Sunday, September 30, 2007

Autumn Rain

The eyes....

Special Agent Nicholas Kyle of the Gotham Bureau of Investigation poured himself another glass of Scotch, and walked back through the dark room to the bay window.

As long as he lived, he thought, he would never forget those eyes.

He sipped his Scotch and looked out the window. It had started to rain again, but ever so gently. Outside it was already wet, and, although summer had only just ended, this evening he felt the first touch of autumn in the air as the wind blew from the north: it was cool and damp, a taste of what would plentifully follow to Gotham City as October began.

Nick thought about how he and Selena used to enjoy going for walks in Gotham's parks during the fall. The warm sun that could often be felt in the daytime contrasted sharply with the cool air of the autumn days. When night fell, it seemed lonely, as the chilly breezes blew through Gotham City, rustling the dry leaves on the ground, and bringing more dry leaves cascading down from the trees above. The chill in the air was brought by a wind that seemed to blow from the ends of the earth, and it had always made Nick lonely to feel that chill as summer faded farther into the past and the season's first snow approached.

But, after he met Selena, that all changed. She warmed his heart, so much so that every day seemed like springtime, with the promise of the best days ahead. The thought of her made him impervious to the cold and to the darkness; he almost welcomed the chilly air, the autumn rains, the rustling leaves, because he knew that what he had meant so much more to him. He knew that they were meant to be together, that they were made for each other, that they were soulmates. He used to look into her eyes and drift off, lost to this world, lost in her love, and lost in his love for her.

Then it changed again. They started to drift apart, and his endless summer with her seemed to change to a chilly, rainy autumn.

Oh, she still loved him, and he still loved her, but since things had changed in his life, he had changed, and he had drifted away from her.

She was pursuing him, trying to bring him back, but he didn't want her to bring him back -- not like this.

He felt a tear well up in his eye as he thought of his wife, asleep upstairs.

He thought about how her cat would be peering out the bedroom window, as their dog slept on the floor at the foot of the bed, guarding their bedroom.

He should be up there with her, but more and more, he felt like he had changed, like he had become dirty -- and like he was contaminating her.

If ever there was something to live for, it was what he had with Selena, and that was drying up, like the leaves on the trees outside soon would be. Soon, his life with Selena would wither and blow away with the coming autumn winds, and, alone, he would be left to face the frosty snows of the first winter of his life.

He gazed out the window.

It was funny how the shadows moved with the north wind, and with the light reflecting off the wet surfaces outside.

The cold, rainy darkness made his yard seem so strange, so hostile. Even the bushes that he and Selena had planted together seemed alien. Especially that one in the center.

Studying the scene on the other side of the window, he smiled.

Not so long ago, he and Selena used to go out on nights like tonight. Nights like tonight just made their love seem that much warmer.

He sipped his Scotch, then looked at his glass. It was almost empty. Time for another, he thought.

Was he perhaps drinking too much?

He looked back outside.

The bushes needed trimming. The one in the center especially needed to be trimmed back. It seemed so dark and bulky. It almost seemed to be watching him, he chuckled to himself. Such was this kind of a night. Even the bushes could seem animate and menacing in the cold, windy rain late on a night like this.

He thought about the other night.

He had looked The Bat right in the eyes....

As long as he lived, he thought, never would he forget those eyes.

He shuddered uncontrollably.

He finished his Scotch.

Time for another, he thought; and that one bush definitely needed trimming.

He walked across the carpet in his sock feet, happy to be so warm and dry and comfortable inside, while it was so cold and wet and miserable outside.

Damn, he thought, as he looked down at the floor.

Had his dog done it again?

He just stepped in something with his socked foot -- something cold and wet. The dog probably hadn't wanted to go outside in the rain earlier when it was raining a little more heavily -- he never did want to go outside in the rain -- and so had just done his outside business inside.

Nick leaned on the bar as he reached down with one hand to pull his wet sock off his foot. Now he would be in a hurry to shower and get cleaned up.

Funny he hadn't noticed the wet spot on the floor before. Of course, as he often did, he came home late and came in the house without turning any lights on -- he didn't want to risk bothering Selena.

He finished his drink, then set it on the bar.

That was funny, he thought. He hadn't noticed that before, either. He had been to the bar twice now to serve himself his drinks, and only now, on the third trip to the bar, did he notice it, right there in the middle of the bar, next to his decanter of Scotch whiskey.

He picked it up with his left hand and looked at it. It probably came with one of his wife's new toys from her martial arts class, or from the gun and knife shop she occasionally went to.

He poured himself another Scotch, then took his drink and the card over toward the window to look outside some more.

He held the card up in the light reflecting in from outside.

The wind outside was blowing a little harder now, and branches from the bushes and trees outside were moving unpredictably, casting shadows unpredictably; it was hard to keep the card in the light reflected from outside.

It was definitely one dark symbol -- black? -- on a white business card. Probably the trademark of something for Selena's martial arts class. The symbol was oval in overall shape, but it was as if parts of that oval had been cut out to reveal another shape.

He looked outside. The rain was picking up now, as was the wind. The bushes were moving around more than before, shaken by the wind.

That was funny, he thought. The bush in the middle didn't seem so bulky now. More light was shining through it.

Nick sipped his Scotch and looked again at the card he had just discovered on his bar. The shape looked familiar.

He studied it carefully.

Slowly, Nick set his Scotch down on the table next to the window, as he glanced back at the bushes outside.

Except for the ovalish shape of the outside of the symbol on the card in his hand....

He glanced around the yard outside, then directed his gaze inside, around the room. His breathing stopped as his right hand moved imperceptibly for the 9mm pistol in its holster under his left shoulder.

His head still, his hand on his pistol, his eyes slowly surveyed the area around the bar.

Except for the ovalish shape of the outside, he thought, the figure on the business card distinctly resembled a bat!

Voice mail again!

Frustrated, Dr. Sandra Villanova hung up her cell phone, set it down, and looked out her window into the rain.

It was cold and wet, with a chilly wind blowing from the north. The summer had just officially ended, September was coming to an end, too, but with this weather, Gotham City was getting its first taste of autumn.

It was after midnight -- it was October.

Voice mail!

Where could Bruce Wayne be this late on a night like tonight that he wasn't answering his cell phone?

Alfred looked at the cell phone.

It was after midnight, and Dr. Villanova had called again. She had started calling about 10:30, and had called every half hour or so since then. There must be a problem.

Alfred walked down the hallway, went down the stairs, and started across the hallway by the main entrance to Wayne Manor, then stopped.

By the window, he noticed a feminine figure staring out into the rain; she didn't seem to notice him.

"Is anything wrong, my dear?" Alfred said, approaching the figure.

Sasha turned around.

"Where is he? I know he's nowhere in Wayne Manor," she answered. Alfred had grown fond of her accent.

"It is his way, Sasha," Alfred reassured her. "He is well. Try not to worry."

"You and Mr. Fox assigned me to be his body guard, but I can't protect him if I don't know where he is."

"I understand, Sasha. And so does Mr. Fox."

"Don't you worry about him?"

"Every single day," Alfred smiled.

"How do you know he is okay?"

"I just do."

Alfred smiled again, a reassuring, fatherly smile that touched Sasha and made her feel better, as Alfred turned and proceeded on his way to that secret place far beneath Wayne Manor.

"Alfred," Sasha called after him.

Pausing, Alfred turned. "Yes, my dear?"

"There's something else I would like to tell you."

Still no answer.

Looking out into the rain, Sandra thought about how this was why she and Bruce Wayne were friends, and nothing more. So often, late at night, she had no idea where he was, and he would not even answer his cell phone. With his reputation as a shallow playboy, it took little to imagine what he might be up to.

Sandra would have been angry, and perhaps even jealous, but not tonight.

This night was too creepy.

It wasn't just the weather, which, with its chilly wind, cold rain, and dark, moving shadows, anticipated Halloween by a month.

She shuddered.

It was what she had found at her door earlier this evening.

Someone had left her a pink envelope.

When she first picked it up, she had smiled, thinking it might have been from Bruce.

Then she opened it.

The card inside had a picture of a cat which was attentively, even menacingly, staring at a hole in a wall, presumably the home of a mouse.

The smile had disappeared from her face as she began to realize this was not some kind of note from Bruce Wayne, but was instead something far more sinister.

She picked up the card again and reread the verse:

Blue is the water by which comes the green.
Tall is the lady; she's Gotham's queen.
Under her eyes, the Roman commands,
Fueling the vices of his empire's lands.
For wont of their vices they give freedom away;
High is the price for their habits they pay.
See the green lady, she is a slave,
See her blue knights, they are but knaves.
Powerful is the Roman, this land he does rule;
King takes queen on a knight for a fool.

Suddenly, Sandra felt very much like a mouse.

It was almost one in morning as Dr. Sandra Villanova reached again for her cell phone.

Burma/Myanmar: The Balkans' and Central Asia's Future (Part 1)

For anyone who has been reading my posts on the Balkans and now Central Asia, the events in Burma/Myanmar are a look into the future of those regions.

Within a few years of seizing power in 1988, Burma's new rulers had already placed their country on a course to be a failed state, essentially owned by special interests, whether legal or not. Here are the first several paragraphs, with my comments, from a 1991 article by Michael Richardson in the International Herald Tribune entitled Burma's Junta Hinders U.S.Battle Against Asian Heroin:

The United States is a major target for syndicates that smuggle heroin from Asia. After a recent tour of the region, Melvyn Levitsky, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters, discussed the trafficking problem with Michael Richardson of the International Herald Tribune.

