were set ablaze during days of protests against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. They were often left to burn without the intervention of authorities.


State television said army reinforcements were being sent to sites across Egypt to protect public and private property.

Islamic leaders have in the meantime called on people to join vigilante groups to protect their homes themselves. Yet, scenes of looting appeared to spread from upscale parts of Cairo to downtown and poorer areas as well.

"Our jobs are done and over. There are thugs everywhere, ransacking our shops," Saleh Salem, a shop owner in central Cairo. "Since the government is not doing it, we are sending down our boys to create human shields to fight the criminals."

Rumours were rife with reports of escaped convicts running through the streets. State television reported at least 60 rape cases during the unrest. It also reported that the country's cancer hospital for children had been stormed.

"They are torching down the prisons. Our lives and property are at risk. Get out of the way," one shopper shouted, echoing the anxieties of many as they raced to stock up at supermarkets.


Where is Bush?

Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

The secret document in full

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

Mr Mubarak, facing the biggest challenge to his authority in his 31 years in power, ordered the army on to the streets of Cairo yesterday as rioting erupted across Egypt.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in open defiance of a curfew. An explosion rocked the centre of Cairo as thousands defied orders to return to their homes. As the violence escalated, flames could be seen near the headquarters of the governing National Democratic Party.

Police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

At least five people were killed in Cairo alone yesterday and 870 injured, several with bullet wounds. Mohamed ElBaradei, the pro-reform leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was placed under house arrest after returning to Egypt to join the dissidents. Riots also took place in Suez, Alexandria and other major cities across the country.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, urged the Egyptian government to heed the “legitimate demands of protesters”. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she was “deeply concerned about the use of force” to quell the protests.

In an interview for the American news channel CNN, to be broadcast tomorrow, David Cameron said: “I think what we need is reform in Egypt. I mean, we support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of the democracy and civil rights and the rule of law.”

The US government has previously been a supporter of Mr Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mr Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East.

In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.”

It said the activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”. The embassy’s source said the plan was “so sensitive it cannot be written down”.

Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organised by the US State Department.

Cairo embassy officials warned Washington that the activist’s identity must be kept secret because he could face “retribution” when he returned to Egypt. He had already allegedly been tortured for three days by Egyptian state security after he was arrested for taking part in a protest some years earlier.

The protests in Egypt are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mr Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social networking sites to orchestrate protests and report on their activities.

The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights abuses.


Dramatic video as thousands clash with Egypt riot police in Cairo

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dictators Are Bad, But Political Islam Is Worse Egypt


Or as the Late Shah of Iran would have said, “Hey Suckers, miss me much?”

With Political Islam you get all the repression of a dictatorship plus more corruption, inefficiency and an eradication of women-and-non-Muslims’ rights.

I worry about the Copts too. For all their misguided hatred of the Jews and Israel, we could see a genocide against them much like what has happened — but at a far greater level — with the Christians in Iraq.

And it moves up the timetable for the next Egypt (and a host of other Mideast nations) war against Israel.

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Diana West: Uncle Sap Does It Again

Outgoing IG Arnold Fields testified today as to why one particular $11.4 billion chunk of nation-building is going up in flames.


“We have no plan for where we are going. We don’t know where we are going,” said Fields, a retired Marine Corps major general. “And so, we will not know when we will get there.”


His office’s audits and investigations have found numerous examples of facilities being built without consideration for whether the Afghanistan government is able to pay the maintenance bills or train a workforce to keep facilities operational, Fields told the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting.

Read More »

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stoned to death with her lover: Horrific video of execution of girl, 19, killed by Afghan Taliban for running away from arranged marriage

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The American: A State Insult with Chinese Characteristics

A state banquet was scene to a triumph of sorts for a newly assertive, and more nakedly anti-American, strain in Chinese foreign policy.

“My Motherland” is not a “Chinese song” in any ordinary meaning of the term. Instead, it is a Mao-era propaganda classic: the theme from "Triangle Hill" (Shangganling), a film in which heroic Chinese forces fight, kill, and eventually beat Americans in pitched battle during the Korean War.

How to evaluate the results of last week’s China-U.S. summit in Washington? Improbably, the key for the entire event may lie in what is usually the least memorable portion of these carefully choreographed occasions: the cultural program at the concluding state banquet.

During the dinner’s musical interlude and following a duet with American jazz musician Herbie Hancock, Chinese pianist Lang Lang treated the assembled dignitaries to a solo of what he described as “a Chinese song: ‘My Motherland.’” (You can watch this on YouTube.)

The Chinese delegation was clearly delighted: Chinese President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao, stone-faced for many of his other photo ops in Washington, beamed with pleasure upon hearing the melody and embraced Lang Lang at the song’s conclusion (see it on YouTube too). President Obama, for his part, amiably praised Lang Lang for his performance and described the event as "an extraordinary evening."

‘My Motherland’ is still famous in China; indeed, it is well-known to practically every Chinese adult to this very day.

But what, exactly, is this “gorgeous” and “beautiful” (Hu’s words) tune that so entranced China’s visiting leadership?

“My Motherland” is not a “Chinese song” in any ordinary meaning of the term. Instead, it is a Mao-era propaganda classic: the theme from "Triangle Hill" (Shangganling), a film in which heroic Chinese forces fight, kill, and eventually beat Americans in pitched battle during the Korean War. Read more...

In Hubble’s Lens, Signs of a Galaxy Older and Farther Than Any Other


Moscow airport bomb: suicide bombers were part of squad trained in Pakistan

Russian security services warned in December that there were two attack teams primed to carry out attacks, sparking fears there could still be terrorists at large who were prepared to carry out another attack.

Intelligence sources said that one of the squads was likely to have established a base, at a house in Moscow, where the suicide belts to be used in attacks were assembled.

Russian security sources said yesterday that a male and female suicide bomber from the Black Widow brigades had carried out the bombing together. The attack had been closely supervised by three accomplices, who had watched from a distance and are now being sought by the authorities.

A Russian security official said the bomb that ripped through Moscow's Domodedovo airport was carried by a woman who mingled in the crowd at arrivals. She then either set the bomb off herself or someone else detonated it using a remote-control device.

An eyewitness said the woman had been dressed in black and had worn a veil, suggesting she may have been a 'Black Widow' suicide bomber from the North Caucasus region out to revenge the killing of her husband by Russian security forces.


NBC: U.S. can't link accused Army private to Assange

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

Assange, an Australian national, is under house arrest at a British mansion near London, facing a Swedish warrant seeking his extradition for questioning on charges of rape. Assange has denied the allegations.

WikiLeaks' release of secret diplomatic cables last year caused a diplomatic stir and laid bare some of the most sensitive U.S. dealings with governments around the world. It also prompted an American effort to stifle WikiLeaks by pressuring financial institutions to cut off the flow of money to the organization.

U.S. Attorney General Eric holder has said his department is also considering whether it can prosecute the release of information under the Espionage Act.

Assange told msnbc TV last month that WikiLeaks was unsure Army PFC Bradley Manning is the source for the classified documents appearing on his site.

"That's not how our technology works, that's not how our organization works," Assange said. "I never heard of the name of Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media."

He called allegations that WikiLeaks had conspired with Manning "absolute nonsense."

Officials: No torture of Manning
On Monday, U.S. military officials also strongly denied allegations that Manning, being held in connection with the WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, has been "tortured" and held in "solitary confinement" without due process.

The officials told NBC News, however, that a U.S. Marine commander did violate procedure when he placed Manning on "suicide watch" last week.

Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.

The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a "suicide risk." Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself. At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.

U.S. Marine and Army officials say Manning is being treated like any other maximum security prisoner at Quantico, Va. He is confined to his single-person cell 23-hours per day, permitted one hour to exercise, permitted reading material and given one hour per day to watch television.

Manning spends much of his day reading while sitting cross-legged on the bunk in his cell. His hour of television is spent watching the news, military officials told NBC News.

Anti-war groups, a psychologist group as well as filmmaker Michael Moore and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg have called for Bradley to be released from detention.


Where's the body?

Man arrested in Queens with bomb-making materials in car: sources

A man who was pulled over in Queens during a routine traffic stop was arrested after cops found bomb-making materials in his car, authorities said.

The driver, who has not been identified, was pulled over in Jamaica at about 2 p.m. after a cop spotted him illegally crossing a lane, sources told The Post.

