Archive for March, 2010


Based on what I understand about how such contractors must be cleared to do government contract work, particularly in the case of National Security types of arenas, there is a question that needs to be asked: Were these contractors cleared and vetted through the National Industrial Security Program and the Defense Security Service, or was this an entirely rogue operation?  There had to have been contracts, and there had to have been clearances.  No one gets in theater and doing this type of work (legally) without vetting and clearances.  GFS

* * * * * * *

Contractors tied to effort to track, kill militants

Intelligence-gathering operation used for lethal action, officials say

By Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti  March 14, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan- Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as spies. Officials said Mr. Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.

Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.

Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.

Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.

The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground.

“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said. But it is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation.

This account of his activities is based on interviews with American military and intelligence officials and businessmen in the region. They insisted on anonymity in discussing a delicate case that is under investigation.

Col. Kathleen Cook, a spokeswoman for United States Strategic Command, which oversees Mr. Furlong’s work, declined to make him available for an interview. Military officials said Mr. Furlong, a retired Air Force officer, is now a senior civilian employee in the military, a full-time Defense Department employee based at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Network of informants- Mr. Furlong has extensive experience in “psychological operations” — the military term for the use of information in warfare — and he plied his trade in a number of places, including Iraq and the Balkans. It is unclear exactly when Mr. Furlong’s operations began. But officials said they seemed to accelerate in the summer of 2009, and by the time they ended, he and his colleagues had established a network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose job it was to help locate people believed to be insurgents.

Government officials said they believed that Mr. Furlong might have channeled money away from a program intended to provide American commanders with information about Afghanistan’s social and tribal landscape, and toward secret efforts to hunt militants on both sides of the country’s porous border with Pakistan.

Some officials said it was unclear whether these operations actually resulted in the deaths of militants, though others involved in the operation said that they did.

Military officials said that Mr. Furlong would often boast about his network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan to senior military officers, and in one instance said a group of suspected militants carrying rockets by mule over the border had been singled out and killed as a result of his efforts.

In addition, at least one government contractor who worked with Mr. Furlong in Afghanistan last year maintains that he saw evidence that the information was used for attacking militants.

The contractor, Robert Young Pelton, an author who writes extensively about war zones, said that the government hired him to gather information about Afghanistan and that Mr. Furlong improperly used his work. “We were providing information so they could better understand the situation in Afghanistan, and it was being used to kill people,” Mr. Pelton said.

He said that he and Eason Jordan, a former television news executive, had been hired by the military to run a public Web site to help the government gain a better understanding of a region that bedeviled them. Recently, the top military intelligence official in Afghanistan publicly said that intelligence collection was skewed too heavily toward hunting terrorists, at the expense of gaining a deeper understanding of the country.

Instead, Mr. Pelton said, millions of dollars that were supposed to go to the Web site were redirected by Mr. Furlong toward intelligence gathering for the purpose of attacking militants.

In one example, Mr. Pelton said he had been told by Afghan colleagues that video images that he posted on the Web site had been used for an American strike in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Among the contractors Mr. Furlong appears to have used to conduct intelligence gathering was International Media Ventures, a private “strategic communication” firm run by several former Special Operations officers. Another was American International Security Corporation, a Boston-based company run by Mike Taylor, a former Green Beret. In a phone interview, Mr. Taylor said that at one point he had employed Duane Clarridge, known as Dewey, a former top C.I.A. official who has been linked to a generation of C.I.A. adventures, including the Iran-Contra scandal.

In an interview, Mr. Clarridge denied that he had worked with Mr. Furlong in any operation in Afghanistan or Pakistan. “I don’t know anything about that,” he said.

Mr. Taylor, who is chief executive of A.I.S.C., said his company gathered information on both sides of the border to give military officials information about possible threats to American forces. He said his company was not specifically hired to provide information to kill insurgents.

Some American officials contend that Mr. Furlong’s efforts amounted to little. Nevertheless, they provoked the ire of the C.I.A.

Last fall, the spy agency’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, wrote a memorandum to the Defense Department’s top intelligence official detailing what officials said were serious offenses by Mr. Furlong. The officials would not specify the offenses, but the officer’s cable helped set off the Pentagon investigation.