Q. Is the flow of heroin from Southeast Asia to the U.S., Europe and other Western nations getting out of hand?

A. No. But there has been a rather startling increase in the amount of Asian heroin entering the U.S. and that causes us a great deal of concern. Four or five years ago, about 15 percent of the heroin that came to the U.S. was from Southeast Asia. Today, the proportion is well over 50 percent, and may be verging on 60 percent.

Q. Have Asian trafficking syndicates taken over from the Mafia in handling the heroin trade in the U.S.?

A. They have not taken over but they have become a much more important part of the trade, particularly Chinese gangs on the East Coast and increasingly on the West Coast. The Asian connections to ethnic Chinese groups in the U.S. are quite clear.

The connection to Chinese groups is much more important for China than it is for the US -- more to follow on that.

Q. Most of the Southeast Asian heroin reaching the U.S. comes from Burma. Yet the U.S. halted its narcotics suppression program with Burma in 1988 in protest at repression of the democracy movement by the Burmese military. Isn't U.S. retaliation, in effect, increasing the outflow of heroin?

A. I would point out that when the military in Burma seized power and cracked down on the students, they also dropped their drug control efforts to concentrate on restoring order through repressive measures. So it was not U.S. action that led to the halt in Burmese narcotics control. In fact for a while, we kept our program for Burma in neutral gear, waiting to see what would happen. Only when it became clear that the Burmese military had no interest in controlling the flow of drugs did we cut off our assistance program.

In the last three years or so, annual production of opium in Burma has about doubled to more than 2,000 metric tons, and perhaps to as much as 2,500 tons. That is enough to produce between 200 and 250 tons of heroin. Not all of this opium is necessarily turned into heroin. But it is an incredibly large amount that is available for international markets.

The net result of the coup was a rapid increase in heroin production.

Does this remind us of any place farther north and west in Asia?

Some of the increase in opium production in Burma is from areas that are not controlled by the central government, particularly border regions near Thailand and China. But much of the increase has come from areas that are under government control.

"But much of the increase has come from areas that are under government control."

What we have also seen is that ethnic minority groups that the Burmese authorities favor are apparently allowed to go about their narcotics business unhindered. The Burmese authorities are using one ethnic minority group against another in trying to gain control of areas they don't now control.

The "government" was just one narcotics-trafficking mafia among several in Burma -- it was merely the one with the most power, and some degree of international legitimacy due to that power.

Q. Is there evidence that the Burmese military profits from the trade in opium and heroin?

A. Certainly some elements of the military have profited and so have some other Burmese officials. But I cannot say that it is the policy of the Burmese government that the army skim off drug profits as a way of supporting itself. There are instances, obviously, of corruption. However, at least a certain amount of the trafficking is officially condoned and may even be encouraged.

Of course they are not going to pass a public declaration stating that opiate production and export is official policy of the military junta, and, short of that, how much more obvious can they be?

By 2000, Burma/Myanmar had become a big exporter of methamphetamines. In another article from International Herald Tribune entitled Burma's New Export / Methamphetamine Menace: Pills Follow a Path Into Thailand Blazed by Heroin, Richardson was documenting the change. Here are the first few paragraphs, with my comments:

BANGKOK: When the Thai police arrested a housewife the other day for selling banned methamphetamine stimulant pills outside a provincial hospital not far from Bangkok, they made further inquiries.

The police found that the woman, who they said had 110,000 methamphetamine tablets in her possession, was married to Prayut Sanan, an executioner in the Bang Kwang maximum security prison, where 130 convicts are on death row awaiting execution by shooting for various crimes including drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and murder.

This woman, a significant narcotrafficker, was married to a guy whose job was to execute narcotraffickers and other criminals. Hypocrisy? Conflict of interest? I wonder if that made for any marital unrest between the two.

The police said that a search of Mr. Prayut's Bangkok home, and his car in the prison parking lot, yielded another 700,000 tablets, four pistols and an assault rifle.

Pornsak Durongkhaviboon, chief of the national police, said that the arrest of Mr. Prayut and several alleged accomplices, including a Bang Kwang warder and a former policeman, confirmed reports that the drug trade in Thailand was flourishing even inside prisons.

At about the same time as these arrests were made late last week, the police separately raided a Bangkok warehouse and seized 7 million methamphetamine pills hidden in sacks of garlic and shallots.

Seven million pills!

Thai and foreign officials say that both incidents are signs of a rapid increase in the past few years in the illegal sale and use of strong amphetamine-type stimulants, or ATS, in Thailand, as increased unemployment and social tension arising from the East Asian economic crisis and the swelling migration of poor rural workers to the cities in search of jobs and a better life has coincided with a major change in drug smuggling from Burma.

Long notorious for production of opium and its highly addictive derivative, heroin, several drug-trafficking organizations in Burma — each with its own territory and army — have switched to the manufacture of methamphetamine because it is easier to produce and conceal in tablet form than heroin and just as profitable, narcotics officials and analysts say.

This is just like Afghanistan in the 1990's, and this is how the Balkans have been developing, and this is the path Central Asia is on. The governments are effectively being replaced by organized crime. We are seeing this process in different stages in these different places.

The Turkish Deep State represents yet another stage, where one criminal group has achieved dominance, and essentially controls the entire nation, including its armed forces: it controls late model combat aircraft, and uses national resources to infiltrate foreign nations to traffic narcotics and conduct espionage; drugs are trafficked in Turkish military helicopters, and distributed in Western Europe by military officers who hold diplomatic passports.

"The pills are small and easy to hide," said Sandro Calvani, the representative in Thailand of the United Nations International Drug Control Program. "They are very user-friendly for traffickers."

Police estimate that about 600 million methamphetamine tablets were smuggled into Thailand in 1999 across the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) border with Burma. Much of the frontier is mountainous, heavily forested and difficult to patrol.

Six hundred million! This just gets better and better.

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of Thailand told a recent international conference on drug control in Bangkok that the spread of amphetamine-type stimulants in Thailand was happening at such an "alarming" rate that it was a threat not only to the country's social fabric and economic growth but also to its political stability and security.

Now, even neighboring Thailand was being threatened. We can't call it the Domino Theory, because this is practice, not theory!

"This menace is further complicated by the huge profit the trade generates, leading to a host of other problems, from corruption to money laundering, and transnational organized crime to international terrorism," he added.

Not "further complicated" -- the huge profit is at the very heart of the matter.

Officials representing Burma, which has an uneasy relationship with Thailand, said at the same conference that the military government in Rangoon was doing its best to suppress drug production in border regions.

The main methamphetamine manufacturer in Burma is the self-styled United Wa State Army, which can call on about 15,000 well-armed soldiers to protect its jungle-based drug producing facilities and smuggling routes, Thai and foreign officials said.

Blame the competition!

Like several other similar armed groups based on ethnic minorities that claim autonomy or independence from Rangoon, this group operates in Burma's remote and rugged eastern Shan state bordering Thailand, China and Laos.

"Although the UWSA remains heavily involved in the heroin trade, it is also Asia's principal methamphetamine producer," said Thomas Wersto, a narcotics analyst in the U.S. State Department in Washington. "The UWSA is largely responsible for helping to fuel abuse of that drug in neighboring Thailand. Moreover, UWSA methamphetamine increasingly is appearing in other parts of Asia."

Rival drug cartels, each with its own army, fight it out to control the drug trade in Southeast Asia -- again, the names and places have been changed, but is this not reminiscient of Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey and the Balkans?

Again, I emphasize that this is what Sibel Edmonds caught a glimpse of at the FBI -- the influence of such narcotrafficking nations on US politics, US foreign policy, and US law enforcement.

The Central Asian Nexus Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 with a review of Makarenko's 2002 paper entitled Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade (numerals in [brackets] are footnotes; see original):

Central Asian Criminal Networks[16]

The environment that prevailed in Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union attracted a wide range of groups interested in profiting from the lucrative trade in illicit opiates. Three types of groups are involved in the regional narcotics trade: drug mafias; transnational criminal organizations; and insurgent/terrorist groups. These groups have developed extensive smuggling networks that supply the growing opiate market in the former Soviet Union and the vast European market. There are also indications that small shipments are now regularly sent to China and Japan.

Drug Mafias

The first group of actors associated with the Afghan drug trade are drug mafias. Located in Afghanistan and all five Central Asian republics, drug mafias are identified by their domestic base (they generally do not have an international network in place), and a membership normally restricted to specific clans or ethnic groups. Often engaged in illegal trade at local markets within their specific country of operation, their role in the drug chain appears to be restricted to buying raw opiates from farmers and selling shipments to international buyers. Drug mafias are thus considered nothing more than middlemen in the regional drug trade. Clearly motivated by criminal intentions, drug mafias hold one of the two extreme poles of the crime-terror nexus, and are thus relatively simple to identify.

Drug mafias in Afghanistan have operated with impunity for several decades. In fact, their control over the illicit Afghan drug trade was established prior to the Taliban attaining power in 1996. Drug mafias are directly responsible for either distributing opium poppy seeds to local farmers or for providing farmers with loans to plant opium poppy crops. These loans are subsequently repaid in opium resin (the raw form of opium). Furthermore, drug mafias constitute the first line of buyers in the international opiate trade and, as such, they exercise a considerable degree of influence in Afghanistan. Their position has been further strengthened by their long-established relations with local elites and warlords, which has the potential to disrupt the fragile attempts to bring peace to Afghanistan today. This is especially true in the primary opium cultivating areas of Helmand and Kandahar.

