Review (Guest): Pay Any Price – Greed, Power, and Endless War

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Budget Process & Politics, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Iraq, Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Public Administration, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

James Risen

5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than His Last One – Imagine What He'll Write From Prison, October 14, 2014

By David Swanson

When New York Times report James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn't wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication — so it may be that the Times' claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen's book.

Continue reading “Review (Guest): Pay Any Price – Greed, Power, and Endless War”

Journal: Pentagon Lies, NYT Sells Out, Obama Fiddles

08 Wild Cards, 10 Transnational Crime, Corruption, Geospatial, Government, History of Opposition, Intelligence (government), Misinformation & Propaganda, Policy, Power Behind-the-Scenes/Special Interests, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, True Cost

Chuck Spinney Sends

Rotting Oder of Pentagon Info Op Signals Effort to Shore Up its Great Game in the Hindu Kush

On 13 June, James Risen of the New York Times conveniently (at least for the Pentagon and the war party) reported that the “United States has discovered $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan [also attached below for your convenience].  I say convenient, because time is running out for the Pentagon in Afghanistan, and this report introduces a ‘new’ reason for occupying Afghanistan.  The timing of this report was noticed very quickly by several skeptical commentators ( e.g., here and here). 

But there is more.  The NYT report has the rotting odor of yet another Pentagon misinformation operation to lather up the masses using the willing offices of the tired old Gray Lady of journalism.  The oder is intense, because Risen’s Pentagon-inspired geological report coincides with the growing disenchantment with Afghan adventure.  And more people are coming to appreciate the disconnect between (1) a spate of credible reports (e.g., here)  describing the lack of progress in Afghanistan, particularly the failure of the showcase Marja COIN strategy to deliver its predicted result and (2) the requirement imposed by President Obama to show progress by the end of this summer.  Bear in mind, Obama’s ‘requirement’ was imposed on the Pentagon when he improved the flawed McChrystal/Petraeus surge plan and sold it to the American people last fall.  The military and spokesmen for the Obama administration began immediately  to back away from the deadline shortly after its inception, and it has already been stretched to coincide with the mid-term elections in November — which goes to show that domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge?

Although the several commentators expressed their justifiable skepticism about the timing of the NYT report, to the best of my knowledge, none have addressed the substance of the mineral estimate.  Shortly after it was published, my good friend and colleague Pierre Sprey, who has been called a vampire because he does his best work in the dark after midnight, got to the heart of the latter question and put the entire story together in an elegantly brief email that he distributed in the dark early hours of 14 June. 

Attached for your reading pleasure is Pierre’s incisive critique:

Pierre Sprey

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan
Pierre Sprey  14 June 2010

The timing of this release of ancient mining news–especially when floated with Petraeus' name plastered all over it in a tried-and-true government propaganda outlet like the N.Y. Times–smells to me like a last ditch attempt to invent an economic justification for hanging on many more years in the hopeless Afghani morass.

Note that the now sacrosanct 1980s Russian mineral survey was “stumbled on” six years ago in 2004 by an American reconstruction team foraging in the Afghan Geological Survey Library. Then, according to the Times' (read Petraeus and DoD) spin, nothing happened until two years later when the U.S. Geological Survey launched a 2006 aerial mineral survey followed by another in 2007, supposedly yielding all-new evidence of astonishing mineral wealth (iron, gold, copper, lithium, supposedly a trillion dollar's worth)  just waiting to be tapped. Supposedly, this astonishing new evidence was then ignored by all until a Pentagon business development task force “rediscovered” the ignored USGS mineral data in 2009.

This spin is quite untrue: in 2005, the Afghan government, quite aware of their mineral resources, opened bidding on copper mining leases in Logar Province, bidding that was won by the Chinese in 2007. As for the reliability of the USGS data, note that they report 1.8 billion tons of potential lithium deposits (lithium is very trendy with the greens these days) but only a puny 111 million tons in proven or probable deposits.
But none of this purportedly astonishing USGS aerial survey data has raised much dust in the international mining world, despite the fact that the entire current New York Times scoop was thoroughly covered by Reuters and Mining Exploration News a year ago in April of 2009.

So what turned the ho-hum Reuters news of April, 2009 into a hot Times scoop in June of 2010? Is there any connection with the desperate need of McChrystal, Petraeus and Gates for a life jacket, now that the Afghan surge they floated is sinking so rapidly?

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Here it is….

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

By JAMES RISEN  New York Times, 13 June 2010

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

And so on….read the full deception.

See Also:

Chapter 20, “21st Century Counterintelligence: Evaluating the Health of the Nation,” especially Dereliction of Duty (Defense); Disinformation, Other Information Pathologies, & Repression; Emprire as a Cancer including Betrayal & Deceit; Impeacahable Offenses (Modern); Institutionalized  Ineptitude; and Intelligence (Lack Of), all in the online hyperlinked version of INTELLIGENCE for Earth: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (pages 179-205, in Part III.

