Category: Spooks

San Diego Island to Become ‘Battle Lab’

Via Defense News:

The HALO Corp., San Diego-based  organization founded by former Special Operations, National Security, and Intelligence personnel, which is hosting its sixth annual Counter-Terrorism Summit at the end of October at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego.

Strategic Operations of San Diego, will help conduct tactical training exercises on the island. This should include a recreated Middle Eastern village, battlefield effects, combat wounds and medical simulations. Participants can also expect a simulated Somali pirate invasion to grace the resort’s shores. Unmanned aerial vehicles are likely to be floating overhead as well.

Keynote speakers include former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden; Alejandro Romero, Mexico’s interior secretary and Michael Downing, the director of LAPD’s counter-terrorism and special ops bureau. Cool classes will be offered like Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking by Chris Hadnagy. (Highly recommend his book).

I’d love to go, but it’s $1000 a person.

Mexican SIGINT

Mexico has been having a lot of success capturing the leaders of drug cartels.

U.S. agents cannot operate in Mexico. Nevertheless, many successful captures of important cartel figures are often backed by gringo assistance,  according a secret State Department cable released by Wikileaks,

What sort of assistance? This interesting study “Sever: SIGINT and Criminal Netwar Networks”  (.pdf) details the critical but unheralded role played by signals intelligence (SIGINT), commonly known as wiretapping and eavesdropping, in targeting Mexico’s drug cartels.

Buried  the $1.4 billion Merida anti-drug initiative is a little-known,  $3-million SIGINT system that is paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

The Communications Intercept System in Mexico’s Federal government was installed by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y. and paid for by the U.S. State Department. 

The system “can monitor almost any form of electronic communication in Mexico.”

The Communications Intercept System’s central monitoring station has real time and off- line playback, fax and packet data decoding, stores all calls for at least 25,000 hours, and has cellular location and tracking. The database in the monitoring station can accommodate 8,000,000 sessions, and monitor and record 60 calls simultaneously. Four facsimiles can also be decoded simultaneously. The monitoring station is a joint Mexico-U.S. network.

Specific tools of analysis are also included in the system. Voice data banks are used for analysis, comparison, recognition and identification. The system has the ability to analyze calls and automatically generate links between them. Additionally, the system has the tools necessary to track cellular targets on a map.

Surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Administration led to the capture in 2010 of Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, a lieutenant in the Tijuana cartel, in La Paz. El Teo was responsible for hundreds of killings and kidnappings over a two year reign of terror.

Before his death in 2009, cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was overheard talking to  prostitutes on his cell phone before a raid. The capture of members of his network had also created the paranoia which led to his split from the Sinaloa Cartel, and its boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

Another sign that SIGINT has been effective was found in a raid last year of a compound used by the Zetas, one of the better organized drug operations, where officials found encryption equipment and mobile radio transmitters the cartel was using to communicate and coordinate its operations.

Awlaki FBI FOIA Request

October 4, 2011

David M. Hardy
Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Attn: FOI/PA Request
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843

Dear Mr. Hardy:

This letter constitutes a request (“Request”) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552.

I am requesting a copy of all records or information concerning ANWAR AL-AWLAKI (aka Anwar al-Aulaqi).

Mr. Awlaki was born in 1971 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was killed in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011, according to a statement President Barack Obama made the same day. I trust the attached statement of the president will serve as the proof of death you require for this request.

Awlaki was a leader in al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and was one of the most wanted terrorists in the world. He was the subject of numerous investigations by the FBI for more than a decade.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. I expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

I look forward to your reply to this Request within twenty (20) business days as required by 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(A)(i).

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Seth Hettena

Anwar al-Awlaki's Death

The US is announcing the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who moved to Yemen where he waged jihad against his former homeland. Assuming this is true — and not a repeat of what happened in 2009 when Awlaki was falsely reported as dead — it’s a major blow against one of al Qaida’s superstars.

What made Awlaki so dangerous wasn’t his so-called operational abilities, as the U.S. is now claiming, although no one is actually bothering to ask what that means. Awlaki was an intellectual, not a fighter. What made Awlaki so dangerous was his somewhat unique ability to inspire disaffected Muslims in the West to take up arms in the cause of jihad.

Awlaki may have rejected the West, but he knew how it worked. He spent many years here in San Diego and spoke both Arabic and English beautifully. Recordings of his sermons are very popular. He also knew how to use the Internet to reach people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that U.S. counterterrorism officials started linking him to terrorism in the very same month that Awlaki started his now-defunct jihadist website.

What I always found fascinating about this so-called holy man got busted for prostitution twice in San Diego and was picked up by San Diego police for “hanging around a school.”  Maybe that’s why he needed his martyrdom, so he could wash his sins away. (I’ve written about him before here.  I also put together a comprehensive timeline.)

I won’t be shedding any tears for a man who plotted to kill Americans and praised the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan as a “hero.” But Awlaki wasn’t Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t an Iraqi insurgent or a Taliban trying to kill U.S. troops. Awlaki a U.S. citizen.

He knew his death would point out the hypocrisy of a country with a constitution that guarantees its citizens due process of law and then goes out and assassinates them in Yemen with a drone strike. He knew we would succumb to our fears.

Like it or not, he was one of our own.

Who is Doug Edelman?