As the interim government of Hamid Karzai attempts to assert political control over Afghanistan, it must find a way to incorporate former drug lords into society while ensuring that they break their ties to the lucrative narcotics trade. This is a complicated task given that many individuals involved in the trade have been appointed to official government positions. Unconvinced of future security, many see drugs as the sole guarantor of economic survival. Unfortunately, the interim government is too weak and compromised to reverse the criminal environment that has existed in the country for over two decades.

There is a need for licit economic development to offer these people a viable option. Amidst decades of instability, the production of opiates has been stable, and has become enculturated in Afghanistan society.

The republics of Central Asia are also home to domestic drug mafias, but Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek groups are not as well established in the drug trade as their Afghan counterparts. Unlike the Afghan traders who developed in tandem with the rise of the illicit trade in opiates several decades ago, contemporary Central Asian groups have very limited experience with the trade. In fact, until the emergence of the "Northern Route," there was little reason for Central Asian groups to seek relations with their Afghan counterparts. Most of the domestic drug mafias in Central Asia are relatively small, and their activities are largely limited to the local production and distribution of hashish.[17] Some groups, however, directly purchase opiates from Afghan traders for distribution within their respective countries of operation. Not very influential in the broader picture, drug mafias in countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan maintain a degree of community influence and have established connections with local officials, but normally do not possess greater power because they lack the necessary national and international connections.

To a certain extent, this is a relic of the Soviet era. The Soviet government limited illicit narcotics trafficking, but also established an environment of corruptible government functionaries. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Central Asian drug mafias found room to grow, and an atmosphere conducive to growth.

Another relic of the Soviet era is a reasonably well-developed and highly interoperable transportation infrastructure, which facilitates the movement of goods across Central Asia, and all the way to Eastern Europe. With a few payments into the rights hands, that includes the movement of smuggled goods.

Transnational Crime

Transnational criminal organizations constitute the second group of actors engaged in the regional drug trade. These groups pose the single greatest threat to the region, in part because they are composed of a chain of regional and international players including officials in several governments and their security services. As a result of their diverse membership, some transnational criminal groups entertain political motivations. With their propensity for using violence, these groups form the fulcrum of the crime-terror nexus. Major players in the Afghan/Central Asian drug trade include the following: a network of Afghan, Kyrgyz and Russian syndicates who move shipments of opiates through Central Asia, Russia, the Baltic states and into Western Europe; a network of Afghan, Turkmen and Turkish syndicates who regularly traffic opiates through Turkmenistan (sometimes via Armenia and Azerbaijan) into Turkey for European redistribution; a coalition of Caucasian syndicates allegedly responsible for controlling a significant proportion of the narcotics industry in the Russian Federation; a coalition of Afghan-Iranian and Afghan-Pakistani groups; and independent Tajik and Uzbek groups with ethnic diaspora links in Afghanistan.[18]

Now we get to the good stuff: " As a result of their diverse membership, some transnational criminal groups entertain political motivations."

What we are seeing is organized crime taking over political control of geographic entities.

Although Makarenko's comments do not seem to be aimed there, Turkey with its Deep State is a shining example of this.

In addition to these networks, there is evidence of Kyrgyz and Turkmen groups attempting to increase their ties to Afghan drug mafias. There are also rumors of Chinese, Korean, American, Latin American and Nigerian criminal groups attempting to assert their influence over segments of the regional trade. Exemplifying this transnational aspect was the 1999 case of an American citizen, Andrew Klein. Uzbek security services discovered that Klein, working from Central Asia, was coordinating Afghan and Latin American drug mafias operating in the Russian, European and American drug markets. Klein was arrested in Amsterdam while attempting to organize an operation that would simultaneously transport 13 tons of illicit drugs from Asia to Europe, using Central Asia and Russia as transshipment points.[19]

Notice the connections to the Orient -- more on that in a subsequent post -- and to the Americas and Africa.

The operations of transnational criminal organizations are not always based in Afghanistan. Established relationships with drug mafias in Afghanistan and in its neighboring countries enable transnational criminal networks to use Iran, Pakistan and the Central Asian republics as operational bases. Thus, in addition to stockpiling opiates in Afghanistan, transnational groups also stockpile in other regional centers such as Osh, Shymkent and Samarkand in Central Asia.

I think we can add Turkey to that list of operational bases.

I am going to parse the next paragraph, which is the last paragraph of Makarenko's paper addressed in this post:

As with most criminal organizations throughout history, transnational organized crime uses corruption and intimidation to establish and exert its influence. Given their membership base – including political, law enforcement, customs and military officials[20] – the intimidation and corruption perpetrated by this group of actors is significantly more destructive for state and regional security than domestic drug mafias.

Does this ring any bells in connection with the Sibel Edmonds case?

In Tajikistan, for example, transnational groups are believed to be responsible for several bombings in Dushanbe in 1999 and 2000. Having displayed their violent inclinations, transnational groups have established a more secure base from which they can effectively bribe officials. Faced with a choice between death or injury to family members and bribery, many government and security officials have chosen the latter, especially given their extremely low wages.

Even in the presence of more adequate pay, such as that received by reasonably high-ranking officials of the US government, greed can help influence the decision to align with the narcotraffickers.

Furthermore, in addition to relatively small-scale corruption of public officials – such as the acceptance of bribes by border guards[21] – high-ranking Turkmen, Kazakh and Tajik officials have been implicated in the operations of transnational criminal groups over the past few years. Most recently there have been allegations that Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov and other leading officials were involved in drug trafficking operations based at the Ashgabat airport.[22]

Turkmenistan's President!

It may thus be concluded that groups of this nature are simultaneously interested in acquiring the financial gains associated with involvement in the drug trade and in asserting political control to secure their operations.

The Sibel Edmonds case certainly sheds some light on the veracity of that statement.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


An interesting article by Jamie Glazov appeared in yesterday entitled Iran, Osama and 9/11. I reproduce it here in its entirety with my comments:

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Thomas Joscelyn, an expert on the international terrorist network. He has written extensively on al Qaeda and its allies, including Iran. He is the author, most recently, of Iran’s Proxy War Against America, a booklet published by the Claremont Institute and available for download at its web site. (Click here to download the booklet.)

FP: Thomas Joscelyn, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Joscleyn: Good to be here Jamie.

FP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia has sparked great controversy. Yesterday, Ahmadinejad announced in front of the U.N. General Assembly that Iran will defy U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that his regime suspend its uranium enrichment.

What should the American people know about Ahmadinejad and the regime he represents?

Joscelyn: Ahmadinejad is a puppet for the Ayatollah and his attending mullahs, who have the real power in Iran. This clerical regime, which rose to power in 1979, is intrinsically opposed to America and her allies throughout the world. When they chant “Death to America,” they mean it. The Iranian regime is also dedicated to revolution. That is, they want to export the Iranian revolution throughout the Middle East and the world. And they have often done so on the backs of terrorists.

Iran has provided vital assistance to terrorist organizations in at least all of the following nations/areas: the Palestinian territories (Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad), Lebanon (Hezbollah), Egypt (the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad), Sudan (a variety of terrorist groups), Somalia (Sunni terrorists), Algeria (an al Qaeda affiliate), Saudi Arabia (Saudi Hezbollah), Southeast Asia (various terrorist groups, including affiliates of al Qaeda), Iraq (both Sunni and Shiite terrorist groups), Afghanistan (Iran now even arms the Taliban, its one-time enemy), the Gulf States, and elsewhere.

So, Iran is the fountainhead of terrorism.

Much of the public outrage over Ahmadinejad’s visit has focused on Iran’s ongoing support for our terrorist enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as his nation’s burgeoning nuclear program. These are, of course, legitimate and grave concerns. Unfortunately, however, there has been little focus on the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda, despite the fact that the relationship reportedly dates back to 1990.

Is Iran involved in terrorism? Absolutely. Iran is and has been a state sponsor of terrorists for many years.

But: "Iran is the fountainhead of terrorism."

The implication of that statement is that if we deal with Iran, there will be no more terrorism.

I don't buy that, at all.

Saudi Arabia is busy funding extremist Sunni terrorists. Much of Al Qaeda's support comes from Saudi Arabia, even though the Saudi authorities may deny it. Denial is also a problem in our White House these days.

If Iran were suddenly neutralized as a source of terrorism, terrorists would still crop up all over, and get support from other places.

One thing that does strike me, though: Iran and Saudi Arabia are enemies. Saudi Arabia's brand of Wahhabi Islam makes takfir out of the Shi'ites in Iran, so Wahhabi hatred may actually be more dangerous to Iran than to infidels in the West.

Saudi Arabia, however, does not have the military strength to deal with Iran, and neither would any coalition of Sunni countries that Saudi Arabia could put together. This is a big part of the reason why the Saudis have sought a nuclear weapons program, run by proxy in Pakistan, and ballistic missiles. This is also a big part of the reason why Saudi Arabia wants state-of-the-art fighters and fighter-bombers; Iran is also a big part of the excuse why the West authorizes the sale of such hardware and technology to such a backward, authoritarian country that so routinely, so thoroughly and so openly violates human rights.

This stinks.

What we are being set up for is a military strike on Iran in support of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royal family & billionaire sheikhs know they can count on Jorge bin Bush to do their bidding for them; after all, not everybody in Washington is taking orders from the Turkish Deep State.