The officer arrested the driver, who is in his 30s, after spotting a car battery, fertilizer and glass jars with aluminum shavings inside -- materials commonly used to make bombs.

The man was taken to the 113th Precinct stationhouse for questioning. Sources said the FBI was notified of the arrest.

The NYPD has been on heightened alert since 9/11 to be on the lookout for suspicious activities


Rand Paul proposes $500 billion in federal budget cuts

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wants to slash numerous federal programs, including food stamps for the poor, to save $500 billion in a single year.

A legislative proposal Paul introduced on Tuesday would slash $42 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food stamp program -- a 30 percent spending reduction. His proposal would eliminate numerous other programs, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Paul said the proposal would roll back federal spending to 2008 levels and eliminate what he considers the most wasteful programs.

The Kentucky Republican said he hopes his proposal will spark a dialogue within the Senate about how to repair the nation's economy.


At a minimum. But they wont, the republican are already trying to change the focus back to gays and abortions and god, hoping people will forget all about the budget.

This session should be all about appropriation and nothing but appropriations.
I just herd the words "wage subsidies" come out of some head on TV...Is that the change we were promised?

Marines face daunting task, heavy price in taking on Taliban

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. Marines tell of snipers who fire from "murder holes" cut into mud-walled compounds. Fighters who lie in wait in trenches dug around rough farmhouses clustered together for protection. Farmers who seem to tip the Taliban to the outsiders' every movement - often with signals that sound like birdcalls.

When the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, deployed to the Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province in late September, the British soldiers who preceded them warned the Americans that the Taliban would be waiting nearly everywhere for a chance to kill them.

But the Marines of the Three-Five, ordered to be more aggressive than the British, quickly learned that the Taliban wasn't simply waiting.

In Sangin, the Taliban was coming after them.

In four years there, the British had lost more than 100 soldiers, about a third of all their country's losses in the war.

In four months, 24 Marines with the Camp Pendleton-based Three-Five have been killed.

More than 140 others have been wounded, some of them catastrophically, losing limbs and the futures they had imagined for themselves.

The Marines' families have been left devastated - or dreading the knock on the door.

"We are a broken-hearted but proud family," Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly said. He spoke not only of the Three-Five: His son 1st Lt. Robert Kelly was killed leading a patrol in Sangin.

The Three-Five had drawn a daunting task: Push into areas where the British had not gone, areas where Taliban dominance was uncontested, areas where the opium poppy crop whose profits help fuel the insurgency is grown, areas where bomb makers lash together explosives to kill and terrorize in Sangin and neighboring Kandahar province.

The result? The battalion with the motto "Get Some" has been in more than 408 firefights and found 434 buried roadside bombs. An additional 122 bombs exploded before they could be discovered, in many instances killing or injuring Afghan civilians who travel the same roads as the Marines.

Some enlisted personnel believe that the Taliban have developed a "Vietnam-like" capability to pick off a platoon commander or a squad or team leader. A lieutenant assigned as a replacement for a downed colleague was shot in the neck on his first patrol.

At the confluence of two rivers in Helmand province in the country's south, Sangin is a mix of rocky desert and stretches of farmland where corn and pomegranates are grown. There are rolling hills, groves of trees and crisscrossing canals. Farmers work their fields and children play on dusty paths.

"Sangin is one of the prettier places in Helmand, but that's very deceiving," said Sgt. Dean Davis, a Marine combat correspondent. "It's a very dangerous place; it's a danger you can feel."

Three men arrived in Sangin last fall knowing they would face the fight of their lives.

1st Lt. John Chase Barghusen, 26, of Madison, Wis., had asked to be transferred to the Three-Five so he could return to Afghanistan.

Cpl. Derek Wyatt, 25, of Akron, Ohio, an infantry squad leader, was excited about the mission but worried about his wife, pregnant with their first child.

Lance Cpl. Juan Dominguez, 26, of Deming, N.M., an infantry "grunt," had dreamed of going into combat as a Marine since he was barely out of grade school.

What happened to them in Sangin shows the price being paid for a campaign to cripple the Taliban in a key stronghold and help extricate America from a war now in its 10th year.

When Lance Cpl. Juan Dominguez slipped down a small embankment while out on patrol and landed on a buried bomb, the explosion could be heard for miles.

"It had to be a 30- to 40-pounder," Dominguez said from his bed at the military hospital in Bethesda, Md. "I remember crying out for my mother and then crying out for morphine. I remember them putting my legs on top of me."

His legs were severed above the knee, and his right arm was mangled and could not be saved. A Navy corpsman, risking sniper fire, rushed to Dominguez and stopped the bleeding. On the trip to the field hospital, Dominguez prayed.

"I figured this was God's will, so I told him: 'If you're going to take me, take me now,' " he said.

His memories of Sangin are vivid. "The part we were in, it's hell," he said. "It makes your stomach turn. The poor families there, they get conned into helping the Taliban."

Like many wounded Marines, Dominguez never saw a Taliban fighter. "We don't know who we're fighting over there, who's friendly and who isn't," he said. "They're always watching us. We're basically fighting blind."

His mother, Martha Dominguez, was at home the night of Oct. 23 when a Marine came to her door to tell her that her son had been gravely injured. She left her job right away and rushed to his bedside in Bethesda. She's never been far away since.

When Dominguez's father, Reynaldo, first visited the hospital, he was overcome by emotion and had to leave. "Mothers are stronger at times like this," Martha Dominguez said.

Juan Dominguez has since been fitted with prosthetic legs and a "bionic" arm and is undergoing daily therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He and his girlfriend have broken up.

"She wanted someone with legs," his mother said.

When he's discharged, Dominguez wants to return to Deming to be near his 8-year-old daughter, who lives with his ex-wife, and open a business painting and restoring cars.

But his immediate goal is to be at Camp Pendleton, in uniform and walking on his prosthetic legs, when the battalion returns in the spring.

By some accounts, no district in Afghanistan is outpacing Sangin in "kinetic activity," military jargon for combat.

"Sangin is a straight-up slug match. No winning of hearts and minds. No enlightened counterinsurgency projects to win affections," said Bing West, a Marine veteran who was an assistant secretary of Defense under President Reagan. "Instead, the goal is to kill the Taliban every day on every patrol. Force them to flee the Sangin Valley or die."

When the Marines of the Three-Five arrived in Sangin, many were on their first deployment, eager to live up to the legacy the battalion earned at the battles of Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and the Chosin Reservoir.

Some were with the battalion during the 2004 fight in Fallujah, Iraq, the bloodiest single battle the U.S. Marine Corps had fought since Vietnam. And now they were in Sangin, a place they called "the Fallujah of Afghanistan."

Marine brass, to whom heroes of the past stand as the measure of all things, say the Three-Five is writing its own chapter of combat history. Marine Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, who spent Christmas in Sangin, said the Marines there are writing "a story of heroism, of courage, of fidelity."

A victory over the Taliban in Sangin, American officials hope, would bolster the confidence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and possibly push the Taliban into a negotiated settlement, allowing the United States to withdraw its troops by the 2014 target set by the Obama administration.

Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the top Marine in Afghanistan, has called Sangin the last major Taliban stronghold in Helmand, although there are other pockets of insurgent activity in the province.

Fighters from Pakistan use Sangin as a staging area before launching into other parts of Afghanistan, particularly into neighboring Kandahar province.

"We know that the senior leadership (of the Taliban) outside the country is very concerned that this area is going to slip away," said Col. Paul Kennedy, commander of Regimental Combat Team Two, which includes the Three-Five.

To get a sense of the intensity of the fighting that has killed the 24 Marines of the Three-Five, one might look at a recent deployment by another group of Marines. When the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was deployed for seven months last year in the Helmand district of Garmsir to the south, another Taliban stronghold, 14 were killed - about half as many casualties in almost twice the time.

Four Marines from battalions assigned to assist the Three-Five by clearing roads and detonating Taliban bombs have also been killed.

U.S. military hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany; Bethesda; and San Diego have seen a steady stream of wounded Marines and sailors from the Three-Five, including at least four triple-amputees.

Less severely wounded Marines have been sent to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West barracks at Camp Pendleton. Still others among the Three-Five injured have been transferred to the Veterans Affairs facility in Palo Alto, which specializes in traumatic brain injuries.

Fifty-six replacements have been rushed from Camp Pendleton to Afghanistan to take the places of the dead and severely wounded. Priority was given to young lieutenants, who serve as platoon commanders, and Navy corpsmen.