Afghan intelligence- In mid-2008, the military put Mr. Furlong in charge of a program to use private companies to gather information about the political and tribal culture of Afghanistan. Some of the approximately $22 million in government money allotted to this effort went to International Media Ventures, with offices in St. Petersburg, Fla., San Antonio and elsewhere. On its Web site, the company describes itself as a public relations company, “an industry leader in creating potent messaging content and interactive communications.”

The Web site also shows that several of its senior executives are former members of the military’s Special Operations forces, including former commandos from Delta Force, which has been used extensively since the Sept. 11 attacks to track and kill suspected terrorists.

Until recently, one of the members of International Media’s board of directors was Gen. Dell L. Dailey, former head of Joint Special Operations Command , which oversees the military’s covert units.

In an e-mail message, General Dailey said that he had resigned his post on the company’s board, but he did not say when. He did not give details about the company’s work with the American military, and other company executives declined to comment.

In an interview, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the top military spokesman in Afghanistan, said that the United States military was currently employing nine International Media Ventures civilian employees on routine jobs in guard work and information processing and analysis. Whatever else other International Media employees might be doing in Afghanistan, he said, he did not know and had no responsibility for their actions.

By Mr. Pelton’s account, Mr. Furlong, in conversations with him and his colleagues, referred to his stable of contractors as “my Jason Bournes,” a reference to the fictional American assassin created by the novelist Robert Ludlum and played in movies by the actor Matt Damon .

Military officials said that Mr. Furlong would occasionally brag to his superiors about having Mr. Clarridge’s services at his disposal. Last summer, Mr. Furlong told colleagues that he was working with Mr. Clarridge to secure the release of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, a kidnapped soldier who American officials believe is being held by militants in Pakistan.

From December 2008 to mid-June 2009, both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Clarridge were hired to assist The New York Times in the case of David Rohde, the Times reporter who was kidnapped by militants in Afghanistan and held for seven months in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The reporter ultimately escaped on his own.

The idea for the government information program was thought up sometime in 2008 by Mr. Jordan, a former CNN news chief, and his partner Mr. Pelton, whose books include “The World’s Most Dangerous Places” and “Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror.”

Top general approached- They approached Gen. David D. McKiernan , soon to become the top American commander in Afghanistan. Their proposal was to set up a reporting and research network in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the American military and private clients who were trying to understand a complex region that had become vital to Western interests. They already had a similar operation in Iraq — called “Iraq Slogger,” which employed local Iraqis to report and write news stories for their Web site. Mr. Jordan proposed setting up a similar Web site in Afghanistan and Pakistan — except that the operation would be largely financed by the American military. The name of the Web site was Afpax .

Mr. Jordan said that he had gone to the United States military because the business in Iraq was not profitable relying solely on private clients. He described his proposal as essentially a news gathering operation, involving only unclassified materials gathered openly by his employees. “It was all open-source,” he said.

When Mr. Jordan made the pitch to General McKiernan, Mr. Furlong was also present, according to Mr. Jordan. General McKiernan endorsed the proposal, and Mr. Furlong said that he could find financing for Afpax, both Mr. Jordan and Mr. Pelton said. “On that day, they told us to get to work,” Mr. Pelton said.

But Mr. Jordan said that the help from Mr. Furlong ended up being extremely limited. He said he was paid twice — once to help the company with start-up costs and another time for a report his group had written. Mr. Jordan declined to talk about exact figures, but said the amount of money was a “small fraction” of what he had proposed — and what it took to run his news gathering operation.

Whenever he asked for financing, Mr. Jordan said, Mr. Furlong told him that the money was being used for other things, and that the appetite for Mr. Jordan’s services was diminishing.

“He told us that there was less and less money for what we were doing, and less of an appreciation for what we were doing,” he said.

Admiral Smith, the military’s director for strategic communications, said that when he arrived in Kabul a year later, in June 2009, he opposed financing Afpax. He said that he did not need what Mr. Pelton and Mr. Jordan were offering and that the service seemed uncomfortably close to crossing into intelligence gathering — which could have meant making targets of individuals.

“I took the air out of the balloon,” he said.

Admiral Smith said that the C.I.A. was against the proposal for the same reasons. Mr. Furlong persisted in pushing the project, he said.

“I finally had to tell him, ‘Read my lips,’ we’re not interested,’ ” Admiral Smith said.

What happened next is unclear.