FP: What evidence ties Iran to al Qaeda as early as 1990?

Joscelyn: According to Lawrence Wright in his book The Looming Tower, a top al Qaeda operative named Ali Mohamed told the FBI that Ayman al Zawahiri and the Iranians agreed to cooperate on a coup attempt in Egypt in 1990. The Iranians have long targeted Hosni Mubarak’s regime and so they were very willing to assist Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad (“EIJ”) in a coup attempt. According to Mohamed, the Iranians gave Zawahiri $2 million and trained his EIJ operatives for the coup attempt, which was ultimately aborted.

Coming from Ali Mohamed, this is especially damning testimony. Mohamed was one of the U.S. Government’s star witnesses during the trial of some of the al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the August 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Mohamed himself admitted to his involvement in the embassy bombings – he did the surveillance that was used to plan the operation. He also looms large in al Qaeda’s early history: he compiled al Qaeda’s first training manual, trained bin Laden’s security guards, helped organize al Qaeda’s move from Afghanistan to the Sudan in the early 1990’s, and was trusted by Zawahiri to penetrate America’s intelligence and military establishments (he even feigned cooperation with the CIA as an informant and went on to become a sergeant in the U.S. Army).

So, Mohamed’s testimony is good evidence that the Iranians and al Qaeda were cooperating all the way back in 1990.

I have not written about this Ali Mohamed guy before, but I have read enough about him.

Let's just focus on this guy's resume based on what is said by Joscelyn here.

-- U.S. Government's star witness during trial of al Qaeda terrorists for 1998 Kenya & Tanzania bombings
-- Admitted his own involvement in those bombings
-- Compiled al Qaeda's first training manual
-- Trained bin Laden's body guards
-- Helped relocate al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Sudan in the 1990's
-- Penetrated America's defense and intelligence establishments

Whose side is this guy on?

If he was the government's star witness in the trial for the 1998 bombings, then he has betrayed al Qaeda.

Or has he so successfully penetrated the US defense and intelligence establishments that we believe him, despite the fact that we know he was sent to penetrate the US defense and intelligence establishments?

This guy is a stinker.

I am not ruling out alliances between al Qaeda factions and factions in Iran. The sands of jihad can be shifty, as the Prophet himself preached.

But, al Qaeda's origins are in this same Wahhabism that sees the Shi'ites as the Islamic world's internal enemies, as much as it sees the United States and Israel as its external enemies. How convenient would it be to have the Islamic world's internal enemies, which include Iran, battle its external enemies, which include the United States?

FP: And the cooperation didn’t end there, did it?

Joscelyn: No, it did not end there. There is evidence of cooperation between Iran, Hezbollah and al Qaeda from 1990 through the present. I go into more detail about this evidence in Iran’s Proxy War Against America, but let me provide some of the highlights here.

According to the 9/11 Commission, the Iranians and al Qaeda held discussions in the early 1990’s. During the embassy bombings trial we learned that one of these meetings involved a sit down between Imad Mugniyah, who is Iran’s master terrorist as well as Hezbollah’s chief of terrorist operations, and Osama bin Laden. As a result of these meetings, Iran and al Qaeda agreed to cooperate on attacks against America and Israel. Al Qaeda terrorists were then trained in Iranian and Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon, Sudan and Iran.

Mugniyah had a profound impact on al Qaeda’s transition from an Afghani-based insurgency group into an international terrorist empire. As a result of the cooperation between Mugniyah and bin Laden, al Qaeda consciously modeled itself after Hezbollah in many ways. As Lawrence Wright notes in The Looming Tower, there are good reasons to suspect that al Qaeda even adopted the use of suicide bombers because of Hezbollah’s influence. I think that prior to 1993 (there may be an isolated incident or two prior to then), suicide attacks were an anathema to Sunni Islam. They were strictly prohibited. The Shiite Hezbollah, however, had used suicide bombers since as early 1983, when Mugniyah’s suicide truck bombers destroyed the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Marine Barracks in Lebanon. Zawahiri and al Qaeda adopted suicide attacks as their modus operandi only in the early 1990’s, after Hezbollah had shown them the utility of such operations.

According to Bob Baer in See No Evil, the CIA uncovered evidence that Mugniyah helped facilitate the travel of an al Qaeda terrorist en route to an attack on the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan in 1995. In June 1996, according to Gerald Posner in Why America Slept, the CIA obtained reports from a terrorist summit in Tehran. The reports indicated that al Qaeda, Iran and Hezbollah had agreed to step up their attacks on American targets throughout the Middle East. A few days later, on June 25, 1996, Hezbollah – under direct orders from Tehran – bombed the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia.

The 9/11 Commission found that in addition to strong evidence of Iran’s involvement, there were also signs that al Qaeda played a role in the Khobar Towers bombing. Al Qaeda had reportedly been planning a similar operation in the months prior to the attack and intelligence officials found that bin Laden was congratulated by senior al Qaeda members, such as Ayman al Zawahiri, shortly thereafter. Contemporaneous reports by the CIA and the State Department noted that Iran and al Qaeda were both suspects. Therefore, although we don’t know for sure, there is, at the very least, a strong possibility that the Khobar Towers operation was a joint operation between Iran, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.

The 9/11 Commission found that the al Qaeda cell in Kenya, which was responsible for bombing the embassy there on August 7, 1998, was trained by Hezbollah for the operation. The 9/11 Commission also found that there is evidence that Iran and Hezbollah facilitated the travels of 8 to 10 of the hijackers responsible for the September 11 attacks.

There is strong evidence that Iran helped al Qaeda and Taliban members escape from Afghanistan in late 2001 and, therefore, evade American justice. Finally, Iran harbors senior al Qaeda leaders such as Saif al Adel (al Qaeda’s military chief) and Saad bin Laden (Osama’s son and heir) to this day.

This is just some of the evidence of Iran’s involvement in al Qaeda’s terror.

First of all, the Bush Administration did not want to have a 9/11 Commission. Only when compelled to by public lobbying did it establish one, but then starved it of funding until pressured again by the family members of those who were killed in the attack.

Once established, the 9/11 Commission was very selective in what information it considered, and in what information it ultimately published.

It buried the reports from Sibel Edmonds that the blueprints from US skyscapers had gone overseas to the Middle East -- that information is critical to understanding how al Qaeda targeted the World Trade center.

The 9/11 Commission also buried reports from Edmonds about Turkish organized crime infiltrating the FBI.

Keep in mind that much of the information reported by Edmonds had been substantiated by CBS' 60 Minutes newsteam, by the staff of two US senators, and by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General.

The 9/11 Commission was nothing but a rubber-stamp for the Bush Administration; quite frankly, despite excellent, well-documented testimony from many competent witnesses, to a large extent, the 9/11 Commission was just another stinker.

FP: So in your opinion, what is the strongest evidence of Iran’s support for al Qaeda?

Joscelyn: The simultaneous suicide bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998. As I explain in Iran’s Proxy War Against America, there is strong evidence that: (1) Bin Laden and al Qaeda deliberately modeled the attack after Hezbollah’s simultaneous suicide bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and a headquarters for French paratroopers in Lebanon in 1983. (2) According to the 9/11 Commission, Iran and Hezbollah trained at least one of the cells responsible for the attack. They showed them how to execute this type of operation. (3) There is evidence that Iran supplied al Qaeda with a large amount of explosives used in the attack. (4) Iran gives safe haven to the senior al Qaeda terrorist wanted for his involvement in the bombings, Saif al Adel, to this day.

Therefore, we have Iran and Hezbollah inspiring, training, arming and giving safe haven to the al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the embassy bombings. And this was al Qaeda’s most successful operation prior to 9/11. If this isn’t support for al Qaeda, then I don’t know what is.

If we are going to look at these connections, let's look at all the connections, and see where they lead, and then go and stomp everyone who helped in that attack.

But, if we do that, Saudi Arabia would be much higher on the list of priorities than Iran is, or even than Afghanistan was.

FP: So in your opinion, what is the strongest evidence of Iran’s support for al Qaeda?

Joscelyn: The simultaneous suicide bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998. As I explain in Iran’s Proxy War Against America, there is strong evidence that: (1) Bin Laden and al Qaeda deliberately modeled the attack after Hezbollah’s simultaneous suicide bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and a headquarters for French paratroopers in Lebanon in 1983. (2) According to the 9/11 Commission, Iran and Hezbollah trained at least one of the cells responsible for the attack. They showed them how to execute this type of operation. (3) There is evidence that Iran supplied al Qaeda with a large amount of explosives used in the attack. (4) Iran gives safe haven to the senior al Qaeda terrorist wanted for his involvement in the bombings, Saif al Adel, to this day.

Therefore, we have Iran and Hezbollah inspiring, training, arming and giving safe haven to the al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the embassy bombings. And this was al Qaeda’s most successful operation prior to 9/11. If this isn’t support for al Qaeda, then I don’t know what is.

The fact that one terrorist group models its operations after a successful attack of another terrorist group only means so much.

Still, this should be looked into.

FP: So wait a minute then, could it be fairly said that Iran was, to one extent or another, behind 9/11?

