Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

White House Insider: Obama Hesitated – Panetta Issued Order to Kill Osama Bin Laden

Friday, May 6th, 2011

“What Valerie Jarrett, and the president, did not know is that Leon Panetta had already initiated a program that reported to him –and only him, involving a covert on the ground attack against the compound.”

Note: This update came some 24 hours after our longtime Washington D.C. Insider first outlined shocking details of an Obama administration having been “overruled” by senior military and intelligence officials leading up to the successful attack against terrorist Osama Bin Laden.  What follows is further clarification of Insider’s insights surrounding that event.

Q: You stated that President Obama was “overruled” by military/intelligence officials regarding the decision to send in military specialists into the Osama Bin Laden compound.  Was that accurate?

A: I was told – in these exact terms, “we overruled him.” (Obama)  I have since followed up and received further details on exactly what that meant, as well as the specifics of how Leon Panetta worked around the president’s “persistent hesitation to act.”  There appears NOT to have been an outright overruling of any specific position by President Obama, simply because there was no specific position from the president to do so.  President Obama was, in this case, as in all others, working as an absentee president.

I was correct in stating there had been a push to invade the compound for several weeks if not months, primarily led by Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and Jim Clapper.  The primary opposition to this plan originated from Valerie Jarrett, and it was her opposition that was enough to create uncertainty within President Obama.  Obama would meet with various components of the pro-invasion faction, almost always with Jarrett present, and then often fail to indicate his position.  This situation continued for some time, though the division between Jarrett/Obama and the rest intensified more recently, most notably from Hillary Clinton.  She was livid over the president’s failure to act, and her office began a campaign of anonymous leaks to the media indicating such.  As for Jarrett, her concern rested on two primary fronts.  One, that the military action could fail and harm the president’s already weakened standing with both the American public and the world.  Second, that the attack would be viewed as an act of aggression against Muslims, and further destabilize conditions in the Middle East.

Q: What changed the president’s position and enabled the attack against Osama Bin Laden to proceed?

A:  Nothing changed with the president’s opinion – he continued to avoid having one.  Every time military and intelligence officials appeared to make progress in forming a position, Jarrett would intervene and the stalling would begin again.  Hillary started the ball really rolling as far as pressuring Obama began, but it was Panetta and Petraeus who ultimately pushed Obama to finally act – sort of.  Panetta was receiving significant reports from both his direct CIA sources, as well as Petraeus-originating Intel.  Petraeus was threatening to act on his own via a bombing attack.  Panetta reported back to the president that a bombing of the compound would result in successful killing of Osama Bin Laden, and little risk to American lives.  Initially, as he had done before, the president indicated a willingness to act.  But once again, Jarrett intervened, convincing the president that innocent Pakistani lives could be lost in such a bombing attack, and Obama would be left attempting to explain Panetta’s failed policy.  Again Obama hesitated – this time openly delaying further meetings to discuss the issue with Panetta.  A brief meeting was held at this time with other officials, including Secretary Gates and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gates, like Panetta, was unable to push the president to act.  It was at this time that Gates indicated to certain Pentagon officials that he may resign earlier than originally indicated – he was that frustrated.  Both Panetta and Clinton convinced him to stay on and see the operation through.

What happened from there is what was described by me as a “masterful manipulation” by Leon Panetta.  Panetta indicated to Obama that leaks regarding knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s location were certain to get out sooner rather than later, and action must be taken by the administration or the public backlash to the president’s inaction would be “…significant to the point of political debilitation.”  It was at that time that Obama stated an on-ground campaign would be far more acceptable to him than a bombing raid.  This was intended as a stalling tactic, and it had originated from Jarrett.  Such a campaign would take both time, and present a far greater risk of failure. 

The president had been instructed by Jarrett to inform Mr., Panetta that he would have sole discretion to act against the Osama Bin Laden compound.  Jarrett believed this would further delay Panetta from acting, as the responsibility for failure would then fall almost entirely on him.  What Valerie Jarrett, and the president, did not know is that Leon Panetta had already initiated a program that reported to him –and only him, involving a covert on the ground attack against the compound.  Basically, the whole damn operation was already ready to go – including the specific team support Intel necessary to engage the enemy within hours of being given notice.  Panetta then made plans to proceed with an on-ground assault. This information reached either Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates first (likely via military contacts directly associated with the impending mission) who then informed the other.  Those two then met with Panetta, who informed each of them he had been given the authority by the president to proceed with a mission if the opportunity presented itself.  Both Gates and Clinton warned Panetta of the implications of that authority – namely he was possibly being made into a scapegoat. 

Panetta admitted that possibility, but felt the opportunity to get Bin Laden outweighed that risk.  During that meeting, Hillary Clinton was first to pledge her full support for Panetta, indicating she would defend him if necessary.  Similar support was then followed by Gates.  The following day, and with Panetta’s permission, Clinton met in private with Bill Daley and urged him to get the president’s full and open approval of the Panetta plan.  Daley agreed such approval would be of great benefit to the action, and instructed Clinton to delay proceeding until he had secured that approval.  Daley contacted Clinton within hours of their meeting indicating Jarrett refused to allow the president to give that approval.  Daley then informed Clinton that he too would fully support Panetta in his actions, even if it meant disclosing the president’s indecision to the American public should that action fail to produce a successful conclusion.  Clinton took that message back to Panetta and the CIA director initiated the 48 hour engagement order.  At this point, the President of the United States was not informed of the engagement order – it did not originate from him, and for several hours after the order had been given and the special ops forces were preparing for action into Pakistan from their position in Afghanistan, Daley successfully kept Obama and Jarrett insulated from that order.