Admiral Smith said that when he turned down the Afpax proposal, Mr. Furlong wanted to spend the leftover money elsewhere. That is when Mr. Furlong agreed to provide some of International Media Ventures’ employees to the strategic communications command, which Admiral Smith oversees.

But that still left roughly $15 million unaccounted for, he said.

“I have no idea where the rest of the money is going,” Admiral Smith said.

Dexter Filkins reported from Kabul, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

This story, “Contractors tied to effort to track and kill militants”, first appeared in The New York Times.

Link to original:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35867435/ns/world_news-the_new_york_times

From The Chicago Business Journal

Obama taps Boeing’s McNerney to be co-leader of Export Council
March 11, 2010

(AP) —

“President Barack Obama named Boeing Co. CEO James McNerney to lead a trade panel as the president seeks to put some detail behind his lofty drive to double U.S. exports over the next five years, calling the effort imperative to putting people back to work.

Obama re-established the President’s Export Council, a presidential advisory committee on international trade, and named McNerney and another prominent business leader, Xerox Co. chief executive Ursula Burns, to lead it.”

Follow link to rest of article, below.

 Link to original:     http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=37416#comments

Someone sent me this today.  Yet another bad appointment by Obama.   GFS

* * * * * * *

 

G. Florence-

 I am not sure that I would believe this if I hadn’t read it in the PI.  Why would this administration appoint the president and chief executive officer of the worst export offender in the United States to chairman of the President’s Export Council?

Curious

* * * * * * *

 

President Obama Taps Boeing’s McNerney To Lead Export Council

Posted by Aubrey Cohen at March 11, 2010 1:08 p.m.

President Barack Obama Thursday Named Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Jim McNerney As Chairman Of The President’s Export Council.

Obama also named Xerox Corp. Chief Executive Ursula Burns as vice chairwoman of the council.

“Jim and Ursula are tremendously talented and experienced, and I am grateful that they have chosen to serve in these important roles as we work to strengthen our economy and create good jobs by boosting our exports,” Obama said in a news release. “I look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead.”

McNerney responded with a statement saying: During these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever to expand free and fair trade around the globe, a time-tested part of creating American jobs and economic opportunity. Given a level playing field, American workers can compete and win in the global economy. As chief executive of one of America’s largest exporters, I see employees of Boeing and our suppliers and partners proving that every day. I see our job at the Council as one of providing our best advice to the administration about how expanding American export opportunities can help stimulate the economy and sustain long-term growth for large and small businesses.

 http://blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace/archives/197483.asp

Here is an interesting article about our economic condition.  Please follow the link to read the article. 

America’s Public Debt: The Least of Our Worries

Friday 26 February 2010

by: Mark Weisbrot  |  The Center for Economic and Policy Research

Various political demagogues and Wall Street interests have mounted a campaign to convince Americans that despite persistent massive unemployment for the foreseeable future, more than 15 million people underwater on their home mortgages, and two unnecessary wars, what we really should be worried about is America’s national debt.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.  He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.

 

Link or Original:  http://www.truthout.org/americas-public-debt-the-least-our-worries57233 

 

Defense Contractors, Greedy Insurance Companies and the Epidemic of Suicides After Middle East Service

 

The conclusion that it is all personally-manifested mental illness causing the bizarre behavior and suicides does not fly with me.  This man was a Marine, and certainly was well trained to withstand stress in a war zone.  I really do believe there are other elements contributing to this problem, both for military personnel who serve in the Middle East, as well as the civilian contractors who do the same.  It seems to me that physical causes must exist due to perhaps some exposure to something chemical or biological, or residue from some of our weapons of choice,  (natural or man created), which may contribute to the mental/emotional symptoms.  As long as companies like KBR are allowed to spin the investigations and evidence, and the military and insurance companies are allowed to silence the victims, we may never know the truth.  Refusal to come through with the insurance in these cases, should be considered a criminal investigation by our government, and treated as such. 

GFS

 

The Other Victims of Battlefield Stress; Defense Contractors’ Mental Health Neglected

Friday 26 February 2010

by: T. Christian Miller, ProPublica

Excerpt: 

Redding, California – Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.

Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.

Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.”

More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.

While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.

No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.

If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.

