Category: Spooks

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.

EXCLUSIVE: Secretive defense contractor hires Dana Perino in DC lobbying push

A secretive defense contractor that is at the center of a congressional investigation of a $1.4 billion contract to supply aviation fuel at the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan has hired a powerhouse D.C. lobbying team that includes Dana Perino and others from the Bush White House.

Congress wants to know whether the sole-source, classified contracts awarded to Mina Corp., Ltd., and Red Star Enterprises Ltd., were a vehicle for the U.S. government to deliver payoffs to the family of Kyrgyzstan leaders who were ousted amid charges of corruption linked to the Manas air base.

Mina Corp.’s fuel contract, awarded last year, is worth up to $730.9 million over three years for services at the Manas, the only U.S. airbase in Central Asia outside of Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan has also opened its own investigation, prompting the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek to say that the contract was issued in accordance with U.S. and local laws. Mina Corp has told both governments that it has never directed U.S. government funds to Kyrgyz officials.

As Congress turned up the heat on Mina and Red Star in July, the companies sent Washington lobbyists to the Hill to plead their case.

Senate lobbying disclosure forms show that on July 12 Mina Corp. hired public affairs firm Hamilton Place Strategies LLC to lobby Congress and the Defense Department.

Senate filings show the Hamilton Place team includes Perino, now a Fox News political commentator, W. Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain/Palin campaign who handled the “Troopergate” affair, and Tony Fratto, who spoke for the president on issues including intelligence matters, terrorist financing and financial crimes.

Also joining the Mina Corp. team this month were McLean, Virginia-based Dudinsky, Lisker & Associates, which says it is “monitoring and reporting Congressional activity” on behalf of Mina.” Principal Joel Lisker is a former FBI agent who headed the Justice Department’s foreign agent registration unit in the Carter years. His investigation led the president’s brother, Billy, to register as a foreign agent for Libya.

Barbour, Griffith & Rogers’ Ed Rogers, a Reagan and Bush I White House veteran, and Morris Reid, registered July 20 as lobbyists for Mina to handle a House investigation regarding Department of Defense contracts to provide jet fuel to U.S. military base in Bagham, Afghanistan.

Jeff Stein at The Washington Post’s SpyTalk blog reported last wek that after weeks of tense negotiations, a House oversight subcommittee has gotten promises of cooperation from Mina and Red Star.

“The heart of the investigation,” a source told Stein, “is why Red Star and Mina Corp. were not investigated under” the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S. companies from paying bribes or kickbacks to foreign officials.”

Mina Corp. has also hired the D.C. law firm, Weil, Gotschal and Manges LLP. The Weil team includes partner William Burck, who served in the Bush White House Counsel’s office. Burck specializes in FCPA investigations among other things, according to his law firm biography.

In a press release announcing last week’s agreement between Mina, Red Star and the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Burck said maintaining his client’s secrecy was a key to the deal.

“We’ve worked closely with staff to make sure the Subcommittee obtains the information it seeks while preserving the confidentiality of the companies’ operations and the privacy of its personnel.  Confidentiality is essential to permit the companies to meet the U.S. military’s needs in volatile areas of the world and supply vital fuel to our troops in the field.”

Burck and Perino have a close working relationship. They have penned regular columns critical of the Obama administration for National Review Online.

The Senate lobbying forms also raise fresh questions about who or what is behind Mina and Red Star.

The Defense Department has identified to Mina and Red Star Enterprises as companies based in Gibraltar. Mina Corp. was registered in London in 2003, records show.

The Senate lobbying disclosures identify Mina as a Dubai firm affiliated with “Mina Petroleum FZE” with an office in the Dubai Airport Free Zone. Companies operating within the free zone are treated as offshore, outside the United Arab Emirates.

Adding to the confusion, Mina’s webserver, minacorp.com, is registered in Vernier, Switzerland.