Daily Archives: September 11, 2008

Pakistani intelligence aiding Maoist gangs in Nepal and India

Kingpin may spill the beans on Maoist-ISI link

Times of India | Sep 8, 2008

By Soumittra S Bose,TNN

NAGPUR: The police are looking into political affiliation and activities of fake currency kingpin Umesh Rawat arrested by the crime branch near Sikta in West Champaran in Bihar recently.

Rawat was brought to city on Sunday. He is learnt to be a Nepali Maoist and a village head in Nepal.

Intelligence agencies may start probing the ISI-Maoist collusion in pumping fake currency in India after the arrest of Umesh Rawat alias Prasad alias Patel. Apart from Maoists, Nepal is also learnt to be harbouring a well-oiled network of ISI and Dawood Ibrahim gang, especially in and around Kathmandu. According to intelligence reports, both ISI and Maoists have a common agenda of fostering anti-national operations in India.

The crime branch, which had netted two of Umesh’s aides from Madhya Pradesh and city earlier, is likely to produce Umesh before the court today. The team under crime branch senior inspector P T Ingle, which nabbed Umesh, also reached city. Before being nabbed, Umesh’s moles circulated several fake notes at different locations in the city and MP.

Apart from collecting the names of the Umesh’s moles, the cops are trying to establish the real picture of his network spread in different parts of the country. It is also learnt that Umesh has so far named people like Abrar, Imamul and others who are known to have wide network of illegal activities in Nepal. Police team also found several phone numbers in possession of Umesh. It has already been found that Umesh had some ‘contacts’ in eastern Vidarbha too.

It is learnt that intelligence security establishment strongly believes that Maoist and ISI have forged an alliance to wage terror war against India. In a recent development, Maoist have openly come forth to voice their sympathy for banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), which is known to have joined several terrorist outfits across the border including Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Pankaj Gupta, chief of state anti-naxal operation cell, said that his department too would likely to probe the angle of Umesh’s political linkages after the arrested fake note kingpin is available for questioning.

“We would look into details that may be revealed by him (Umesh),” said Gupta. Apart from ANO, other intelligence departments may also question Umesh.

Next US terror attack ‘could be by white Americans or Europeans’

US intelligence officials increasingly fear that the next terror attack on the United States will be carried out by white Americans or Europeans.

Telegraph | Sep 10, 2008

By Tom Leonard in New York

As Barack Obama and John McCain head to New York’s Ground Zero seven years after 19 Middle-Eastern hijackers brought devastation to the US mainland, counter-terrorism experts believe that any future attack will be made by terrorists with an “American face”.

They point to reports of white faces in terrorism training camps in Pakistan – the so-called “white men of Waziristan”, a reference to the remote tribal area where both al-Qaeda and the Taliban have bases.

Experts believe that dozens of westerners have undergone such training as their leaders try to recruit non-Middle Eastern Asians, particularly ethnic Caucasians, who are less likely to attract the attention of security and law enforcement agencies.

Al-Qaeda’s recent decision to put out videos in English and a similar change on extremist “jihadi” websites have also been cited of evidence of a new strategy to find recruits who are less likely to attract the attention of security and law enforcement agencies.

Such concerns were sharpened last week after the arrest of three Germans over an alleged plot to destroy a club used by US servicemen.

Two of the three were white, ethnic Germans and all had allegedly been trained in camps in Waziristan.

“There is no bigger worry for the US counter-terrorism community than young Caucasian men who have turned to al-Qaeda,” Roger Cressey, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton and Bush administrations, told the US news network MSNBC.

Terrorism experts say such a threat has been known about even before the arrest of Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber. However, it was not until three weeks ago that a US official explicitly admitted that the government knew of such people being trained in significant numbers.

In a little reported speech, Ted Gistaro, the US national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that al-Qaeda was training and “positioning” its operatives for attacks in the West, probably including the US.

He added: “These operatives include North American and European citizens, and legal residents with passports that allow them to travel to the United States without a US visa.”

Mr Cressey, the council’s director for transnational threats at the time of 9/11, said that President Bush last month hosted a joint meeting of the NSC and the Homeland Security Council to discuss current threats.

The training of the type of people identified by Mr Gistaro was “the single biggest concern” at the meeting because “they can’t be tracked and they’re not in anyone’s database,” said Mr Cressey.

Prof Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said that the Western al-Qaeda recruits probably “run into the dozens” and did not need to be white to be useful to the terrorist group.

“Europe provides a potentially large pool from which al-Qaeda can draw. It’s hard to put a figure on them but it’s certainly beyond the ones and twos,” he said.

“The group’s having to find new ways to penetrate our defences. So, in a sense, this is a consequence of our own success.”

Last month, the Homeland Security Department announced a plan to require visitors from 27 friendly countries, including Britain, to register online at least three days before flying to the US to allow more time for terrorism checks.

In Manhattan today, Mr McCain and Mr Obama have agreed to help keep the focus on remembering 9/11 rather than the election when they attend the ceremonial reading of victims’ names.

Detailed designs for a 47,500-sq ft pavilion for a Sept 11 museum at the World Trade Centre site were unveiled yesterday. The three-storey glass and steel building was inspired by the Twin Towers.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, said there should be “no more excuses, no more delays” on completing a memorial by the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Progress on redeveloping the WTC site had been “frustratingly slow”, in large part because of administrative bureaucracy, he said.

Scientists create species-jumping hybrid prions

Science A Go Go | Sep 9, 2008

In research with profound implications for public health, scientists have created entirely new strains of infectious prions in the laboratory by simply mixing infectious prions from one species with the normal prion proteins of another species. According to the scientists’ report in Cell, the new prions produced symptoms in laboratory animals that differ from any known prion strain found in nature.