Joscelyn: I do not think that Iran was “behind 9/11.” I think that, just as the 9/11 Commission found, there are open questions about Iran’s and Hezbollah’s involvement in the September 11 attacks. If you read pages 240 and 241 of the 9/11 Commission’s final report very carefully you realize there are a lot of dots connecting Iran and Hezbollah to the travels of 8 to 10 of the 9/11 hijackers. However, the 9/11 Commission sort of kicked the can down the road, so to speak, on this issue. The commissioners called for further investigation into this matter in 2004, but more than three years later no such investigation has been launched. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this booklet.

I would also point out that the 9/11 Commission did not cover all of the threads potentially tying Iran and Hezbollah to 9/11. As Newsweek first reported, Ramzi Binalshibh – al Qaeda’s point man for 9/11 – made a very suspicious trip to Iran during the planning stages of the operation. And shortly before the attack he left Germany on a flight that landed at Tehran International Airport. Thus, one of the main al Qaeda conspirators involved in 9/11 found it convenient (or something more?) to travel to Iran during the key stages of the 9/11 plot. Binalshibh reportedly told his CIA interrogators that there was nothing to any of this, but one has to wonder if he wasn’t simply lying. And certainly we shouldn’t take his disavowal at face value.

FP: Some on the left will no doubt accuse you of trying to bolster the case for a war with Iran. How would you respond to this allegation?

This idea has occurred not just to those on the left.

Joscelyn: I think this hits on a big problem we face right now as a nation. The discourse has become too politicized. The focus in this nation is largely on our own domestic political situation and the Bush administration. I think we would be better served by asking more of the tough questions about al Qaeda that need answering.

Some of those tough questions lead back to the Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration has been very active in seeing that the tough questions do not get asked -- hence the gag orders on Sibel Edmonds.

In the booklet, I explicitly argue that an invasion of Iran would be disastrous. I do not think that military strikes should be taken off the table entirely, but I have doubts about their efficacy. And force may be required to stop Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists who are killing American servicemen inside Iraq. But the point of the booklet is not to advocate for a particular course of action. The reason I wrote it was to stir debate about what I think are a significant body of facts and evidence tying Iran to al Qaeda. I don’t think the public interest is served by pretending that none of this evidence exists.

That sounds reasonable.

FP: Why is there such reticence to engage the evidence of Iran’s involvement with al Qaeda?

Joscelyn: It seems to me that al Qaeda is an enemy we have never really understood. Ignorance is widespread. We face a large network of terrorists, but many prefer not to get into the nuts and bolts of how they actually work. For example, we often hear that the Sunnis of al Qaeda and the Shiites of Iran and Hezbollah are incapable of cooperation due to their theological differences. A cursory examination of Iran’s and al Qaeda’s behavior reveals, however, that this is nonsense. When it comes to facing their common enemies the two have been more than willing to set aside their differences. In fact, Iran has long supported Sunni terrorists, including groups such as Hamas, which is the ideological cousin of al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission also explicitly found that ideological or theological differences did not prevent Iran and Hezbollah from cooperating with al Qaeda.

More than six years have passed since 9/11. I think it is about time we got rid of some of our more shallow assumptions about our terrorist enemies.

More than six years after 9/11, we are still in the dark. And I feel that darkness is to the benefit of more people than just al Qaeda.

And perhaps we should start asking President Ahmadinejad why it is that his nation harbors scores of al Qaeda terrorists to this day.

I think we should be asking that of the Saudi Royal Family.

FP: Thomas Joscelyn, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Joscelyn: Thank you Jamie.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Central Asian Nexus Part 1

Tamara Makarenko is an author who has studied and written about the interrelationship of organized crime and terrorism in Europe and Asia, with a focus on the former Soviet Union. In an article from the Summer of 2002 entitled Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade, Makarenko addresses the drug trade in Central Asia. I present here the first part with my comments. I have placed the footnotes into [brackets]; see original for references.

Over the last decade, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been rising incrementally, culminating in a bumper crop in 1999 that produced approximately 80 percent of the global supply of illicit opium. Despite this predicament, the dynamics of the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan has received little attention. Most media reports and government statements oversimplify the situation, making it appear as though the Taliban controlled the planting, cultivation, production and trafficking of all opiates. For example, The Times (London), in an article published in January 2000, reported: "The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan have become the world's biggest producers and smugglers of hard drugs, overtaking rings in Colombia and Burma. They are now responsible for 95 percent of all the heroin entering Britain."[1] Following the September 11 attacks, this responsibility was shared with Osama bin Laden, and the Al-Qaeda network was likewise implicated in the trafficking of opiates. British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that the "arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for with the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets" and subsequently added that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden "jointly exploited the drugs trade."[2] This view has also been propagated in the United States by leading news agencies. CNN, for example, explicitly reported that the Taliban both taxed and trafficked in narcotics, which were directly used to finance their military operations.[3]

Although evidence implicates members of both groups in the drug trade, it is analytically inadequate to suggest that these two players entirely controlled the production and distribution of opiates from Afghanistan. Furthermore, it would be incorrect to assert that narcotics constituted a significant portion of either Taliban or Al-Qaeda finances used to purchase arms and ammunition. Many of the publicly accessible accounts of the regional drug trade post-September 11 were examples of "disturbing declarations" – commonly made nowadays – "inspired by media spin doctors to rally public opinion" for the US-led military operations in Afghanistan.[4] As a result, any attempt to understand the trade in its totality must place it in the context of the prevailing post-Cold War security environment that has been colored by the crime-terror nexus where organized crime, the drug trade and terrorism converge. The crime-terror nexus illustrates the complex nature of the regional drug trade while distinguishing between the players who control it and those who merely take advantage of its presence and the instability it creates. Understanding the dynamics of the trade provides the information and analytical clarity required to devise appropriate policy responses. These policies need to address the incessant regional instability caused by the relationships between organized crime, the drug trade and terrorism in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

This "crime-terror nexus where organized crime, the drug trade and terrorism converge" is exactly what Sibel Edmonds caught a glimpse of while translating FBI materials. Farther west, organized crime and the drug trade merge with governmental authority in Turkey's Deep State. To the east, organized crime and the drug trade merge with terrorism, specifically Al Qaeda.

In a theoretical context, the term 'crime-terror nexus' refers to a security continuum with traditional organized crime on one end of the spectrum and terrorism at the other. In the middle of the spectrum is a 'gray area' – where organized crime and terrorism are indistinguishable from one another. The spectrum includes three separate situations. First, it refers to traditional criminal organizations – such as the Russian mafia and Albanian criminal groups – that initially used terror tactics as an operational tool, normally to eliminate competitors, but subsequently to seek political objectives. Second, the fulcrum of the crime-terror nexus refers to terrorist groups – such as Abu Sayyaf and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – who initially used criminal activities as a source of financing, but subsequently changed the focus of their ideological beliefs from political to financial. Finally, it may be applied to contemporary civil wars – wars in which factions have evolved from basing their motivations on religion and ideology to crime (for example, the 'diamond' wars of Sierra Leone and Angola).[5] In Afghanistan and Central Asia the entire crime-terror continuum is represented. Thus, in addition to providing a base for organized criminal (drug mafias) and terrorist groups (Al-Qaeda), this region is also home to groups that simultaneously appear to be criminal and terrorist in nature (the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan).

A key statement: "the term 'crime-terror nexus' refers to a security continuum with traditional organized crime on one end of the spectrum and terrorism at the other."

This is exactly what the United States faces in its War on Terror. Sibel Edmonds calls attention to terrorism-related intelligence that came in through programs dealing with other fields of FBI interest, such as organized crime and foreign intelligence activities. This intelligence was not acted upon, however, resulting in missed opportunities to stop the 9/11 plot.

Due to the connections between terrorism and organized crime, it is reasonable to assume that more intelligence related to terrorist activities could be available through operations addressing organized crime, and vice-versa. Logically, then, an integrated approach, addressing the entire "crime-terror nexus", could yield results against both narcotrafficking and terrorism.

Afghanistan grew and consolidated itself as a major actor within the international narcotics trade, in an environment created by the crime-terror nexus. This is in part because of the symbiotic relationship that the Afghan opiate trade developed with the Central Asian republics, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As discussed in the following section, it is evident that narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan grew in tandem with regional criminal organizations, transnational crime, and insurgent and terrorist movements. As a result, the regional drug trade has been a considerable source of national insecurity and regional instability.[6] It is a reality that persists in the face of the ongoing US-led 'war on terrorism' conducted in Afghanistan, and the semi-permanent presence of American troops in Central Asia.[7]

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- there are five answers to our riddles from the previous post.

Contrary to strong beliefs that an American military presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia would discourage the illicit trade in narcotics, recent studies have confirmed that Afghanistan's drug trade is actually on the rise. It has successfully recovered from the opium ban announced and enforced by the Taliban in 2000, which diminished Afghanistan's share of the global opium yield in 2001 to 10 percent from approximately 70 percent the year before.[8] Some estimates suggest that the cultivation of opium poppy in 2002 will reach production levels consistent with the mid-1990s, or up to 2,700 tons of opium.[9] However, more recent reports strongly indicate that Afghanistan is likely to produce a bumper crop comparable to the record yield of 4,600 tons produced in 1999.[10] As noted by Mohammad Amirkhizi, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP), "the area now most likely to replace the missing production [in Afghanistan] is Afghanistan itself."[11]

Why is it that the immediate result of a massive infusion of American troops into Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and Afghanistan resulted in an increase in heroin trafficking?

Keep that question in mind as we continue through this series, and as we return to Part 3 of 2 (!) of our Sibelology series.