History Shows Targeting the CIA is Perilous Move

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

 Closing Arguments: History Shows Targeting the CIA is Perilous Move

by John Yoo.

A young, fresh face campaigns for the presidency by attacking the CIA: “Our government should justify the character and moral principles of the American people, and our foreign policy should not short-circuit that for temporary advantage,” he says. He promises to never “do anything as president that would be a contravention of the moral and ethical standards that I would exemplify in my own life as an individual.”

He wins the election and begins to decimate the intelligence agencies. Barack Obama? No. Jimmy Carter.

The Carter administration’s national-security record should not serve as a model for any president. But unless Obama changes course, he risks duplicating the intelligence disasters of the ’70s, and endangering the nation.

Last month, the president and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. launched a destructive investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders. Several of the detainees were directly involved with the planning and execution of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They were captured at a time when our government feared a second wave of attacks.

Our nation’s leaders made the difficult decision to use coercive interrogation methods to learn as quickly as possible what these hardened al-Qaeda operatives knew. As one of many government lawyers who worked on these counterterrorism programs, I can attest to the terrible pressure of time and events in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Knowledgeable officials expected that al-Qaeda would try again – soon – and in a more devastating fashion. But as we pause to remember the Sept. 11 attacks eight years later, fair-minded people should take heart that there has been no follow-up attack in the United States. To the contrary, several plots have been foiled and the terrorists are on the run. This was not the result of luck – it is because of the hard work of members of the military and our intelligence agencies.

Their reward is an open-ended investigation, and in some instances the disturbing reopening of cases closed by career prosecutors. Others have written about the financial ruin in store for agents and analysts whose focus will shift from the enemy to their legal bills. What has gone less well understood is what the investigation will do to the CIA as an institution at a time when it serves as the nation’s eyes and ears and, sometimes, the sword and shield, during war against a shadowy, covert enemy.

The Carter presidency serves as a warning. Attacking “Watergate, Vietnam, and the CIA,” Carter came to office determined to clean house. He and his CIA director, Adm. Stansfield Turner, fell in love with technical means of intelligence-gathering, such as the real-time photos sent by reconnaissance satellites. They saw little need for information gathered by spies and informants. Turner promptly took a buzz saw to the division in charge of covert operations, eliminating 820 positions out of 4,730.

The message was clear, and as a result CIA agents became risk-averse. After all, if you might be fired or prosecuted for doing something, the safest thing to do is nothing. America’s ability to gather human intelligence and conduct covert operations swiftly fell apart. The CIA failed to predict the fall of the shah. Iranian students – one of them now the president of Iran – took U.S. Embassy officials hostage. A covert operation to rescue them failed miserably, killing eight Americans.

The effects of this decimation of our intelligence capabilities continue. The intelligence agencies failed to stop the 9/11 attacks and do not appear to have penetrated al-Qaeda’s leadership. As the Silberman-Robb Commission reported in 2005, the intelligence community’s estimates on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were almost totally mistaken. The cause was not political pressure, according to the commission, but the CIA’s lack of spies in Iraq, its inability to analyze what little information it collected, and Saddam Hussein’s intent to deceive his own generals and Iran as to his arsenal.

Even the most fervent antiwar activists should welcome an effective intelligence service. If the CIA had accurately judged Iraq’s lack of WMD in 2003, the war might not have occurred. If the CIA had decapitated al-Qaeda’s leadership in the 1990s (the plans were vetoed by President Bill Clinton), the 9/11 attacks may have been headed off and the invasion of Afghanistan rendered unnecessary.

All intelligence involves probabilities and educated guesses, but effective intelligence can actually provide the information needed to avoid costly wars.

Henry L. Stimson, secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover, once explained the shuttering of the United States‘ only code-breaking unit with these words: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Unfortunately, we do not live in a world of gentlemen. Stimson realized this in his next cabinet post, as FDR’s secretary of war on the day of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Persecuting the CIA risks another surprise attack or major intelligence failure.

[John Yoo (, a former Bush administration Justice Department official, teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley.] [Yoo/PhiladelphiaInquirer/13September2009] 

A Truly Fascinating Account – Obama and the Hostage

Friday, April 24th, 2009


The following came from a retired, but still well connected Navy Captain.   His name is redacted at his request.  I am certain that everyone will find this extremely informative.  This story needs to be heard!                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The “real” story you have heard is not exactly the way I heard it, and probably has a few political twists thrown in to stir the pot.  Rather than me trying to correct it, I’ll just tell you what I found out from my contacts at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Norfolk and at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Tampa.

First though, let me familiarize you with the “terrain.”

In Africa from Djibouti at the southern end of the Red Sea eastward through the Gulf of Aden around to Cape Guardafui at the easternmost tip of Africa (also known as “The Horn of Africa”) is about a 600 nm transit before you stand out into the Indian Ocean.  That transit is comparable in distance to that from the mouth of the Mississippi at New Orleans to the tip of Florida at Key West, except t he 600 nm over there is infested with Somalia pirates.