Many of the volunteers were Marines from other battalions who had been wounded in Afghanistan, said Gunnery Sgt. Enrique MorenoRuiz.

"We're war fighters," MorenoRuiz said. "If they want to go, they can go."

1st Lt. John Chase Barghusen had served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, when it was airlifted into the Nawa-i-Barakzayi district of Helmand province southwest of Sangin in the summer of 2009 on a mission to wrest control from the Taliban. The progress in Nawa has buoyed U.S. hopes for similar success in Sangin, Marine officials said.

A former football player at Iowa State and son of a retired Marine colonel, Barghusen transferred to the Three-Five so he could return to Helmand "to finish what we started in Nawa."

Like other Marines assigned to mentoring duty, Barghusen believes the fastest way for the U.S. to exit Afghanistan is to train and equip the Afghans to assume responsibility for fighting the Taliban and protecting villagers.

Lt. Col. William McCollough, who commanded the One-Five in Afghanistan, wasn't surprised that Barghusen volunteered to return, calling it "exactly what I would expect from someone of his character."

Early one morning, Barghusen was reconnoitering, looking for places to establish a patrol base. The Marines and Afghan soldiers were walking "ranger style," each man stepping in the footsteps of the man in front of him, in hopes of avoiding buried bombs.

The Afghan soldier in front of Barghusen stepped on a hidden explosive and was blown apart.

Barghusen's face, back, left arm and left leg were ripped by shrapnel and the hot blast of the explosion. He tried to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding but didn't have the strength.

"I knew my face was messed up," he said in Bethesda. "My jaw was broken so it was hard to shout. You try to shout and you can't. Your jaw just hangs there."

His father was hunting grouse in northern Wisconsin when he got the call that his son had been wounded and was being airlifted to the U.S.

"I didn't know if he was going to have arms, legs or a face," said John Clifford Barghusen, who served in Iraq as a helicopter pilot from 2003 to 2004 and is now a pilot for American Airlines. "All I knew was that he was alive and not going to die in the next 72 hours. When I finally saw him, he had a face the size of a pumpkin."

Before his injuries, 1st Lt. Barghusen had enjoyed weightlifting and martial arts. After skin grafts and surgery to restore hearing in his left ear, he is back in Southern California. His arm and leg are regaining strength, and his face shows few signs of the cuts inflicted by shards of metal and rock.

He hopes to return to active duty at Camp Pendleton, possibly to share the lessons of Sangin.

He sees a marked difference between Nawa and Sangin.

"In Nawa, they wait for you and then strike," he said. "In Sangin, they come after you."

It's not unusual, U.S. military officials say, for the Taliban to "test" a newly arrived U.S. battalion by staging repeated ambush attacks in hopes the Americans will retreat to their bases.

Instead, the Marines have rushed more troops, more bomb-sniffing dogs and more firepower to Sangin. A month ago, a company of Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, was sent to Sangin. Within days, three of its members were killed.

Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit began arriving recently in northern Helmand province with their own attack aircraft, long-range artillery and logistics support. Hundreds of Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are expected to deploy to Sangin to provide patrols, particularly at a key road construction project that the Taliban has been trying to disrupt.

The Marines have also unleashed artillery and airstrikes, both conventional and from unmanned drones. The top Taliban commander in Sangin was thought to have been killed by a drone strike.

Marine tanks from Kuwait and tank crew members from the base at Twentynine Palms have deployed to Helmand and will soon be sent into battle. Among the tank's attributes is better targeting capability, decreasing the chances of civilian casualties, Marines said.

The casualty rate of Marines has declined in recent weeks, although that could be due to numerous factors, including the weather and the ability of insurgents to infiltrate from Pakistan. Marine leaders prefer to see it otherwise.

"We've killed a lot of (roadside bomb) emplacers, several hundred maybe," Col. Kennedy said. "When you start taking that many bad guys off the battlefield, you are going to enjoy a certain reduced casualty rate."

On the day before he deployed to Afghanistan, Cpl. Derek Wyatt and his wife, Kait, walked on the beach near their home at Camp Pendleton, writing their names in the wet sand and the name they had selected for their unborn son.

Wyatt had had a good Marine career, including assignment to the security detail for President George W. Bush, the kind of job that only goes to the elite. The young couple had talked of moving to Ohio once his enlistment was finished. But first he was being deployed to a war zone and he was excited.

"He loved adventure," said Kait, 22, a former Marine. "He hated sitting behind a desk."

Still, she knew the dangers. She and Derek had been introduced by a Marine who was later killed in Iraq.

"It doesn't matter if it's the first day they're gone, or the last day before they return home, you're scared all the time," she said. "You pretend to be happy, but you're living in fear."

One morning last month, the knock came to the Wyatt home.

"I automatically knew," Kait said. "But then I had a split second where I thought: 'Maybe he's at Landstuhl, maybe he's just injured, still alive.' But when they asked to come in, I knew."

Wyatt was killed Dec. 6 by a sniper while on patrol. Kait is convinced he was targeted by the Taliban. It provides her with a measure of comfort that he died as a leader.

"Luckily, none of his Marines were hurt," she said.

The night after she learned of her husband's death, Kait gave birth to Michael Everett Wyatt, 7 pounds, 11 ounces, named after the patron saint of the military.

The pregnancy had been planned in case Wyatt didn't return from Afghanistan.

"We wanted to have something tangible, a physical expression of our love," she said, "just in case there wasn't another opportunity."

Wyatt had recorded passages of the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" During her pregnancy, Kait aimed her iPod speaker at her stomach; when she brought the baby home from the hospital, she played the recording softly to help him sleep.

Before Kait left the hospital with her baby, a casualty assistance officer decorated her home, including placing an "It's a Boy" sign on the front lawn.

"He made sure that Michael got the kind of homecoming that his father would have wanted," Kait said, her voice trembling. She paused, unable to speak.

Waiting at home was a receiving blanket for the baby, in Marine colors and with the Three-Five logo.

Under a bitterly cold sky Jan. 7, Cpl. Wyatt was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a section reserved for the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the funeral service, Kait told of a conversation she and her husband had before he deployed about what she should do if he was killed in Afghanistan.

Kait said she told Derek that she would never remarry. He pulled the car to the side of the road, she said, looked directly at her and made her promise that she would again find love in her life.

"He told me the only thing he wanted in life was for me to be happy," Kait said.

As she spoke, there were tears in the eyes of the mourners - including Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is still fighting for a faraway place known as Sangin.


Sgt. Jason Amores, 29

Cpl. Tevan Nguyen, 21

Lance Cpl. Kenneth Corzine, 23

Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado, 21

Sgt. Jason Peto, 31

Pfc. Colton Rusk, 20

Cpl. Derek A. Wyatt, 25

Sgt. Matthew T. Abbate, 26

1st Lt. William Donnelly IV, 27

Lance Cpl. James Stack, 20

1st Lt. Robert Kelly, 29

Lance Cpl. Randy Braggs, 21

Lance Cpl. Brandon Pearson, 21

Lance Cpl. Matthew Broehm, 21

Sgt. Ian Tawney, 25

Lance Cpl. James Boelk, 24

Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood, 19

Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez, 26

Lance Cpl. Irvin Ceniceros, 21

Cpl. Justin Cain, 22

Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge, 19

PFC Victor Dew, 20

Lance Cpl. Joseph Rodewald, 21

Lance Cpl. John Sparks, 23

Bellingham Herald

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Army Captain Builds iPhone App for Soldiers in Afghanistan

Searching for Bin Laden? Now there's an app for that.

As Army Capt. Johnathan Springer geared up for a deployment to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne, he scoured the Internet for a smartphone app that would help him in the field. There wasn't one, so Springer decided to build an app himself.

Tactical Nav is an iPhone app that helps soldiers in mapping, plotting, and photographing waypoints on the field of battle. Expected to be available in the App Store some time next month, it works like a wartime location-based service, conveying coordinates to supporting units.

"I've been an iPhone user for quite a while and I'm obviously a Mac guy," Springer told CBS News. "I'm a heavy pusher of the iPhone because of what it can do and I see the benefits, not only at home, but here in combat."

It's a little more technical than the directions found in the average iPhone app. Tactical Nav uses the phone's camera and GPS to do things like call in air support, direct artillery file, and relay information to others using the app. Using a gridded map, it also recognizes specific latitude and longitude coordinates.