“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,” said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”  (Read on)

Link to original:  http://www.truthout.org/defense-contractors%E2%80%99-mental-health-neglected57255

The conclusion that it is all personally-manifested mental illness causing the bizarre behavior and suicides does not fly with me.  This man was a Marine, and certainly was well trained to withstand stress in a war zone.  I really do believe there are other elements contributing to this problem, both for military personnel who serve in the Middle East, as well as the civilian contractors who do the same.  It seems to me that physical causes must exist due to perhaps some exposure to something chemical or biological, (natural or man created), which may contribute to the mental/emotional symptoms.  As long as companies like KBR are allowed to spin the investigations and evidence, we may never know the truth.  Refusal to come through with the insurance in these cases, should be considered a criminal investigation by our government, and treated as such.  GFS

 

The Other Victims of Battlefield Stress; Defense Contractors’ Mental Health Neglected

Friday 26 February 2010

by: T. Christian Miller, ProPublica

Excerpt: 

Redding, California – Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.

Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.

Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.”

More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.

While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.

No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.

If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.

“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,” said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”  (Read on)

Link to original:  http://www.truthout.org/defense-contractors%E2%80%99-mental-health-neglected57255

America’s Public Debt: The Least of Our Worries

Friday 26 February 2010

by: Mark Weisbrot  |  The Center for Economic and Policy Research

Various political demagogues and Wall Street interests have mounted a campaign to convince Americans that despite persistent massive unemployment for the foreseeable future, more than 15 million people underwater on their home mortgages, and two unnecessary wars, what we really should be worried about is America’s national debt.  (Read on)

 Link to Original:  http://www.truthout.org/americas-public-debt-the-least-our-worries57233

This is the continuing outrage of corruption and greed.  Is there any wonder there are so many whistleblowers, and even more people without the courage to be a whistleblower?  The corruption in government and industry is ruining our country.  Help us stand up to this!  -GFS

 

Robert Scheer | No Banker Left Behind

Thursday 25 February 2010

by: Robert Scheer, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

They do have a license to steal. There is no other way to read Tuesday’s report from the New York state comptroller that bonuses for Wall Street financiers rose 17 percent to $20.3 billion in 2009. Of course, that is less than the $32.9 billion for bonus rewards back in 2007, when those hotshots could still pretend that they were running sound businesses.

The economy is anything but sound, but you would hardly know that from looking at the balance sheets of the big investment banks. The broker-dealer firms on Wall Street made a record profit, estimated at greater than $55 billion by the comptroller, and the only thing holding back even more grotesque bonuses was concern over criticism from a public that was hardly doing as well.

The enormous rewards last year come not from their having righted the ship of finance by lowering the rate of mortgage foreclosures for ordinary folks, one of four who are now “underwater” on their loans. Consumer confidence this month is the lowest in 27 years, and unemployment is expected to hover near 10 percent for the next two years. No, they get bonuses because the Federal Reserve, backed by the Treasury, bought the toxic mortgage securitization packages that Wall Street banks were left holding. They, and they alone, were made whole.

The way the scam worked is that the Treasury deposited taxpayer dollars with the Federal Reserve, which in turn purchased a whopping $1.25 trillion in toxic mortgages. That’s the figure after the Treasury on Tuesday committed to depositing $200 billion more with the Fed to increase spending on this program — one that was ostensibly designed to increase credit availability to small businesses and others but has hardly accomplished that goal. Credit is still very tight because the big financiers have used the low-cost cash they received from those charitable government programs to solidify their own positions through acquisitions and the like. Call it the “no banker left behind” program… .  (Read on)

Link to original:  http://www.truthout.org/robert-scheer-no-banker-left-behind57201

PlayStation Network

Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:07 PM

Someone sent this summary of a new game for Playstation.  They commented that is was funny, sadly realistic, or both.  This is quite pathetic and is symbolic of the mess at least parts of our society are in.  Honestly, what are we trying to condition people do be and do?  Defense Contractors?  GFS

* * * * * * *

 

Greed Corp

Why share when you can have it all? Greed Corp is an online multiplayer strategy game in which you battle for dominance over a world once rich in resources. In order to prevail, you must exhaust all remaining resources to build an army, and use the depleted, collapsing terrain to your advantage. An extensive campaign mode and multiple unlockables prepare you to take the battle online.

Rated E: Mild Fantasy Violence