Ships turning southward at the Horn of Africa transit the SLOC (Sea Lane of Commerce) along the east coast of Somalia because of the prevailing southerly currents there.  It’s about 1,500 nm on to Mombassa, which is just south of the equator in Kenya.  Comparably, that’s about the transit distance from Portland, Maine down the east coast of the US to Miami, Florida.  In other words, the ocean area being patrolled by our naval forces off the coast of Somalia is comparable to that in the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River east to Miami, then up the eastern seaboard to Maine.

Second, let me globally orient you.  From our Naval Operating Base in Norfolk, VA, east across the Atlantic to North Africa, thence across the Med to Suez in Egypt, thence southward down the Red Sea to Djibouti at the Gulf of Aden, thence eastward and around Cape Guardafui at the easternmost tip of Africa, and thence southerly some 300 miles down the east cost of Somali out into the high seas of the Indian Ocean to the position of MV ALABAMA is a little more than 7,000 nm, and nine time-zones ahead of EST.

Hold that thought.  A C-17 transport averaging a little better than 400 kts takes the best part of 18 hours to make that trip.  In the evening darkness late Thursday night, a team of Navy SEALs from NSWC Norfolk parachuted from such a C-17 into the black waters (no refraction of light) of the Indian Ocean close-aboard to our 40,000 ton amphibious assault ship, USS BOXER
(LHD 4), the flagship of our ESG (Expeditionary Strike Group) in the AOR (Area Of Responsibility, the Gulf of Aden).  They not only parachuted in with all of their equipment, they had their own inflatable boats, RHIB’s (Rigid Hull, Inflatable Boats) with them for over-water transport.  They went into BOXER’s landing dock, debarked, and were staged for the rescue Thursday night.

And, let me comment on time.  The SEAL’s quick response, departing ready-alert in less than 4 hours from Norfolk, supposedly surprised POTUS’s (President of the United States) staff and President Obama who was miffed not to get his “cops” there before the Navy.  He reportedly questioned his staff, “Will ‘my’ FBI people get there before the Navy does?”

It took the FBI almost 12 hours to put together a team and get them packed-up for an “at sea” rescue.  The FBI was trying to tell him that they are not practiced to do this, the Navy SEALs are.  But, the president wanted the FBI there “to help,” that is to carry out the Attorney General’s (Obama’s) orders to negotiate the release of Captain Phillips peacefully . . . because he apparently doesn’t trust George W’s military to carry out his “political guidance.”

The FBI’s passenger jet took a little less than 14 hours at 500+ knots to get to Djibouti. BOXER’S helos picked them up and transported them out to the ship.  The Navy SEALs were already there, staged, and ready to act before POTUS’s FBI even arrived on board later that evening. Notably, the first request by the OSC (On Scene Commander) that early Friday morning to take the pirates out and save Captain Phillips was denied, to wit:  “No, wait until ‘my FBI people get there.”

Third, please consider a candid assessment of ability. First, the FBI snipers had never practiced shooting from a rolling, pitching, yawing, surging, swaying, heaving platform at a target such as a ship or a lifeboat on the high seas that is also pitching, yawing, surging, swaying, and heaving.  However, navies have been doing this since Admiral Nelson trained “Marines” to shoot muskets from the ship’s rigging.  Ironically, he was killed at sea in HMS VICTORY at the Battle of Trafalgar by a French Marine rifleman who shot him from the rigging of the French ship that they were grappling alongside.

Notably, when I was first training at USNA (US Naval Academy) in 1955, the Navy was doing it with a SATU (Small Arms Training Unit) based at our Little Creek amphibious base.  These days Navy SEALs, in particular SEAL Team SIX, the “DevGru” based at NSWC at Little Creek, do that training daily to hone their skills.  Shooting small arms from a ship is more of an accomplished “Art Form” than it is a practiced skill.  When you are “in the bubble” and “in tune” with the harmonic motion , you find that through practice you are able to put three .308 slugs inside the head of a quarter at 100 meters, in day or at night, or from behind a camouflaged net or a thin enclosure, such as a ship’s superstructure bulkhead.  Yes, we have the monocular scopes that can “see” heat and draw a bead on it. SEALs are absolutely expert at it . . . with movie clips to prove it.

Okay, now try to imagine patrolling among the boats fishing everyday out on the Grand Banks off our New England coast and being called upon to respond to a distress call from down around the waters between Florida and the Bahamas. Three points for you to consider here:  (1) Time-Distance-Speed relationships for ships on the high seas, for instance, at a 25-knot SOA
(Speed Of Advance), it takes 24 hours to make good 600 nm which is what the BAINBRIDGE did.  (2) Fishermen work on the high seas, and (3) the best place to hide as a “fisherman” (pirate) is among other fishermen

Back to early Wednesday morning, 4/8/2009, the MV ALABAMA (Motor Vessel Container Ship) is at sea in the Indian Ocean about 300 miles off the (east) coast of Somalia en route to Mombassa, Kenya.  Pirates in small boat start harassing her and threatening her with weapons.  MV ALABAMA’s captain sent out a distress call by radio and ordered his Engineer to shut down the engines as well as the ship’s electrical generators, in our lingo, “Go dark and cold.”  He informed his crew by radio what was happening and ordered them to go to an out-of-the-way compartment and lock themselves in it, from the inside.  He would stay in the pilot house to “negotiate” with the pirates.