"My wish is to provide a soldier with a very inexpensive, accurate tool to help them in combat, or back in the States if they're hunters or outdoor enthusiasts," Springer said. He noted that the app is simple enough for a civilian to use while grocery shopping. "I've got to think what do my soldiers need to go into battle? What do my soldiers need that could save their lives? So that's what I'm thinking about right now."

The 31-year-old from Ft. Wayne, Indiana said the idea for Tactical Nav came to him in a dream last July. Springer used $26,000 of his own money to work with developers and a design company to realize that dream. Clearly created from a soldier's point of view, Tactical Nav is detail-oriented, CBS said. It was tested using various armored vehicles and artillery in harsh conditions and from remote outposts.

Springer, a battalion fire support officer, is on his third deployment. He said he hopes to have the app available for download for the iPhone and iPod touch by the first week of February and he's considering an iPad version.


Twentynine Palms Base Unveils Massive Combat Center

The Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms unveiled a new urban training center Tuesday. The range is the same size of downtown San Diego and gives Marines the opportunity to practice tactics they will use on the battlefront in Afghanistan.

The $170 million project is organized into seven separate city districts, has two stadiums and about 1,560 buildings. Inside, some buildings are furnished and cover a 1,800 ft network of underground tunnels and spider holes where insurgents could be hiding.

"What you see now is a significant leap regarding our ability to train in the most realistic and most difficult environments we face today in this urban environment," Col. David Smith said at a press conference Tuesday.

The concept is called "immersive experience." The trainers at the base want troops to see, feel, hear and smell exactly what they're going to experience on the battlefront.

"Different role players will play different positions of authority and your standard civilian walking around," said Col. Kip J. Haskell. Troops will have to learn who they can trust.

Their leaders are veterans who have come back to teach the next wave of fighters. While the battle won't be easy, the buildings are at least giving marines a first-hand experience before they leave this desert for the next.


Bakken News: North Dakota may dethrone Alaska as the largest oil producer in the US

By implementing horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracturing in the Bakken Shale, North Dakota may well surpass Alaska in crude oil production by 2017, reported Bloomberg.

According to separate reports from both the North Dakota Pipeline Authority and the US Department of Energy, if the current trends in production continue, North Dakota may overtake Alaska as the No. 1 producer in the US by 2017.

Should the increase in drilling and production in North Dakota continue, the output in North Dakota may rise to between 450,000 and 700,000 barrels of oil a day within the next five to seven years, reported the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

On the other hand, the production coming out of Alaska is slated to drop to 450,000 barrels a day by 2017, the DOE reported.

The Bakken Shale has sparked a drilling frenzy in North Dakota, with drilling rig counts at the highest they have ever reached. According to the Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE:BHI) weekly rig report, there were 151 active drilling rigs in the state last week, despite the winter weather. All of the rigs are drilling for oil in the Williston Basin of North Dakota, and 93 percent of them are drilling horizontally.

Resources and infrastructure have threatened to slow the drilling and production in North Dakota, which boasts a plethora of jobs but lacks housing for the employees and their families. Nonetheless, the bumper sticker campaign across the state reads: “If not for the Bakken, you’d be walkin’” and the state in general supports the burgeoning economy.

According to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, there are several large projects ongoing to connect North Dakota production to US markets, including the Enbridge Bakken Expansion Program, Keystone XL Marketlink, True Co’s Baker 300, Plains Bakken North and Unit Train Development.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Bombing at Moscow airport called terrorist attack

MOSCOW (AP) - Terrorists struck again in the heart of Russia, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up Monday in Moscow's busiest airport and turning its international arrivals terminal into a smoky, blood-spattered hall of dismembered bodies, screaming survivors and abandoned suitcases. At least 35 people were killed, including two British travelers.

No one claimed responsibility for the blast at Domodedovo Airport that also wounded 180 people, although Islamic militants in the southern Russian region of Chechnya have been blamed for previous attacks in Moscow, including a double suicide bombing on the capital's subway system in March 2010 that resulted in 40 deaths.

The Interfax news agency said the head of the suspected bomber had been found.

President Dmitry Medvedev called it a terrorist attack and immediately tightened security at Moscow's two other commercial airports and other key transportation facilities.

It was the second time in seven years that Domodedovo was involved in a terrorist attack: In 2004, two female suicide bombers penetrated the lax security there, illegally bought tickets from airport personnel and boarded planes that exploded in flight and killed 90 people.

Medvedev canceled plans to travel Tuesday to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he aimed to promote Russia as a profitable investment haven to world business leaders.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the health minister to send her deputies to hospitals to make sure the injured were getting the medical care they needed.

Russians still look to the tough-talking Putin as the leader they trust to guarantee their security, and Monday's attack was likely to strengthen the position of the security forces that form part of his base.

Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, following two devastating wars that Russia waged with the republic's separatists, but Islamic militants have continued to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. Most have been in Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern Caucasus region, but some have targeted Moscow, including its subways, trains and even a theater.

In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous act of terrorism" and offered any assistance. Those comments were echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who spoke with Medvedev and assured him of his complete support.

Monday's attack was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber and "attempts were being made to identify him," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said, adding that the attacker appeared to have been wearing the explosives on a belt.

The blast came at 4:32 p.m., when hundreds of passengers and workers were in a loosely guarded part of the terminal. They were sprayed with shrapnel of screws and ball bearings, intended to cause as many casualties as possible.

The terminal filled with thick smoke as witnesses described a scene of horror.

"There was lots of blood, severed legs flying around," said Yelena Zatserkovnaya, a Lufthansa official.

Airport workers turned baggage carts into makeshift stretchers to wheel the wounded to ambulances outside, she said.

Amateur video showed a pile of bodies on the floor, with other dead scattered around. Luggage also was strewn around the terminal and several small fires burned. A dazed man in a suit pushed a baggage cart through the haze.

Driver Artyom Zhilenkov said he was standing just a few yards (meters) away from a man who may have been the suicide bomber. He saw an explosion on or near the man, whose suitcase was on fire.

Zhilenkov said he initially thought he himself had been injured, but doctors said he was just coated in the blood of others.

"The guy standing next to me was torn to pieces," he said.

Car rental agent Alexei Spiridonov, 25, was at his desk when the blast struck about 100 yards (meters) away and "threw me against the wall," he said.

"People were panicking, rushing out of the hall or looking for their relatives. There were people just lying in blood," Spiridonov said.

Sergei Lavochkin, who was waiting for a friend to arrive from Cuba, told Rossiya 24 television: "I heard a loud bang, saw plastic panels falling down from the ceiling and heard people screaming. Then people started running away."

The Emergencies Ministry said 35 people were killed, 86 hospitalized with injuries and 94 were given medical treatment. Among the dead were two British travelers, Markin said.

Domodedovo was briefly closed to air traffic immediately after the blast, but soon reopened. Hours later, passengers arriving for their flights lined up outside waiting to pass through metal detectors that had been installed at the entrances.

Aviation security experts have been warning since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the crowds at many airports present tempting targets to suicide bombers. Arrivals halls are usually open to anyone.

"Airports are by their nature crowded places, with meeters, greeters, commercial businesses, and so on," said Philip Baum, the editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication.

The attack also called into question Russia's ability to safely host major international events like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was in St. Petersburg over the weekend to formally award Russia the 2018 World Cup. Prior to the signing, Blatter told Putin that he was certain FIFA had made the right choice.

Built in 1964, Domodedovo is located 26 miles (42 kilometers) southeast of Moscow and is the largest of the three major airports that serve the capital, handling more than 22 million people last year. It is generally regarded as Moscow's most modern airport, but its security has been called into question.

The airport insists security is one of its top priorities, saying on its website that its "cutting-edge operations technology guarantees the safety of passengers' and guests' lives."

It says 77 airlines offer regular flights to Domodedovo, serving 241 international and national routes.


The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda

"Explanation: The big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31, is a spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Two space-based observatories have combined to produce this intriguing composite image of Andromeda, at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. The remarkable view follows the locations of this galaxy's once and future stars. In reddish hues, image data from the large Herschel infrared observatory traces enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda's spiral arms. The dust, in conjunction with the galaxy's interstellar gas, comprises the raw material for future star formation. X-ray data from the XMM-Newton observatory in blue pinpoint Andromeda's X-ray binary star systems. These systems likely contain neutron stars or stellar mass black holes that represent final stages in stellar evolution. More than twice the size of our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is over 200,000 light-years across."