Review: State of War–The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (Hardcover)

5 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Three major scoops, useful summary of tidbits from others,

January 11, 2006
James Risen
EDITED to add note at bottom addressing anonymous sceptic. EDITED 6 Jun 06 to add note of Pentagon failing to capture Bin Laden.

There are three major scoops in this book that earn it five stars where the rest of the book might only merit four:

1) The obvious scoop now before Congress and the press, with respect to the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant.

2) The really really huge scoop, that Charlie Allen, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Collection, was able to guide the recruitment of no fewer than 30 Iraqis able to travel back to see their relatives and conclusively document that there was no nuclear program and no weapons of mass destruction–this information was evidently not provided to Congress, the President, or (naturally), the public.

3) Slightly less sensational, the book reveals for the first time that a CIA “bait” operation actually delivered to Iran completely useful plans for creating a nuclear bomb…the CIA “flaws” intended to render the plans unworkable were detected in one glance by a Russian courier scientist, and easily correctable by the Iranians.

Over-all the book renders an important public service by pulling together in one place the many tid-bits that are publicly known, but is distressingly weak on crediting those many other sources (e.g. Jim Bamford, the last word on NSA).

The cover of the book is quite revealing in that it has photos of Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Tenet–those who follow the politics of the Executive know that Cheney is the man pulling the puppet strings, generally without being detected, and it is Cheney that allowed Rumsfeld to blatantly ignore the President, steam-roll Condi Rice, disrespect Tenet, and sideline Colin Powell.

Other major points in the book that merit our attention and respect:

1) According to the author, but consistent with my own experience across three three of CIA's directorates, CIA consistently screws those that try to tell the truth, such as the Chief of Station in Iraq that wrote the report saying the insurgency was going to hurt us badly and we were not winning.

2) CIA developed a “poisonous culture” that sought to mollify the President, avoid conflict with the Pentagon, and generally not be serious about its mission {“ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”)

3) CIA did not blow the whistle on the ramping up of Afghan drug production, and allowed the Pentagon to ignore the urgent calls from the Department of State for aerial spraying and other eradication measures–today Afghanistan provides 80% of the opium on the market.

4) Israel's Mossad briefed the neo-conservatives along lines they were pleased to hear, going around and against the CIA.

There are several minor flaws in the book that would normally reduce my appreciation to four stars, but the above scoops more than compensate. However, they are worth noting:

1) The book seriously over-sells and exaggerates NSA's capabilities. While they can indeed do some wondrous things, on balance NSA is in the 1970's and not at all ready for the modern world of emails, web directories, and phone texting.

2) The book touches on New York Times stories based on “leaks” from the White House but avoids naming Judith Miller or exploring whether she was an Israeli agent of influence.

3) The book touches on torture and rendition, but does not discuss how many have been imprisoned erroneously (in the dozens according to some accounts) or died as a result of torture (as many as two dozen according to some accounts). CIA literally made people “disappear” making it no better than the Argentines or the Israelis or the Nazis. Most of CIA is honest; a small segment engaged in torture and renditions is out of control.

4) The book supports the CIA field claims that the Northern Alliance allowed Bin Laden to escape, but fails to mention the well-documented facts that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, without consulting anyone, gave the Pakistanis an air corridor, ostensibly to evacuate a few of their “observers,” that was used to actually evacuate over 3,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda personnel trapped by US forces in the Tora Bora area; and that CIA tracked Bin Laden for four days from Tora Bora to the Waziristan border, but the Pentagon was too chicken to drop a battalion of Rangers in his path (see my review of “JAWBREAKER.”

5) The book comments on the 9-11 Commission being contradicted by open records in many respects, but fails to examine the close relationship between the White House, the Bush Family, and the Saudis, who were complicit in Al Qaeda's global growth and unwilling to help the US until after 9/11 and even then, very marginally.

6) The book has a highly questionable allegation that a single error by a CIA communicator “blew” all CIA Iranian assets. My understanding is that the CIA has been equally incompetent in recruiting Iranians as it was in recruiting Iraqis. This smells like a fish story.

Over-all the book delivers two compelling indictments:

1) Of CIA for self-censorship, pandering to the President and the Vice President, and failing to cover the Middle East properly over a period of decades.

2) Of Cheney and Rumsfeld, for orchestrating a virtual coup in which the President could be ignored, the National Security Advisor steam-rolled, the Secretary of State side-lined, and the entire policy process set aside in favor of Cheney-Rumsfeld dictates.

This is quite an amazing book, and highly recommended.

NOTE TO SCEPTIC: I bought this book from Amazon as soon as it was offered, read it on an airplane to Los Angeles on 10 Jan, and posted my review along with those of three other books I read on the trip, the evening I returned, 13 January. I read a lot, mostly on airplanes and hotel rooms. I put my notes on the flyleaf and mark the books up heavily.

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