The pirates boarded, captured the Captain, and ordered him to start the engines.  He said he would order his Engineer to do so, and he called down to Engine Control on the internal communication system but got no answer, of course. The lead pirate ordered two of his four men to go down and find the engineer and get the engines started.

Inside a ship without any lights is like the definition of dark.  The advantage goes to the people who work and live there.  They jumped the two pirates in a dark passageway. Both pirates lost their weapons, but one managed to scramble away.  They tied up the other one, put tape over his mouth and a knife at his throat.

Other members of the crew opened the drain cocks on the pirate’s boat and cast it adrift.  It foundered and sunk. The scrambling pirate made it back to the pilot house and told of his plight.  The pirates took the Captain at gun point and told him to launch one of his motorized rescue boats (not a life boat which has no propulsion other than oars).  As he was lowering the boat for them, the crew appeared with the captured pirate to negotiate a trade. The crew let their hostage go too soon, and the pirates kept the Captain.  But, he purposefully had lowered the boat so it would jam.

With the rescue boat jammed, the pirates jumped over to a lifeboat and released it as the captain jumped into the water.  They fired at him to make him stop and grabbed him out of the water.  Now, as night falls in the vastness of the Indian Ocean, we have a classic “Mexican” standoff, to wit:  A life-boat without any means of propulsion except oars; and, a huge Motor Vessel Container Ship adrift with a crew that is not going to leave their captain behind.  The pirates are enclosed under the lifeboat’s shelter-covering holding the captain as their hostage. The crew is hunkered down in their huge ship waiting for the “posse” to arrive.

After receiving MV ALABAMA’S distress call, the USS BAINBRIDGE (DDG 96) was dispatched by the Expeditionary Strike Force Group commander to respond to ALABAMA’s distress call.  At best sustainable speed, she arrived on scene in the darkness of that early Thursday morning.  The arrival of the BAINBRIDGE, a darkened-ship without any lights to give her away as she quietly and slowly arrived on scene, is described in a recorded interview with the Chief Engineer of MV ALABAMA.  He said it was something else “. . . to see the Navy slide in there like a greyhound!” He said as she slipped in closer, he could see the “Stars and Stripes” flying from her masthead. He got choked up saying it was the “. . . proudest moment of my life.”

Phew!  Let that sink in.

Earlier in the day, one of the U.S.  Navy’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft, a fixed wing P3C, flew over to recon the scene. They dropped a buoy with a radio to the pirates so that the Navy’s interpreter could talk with the pirates.  When BAINBRIDGE arrived, the pirates thought the radio was a homing beacon device and threw it overboard.  They wanted a satellite telephone, not a radio, so that they could call home for help.  Remember now, they are fishermen, not “Rocket Scientists,” so they don’t know that we can intercept satellite phone transmissions also.

The MV ALABAMA provided them with a satellite phone and they immediately called back to “somebody” in Eyl, Somalia (now we know where you live) to come out and get them.  The “somebody” in Eyl said they would be out right away “with 54 hostages from other countries”, and that they would be coming out in two of their pirated ships.  Right, and the tooth fairy will let you have sex with her.  The “somebody” in Eyl considered these pirates as just four more expendables, part of the overhead and cost of operation.”

Anyway, the ESG will watch Eyl for any ships coming out.

The Navy SEAL team, SEAL TEAM SIX, from NSWC briefed the On Scene Commander (40 year-old Naval Academy graduate, Commander Frank Castellano, the Commanding Officer of the BAINBRIDGE) on how they could rescue the Captain from the life boat with “Combat Swimmers”.  That plan was denied by the president because it put the Captain in danger and it meant killing the pirates.

After the FBI negotiators arrived on scene, they talked the pirates into sending their wounded man over for treatment Saturday morning.  Later that afternoon, the SEALs sent over their RHIB with food and water, to recon the life boat, but the pirates shot at it.  The SEALs could have taken them out then (for being fired upon), but the president denied the request again because the captain was not in “imminent danger.”  The FBI negotiators calmed the situation by informing the pirates of threatening weather as they could see storm clouds coming in from the horizon and offered to tow the life boat to shore.  The pirates agreed as darkness approached and the BAINBRIDGE took them under tow in their wake at 30 meters . . . exactly 30 meters which is the precise distance the SEALs practice their shooting skills.

With the lifeboat under tow, riding comfortably bow-down in BAINBRIDGE’s wake-wave (“rooster tail”), it had a 17-second period of harmonic motion.  At the end of every half-period (8.5 seconds), it was “steady on” as it changed direction. The light-enhanced (infra-red heat) monocular scopes on the SEALs’ .308 caliber Mark 11 Mod 0 H&K suppressor fitted sniper rifles easily imaged their target very clearly. Pirates in a life boat at 30-meters could be compared to fish in a barrel.  All that would be necessary was to take out the plexiglass window so that it would not deflect the trajectory of the high velocity .308 rounds.  So, one sniper with a wad-cutter round (a flaxen sabot) would take out the window a split second before the other three fired their kill shots with no change in the sight-picture, just the window being blown out, clean.