The Start of a Long Year

"A few weeks back home were a blessing and also a time to partake in my favorite thing to do which is doing nothing. I’m an expert. While I was away a few articles caught my attention and they serve as a useful point of departure to evaluate where we are at the start of 2011 which will be the bloodiest year to date.

Sami the Finn from Indicium Consulting provides this useful graphic on incident rates. We anticipate seeing the incident rate to approach the 20,000 mark in 2011"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We Want Narrative, But Get Cacophony

"From an email from a friend, MP, seeking input on understanding Afghanistan:
I’m missing a narrative for the war in Afghanistan. That certainly needs to start at the very top of the civilian leadership, be reinforced by military leadership, and be lived by all involved.
I mean, if you ask most people what it’s about they might be able to say something about denying the enemy (AQ, Taliban) a safe haven from which to operate and hurt us at home.

And I think many people who read milblogs might be able to tell you a story or two about individual courage and sacrifice amongst our warriors.

But what is totally absent is the whole middle part. In Iraq, the Army didn’t do a great job with that either, but they did put out some stuff that the milblogs were able to amplify with their coverage.

For example, where are the Travis Patriquins of the war in Afg? The COL MacFarlands? They brought Petraeus back but where is he? Where are the stories that Roggio used to cover so well, talking about the Anbar Awakening before it was called that? Or giving context to operations like those which severed the “ratlines” from Syria?
Afghan Quest

What Some Conservatives Don't Yet Get

"Yesterday, 165 House Republicans voted to completely de-fund USAID as part of austerity measures designed to address the U.S. budget crisis. They suggested a lot of other cuts, but you can guess what they did not suggest cutting: the budget of the Department of Defense. They suggested we zero out the budget for USAID but not make any changes to the amount we are currently spending within the Department of Defense.

The FY2011 Department of Defense budget request was $548.9 billion dollars for the base budget, which does not include the $159.3 billion dollars set aside for "overseas contingency operations" such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just to give you a little perspective, the International Affairs budget we set aside for foreign and security assistance programs totaled, according to Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams, $500 billion in the three decades between FY1977 and FY2007 -- $50 billion less than the base budget for the Department of Defense for one year of operations!"
Abu Muqawama

Pair of US drone strikes kill 6 in Pakistan

MIR ALI, Pakistan (AP) - A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes killed six alleged militants in Pakistan's troubled North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The attacks came as more than 2,000 tribesmen, many of them students, held a protest in one of North Waziristan's largest towns demanding an end to the drone strikes, saying they killed innocent civilians.

Militants have effective control over North Waziristan, and it was unclear if they played a role in organizing the protest. The U.S. refuses to acknowledge the covert CIA drone strikes publicly, but officials insist privately that the attacks are precise and mainly kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants. However, there have been credible accounts of civilian casualties.

In the first drone attack, the aircraft fired two missiles at a vehicle and a house in Doga Mada Khel village, killing four suspected militants, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Hours later, a drone fired two missiles at a pair of suspected foreign militants riding a motorcycle in the same village, killing them, said the officials.

The exact identities of the suspected militants killed were unknown, but Doga Mada Khel is controlled by fighters loyal to the powerful militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. His group and other militants in North Waziristan regularly launch attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has stepped up its use of drone strikes to target militants in North Waziristan given the reluctance of the Pakistani army to launch an offensive in the area.

The army says its troops are stretched too thin carrying out operations in other parts of the tribal regions. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target militants in the area with whom it has historical ties and could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign troops withdraw.

The tribesmen who marched through the streets of Mir Ali town in North Waziristan on Sunday protesting the strikes shouted "Death to the U.S." and "Death to the CIA."

"Drone attacks are killing innocent people, women and children," said Majid Khan, president of the Waziristan Students Society. The attacks "have put tribal society in a state of constant fear and have turned tribesmen into psychiatric patients."

Some 2,000 people held a similar protest in North Waziristan's main town of Miran Shah on Friday that was watched over by armed Taliban militants.

Haji Mumtaz Khan, who offered prayers at the end of Sunday's protest, said the Pakistani government should force the U.S. to stop the drone attacks.

Pakistan officially protests the strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but its security agencies are believed to secretly cooperate with the program.

Elsewhere in the northwest, gunmen ambushed a vehicle Sunday carrying the former mayor of a town wracked by militancy, killing three people and wounding four others, including the mayor, police said.

Gunmen attacked Amir Faisal, the former mayor of Hangu town, as he was riding with his relatives, said police official Gul Jamal. Faisal's father, nephew and driver were killed, and the mayor and three passers-by were wounded, he said.

The gunmen fled on motorcycles, but one of them was injured in a shoot-out with police and captured, said Jamal.

Also Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded as police were examining a bullet-riddled body that had been dumped on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar. The blast injured three policemen and one civilian, said police official Abidur Rehman Khan.


AP Enterprise: Fraud plagues global health fund

GENEVA (AP) - A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned.

Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.

The fund's newly reinforced inspector general's office, which uncovered the corruption, can't give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing.

A full 67 percent of money spent on an anti-AIDS program in Mauritania was misspent, the investigators told the fund's board of directors. So did 36 percent of the money spent on a program in Mali to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and 30 percent of grants to Djibouti.

In Zambia, where $3.5 million in spending was undocumented and one accountant pilfered $104,130, the fund decided the nation's health ministry simply couldn't manage the grants and put the United Nations in charge of them. The fund is trying to recover $7 million in "unsupported and ineligible costs" from the ministry.

The fund is pulling or suspending grants from nations where corruption is found, and demanding recipients return millions of dollars of misspent money.

"The messenger is being shot to some extent," fund spokesman Jon Liden said. "We would contend that we do not have any corruption problems that are significantly different in scale or nature to any other international financing institution."

To date, the United States, the European Union and other major donors have pledged $21.7 billion to the fund, the dominant financier of efforts to fight the three diseases. The fund has been a darling of the power set that will hold the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain village of Davos this week.

It was on the sidelines of Davos that rock star Bono launched a new global brand, (Product) Red, which donates a large share of profits to the Global Fund. Other prominent backers include former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives $150 million a year.

The fund's inspector general, John Parsons, said donors should be reassured that the fund is serious about uncovering corruption: "It should be viewed as a comparative advantage to anyone who's thinking about putting funds in here."

But some donors are outraged at what the investigators are turning up. Sweden, the fund's 11th-biggest contributor, has suspended its $85 million annual donation until the fund's problems are fixed. It held talks with fund officials in Stockholm last week.

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Larsson said in a statement that his country is concerned about "extensive examples of irregularities and corruption that the fund has uncovered" in nations like Mali and Mauritania.

"For Sweden, the issues of greatest importance are risk management, combating corruption and ultimately ensuring that the funds managed by the Global Fund really do contribute to improved health," he said.

The investigative arm of the U.S. Congress also has issued reports criticizing the fund's ability to police itself and its overreliance on grant recipients to assess their own performance.

Fund officials blame the misspending on the lack of financial controls among the grants' recipients, many of which are African health ministries whose budgets are heavily supported by the fund. Others are nations or international organizations without the resources to deal with pervasive corruption. The fund finances programs in 150 nations in all.

Among the corruption uncovered by Parsons' task force:

_Last month, the fund announced it had halted grants to Mali worth $22.6 million, after the fund's investigative unit found that $4 million was misappropriated. Half of Mali's TB and malaria grant money went to supposed "training events," and signatures were forged on receipts for per diem payments, lodging and travel expense claims. The fund says Mali has arrested 15 people suspected of committing fraud, and its health minister resigned without explanation two days before the audit was made public.

_Mauritania had "pervasive fraud," investigators say, with $4.1 million - 67 percent of an anti-HIV grant - lost to faked documents and other fraud. Similarly, 67 percent of $3.5 million in TB and malaria grant money that investigators examined was eaten up by faked invoices and other requests for payment.

_Investigators reviewed more than four-fifths of Djibouti's $20 million in grants, and found about 30 percent of what they examined was lost, unaccounted for or misused. About three-fifths of the almost $5.3 million in misappropriated money went to buy cars, motorcycles and other items without receipts. Almost $750,000 was transferred out of the account with no explanation.