The Rise of the Afghan/Central Asian Drug Trade

Opium poppy cultivation in the contemporary region of Central Asia has historical roots dating back to 500 BC. Opium was commonly used for medicinal purposes until the 18th century, when opium became increasingly used for recreation due to the widespread availability of the drug. As opium use expanded, social and political attitudes towards the drug changed from "panacea" to "evil," thus driving the opium trade underground and subsequently raising the profits for individuals prepared to face the rising risks of supplying the drug.[12] Although there is a vast history of opiate use and smuggling in Central Asia – due in part to a geographic environment conducive to the growth of opium poppies – the roots of the contemporary drug environment lie in the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989). Not only did the war spread drug addiction in the 1980s, but it also facilitated cross-border trafficking. Dire social conditions led many soldiers and people living in Afghanistan to find refuge in opiate use. Economic and political turmoil also attracted criminals, warlords, and political and religious extremists to take advantage of the lucrative gains promised by the illicit trade in narcotics.

A key history lesson from the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 80's: war facilitated the drug trade.

Lacking licit economic resources required to purchase war supplies, drugs increasingly became the most reliable source of currency that could be used to purchase weapons, ammunition and foodstuffs. Afghanistan thus supplied a stable, but relatively low, yield of opiates until the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The opiate yield in Afghanistan was low compared to other global suppliers throughout the Afghan-Soviet war for several reasons. First, given the widespread nature of the Soviet occupation, Afghan traders were not in a position to increase their operations; in a sense it may be argued that the Soviet presence controlled supply. Second, actors engaged in the drug trade, such as warlords, initially did so for a relatively focused purpose: to purchase war supplies. Finally, given the Soviet presence and the isolation of Afghanistan from the international community, domestic traders were unable to develop the international network required to bring Afghan opiates to the international market.

Initially, drugs were a means to one end, money, which, in turn, was a means to another end: jihad against the Soviet Union.

Ah, but money corrupts, and the potential for profit from Afghanistan's opiates is stunning....

The withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 and the absence of external support to help Afghanistan reintegrate with the international community as a nation thus created a hospitable environment for the expansion of opium poppy cultivation and production. Sustained insecurity and destruction, caused by factional fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in the early 1990s, turned Afghanistan into the world’s new heroin haven. During this sustained armed conflict, factions engaged in a fight for the control of Afghan territory needed to secure sources to purchase war supplies. In the absence of adequate foreign aid, the only way to secure short-term financing was via participation in the drug trade. Rising demands for opiates – both in Europe and throughout the former Soviet Union – ensured that Afghan opiates would find an international market.

Remember our lesson from history: war facilitated the drug trade.

After the Soviets withdrew, and then the Soviet Union itself came apart at the seams, the fighting in Afghanistan continued. The factions fought for control of territory, which, in turn, yielded resources -- from narcotics production -- to support the war effort as the factions battled each other.

To what extent is that just a convoluted way of saying they were fighting over control of the heroin supply?

Faced with few prospects for legal economic gain, illegal cross-border trade and smuggling in both licit and illicit commodities – including durable goods, fuel and narcotics – rose dramatically in Afghanistan. This situation was arguably compounded by the economic embargoes placed on Afghanistan by the United States and the United Nations. Several academics and professionals have argued that these embargoes further isolated Afghan society from the international community. Giles Dorronsoro, for example, noted that "despite all the high-sounding words about human rights and a negotiated solution, Western policy towards Afghanistan, led by Washington, has two contradictory themes: let the Taliban win, and punish Afghanistan by isolating it."[13] By eliminating any hope for future economic security, these embargoes drove an estimated 50 percent of the country to participate in the drug trade. Suggestions have also been made that had the international community established diplomatic and economic ties with the Taliban, Afghan people themselves would have eventually sought change from within.[14] However, the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan was unstoppable in the absence of international support, and it thus came as no surprise that the self-appointed government of Afghanistan – the Taliban – found it beneficial to tax this trade. Of the greatest significance for the region, however, were the transnational networks developed in Afghanistan between criminal organizations, drug traffickers and terrorist groups that facilitated the operation of trafficking routes taking Afghan opiates to the international market. The dynamics of this network will be illustrated in the following section.

Where does one draw the line between taxing the drug trade and controlling the drug trade, or between those and being a narcotrafficker?

As the cultivation and production of opiates increased in Afghanistan, the dominant "Balkan Route" was disrupted by the Iranian counter-narcotics initiative. Since the 1980s, this route has been taking heroin to the Western market from Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey, and the Balkan Peninsula. As a result of counter-narcotics efforts supported by the United Nations Drug Control Program and Western governments over the last decade, Iran interrupted a significant flow of illicit narcotics crossing its borders. The UNODCCP estimated that by 1999, Iran alone accounted for 85 percent of total global opium seizures. Thus it was essential for the survival of trafficking operations that drug dealers diversify their routes out of Afghanistan.

The shortest route between Afghanistan, where the poppies were grown, and Turkey, where heroin was refined and shipped off to Europe, was through Iran, and there was quite a party going on. Then, in steps the Iranian Government, with international backing -- and, the party-pooping begins.

But, the party must go on, so the narcotraffickers diversify their routes.

The favored routes for Afghan and Pakistani traders in the early 1990s were those transiting the Central Asian republics. Although some routes going through Central Asia eventually transited the Balkans, the majority of the new routes were established through the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe as well as via the Caucasus.[15] Decisions to penetrate Central Asian territory were informed by several key factors: the existence of smuggling routes between Afghanistan and Central Asia created during the Afghan civil war; the unstable environment that prevailed in the region following declarations of independence (weak governments and security organs, the absence of border controls, and declining socio-economic conditions); and a host of additional Soviet legacies, such as widespread corruption. As a result, the Central Asian states were easily penetrable and thus became an important component of the Afghan drug predicament. UNODCCP officials and independent analysts now believe that up to 65 percent of Afghan opiates enter the Western market via the Central Asian republics. As such, a comprehensive understanding of the illicit opiate trade originating in Afghanistan necessitates a discussion of each facet of the crime-terror spectrum throughout Central Asia to determine how it developed and how each facet interacts with the others.

That's interesting. As of the Summer of 2002, the poppy crop production in Afghanistan is increasing, and almost two thirds of the opiates that move from Afghanistan to the West transit the Central Asian republics.

What else was happening in 2002?

The US military had just overrun most of Afghanistan, driving out the Taliban; in fact, the Taliban and Al Qaeda had retreated toward the Pakistani border, and US forces and those of our allies controlled the areas to the north, which serve as the gateway to Central Asia.

Also, as support for the operations in Afghanistan, there was a growing US military presence in the Central Asian republics.

So, all this expansion of the narcotics trade was occurring under the eyes of the US military, both on the production end in Afghanistan, and along the main transit routes through Central Asia.

And, what else was happening in 2002?

Well, Sibel Edmonds was being fired from the FBI for persistently voicing concerns over ties between US officials and foreign narcotraffickers. In fact, some of the most significant of those ties turned out to be in the State Department, where issues of foreign relations are managed, and in the Defense Department, which controlled the troops in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sibelology, Part 2 of 2

Continuing from Part 1 reviewing the August 10th, 2005, article Did Speaker Hastert Accept Turkish Bribes to Deny Armenian Genocide and Approve Weapons Sales?:

SIBEL EDMONDS: As I said, Amy, I have been giving all the details to the appropriate channels. And they have been confirmed. And what I have said all along is the fact that as far as the 9/11 is concerned, September 11 is concerned, these departments -- and when I say "these departments," the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense -- have intentionally blocked the investigations of real -- the real criminals in this country. And we are talking about countries involved. The Vanity Fair article points out to Turkey -- countries. And it's very interesting. To this date, we are not hearing anything about targeting, you know, certain Central Asian countries. They are not speaking about the link between the narcotics and al Qaeda. Yes, we are hearing about them coming down on some charities as the real funds behind al Qaeda, but most of al Qaeda's funding is not through these charity organizations. It's through narcotics. And have you heard anything to this date, anything about these issues which we have had information since 1997? And as I would again emphasize, we are talking about countries. And they are blocking this information, and also the fact that certain officials in this country are engaged in treason against the United States and its interests and its national security, be it the Department of State or certain elected officials.

The Departments of Justice, State and Defense are blocking the investigations of the real 9/11 criminals.

"The Vanity Fair article points out to Turkey -- countries. And it's very interesting. To this date, we are not hearing anything about targeting, you know, certain Central Asian countries. They are not speaking about the link between the narcotics and al Qaeda."

"Central Asian countries" -- well, we know Afghanistan is involved on the production end, and to some extent Pakistan in involved as well. Iran has been a (mostly unwilling) transit country for poppy-based products on the way to Turkey.

But, that's not what she's talking about, is it?

For the most part, the countries in question share the Turkic background with Turkey, and the Sunni Muslim background with Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia.

The countries we need to examine have a well-developed and interoperable transport infrastructure, and many other common features, all an inheritance from days under Soviet rule.

These countries became a free-for-all economically, when their strong, centralized economy collapsed with the Soviet Union's demise. And, when centralized policing collapsed, they were left with a power vacuum that organized crime filled nicely. They also share a heritage of government corruption from the Soviet era, a heritage which suits the needs of organized crime.

These countries are located along an old trade route, one of growing importance in the heroin trade as an alternative to Iran, which, contrary to what many people may imagine, has been surprisingly effective in interdicting the flow of narcotics across its territory from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Turkey.