Now, the president’s “whiz kids” knew as well as the Navy hierarchy, including the CO of the BAINBRIDGE and the CO of SEAL TEAM SIX, that it is the law under Article 19 of Appendix L in the “Convention of the High Seas” that the Commanding Officer of a US Ship on the high seas is obligated to respond to distress signals from any flagged ship (US or otherwise) and to protect the life and property thereof when it is deemed to be in IMMINENT DANGER.  So, in the final analysis, it would be Cmdr Castellano’s call as to “Imminent Danger,” and that he alone was obligated (duty bound) to act accordingly.

Got the picture?

At first light (from the east) on Easter Sunday morning, the pirates saw they were being towed further out to sea (instead of westward toward land), and the wounded pirate demanded to be returned to the lifeboat.  There would be NO more negotiations, and the four Navy SEAL snipers “in the bubble” went “unlock.”  The pirate holding Captain Philips raised his gun to his head, and IMMINENT DANGER was observed and noted in the Log as Cmdr.  Castellano gave the classic order:  WEAPONS RELEASED!  I can hear the echo in my earpiece now, “On my count (from 8.5 seconds), 3, 2, 1, !”  POP, BANG!  Out went the window, followed by three simultaneous shots. The scoreboard flashed:  “GAME OVER, GAME OVER– NAVY 3, PIRATES 0!”

I hope you found the above informative as it is best account I know.  And please excuse me in that after more than 50 years, the Navy is still in me.  I submit that AMERICA is going to make a comeback, and more than likely it’ll be on the back of our cherished youth serving with honor in our military.  So, let’s Look Up, Get Up, and Never Give Up!

God Bless Our Troops, and GOD SAVE AMERICA!

XXXXX, USNA Class of 1959, Dickinson, Texas.

Questions Holder Needs To Answer

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Questions Holder Needs To Answer

Eric Holder — President-elect Obama’s choice for attorney general — displays a liberal ideology which often conflicts with the Constitution, the war on terror, and common sense. Tomorrow, Holder will face the first of what may be several sessions of his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Before Holder’s nomination is voted on by the committee, he should answer searching inquiries that may reveal his unfitness for that post.

Going through Holder’s record is a huge task, but some of his speeches, legal writings and other actions — as investigated by a House committee almost seven years ago — quickly reveal some of the most important questions. Holder should be required to answer the following questions in the very first hearing.

The Second Amendment: In the landmark DC v. Heller case, Holder was one of the people — the clients, not the lawyers — on whose behalf an amicus curiae brief was filed in support of the D.C. gun ban. The brief said, in part:

Amici disagree with the current position of the United States Department of Justice that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes unrelated to a State’s operation of a well-regulated militia.”

Question for Holder: The Supreme Court amicus brief shows you have a strong personal disagreement with the decision upholding the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. As Attorney General, will you work to overturn the DC v. Heller decision and to limit it in the lower courts and Congress?

2. Constitutional Rights for Terrorist Detainees: In a June 13, 2008, speech to the American Constitution Society, Holder spoke of the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush which for the first time granted habeas corpus rights to terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Justice Scalia, in his dissent, said the decision “…will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”)

In his speech, Holder said of the Boumediene decision, “The very recent Supreme Court decision, by only a 5 to 4 vote, concerning habeas corpus and Guantanamo is an important first step but we must go much farther.”

Question for Holder: Boumediene was a radical departure even from earlier Supreme Court decisions on the subject and from the law of war going back to the founding of the United States. Tell us specifically how you would like the law to go farther, in what regards, and — again, specifically — what more Constitutional rights should be extended to terrorist detainees?

3. Clinton’s Last-Minute Pardon of Fugitive Financier Marc Rich: According to a May 2002 report by the House Committee on Government Reform, “Eric Holder’s support of the Rich pardon played a critical role in the success of the pardon effort. Holder informed the White House that he was ‘neutral, leaning towards favorable’ on the Rich pardon, even though he knew that Rich was a fugitive from justice and that Justice Department prosecutors viewed Rich with such contempt that they would no longer meet with his lawyers. Holder has failed to offer any credible justification for his support of the Rich pardon, leading the Committee to believe that Holder had other motivations for his decision, which he has failed to share with the Committee.”

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder was the boss of the Justice Department pardon attorney.

The Rich pardon was the result of direct lobbying of the White House by Rich lawyer Jack Quinn, who Rich apparently hired on Holder’s recommendation. The House Committee report also says that Holder was seeking Quinn’s support to be appointed Attorney General in an Al Gore administration. Several critical questions come from this:

Questions for Holder:

a. Give us the time, date and every detail you can remember of any conversations you have ever had with Jack Quinn regarding whether or how he would help you achieve the post of U.S. Attorney General. (If he needs to be reminded, there’s a bundle of e-mails and references to testimony in the House report.)

b. According to the House committee report, the following people either asserted their rights under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination or refused to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation: Marc Rich, Denise Rich, Terry McAuliffe, Beth Dozoretz, Pincus Green and Avner Azulay. Jack Quinn is also listed as uncooperative. Give us the time, date, and every detail you can remember of any conversations regarding the Rich pardon you had with each of these people.

c. Why did you recommend to a friend of Marc Rich that he hire Jack Quinn?