_Investigators report that tens of millions of dollars worth of free malaria drugs sent to Africa each year by international donors including the Global Fund are stolen and resold on commercial markets.

_The U.N. Development Program manages more than half of the fund's spending, but U.N. officials won't release internal audits of their programs to the fund's investigators. Parsons said that has blocked him from investigating programs in the more than two dozen nations, including some of the most corruption-prone.

UNDP spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Sunday that the program's policy bars it from sharing internal audit reports with the Global Fund, but that it is reassessing that policy.

"UNDP does, as a standing practice, inform the Global Fund about key audit findings and recommendations resulting from internal audits of Global Fund grants managed by UNDP," he said.

The Global Fund was set up as a response to complaints about the cumbersome U.N. bureaucracy, and is strictly a financing mechanism to get money quickly to health programs. In just eight years it claims to have saved 6.5 million lives by providing AIDS treatment for 3 million people, TB treatment for 7.7 million people and handing out 160 million insecticide-treated malaria bed nets.

People should focus on those results, said Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerly the World Bank's chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.

"Without a spotlight, without investigations, and without some sort of accountability, it's impossible to root out corruption," he said. "But just simply withdrawing donations, I do believe, would condemn millions of people who are not involved in the corruption to terrible fates."


Egypt accuses Gaza militants in Coptic church bomb

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's top security official accused an al-Qaida-inspired group in the Gaza Strip on Sunday of being behind the New Year's Day suicide bombing that killed 21 people outside a Coptic Christian church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

Interior Minister Habib al-Adly said conclusive evidence showed the shadowy Army of Islam in the Palestinian territory was behind the planning and execution of the attack, which sparked three days of Christian rioting in Cairo and several other cities. It was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt in more than a decade.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which added to years of strained relations between Egypt's sizable Coptic minority and the country's Muslims. The government, eager to keep the sectarian tension under control, almost immediately blamed foreign elements for the attack.

The Army of Islam dismissed Sunday's accusations on an extremist website, and the Hamas militants who control Gaza and have themselves battled with the smaller group was also skeptical of the Egyptian claim.

Al-Adly said the group is believed to have recruited Egyptians in the planning and execution of the attack, but that this could not conceal the role it played in the "callous and terrorist" act.

An Interior Ministry statement later identified 26-year-old Alexandria resident Ahmed Lotfi Ibrahim as a lead suspect in the attack, saying he was recruited by the Army of Islam when he sneaked across the border into the Gaza Strip in 2008.

It said operatives from the Army of Islam tasked him with monitoring Christian and Jewish places of worship in Alexandria. Last October, the statement said, Ibrahim identified two churches, including the one attacked on New Year's Day, as likely targets and sent his handlers photographs of the two.

He was told in December that "elements" have been sent to carry out the attack, the statement said without elaborating.

Security officials said earlier on Sunday that at least five Egyptians have been detained in connection with the Alexandria bombing. They said the suspects have given investigators a full account of how they were contacted and eventually recruited by the Army of Islam. It was not immediately clear whether Ahmed, a university graduate who subscribed to the cause of jihad through the Internet, was one of those detained.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.

The Army of Islam is estimated to have several dozen operatives committed, like al-Qaida, to the ideas of a global jihad. The group seceded from the Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committees in 2005 and currently has no ties with that group.

In 2008, Hamas unleashed a deadly crackdown on it, storming its stronghold and killing 13 of its members and prompting it to since keep a low profile.

The Army of Islam is thought to have participated in the kidnappings of Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Schalit in 2006 and BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was later released.

Late last year, Israel killed three members of the group in separate airstrikes, alleging the men had planned to attack Israeli and American targets in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

"The Army of Islam in the land of Ribat (Palestine) denies the allegation made by the Egyptian regime about our relation with the attack in the city of Alexandria," it said in an Internet posting.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, voiced doubts and asked Cairo to provide evidence to back up its charge. "We call on the Egyptian brothers to provide evidence and information to the government in Gaza about these accusations. We deny the existence of al-Qaida in the Gaza Strip and we reaffirm that the Egyptian national security is our national security," said Taher Nunu, Hamas government spokesman.

Suspicion for the Alexandria bombing had fallen almost immediately on some kind of al-Qaida-linked local organization after the terror group's branch in Iraq vowed to attack Christians in Iraq and Egypt over the cases of two Egyptian Christian women who sought to convert to Islam. The women, who were married to priests in the Coptic Orthodox Church, were prohibited from divorcing their husbands and sought to convert as a way out.

The women have since been secluded by the Coptic Church, prompting Islamic hard-liners in Egypt to accuse the Church of imprisoning them and forcing them to renounce Islam. The Church denies the allegation.

Al-Adly's announcement came in an address he delivered during a ceremony marking Police Day that was attended by President Hosni Mubarak, Cabinet ministers and top police officials.

In a separate address, Mubarak vowed that his government will "triumph over terror" and that he will do his utmost to maintain unity between Egyptians. About 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people are Christians.

"I will not be lenient with any sectarian actions from either side and will confront their perpetrators with the might and decisiveness of the law," warned Mubarak, Egypt's ruler of nearly 30 years.

Mubarak also lashed out against calls made in the West, including by Pope Benedict XVI, for the need to protect the Christians of the Middle East after the Alexandria bombing and attacks against Christians in Iraq.

"The protection of Egyptians, all Egyptians, is our responsibility and duty," Mubarak said. "The age of foreign protection has gone and will never come back. We don not accept any pressure on or interference in Egyptian affairs," he said.


Maybe O will take the war on AQ to Gaza?

China Bank Moves to Buy U.S. Branches

CHICAGO—China's biggest bank signed an agreement that would make it the first Beijing-controlled financial institution to acquire retail bank branches in the U.S., though regulators could still block the deal.

Under the deal, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., by some measures the world's largest bank, agreed to acquire a majority stake in Bank of East Asia Ltd.'s U.S. subsidiary. ICBC will pay $140 million for an 80% stake. Bank of East Asia, which is a publicly traded company based in Hong Kong, has a total of 13 branches in New York and California. ICBC and Bank of East Asia have talked to U.S. regulators about the deal, these people said.

The move represents what could be the start of big expansions by Chinese financial institutions in the U.S.

Signed in Chicago on the last day of Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the U.S., the move, comes as both Beijing and Washington are calling for greater commercial ties between the two countries.

Both Beijing and Washington are eager to showcase their willingness to strengthen the business ties between the two countries, despite the many issues that will continue to hinder the relations. China is prodding the U.S. to ease its export controls, especially those involving high-technology products, aimed at its biggest economic rival. The U.S. is asking for more Chinese purchases of made-in-America goods and services.

The transaction is expected to be carefully scrutinized by U.S. regulators, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., known as CFIUS, because of the state-controlled nature of the Chinese bank. A previous deal by a Chinese bank to acquire a bank in the U.S. was rejected by regulators. "It is going to be a long process," a person familiar with the matter said.

If ICBC's deal to acquire Bank of East Asia's U.S. subsidiary goes through, Americans could walk into the retail branches, open check and savings accounts and, most significantly for many investors, open yuan accounts to trade the currency.

ICBC, as the bank is known, is based in Beijing and is 70% owned by the Chinese government. It has become increasingly comfortable venturing outside its home markets, which still account for the bulk of its profit. Last year, ICBC got into the broker-dealer business in the U.S. with a symbolic $1 purchase of the U.S. brokerage unit of Fortis Securities, controlled by France's BNP Paribas SA. That deal didn't subject ICBC to tight U.S. regulatory restrictions on foreign purchases of retail-banking operations.

U.S. regulators often demand that foreign banks prove they are adequately supervised in their home markets and have proper antimoney-laundering procedures in place before allowing them to set up retail operations, legal experts say.

The agreement was signed at the Hilton Chicago as part of a slew of pacts announced by roughly 60 U.S. and Chinese companies at a giant "signing ceremony" organized on Friday by China's Commerce Ministry and its U.S. counterpart.

Both Beijing and Washington are eager to showcase their willingness to strengthen the business ties between the two countries, despite the many issues that will continue to hinder the relations. China is prodding the U.S. to ease its export controls, especially those involving high-technology products, aimed at its biggest economic rival while the U.S. is asking for more Chinese purchases of made-in-America goods and services. The contract-signing event in Chicago was hailed as "the most important event" in conjunction with President Hu's visit, according to officials in the Chinese delegation.