Riddle me this!
I should like to know:
From Afghanistan to Europe,
What's the best way to go?

My curiosity thirsts,
So riddle me again;
What once carried silk,
But now carries heroin?

My curiosity abounds,
So riddle me for three:
What countries are Turkic --
Other than Turkey?

Another question I have,
(Do my riddles grow old?) --
What region has much gas,
As well as black gold?

AMY GOODMAN: Could you name names?

Yes, she could, Amy -- if she weren't gagged.

I appreciate the fact that you are helping call attention to Sibel's case, but your questions imply that you know very little about it yourself, Amy. Sibel can't answer your questions, because she is gagged.

So, if you want to know the answers, you must solve the riddles!

Sibel is a patriot,
And loves her adopted land.
Corruption kills America;
For this Sibel won't stand.

So she went through channels,
Telling stories of spies,
But no authorities investigated,
Though it was known these weren't lies.

Sibel took the matter to court,
Wanting to explain her reasons,
That this wasn't about her job --
It was a case of obvious treason!

Horrified they watched --
The cat was getting out of the bag!
So some slick lawyer said,
"Hey, I know, let's try a gag!"

But the matter ended not there,
As surely it was intended to.
Thanks to Sibel it continues:
Stay tuned for Part Three of Two.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sibelology, Part 1 of 2

This article, entitled Did Speaker Hastert Accept Turkish Bribes to Deny Armenian Genocide and Approve Weapons Sales?, presents the text from an interview with Sibel Edmonds two years ago (Wednesday, August 10th, 2005). I reproduce it in its entirety with minor edits of typos and with my comments.

Former FBI translator turned whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds is now appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In March 2002, she was fired and she has been fighting now for nearly 3 years to blow the whistle on US government failures prior to 9-11. She has faced fierce opposition from the Bush administration, the FBI and some in Congress. This week, she grabbed headlines again after Vanity Fair published a major story about her. What is making news from that piece are allegations surrounding Illinois congressman and Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Vanity Fair alleges that Hastert may have been the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars of secret payments from Turkish officials in exchange for political favors and information. In the article, titled "An Inconvenient Patriot," Edmonds says that she gave confidential testimony about the payments to congressional staffers, the Inspector General and members of the 9/11 Commission. Edmonds says that she heard of the payments while listening to FBI wiretaps of Turkish officials who were under surveillance by the FBI.

Sibel Edmonds speaks Farsi, Turkish and Azerbaijani. She was hired after September eleventh by the FBI to translate pre-9-11 intelligence gathered by the agency. She has publicly accused the U.S of having considerable evidence that Al Qaeda was planning to strike the United States using airplanes as weapons.

Democracy Now contacted Congressman Hastert's office and the Turkish Embassy for comment. They did not return our phone calls.

Of course they didn't.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined in our D.C. studio by Sibel Edmonds. We are also joined on the telephone from Britain by David Rose, an investigative reporter and author of the Vanity Fair article. David Rose, let's begin with you. Can you lay out your thesis in this Vanity Fair piece?

DAVID ROSE: Well, I try to tell the whole story of Sibel Edmonds' treatment by the FBI and by the Department of Justice from the beginning until the current time in rather more detail than before, but I suppose what is the most striking feature is I tried to look at why the government has invoked the State Secrets privilege in this case. As you say, just as in the Maher Arar case, the government is saying that her case against the authorities for having her fired can't proceed because to let any of the evidence about what lies behind it out in court, even in a court which has been security cleared where the attorneys have top secret clearance, would jeopardize the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States. And, by the way, I think it's interesting that in his declaration about this, John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General, uses that formulation: foreign policy and national security interests.

What I find interesting is that this goes beyond compartmentalization and classification.

Not one detail of the case may be divulged by Edmonds, including the country where she was born, the date of her birth, the languages she speaks... nothing.

Edmonds is under a gag order: she may not discuss this case.

This is important to understand and keep in mind, because, as we shall see, the interviewer seems to have missed this point completely.

So, as Ann Beeson, Sibel's attorney from the ACLU, says in the article, ‘Well, what could they be trying to hide?’ And that's what I set out to try to find out. And I think there is now considerable evidence that what they may be trying to hide is not simply a national security scandal, but something potentially much more explosive and embarrassing, namely, evidence that some Turkish groups, some of them officials of the government, some private individuals, perhaps associated or allegedly associated with organized crime, have been making efforts to corrupt elected American officials and also appointed government officials in the United States, and one name that has cropped up in wiretaps, which my informants tell me Sibel Edmonds translated, is that of the Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, as you say.

That goes a long way to explaining the Edmonds case: Turkish organized crime has infiltrated the Turkish government to such an extent that often it is difficult to determine where one ends and where the other begins. This resulting Turkish cartel has cultivated corrupt US figures in government and placed them on its payroll.

These corrupt US officials include both elected and appointed political leaders; they include members of the Bush Administration as well as members of Congress from both parties; they including key players in various US Government organizations, among which is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, what did you learn about Dennis Hastert when you were an FBI translator after 9/11, listening to these pre-9/11 wiretaps?

Wasted question: Edmonds is under a gag order, and is not allowed to answer it.

SIBEL EDMONDS: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you. Thank you for having me back. Well, as you know, I'm under several gag orders, and I have been for the past three, three-and-a-half years. And as far as disclosing information that the Americans have the right to know, I have already done that. I have done that repeatedly for the past three years.

In other words, what Sibel knows, 1) she is not allowed to say, now, due to the several gag orders, and, in any case, 2) she has already said, prior to being gagged.

And I have gone through the appropriate channels. I have gone to the United States Congress. I have gone to the 9/11 Commission. I disclosed information in secure facilities in all of these channels, including the Inspector General's office for the Department of Justice. And to this date, as you know, we have an Inspector General's report that has come out and said my allegations, my report have been supported by other witnesses, by other documents, by other facts and evidence. Three years ago, you had two senators coming out saying that the FBI during unclassified briefings have confirmed all my allegations, and they have denied none. So, whatever I have reported has already been confirmed.

Key points are made here.

Edmonds has spoken to all these people. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General substantiated many of Edmonds' claims, and denied none. The US Senators she spoke to did so as well. (So did the 60 Minutes news team.) Still, the 9/11 Commission refused to address Edmonds' information about the blueprints of US skyscrapers that had been sent overseas to locations in the Middle East.


Given that Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, and did very little damage (relatively speaking), why would the 9/11 Commission not follow up on what may have been an attempt by bin Laden to learn more about his target as he prepares for his next attack?

It's been three years, and the government still insists in invoking the State Secret privilege. As you know, last year they went ahead and they gagged the United States Congress, by the way, illegally.

Did you catch that?

They gagged Congress!

Why don't they do that when Congress is trying to pass some stupid gun law? Or when Congress is agreeing to raise our taxes?

How can Congress be gagged, anyway?

There are three branches of government under our Constitution, and no one branch can gag another; no two branches can gag the third. Yet, Congress has shut up about it, as instructed. Why?

It makes sense if you understand that Edmonds claims to have seen evidence indicating that members of both parties in Congress are dirty -- they are taking bribes from foreign powers.

That's treason.

And, it affects both parties.

They can't agree on health care or abortion, but they can agree that they don't want this getting out -- it's that important!

And I think it affects more than a few of them. The allegations are that some members of Congress are on the take with certain Turkish quasi-governmental organizations. Those that aren't on the take with one Turkish organization may be on the take with another; and those that aren't on the take with Turks may be on the take with certain Israeli organizations -- AIPAC has been specifically mentioned in connection with the Edmonds case. And, though not alleged, the thought arises that anyone clean of both of those sources of bribery may be taking money from Saudi Arabia, or from Pakistan, or from who-knows-where.

That's why there is a critical mass of elected officials who do not want to question the gag order -- the Executive Branch, working through legal rulings of the Judicial, cannot gag the Legislative, unless the legislators themselves agree to go along with it. Now you tell me: why would Congress go along with it?

And according to my attorneys, I am the most gagged American in the United States history, and nobody is asking why. They aren’t saying, ‘Why is it that the government is going to such length to invoke State Secret privilege, to gag the Congress, to classify the Inspector General's report, to stop the 9/11 family members' attorneys to subpoena my deposition?’ And the answer to this question is it's not to protect any national security. It is not to protect any ongoing investigations, because to this day they have never used that. Do you know why they have never used the fact that, oh, maybe this is an ongoing investigation?

They are not coming back and saying that they have an investigation. Why don't they at least lie and say it's an investigation?

They have committed themselves to this idea that, if all other information regarding this case is redacted, leaving only the date and place of birth of Sibel Edmonds, that, if released, would jeopardize national security.

It is so absurdly incredible, that it defies description. And, the media, for the most part, is not looking into it.

Because the fact of it is that's why I blew the whistle. There are no investigations out there. There is no investigation whatsoever, because they are not targeting the true criminals. And they are not targeting those who truly masterminded these terrible acts against the Americans and their best interest, their national security.

Criminal elements are going uninvestigated. Foreign powers and organized crime have co-opted the US Government, including Congress, the Department of State and the Department of Justice; they have influenced foreign policy and law-making, and they have pre-empted counterintelligence and criminal investigations into the espionage and bribery.

AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, we contacted Congress member Hastert's office, the Speaker of the House, as well as the Turkish embassy, for comment, they did not return our phone calls. But what are you alleging about the Speaker of the House?