4. Other Problem Pardons and Commutations: FALN and Former Weather Underground Members: There is a very disturbing pattern emerging from Holder’s involvement in pardons. One of the charges against Marc Rich was trading with Iran during the time it was holding U.S. hostages in Tehran. He also was instrumental in obtaining commutation of sentences for unrepentant FALN terrorists (Puerto Ricans who had bombed and pardons for members of the Weather Underground).

According to a January 9, 2009, LA Times report, “16 members of the FALN (the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation) and Los Macheteros had been convicted in Chicago and Hartford variously of bank robbery, possession of explosives and participating in a seditious conspiracy. Overall, the two groups had been linked by the FBI to more than 130 bombings, several armed robberies, six slayings and hundreds of injuries.” The same LA Times report says Holder’s chief of staff directed the pardon attorney to revise his recommendation from negative to neutral on the FALN commutation.

Questions for Holder:

a. Why were the FALN terrorists deserving of commutation of sentences?

b. There is a very troubling pattern emerging here. You consistently argue for leniency and additional Constitutional rights for terrorists. Why is the well-being of convicted FALN terrorists apparently more important in your judgment than the right of the survivors of their victims to see them punished fully?

5. The Fairness Doctrine: In a June 2004 speech — again to an American Constitution Society group — Holder spoke about the difficulties of convincing people to support the liberal agenda. He said:

“In the short term, this will not be an easy task. With the mainstream media cowered (sic) by conservative critics, and the conservative media disseminating the news in anything but a fair and balanced manner, and you know what I mean there, the means to reach the greatest number of people is not easily accessible.”

Question for Holder: The so-called “Fairness Doctrine” is a relic of the 1940s. It allowed federal bureaucrats to regulate the content of radio broadcasts on an ideological basis to ensure “balance.” President Reagan did away with it in 1987. Do you think a law or regulation that re-imposed the “Fairness Doctrine” would be Constitutional today?

And that’s only for the first day. Stay tuned.

The Cuban Missle Crisis

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Writers, historians, politicians and scholars rarely go back to set the record straight even after learning the truth about what really happened in historically significant world crises. Such was the case with the Cuban Missile Crisis. We continue to hear the same version of the event reported at the time, which was that the Soviets were caught with their pants down trying to sneak nuclear offensive missiles into Cuba, and have them armed and ready to launch toward Charleston, Norfolk, Washington and New York before the U.S. woke up to the fact. The story then, and now, was that a U-2 spy plane flying over Cuba discovered the missile sites under construction, that President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade that stopped the Soviet ships from unloading more missiles,and that Kennedy and Khrushchev stood toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball, and it was Khrushchev that blinked, and backed down, and removed their missiles. 

What came to light later, but not well publicized, was that  Khrushchev extracted from Kennedy an agreement to also pull U.S. offensive missiles from Turkey and Italy. As part of this deal, Kennedy had insisted the Soviets keep this part of the deal quiet for at least 6 months. Khrushchev also insisted, and got from JFK, an agreement to keep hands off Castro and Cuba in the future. Kennedy’s acquiescence thus has led to the longest Communist dictatorship in history.What we learned forty years later, after the Cold War, when the American and Russian participants in the Crisis sat down together to share what really went on, made the hair on the back of our necks stand up. We had no idea, until then, how close we had come to a nuclear holocaust. What we called the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets called Anadyr, one of their many covert actions. We might better call it the world’s largest, and most dangerous, covert action since it  went well beyond anything the U.S. ever considered, including the CIA’s Bay of Pigs.Just why Khrushchev decided on Anadyr remains a matter of  conjecture, but we do know that the Soviets had long placed spies throughout the U.S.Government, who had stolen every secret we had. Roosevelt had ceded Soviet dominance over all Eastern Europe and most everything was going their way. Further, Khrushchev had sized up Kennedy, in an earlier meeting in Vienna, as young, inexperienced and an eager-to-please pushover. But Khrushchev was also smarting from the CIA’s U-2 having roamed freely over Russia for four years,unlocking Soviet secrets and weaknesses, and then having to back down in the Berlin face-off in 1960 because the U.S. had clear military superiority over the Soviets. He saw the U.S. as the only road block to Russia’s world domination plan. Anadyr would be a quick and easy way gambit to turn the tables and checkmate us. It was a magnificent gamble, well-worth the risks, and Russians were the better chess players.

Anadyr called for emplacing Surface-to-Air defensive missiles  around the planned strategic missile sites, eighty strategic missiles with three megaton nuclear warheads, seven ballistic nuclear missile submarines, short range missiles with 100 kiloton warheads, cruise missiles with nuclear capabilities, a fleet of IL-28 bombers with 12 kiloton bombs, two cruisers, two missile destroyers, two squadrons of mine warfare ships, four long-range diesel attack submarines equipped with nuclear torpedoes, and 40,000 Soviet soldiers disguised as Cubans. The cover for the shipments was to be ‘massive aid to Cuba.’ Had Anadyr been completed, the island would surely have glowed in the dark and be clearly visible from Key West.

The early shipments from the Soviet Union went unnoticed.   Nonetheless, there were early clues that the Soviets were up to something. A U.S. Navy ship had spotted a Soviet freighter in the Mediterranean and signaled, ‘What is your ship, your cargo and where headed?’ ‘We are taking agriculture machinery to Havana.’ The Americans could clearly see the IL-28 bombers on deck. The CIA also had reports from their agents in Cuba regarding large  objects, 20 meters in length that required removal of street lamps to tow around tight street corners.

And Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, a French intelligence officer, told the Directorof CIA, John McCone, that he had visited Cuba and learned that the Soviet buildup there included strategic nuclear missiles. There was no hard evidence, however, as from aerial photographs, since Kennedy had forbidden U-2 overflights of the island for fear of a political flap. The National Security Agency intercepted Soviet and Cuban communications and caught them discussing highly secret cargo unloading, under heavy guard at Mariel, and the extraordinary precautions to keep it secret.

Only two people thought the Soviets were sneaking strategic missiles into Cuba: Colonel John Wright in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and John McCone, the Director of CIA. Even so, the CIA’s Board of National Estimates reviewed the ‘circumstantial’ evidence and concluded that the Soviets would not dare place offensive missiles in Cuba, because ‘it was not logical.’  Later on, when the U-2 confirmed the missiles, the Board released another report that ‘If the missiles are in Cuba, the Soviets wouldn’t dare use them.’ So much for intelligence estimates not based on collected intelligence.Under pressure from McCone, Kennedy finally relented and permitted the Air Force U-2 overflights that confirmed the missiles, and that launch site construction was well along. The Air Force had insisted that its U-2s fly the Cuban missions,rather than the CIA. Unfortunately, the Air Force U-2s were not equipped with electronic countermeasures (ECM) to protect them from the Soviet anti-aircraft missiles. One of the Air Force U-2s was shot down over Cuba, and its pilot, South Carolinian Maj. Rudy Anderson, would be the only fatality during the Crisis. The Air Force then borrowed the CIA’s U-2s, which were outfitted with ECM. The White House, and Congress, needed CIA experts to interpret the U-2 photography for them.This problem was solved by switching to low-flying photo-reconnaissance aircraft, skimming over the missile sites at treetop level. We could now count the rivets on the missiles, and clearly see the Russian technicians’ vulgar hand gestures,something a Congressman could understand. But the Navy and Air Force low-level planes didn’t have ECM protection either, so a couple of young CIA engineers were dispatched to Key West to install CIA ECM in these planes. What went on in Key West and off the Cuban coast will be the subject of a future Charleston Mercury article.

At the peak of the crisis, McCone, a widower recently remarried, was on his honeymoon on the French Riviera, but the vast amount of messages coming from him, called his ‘honeymoon cables,’ caused the White House to question if he knew what he was supposed to be doing on his honeymoon. These cables are now declassified and make a great read.

Before the U.S. showed its hand, the Russians were questioned about the Cuban arms buildup, and the Russians quickly put up a smoke screen of lies and deception. Khrushchev sent ambassador Dobrynin to tell Bobby Kennedy and Presidential counsel Ted Sorenson that they would create no problems for the U.S. during our 1962 Congressional elections. The White House was told that ‘no missile capable of reaching the U.S. would be placed in Cuba.’ Tass, speaking for the Soviet government, stated that Soviet missiles were so powerful ‘there was no need to place them outside the Soviet Union.’ Khrushchev told the American ambassador in Moscow the build-up was purely defensive. Soviet foreign minister Gromyko lied to Kennedy, saying the build-up was ‘by no means offensive.’On October 22nd,Kennedy finally appeared on television and announced the U-2 findings to an anxious public, called for the missiles removal, and placed a naval quarantine around Cuba to block further Soviet shipments and once again called Khrushchev’s bluff as he had in Berlin. But Khrushchev knew, as with Berlin, the U.S. had him outgunned, so he had no choice but to move quickly to find a solution. Glued to our televisions, we watched UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson wave the U-2 photographs of the missiles in the face of the Soviets as the U.S. military went to DEFCON2, the highest alert status short of all out nuclear war. The next day, the fever broke. The Soviet ships en route stopped, were either dead in the water or turning back. But the CIA had an ace up its sleeve. It had earlier obtained the  instruction manuals for the Russian missiles from one of their spies,  Soviet Colonel Oleg Penkovsky. The manuals also included the procedures for launch site construction, which were being followed to the letter in Cuba. By comparing photographs of the Cuban site construction with the instruction manuals, we knew the sites would be completed and ready to launch missiles in about thirteen days; which became Washington’s drop-dead date to end the crisis, one way or another. On the same day that Kennedy announced his naval quarantine,  Penkovsky was arrested, exposed, confessed to spying, and later executed. So the Soviets knew what we knew. At the end of the Cold War, when the Americans and Russians [not USSR] sat down together in a series of meetings, the first of which was in Havana, to discuss the Crisis,the Americans were jarred and shocked. The Russians told how their local commanders in Cuba had been given orders that permitted them to use their nuclear weapons if they were to come under attack by the Americans. The reason was that Moscow did not have reliable communications with their forces so far from home, so it was left to the local commanders, on their own, to launch these nuclear warhead missiles into the U.S.A., an unprecedented action.

 In a later meeting, the Russians described how the nuclear ‘close encounters’ had occurred at sea, both on the surface and below. The Soviet navy’s budding nuclear submarine force was unreliable and fraught with one major disaster after another. The only reliable submarines they could send to Cuba to protect their shipments were long-range diesel attack submarines based in the Arctic, near Murmansk, and under the command of Admiral Leonid Rybalko.