Billy: The Early Years, a Mina Corp. production

"Billy: The Early Years," a Rev. Billy Graham biopic produced by an employee of a secretive UK firm under congressional inquiry.

Doug Edelman is the Californian at the center of a congressional investigation into a $1.4 billion contract to supply aviation fuel at the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan, a critical hub for the war in Afghanistan.

Congress wants to know whether the sole-source, classified contracts awarded to Mina Corp., Ltd., and Red Star Enterprises Ltd., were really a vehicle for the U.S. government to deliver payoffs to the family of two corrupt former Kyrgyzstan presidents.

Edelman’s name first surfaced in May in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, which tracked Mina and Red Star to an address in London’s posh Mayfair district.

“Inside, Mina Corp and Red Star’s logos are clearly displayed,” Richard Orange wrote. “Senior staff include Chuck Squires, a former US defence attache, and Doug Edelman.”

Jeff Stein at The Washington Post’s SpyTalk blog describes Edelman as “a Californian with extensive business experience in Moscow and Central Asia.” Deirdre Tynan of Eurasianet.org and Paris-based Intelligence Online have dug deep into Edelman’s corporate affiliations. Edelman controls a network of a companies organised around an offshore financial consultancy, Aspen Wind Corporation, according to Intelligence Online. Aspen Wind Corp. registered in 2002 with New York State, listing principal executive offices in Nicosia, Cyprus.

No one seems to have yet connected the 58-year-old native of Stockton, California to the most interesting part of his biography: his role as one of the executive producers of a feature film on the life of evangelist Billy Graham.

Billy: The Early Years features Arnie Hammer, great-grandson of Armand Hammer, who led Occidental Petroleum in Los Angeles and forged close ties with the Soviet Union.

Doug Edelman’s name appears in the credits and virtually nowhere else, although there were some side benefits. One of his daughters is credited with a small role; another daughter performs a song on the film’s soundtrack.

Though a host of endorsements were offered on the film’s web page (www.billytheearlyyears.com), Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, released a statement saying that BGEA “has not collaborated with nor does it endorse the movie, Billy: The Early Years.” The film, released in 2008, bombed at the box office, grossing less than $350,000, according to boxofficemojo.

Billy: The Early Years was financed by Solex Productions, which describes itself in press materials as a “sister company” of Mina Media.

Mina Media, with an address of 15 Agiou Pavlov Street, Nicosia, Cyprus, is a subsidiary of UK-based Mina Corp. Ltd. (Click here for Mina Media’s corporate records)

It owns and operates MTV Adria in Slovenia, which broadcasts in Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Mina Media’s Stephen MacSearraigh was a director of Mina Corp. He also served as publisher of Iraq Today, a defunct English-language newspaper financed by Mina Corp that was published in Baghdad after the U.S. invasion. (Mina Corp/Mina Media did not respond to a request for comment.)

Edelman isn’t the only Mina employee with a movie connection. MacSearraigh is credited as a consultant to the geopolitical thriller Syriana.

Former Clinton official Mark Lindsay is "educating" Congress on Mina/Red Star

Add another name to the troupe of lobbyists that the super-secret U.S. defense contractor Mina Corp/Red Star has dispatched to Capitol Hill.

Mark F. Lindsay has registered with both houses of Congress as a lobbyist for the company at the center of a congressional inquiry over $1.4 billion in contracts awarded to supply jet fuel to the U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan.

Lindsay describes his job as “work[ing] with the Administration and Congress to educate them on the mission of Mina Corp./ Red Star Enterprises Ltd.,” according to the registration form received by the House and Senate July 26.

Congress is investigating whether Mina/Red Star’s “mission” involved payments to the family of a corrupt former Kyrgyz president.

Lindsay was hired by Weil, Gotschal & Manges, which appears to be coordinating Mina Corp.’s response to the dirt kicked up by the Rep. John Tierney and his Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The registration was made in Lindsay’s role as president of White House Consulting Inc., which shares the address of of Lindsay’s employer, The Livingston Group. Lindsay joined the The Livingston Group to run its health care practice last year.

Lindsay was a member of the Obama transition team and ran the Office of Management and Administration in the Clinton White House.

The lobbyist filings exempt Mina, a foreign corporation seeking to influence the U.S. government, from the much more stringent filings required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Under FARA, Mina would be required to reveal the names, residences and nationalities of its directors and officers — the precise information it has worked so hard to conceal.

However, FARA provides an exemption for foreign corporations whose agents register under the weaker Lobbying Disclosure Act.

As a senator, Barack Obama in 2008 co-sponsored a bill that would have eliminated this exemption, the “Closing the Foreign Lobbying Loophole Act.” The bill died in the Foreign Relations Committee.

Palin spokesman also part of the Mina/Red Star team

McCain/Palin campaign spokesman W. Taylor Griffin is coordinating the public relations response to Mina Corp., the secretive defense contractor that is the subject of a congressional investigation into its fuel contracts for a U.S. airbase in Kyrgzystan.

Griffin is a partner in Hamilton Place Strategies LLC, the PR firm that, as I reported yesterday, employs former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and her former colleague, Tony Fratto.

As part of the Palin team, Griffin led a crisis communications team that dealt with the “Troopergate” affair.

Griffin was part of the communications team for the 2000 and 2004 Bush presidential campaigns, and did a stint in the Treasury Department’s Office of Public Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.