Why didn't Hastert's office just say, "Hey, we can't say anything, we've been gagged!" -- ?

Wasted question on the interviewer's part: "What are you alleging...?" Edmonds has been gagged and can't say!

More to follow in Part Two!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Patriot Games: Sex Slaves, Drugs, Guns and Bribes (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing from Part 1 with Sex, drugs and guns in the Balkans: Ethnic Albanian rebels benefit from sex slavery by David Binder and Preston Mendenhall (I have edited minor typos in texts):


The rise of organized crime syndicates flourished following the collapse of the communist system and frontier controls throughout most of the Balkan peninsula, resulting in lawlessness and civil conflict. The traffickers are from every ethnic group in the region, and despite the bloody rivalries that have torn apart Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, they work closely together.

In many areas they work with the complicity of police and customs officials. The U.S. State Department report on human rights for 2001 notes that "instances of corruption and involvement of police in trafficking in persons occurred on the local level. At least two law enforcement officials have been dismissed for accepting bribes from traffickers."

Often these activities enjoy the protection of high-ranking politicians, who are generously bribed, according to regional law enforcement officials.

Corrupt judges and prosecutors also frequently help arrested criminals.

On April 18, the Albanian state security service acknowledged the problem, saying in a statement that a "dangerous aspect of the growing power of the criminal groups is their ability to establish links with individuals in the top state administration offices and with politicians."

"The traffickers are from every ethnic group in the region, and despite the bloody rivalries that have torn apart Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, they work closely together."

This is not an Islamic mafia, or even an Albanian mafia, although Albanians, who are predominantly Muslims, are involved, as are Muslims from elsewhere in the Balkans and beyond. And, there is the connection to Turkish organized crime figures and the Turkish Deep State. But, these are various organized crime groups working together for common business interests.

"Often these activities enjoy the protection of high-ranking politicians, who are generously bribed, according to regional law enforcement officials."

The implication is that it is high-ranking politicians in Balkan governments who are generously bribed.

But, we know from the Sibel Edmonds case that high-ranking elected and appointed officials in the US government, from both political parties, are bribed with money made from Turkish organized crime, which has extensive ties to the arms and narcotics traffickers in the Balkans; in fact, Turkey is where the poppies from Afghanistan are refined into heroin, before being shipped off, often via the Balkans, to Europe.

It is worth recalling at this point some details from the situation prior to the US/NATO air offensive against Serb forces; back now to the 1999 Senate Republican Policy Statement:

The KLA: from 'Terrorists' to 'Partners'

The Kosovo Liberation Army "began on the radical fringe of Kosovar Albanian politics, originally made up of diehard Marxist-Leninists (who were bankrolled in the old days by the Stalinist dictatorship next door in Albania) as well as by descendants of the fascist militias raised by the Italians in World War II" ["Fog of War -- Coping With the Truth About Friend and Foe: Victims Not Quite Innocent," New York Times, 3/28/99]. The KLA made its military debut in February 1996 with the bombing of several camps housing Serbian refugees from wars in Croatia and Bosnia [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/1/96]. The KLA (again according to the highly regarded Jane's,) "does not take into consideration the political or economic importance of its victims, nor does it seem at all capable of seriously hurting its enemy, the Serbian police and army. Instead, the group has attacked Serbian police and civilians arbitrarily at their weakest points. It has not come close to challenging the region's balance of military power" [Jane's, 10/1/96].

The group expanded its operations with numerous attacks through 1996 but was given a major boost with the collapse into chaos of neighboring Albania in 1997, which afforded unlimited opportunities for the introduction of arms into Kosovo from adjoining areas of northern Albania, which are effectively out of the control of the Albanian government in Tirana. From its inception, the KLA has targeted not only Serbian security forces, who may be seen as legitimate targets for a guerrilla insurgency, but Serbian and Albanian civilians as well.

In view of such tactics, the Clinton Administration's then-special envoy for Kosovo, Robert Gelbard, had little difficulty in condemning the KLA (also known by its Albanian initials, UCK) in terms comparable to those he used for Serbian police repression:

"'The violence we have seen growing is incredibly dangerous,' Gelbard said. He criticized violence 'promulgated by the (Serb) police' and condemned the actions of an ethnic Albanian underground group Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Serb targets. 'We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK is, without any questions, a terrorist group,' Gelbard said." [Agence France Presse, 2/23/98]

Consequently, Serbian security forces were, to a great extent, battling terrorist lawlessness, random attacks on civilians of all ethnic groups.

The 1999 Senate Republican Policy Statement also noted
the presence of foreign mujahedin (i.e., Islamic holy warriors) in the Kosovo war, some of them jihad veterans from Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Some of the reports specifically cite assets of Iran or bin-Ladin, or both, in support of the KLA.

Thus, not only were Serb forces -- the legitimate authority in that place at that time -- battling random vandalistic terrorism, but that lawlessness that Serb forces were dealing with was a function an infusion of Islamic fundamentalist mujahideen from outside the region.

All of this leads me to a question.

Notice the title of the last section of Sex, drugs and guns in the Balkans: CHAOS BREEDS PROFITS. The pressure on Serbia during the Kosovo crisis, culminating in the bombing of Serbia under the Clinton Administration, caused Serb forces (the legitimate authorities of Kosovo) to back off from the KLA (criminals who had extensive ties from outside Kosovo, and even from outside the region), thus making the situation more chaotic.

Was increased chaos the intended result?


No matter how much money the sex trade generates for traffickers, their big-ticket item continues to be drugs, police say.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that 4,000 to 6,000 kilos of heroin are smuggled from Afghanistan to Western Europe every month, largely through the Balkans.

With a kilo of heroin worth between $50,000 and $200,000 on the street, the European traffic generates a market worth $7 billion a year, making it easily the biggest regional industry in the Balkans.

In February, Thomas Koeppel of the Swiss national police said, "Albanians account for 90 percent of our problems with drugs."

Law enforcement authorities in the Balkans openly concede that ill-equipped and underpaid police and border guards can be easily persuaded with bribes to help traffickers.

And police are no match for the smugglers' methods of evasion. For example, they throw away cell phones after one call to avoid electronic detection and transport their contraband in the latest speedboats.

Gjoni, the former Albanian interior minister, says that in contrast, rank-and-file police "need such basic things as flashlights, walkie-talkies, handcuffs. For now, we are likely to rely on tips from villagers."

Is it any wonder some of the police give in to corruption, accepting a bribe and staying alive, when the deck is so stacked against them?


At the regional level, things look more promising. The countries of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey and Yugoslavia have joined to create the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, or SECI, an American-inspired and assisted operation that began a coordinated war on trafficking in January 2001.

The group, whose headquarters are in Bucharest, Romania, is beginning to get results. It says one initiative involving Italian, Moldovan and Romanian police led to the arrest of a dangerous mob leader, and another involving Romanian, Greek and Bulgarian authorities ended in the dismantling of a network that had trafficked 1,000 sex slaves.

Although both mobsters and police believe illegal traffic in people and goods is increasing, SECI law enforcement officials say their group is up to the challenge.

"It has traction," says John F. Markey, the U.S. Customs Service special agent who coordinates SECI efforts at the U.S. State Department.

David Binder covered the Balkans for The New York Times starting in 1963. He continues to travel in and report on the region. Preston Mendenhall is’s international editor.

Finally, here we review the last article, Policing sans borders in the Balkans by David Binder, which can also be found at this link, and is reproduced here in its entirety, with my comments.

BUCHAREST, Romania — Law enforcement agencies in the Balkans have come together to do what organized crime operatives in the region had been doing for years: cooperate across frontiers — and across ethnicities. In November 2000, agencies of 11 Balkans countries established the Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime to tackle the flourishing triad of traffic in humans, drugs and guns.

THE REGIONAL CENTER'S sponsor is the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, known by the acronym SECI, which began coordinating cross-border law enforcement work in January. Housed on the 10th floor of an enormous white elephant in Bucharest called the Palace of the People, a building from the era of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the center was started with $2.4 million, largely from Romania, and $500,000 in technical assistance from the United States. Other governments are now contributing modestly.

At its inception, the member states signing on were Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Slovenia, Romania and Turkey. Since then, Yugoslavia has joined. There are now 29 permanent liaison officers from various member countries based in Bucharest specializing in customs, border policing, narcotics, contraband and human trafficking.

Some of these nations are traditional enemies, with years of animosity; still, they seem to see a common threat.


The inspiration for the creation of the SECI center came from an American, Richard Schifter, former U.S. ambassador. Before the creation of the SECI, Schifter said, "if a prosecutor or a police officer in country A wanted information on a case from country B, he had to go to the foreign ministry of A to ask the foreign ministry of B to inquire at the interior ministry of B for the information." Now the information is made available on the spot at the SECI center, where English has been adopted as the common language. SECI operations are assisted by agents from several U.S. agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs Service. They perform some mentoring and do some training. The FBI and DEA also maintain permanent liaison offices in several of the Balkan countries.

The American who keeps an eye on all of the SECI's operations is John F. Markey, a U.S. Customs Service special agent who has an office in the State Department but is on the road half the time. "SECI is still a fledgling," he said, "but it is off the ground and flying." He said its success can be gauged perhaps by the amount of information exchanged among the member nations. "In January (2001) there were 75 requests; in August, 300," he said.

In upcoming posts, we will examine the situation in the Balkans through the eyes of government agencies, scholars, non-governmental organizations with axes to grind... and one of the Balkans' main alleged war criminals.