Four of these were ordered to sail undetected to the Azores where they would then open sealed orders which sent them on to Mariel, Cuba. In addition to their regular torpedoes, each sub would carry one nuclear tipped, 15 kiloton torpedo, which would wipe out everything within a 15 mile radius. And none of these vessels had ever seen or test-fired such a weapon. Each sub had a nuclear specialist on board who slept by his torpedo, plus the usual KGB political officer, the infamous and dreaded Zampolit, to keep an eye on, and report on, everyone else.

Their orders read, ‘Your rules of engagement are clear. You will use these weapons if American forces attack you submerged or force your units to surface and then attack. Or upon receipt of orders from Moscow.’ Incredibly, the submarine Captains, like the Soviet commanders in Cuba, had been given full authority to start a nuclear war with the United States.The submarine Captains had been told nothing about Anadyr. But as they approached Cuba they received a message from Moscow saying, ‘Abort transit to Mariel and assume combat patrol at (coordinates that corresponded to the U.S. naval blockade).’ They were all shocked since, as submariners are prone to do, raise their antennas to listen to American broadcasts and learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis. They also found themselves in a hornet’s nest of U.S. Navy anti-submarine activity enforcing the blockade.At the time of the blockade, the U.S. Navy flashed a Notice to Mariners (NOTAM) signal,worldwide, that read: ‘U.S. forces in contact with unidentified submarines will signal the submarine to surface in order to be identified, by dropping 4 to 5 harmless explosive sound signals, accompanied by the international code signal IDKCA, meaning to rise to the surface on an easterly course.’

The hide and seek games began between the Navy and the  four Russian submarines. Moscow had kept their submarines in the dark about the American NOTAM, but Admiral  Rybalko, thinking it unconscionable not to let his submariners know about it, ignored Moscow, and transmitted the NOTAM to his submarines himself. When the submarines were finally forced to the surface, they were on an easterly course, which meant they knew of the NOTAM and would come to no harm from the Americans.

When the USS Cony forced Captain Savitsky’s submarine to surface, they signaled, ‘What ship are you, and do you need assistance?’ Savitsky signaled back that they would like some American cigarettes and bread. When the destroyer moved alongside the submarine, the Cony’s bosun fired a shot line across the conning tower to start the transfer. The submariners ducked, thinking they were about to be attacked. They apparently had never seen a shot line gun.

Captain Edward Kelley’s destroyer, USS Blandy, forced Captain Shumkov’s submarine to the surface, both on an easterly course. Then something went terribly wrong. The Blandy’s gunnery officer swung his 5 inch gun turret around and trained it on the submarine. Shumkov, assuming he was about to fired on, turned his submarine toward the Blandy and ordered his nuclear torpedo readied for firing. His nuclear officer fainted dead away, knowing that if the torpedo was fired, the destroyer, submarine and their crews would be instant toast. Kelley, at the last instant, saw the mistake and ordered the gun turret to point away from the submarine. Shumkov then swung his submarine back to an easterly heading. And the niceties between sailors at sea resumed. Kelley and none of the other Americans knew of the nuclear torpedoes, and how close they, and the world, came to disaster.

As the submarines were forced to surface, all parties relaxed and even became jovial, exchanging greetings and salutes, along with the cigarettes and other gifts. One destroyer had a rag-tag jazz band that performed on deck for their Russian guests. The Russians never forgot that jazz band, especially the trombone player, obviously the ship’s cook, with his white pants and T-shirt, wearing his tall chef’s cap. Some mused that these sailors must have been from Charleston,the city where everyone had music in his bones. Yes, you will have guessed it, the Americans requested vodka from the Russian submariners, who were dismayed to learn the American Navy didn’t allow liquor on their ships.

The Russians limped back to their Arctic base, and were held  virtual prisoners on their submarines, for fear their stories would embarrass the Kremlin. And Admiral Kybalko disappeared, never to be heard from, for his having transmitted the Navy’s NOTAM to his submarines that saved their lives.

In the 1970s,the CIA learned that Soviet submarines were indeed equipped with nuclear torpedoes, and quickly informed the Navy. Then three decades later, in our face-to-face meetings, we would learn the Russian commander in Cuba, and the submarine Captains, had the authority to start a nuclear war, on their own.

The USSR would never again allow itself to be militarily inferior to the Americans, and the Cold War would continue, under the rules of MAD (mutually assured destruction) UNTIL President Reagan decided to end the half-century stand-off by reasserting American military superiority, and adding ‘Star Wars’ (the airborne laser weapons system), something Russians could not match. This caused the Soviet Union to finally implode.

Some Things to Think About… The Next Time You Hear Bush Bashing

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

The next time you hear someone say “Bush should never have started this war!  Iraq never attacked us!”  Politely (or not 🙂 ) remind them that FDR lead us into WWII, in the process, declaring war on Germany.  Germany never attacked us… Japan did.  Did that make it wrong?

The thing to remember is that, say what you will about going in the first place, who do you want to run Iraq?  The Iraqi’s or the Iranians?  If we left post-haste, Shiite militia’s under the like of al Sadr rule the day.  With the current state of affairs in Iran (where al Sadr is currently living under protection), allowing them to take control of Iraq could lead us into a World War that makes WWII look like Wrestlemania.  What’s better?  Pay as you go, or pay later with penalties and interest a la the Ayatollah…