The move by ICBC underscores the desire by Chinese banking executives to transform their strength into a greater presence globally, as Chinese banks have emerged from the global financial crisis largely unscathed. Their hope is to better support Chinese companies and guard against losing customers to U.S. and European banks that already have networks world-wide. Meantime, Beijing has encouraged Chinese companies to expand overseas in recent years. In light of the huge foreign-exchange reserves China has, Beijing has encouraged its banks to invest more overseas.

In a speech at the event Friday, Chen Deming, China's Commerce Minister, said one of the priorities for the Commerce Ministry is to "encourage our companies to go out." He pointed to the vast foreign-exchange reserves held by China, saying that "we should turn those reserves into capital and assets." Otherwise, the reserves could decline in value because of inflation, Mr. Chen said.

While China's resource and construction companies have moved aggressively into new markets, its financial institutions generally have been slow to follow.

Bank of East Asia is led by prominent Asian banker Sir David Li. Mr. Li drew unwanted attention to himself in the U.S. and Hong Kong in 2007 when the former board member of Dow Jones became the target of an insider-trading case involving News Corp.'s buyout bid for Dow Jones. Mr. Li later agreed to pay $8.1 million to settle the civil charges. Mr. Li couldn't be reached for comment.

So far, most Chinese investments in the U.S. financial sector have involved the Chinese taking passive, minority stakes in firms such as Blackstone Group LP and Morgan Stanley. Taking a majority stake in Bank of East Asia is a change of tactic for ICBC

At the same time, Bank of East Asia is no stranger to ICBC. It sold a 70% stake in its Canadian operations to ICBC last year and all of its six branches in Canada have since been rebranded ICBC Canada. Bank of East Asia has 13 branches in the U.S., concentrating in New York and California—two states that boast the largest numbers of Chinese immigrants. The bank formed its U.S. banking subsidiary in 2001 through the acquisition of Grand National Bank, of Alhambra, Calif.

The deal, if approved by U.S. regulators, would allow ICBC to gain relatively quick access to American depositors. Right now, ICBC has one branch in New York, but it isn't involved in the retail-banking business. Bank of China Ltd. is the only mainland Chinese bank that has a retail license in the U.S. market. The bank, also state owned, has two branches in New York and one in Los Angeles. It recently has started allowing American customers to buy and sell the Chinese currency through its U.S. branches.

The decision by Bank of China is the latest move by China to allow the yuan, whose value is still tightly controlled by the government, to become an international currency that can be used for trade and investment.

Chinese banks have encountered uphill battles to gain access to the U.S. market in the past. For instance, it took almost two years for ICBC to get the approval from the Federal Reserve to open its New York branch, which has so far focused on commercial lending. That green light was given shortly before President George W. Bush's trip to Beijing for the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Some Chinese banks' bids to acquire U.S. counterparts have been rejected. A case in point is China Minsheng Banking Corp. In 2008, Minsheng, China's first private bank and a midsize lender, agreed to take a 9.9% stake in San Francisco lender UCBH Holdings Inc., the holding company for United Commercial Bank. When the bank ran into trouble during the financial crisis over bad loans and accounting errors, Minsheng tried to buy it. U.S. regulators rejected the move because of restrictions on foreign investment in U.S. banks, according to people familiar with the matter. Regulators in late 2009 shut down United Commercial Bank and Minsheng had to write off its $130 million investment


We should sell them the Fed

Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The documents – many of which will be published by the Guardian over the coming days – also reveal:

• The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.

• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.

• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza.

As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere.

Most controversially, they also proposed a joint committee to take over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City – the neuralgic issue that helped sink the Camp David talks in 2000 after Yasser Arafat refused to concede sovereignty around the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

The offers were made in 2008-9, in the wake of President George Bush's Annapolis conference, and were privately hailed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history" in order to resolve the world's most intractable conflict. Israeli leaders, backed by the US government, said the offers were inadequate.

Intensive efforts to revive talks by the Obama administration foundered last year over Israel's refusal to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction. Prospects are now uncertain amid increasing speculation that a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict is no longer attainable – and fears of a new war.

Many of the 1,600 leaked documents – drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings – have been independently authenticated by the Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources.

The Guardian's coverage is supplemented by WikiLeaks cables, emanating from the US consulate in Jerusalem and embassy in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials also kept their own records of the talks, which may differ from the confidential Palestinian accounts.

The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalem – including Gilo, which is a current focus of controversy after Israeli authorities gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes – has never been made public before.

All settlements built on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war are illegal under international law, but the Jerusalem homes are routinely described, and perceived, by Israel as municipal "neighbourhoods". Israeli governments have consistently sought to annex the largest settlements as part of a peace deal – and came close to doing so at Camp David.

Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: "This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made." No such concession had been made at Camp David. But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma'ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. "We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands," Israel's then foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, "and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it".

The overall impression that emerges from the documents, which stretch from 1999 to 2010, is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals; the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives.

Palestinian and Israeli officials both point out that any position in negotiations is subject to the principle that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and therefore is invalid without a overarching deal. But PA leaders are likely to be embarrassed by the revelation of private concessions that go far beyond what much of their population would regard as acceptable – particularly since Mahmoud Abbas's mandate as Palestinian president expired in 2009.

The PA, set up as a transitional administration after the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO, is under pressure from a disaffected Palestinian public and from Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and has controlled the Gaza Strip since its violent takeover in 2007.

Unlike the PLO, Hamas rejects negotiations with Israel, except for a long-term ceasefire, and refuses to recognise it. Its founding charter also contains antisemitic elements. Supported by Iran and Syria, it is sanctioned as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, despite pressure for it to be included in a wider political process.


Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.

WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.

Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.

Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.

Mr. Clarridge, 78, who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned, is described by those who have worked with him as driven by the conviction that Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies.

His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.

For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.

It also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America’s foreign policy goals. Despite Mr. Clarridge’s keen interest in undermining Afghanistan’s ruling family, President Obama’s administration appears resigned to working with President Karzai and his half brother, who is widely suspected of having ties to drug traffickers.

Charles E. Allen, a former top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security who worked with Mr. Clarridge at the C.I.A., termed him an “extraordinary” case officer who had operated on “the edge of his skis” in missions abroad years ago.

But he warned against Mr. Clarridge’s recent activities, saying that private spies operating in war zones “can get both nations in trouble and themselves in trouble.” He added, “We don’t need privateers.”

The private spying operation, which The New York Times disclosed last year, was tapped by a military desperate for information about its enemies and frustrated with the quality of intelligence from the C.I.A., an agency that colleagues say Mr. Clarridge now views largely with contempt. The effort was among a number of secret activities undertaken by the American government in a shadow war around the globe to combat militants and root out terrorists.

The Pentagon official who arranged a contract for Mr. Clarridge in 2009 is under investigation for allegations of violating Defense Department rules in awarding that contract. Because of the continuing inquiry, most of the dozen current and former government officials, private contractors and associates of Mr. Clarridge who were interviewed for this article would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Clarridge declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement that likened his operation, called the Eclipse Group, to the Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.’s World War II precursor.

“O.S.S. was a success of the past,” he wrote. “Eclipse may possibly be an effective model for the future, providing information to officers and officials of the United States government who have the sole responsibility of acting on it or not.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan, declined to comment on Mr. Clarridge’s network, but said the Defense Department “believes that reliance on unvetted and uncorroborated information from private sources may endanger the force and taint information collected during legitimate intelligence operations.”

Whether military officials still listen to Mr. Clarridge or support his efforts to dig up dirt on the Karzai family is unclear. But it is evident that Mr. Clarridge — bespectacled and doughy, with a shock of white hair — is determined to remain a player.

On May 15, according to a classified Pentagon report on the private spying operation, he sent an encrypted e-mail to military officers in Kabul announcing that his network was being shut down because the Pentagon had just terminated his contract. He wrote that he had to “prepare approximately 200 local personnel to cease work.”

In fact, he had no intention of closing his operation. The very next day, he set up a password-protected Web site,, that would allow officers to continue viewing his dispatches.

A Staunch Interventionist

From his days running secret wars for the C.I.A. in Central America to his consulting work in the 1990s on a plan to insert Special Operations troops in Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Mr. Clarridge has been an unflinching cheerleader for American intervention overseas.

Typical of his pugnacious style are his comments, provided in a 2008 interview for a documentary now on YouTube, defending many of the C.I.A.’s most notorious operations, including undermining the Chilean president Salvador Allende, before a coup ousted him 1973.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in a rather ugly way,” said Mr. Clarridge, his New England accent becoming more pronounced the angrier he became. “We’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interests to intervene.”

“Get used to it, world,” he said. “We’re not going to put up with nonsense.”

He is also stirred by the belief that the C.I.A. has failed to protect American troops in Afghanistan, and that the Obama administration has struck a Faustian bargain with President Karzai, according to four current and former associates. They say Mr. Clarridge thinks that the Afghan president will end up cutting deals with Pakistan or Iran and selling out the United States, making American troops the pawns in the Great Game of power politics in the region.

Mr. Clarridge — known to virtually everyone by his childhood nickname, Dewey — was born into a staunchly Republican family in New Hampshire, attended Brown University and joined the spy agency during its freewheeling early years. He eventually became head of the agency’s Latin America division in 1981 and helped found the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center five years later.

In postings in India, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, Mr. Clarridge, using pseudonyms that included Dewey Marone and Dax Preston LeBaron, made a career of testing boundaries in the dark space of American foreign policy. In his 1997 memoir, he wrote about trying to engineer pro-American governments in Italy in the late 1970s (the former American ambassador to Rome, Richard N. Gardner, called him “shallow and devious”), and helping run the Reagan administration’s covert wars against Marxist guerrillas in Central America during the 1980s.

He was indicted in 1991 on charges of lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal; he had testified that he was unaware of arms shipments to Iran. But he was pardoned the next year by the first President George Bush.

Now, more than two decades after Mr. Clarridge was forced to resign from the intelligence agency, he tries to run his group of spies as a C.I.A. in miniature. Working from his house in a San Diego suburb, he uses e-mail to stay in contact with his “agents” — their code names include Willi and Waco — in Afghanistan and Pakistan, writing up intelligence summaries based on their reports, according to associates.

Mr. Clarridge assembled a team of Westerners, Afghans and Pakistanis not long after a security consulting firm working for The Times subcontracted with him in December 2008 to assist in the release of a reporter, David Rohde, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Mr. Rohde escaped on his own seven months later, but Mr. Clarridge used his role in the episode to promote his group to military officials in Afghanistan.

In July 2009, according to the Pentagon report, he set out to prove his worth to the Pentagon by directing his team to gather information in Pakistan’s tribal areas to help find a young American soldier who had been captured by Taliban militants. (The soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, remains in Taliban hands.)

Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million. American officials said the contract was arranged by Michael D. Furlong, a senior Defense Department civilian with a military “information warfare” command in San Antonio.

To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, Mr. Furlong’s team simply rebranded their activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”

Mr. Furlong, now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general, was accused in the internal Pentagon report of carrying out “unauthorized” intelligence gathering, and misleading senior military officers about it. He has said that he became a scapegoat for top commanders in Afghanistan who had blessed his activities.

As for Mr. Clarridge, American law prohibits private citizens from actively undermining a foreign government, but prosecutions under the so-called Neutrality Act have historically been limited to people raising private armies against foreign powers. Legal experts said Mr. Clarridge’s plans against the Afghan president fell in a gray area, but would probably not violate the law.

Intelligence of Varying Quality

It is difficult to assess the merits of Mr. Clarridge’s secret intelligence dispatches; a review of some of the documents by The Times shows that some appear to be based on rumors from talk at village bazaars or rehashes of press reports.

Others, though, contain specific details about militant plans to attack American troops, and about Taliban leadership meetings in Pakistan. Mr. Clarridge gave the military an in-depth report about a militant group, the Haqqani Network, in August 2009, a document that officials said helped the military track Haqqani fighters. According to the Pentagon report, Mr. Clarridge told Marine commanders in Afghanistan in June 2010 that his group produced 500 intelligence dispatches before its contract was terminated.

When the military would not listen to him, Mr. Clarridge found other ways to peddle his information. For instance, his private spies in April and May were reporting that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the reclusive cleric who leads the Afghan Taliban, had been captured by Pakistani officials and placed under house arrest. Associates said Mr. Clarridge believed that Pakistan’s spy service was playing a game: keeping Mullah Omar confined but continuing to support the Afghan Taliban.

Both military and intelligence officials said the information could not be corroborated, but Mr. Clarridge used back channels to pass it on to senior Obama administration officials, including Dennis C. Blair, then the director of national intelligence.

And associates said that Mr. Clarridge, determined to make the information public, arranged for it to get to Mr. Thor, a square-jawed writer of thrillers, a blogger and a regular guest on Mr. Beck’s program on Fox News.

Most of Mr. Thor’s books are yarns about the heroic exploits of Special Operations troops. In interviews, he said he was once embedded with a “black special ops team” and helped expose “a Taliban pornography/murder ring.”

On May 10, — a Web site run by the conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart — published an “exclusive” by Mr. Thor, who declined to comment for this article.

“Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr. Thor wrote, “I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar, has been taken into custody.”

Just last week, he blogged about another report — unconfirmed by American officials — from Mr. Clarridge’s group: that Mullah Omar had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

“America is being played,” he wrote.

Taking on Afghan Leaders

Mr. Clarridge and his spy network also took sides in an internecine government battle over Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the Khandahar Provincial Council.

For years, the American military has believed that public anger over government-linked corruption has helped swell the Taliban’s ranks, and that Ahmed Wali Karzai plays a central role in that corruption. He has repeatedly denied any links to the Afghan drug trafficking.

According to three American military officials, in April 2009 Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top American commander in Afghanistan, told subordinates that he wanted them to gather any evidence that might tie the president’s half brother to the drug trade. “He put the word out that he wanted to ‘burn’ Ahmed Wali Karzai,” said one of the military officials.

In early 2010, after General McKiernan left Afghanistan and Mr. Clarridge was under contract to the military, the former spy helped produce a dossier for commanders detailing allegations about Mr. Karzai’s drug connections, land grabs and even murders in southern Afghanistan. The document, provided to The Times, speculates that Mr. Karzai’s ties to the C.I.A. — which has paid him an undetermined amount of money since 2001 — may be the reason the agency “is the only member of the country team in Kabul not to advocate taking a more active stance against AWK.”

Ultimately, though, the military could not amass enough hard proof to convince other American officials of Mr. Karzai’s supposed crimes, and backed off efforts to remove him from power.

Mr. Clarridge would soon set his sights higher: on President Hamid Karzai himself. Over the summer, after the Pentagon canceled his contract, Mr. Clarridge decided that the United States needed leverage over the Afghan president. So the former spy, running his network with money from unidentified donors, came up with an outlandish scheme that seems to come straight from the C.I.A.’s past playbook of covert operations.

There have long been rumors that Hamid Karzai uses drugs, in part because of his often erratic behavior, but the accusation was aired publicly last year by Peter W. Galbraith, a former United Nations representative in Afghanistan. American officials have said publicly that there is no evidence to support the allegation of drug use.

Mr. Clarridge pushed a plan to prove that the president was a heroin addict, and then confront him with the evidence to ensure that he became a more pliable ally. Mr. Clarridge proposed various ideas, according to several associates, from using his team to track couriers between the presidential palace in Kabul and Ahmed Wali Karzai’s home in Kandahar, to even finding a way to collect Hamid Karzai’s beard clippings and run DNA tests. He eventually dropped his ideas when the Obama administration signaled it was committed to bolstering the Karzai government.

Still, associates said, Mr. Clarridge maneuvered against the Karzais last summer by helping promote videos, available on YouTube, purporting to represent the “Voice of Afghan Youth.” The slick videos disparage the president as the “king of Kabul” who regularly takes money from the Iranians, and Ahmed Wali Karzai as the “prince of Kandahar” who “takes the monthly gold from the American intelligence boss” and makes the Americans “his puppet.”

The videos received almost no attention when they were posted on the Internet, but were featured in July on the Fox News Web site in a column by Mr. North, who declined to comment for this article. Writing that he had “stumbled” on the videos on the Internet, he called them a “treasure trove.”

Mr. Clarridge, his associates say, continues to dream up other operations against the Afghan president and his inner circle. When he was an official spy, Mr. Clarridge recalled in his memoir, he bristled at the C.I.A.’s bureaucracy for thwarting his plans to do maximum harm to America’s enemies. “It’s not like I’m running my own private C.I.A.,” he wrote, “and can do what I want.”


I bet it's all illegal under the Patriot Act