Prion diseases, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), are infectious neurodegenerative diseases affecting the brain. Unlike conventional infectious microorganisms, the infectious agent in the case of prion diseases consists exclusively of a misfolded form of the prion protein. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the most common prion disease in humans, along with scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, aka mad cow) in cattle.

In this new work, the researchers found that prion strains produced by combining normal hamster proteins with infectious mouse proteins can infect hamsters and vice versa. Although they are both rodents, prions from one of the two species normally don’t readily infect the other, a common phenomenon amongst prions known as a species barrier, the researchers explained.

“We are forcing the system by putting everything together, but this suggests that the variety of possible prions is really very large,” said Claudio Soto of the University of Texas Medical Branch. “We shouldn’t be surprised if new barriers are crossed and new prions arise. There is the potential for a large variety of new infectious prions — some of which may have dramatic effects.”

The same research team had previously reported the generation of infectious prions by amplification of prion misfolding in the test tube. In those experiments, they used a technology called protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) that mimics some of the fundamental steps involved in the replication of infectious prions in living animals, but at an accelerated rate. The method involves placing small quantities of infectious prions with large quantities of the normal protein from the same species together, allowing the infectious form to imprint on the normal form and thereby replicate itself.

Now, they have shown that the same method can generate new strains when infectious prions from one species are mixed with normal prion proteins from another species. The finding provides strong evidence that the imprinting of disease-causing prions on normal forms can overcome species barriers, and doesn’t require any other infectious agent.

This new work has profound implications for public health, says Soto. “One of the scariest medical problems of the last decades has been the emergence of a new and fatal human prion disease – variant CJD – originated by cross-species transmission of BSE from cattle. Our findings suggest that the universe of possible prions is not restricted to those currently known but that likely many unique infectious foldings of the prion protein may be produced and that one of the sources for this is cross-species transmission.”

Sex, drugs and oil: corruption scandal rocks US agency

AFP | Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Department of the Interior employees who handled billions of dollars in oil contracts improperly engaged in sex with energy company employees, a report released Wednesday said.

The report drafted by the department’s inspector general Earl Devaney deplored “a culture of ethical failure” in which regulators received gifts including ski junkets and golf outings.

The investigation uncovered a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity,” Devaney said in a memo to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

The alleged misconduct involved at least 13 current and former employees of the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) accused of rigging contracts and accepting gifts and engaging in “illicit sexual encounters” with subordinates and industry representatives, Devaney said.
One of the accused has already pled guilty to a criminal charge, the report said.

Following a two-year, five-million-dollar investigation which included testimony from 233 witnesses and 470,000 pages of documentation, Devaney said the inquiry “revealed… a pervasive culture of exclusivity, exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the federal government,” Devaney said.

Between 2002 and 2006, nearly one-third of the MMS staff — in Washington and the western city of Denver — received gifts and gratuities from energy companies.

Two of the accused received gifts including dinners, tickets to various shows, and golf outings “on at least 135 occasions from four major oil and gas companies with whom they were doing business,” according to Devaney.

US federal employees are forbidden from receiving gifts valued above 20 dollars.

The explosive accusations focus on the MMS’s Royalty in Kind (RIK) program, which manages commercial oil and gas sales activity and barters that oil and gas to the government in lieu of payments for drilling on federally-owned offshore lands.

One MMS supervisor used cocaine and engaged in sex with subordinates, the reports said.

“Internally, several staff admitted to illegal drug use as well as illicit sexual encounters,” Devaney said.

A memorandum accompanying the report also revealed that several representatives engaged in corruption, including one MMS official who “manipulated the contracting process from the start” on a lucrative MMS deal.

Outrage over the misconduct was immediate.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the non-partisan watchdog Project on Government Oversight, said that “given the billions of dollars at stake, and the number of people involved, this is easily the worst instance of government misconduct that POGO has seen.”

The group said the charges “illustrate the improper relationship between the regulatory agency and the oil and gas industry that it is tasked with overseeing.”

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida on Tuesday said earlier reports in 2007 and 2008 uncovered the MMS officials’ “inappropriate relationships with industry” including allowing companies to change their bids.

“This all shows the oil industry holds shocking sway over the administration and even key federal employees,” said Nelson, who is an opponent of expanded offshore leasing that President George W. Bush has been demanding from Congress.

Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the inspector general report “reads like a script from a television miniseries — and one that cannot air during family viewing time.”

Separate investigative reports showed that the RIK unit’s former Denver office director, Gergory Smith is accused of having sex with two subordinatese and accepting 30,000 dollars from a private company for marketing its engineering services to oil companies.

Park attendants ordered to interrogate adults spotted without children

Park wardens have been ordered to stop and interrogate anyone who is not accompanied by children.

Daily Mail | Sep 10, 2008

The visitors who are quizzed have to explain their presence and risk being thrown out or reported to police if their answers are not satisfactory.

The policy has been introduced at Telford Town Park in Shropshire. The council which manages the 420-acre area says it is a ‘commonsense approach’ aimed at safeguarding children.

But park users accused it of ‘authoritarian madness’ and said the ruling risked panicking parents about the dangers faced from potential paedophiles.

The policy came to light after two environmental campaigners dressed as penguins were thrown out of the park last month when caught handing out leaflets on climate change.

Telford and Wrekin Council said Rachel Whittaker and Neil Donaldson were ejected because they had not undergone Criminal Records Bureau checks or risk assessments before entering the park – a requirement under the Child Protection Act.

David Ottley, recreation manager at the Tory-run council, said in a letter to a member of the public over that issue: ‘Our town park staff approach adults that are not associated with any children in the park and request the reason for them being there.

‘In particular, this applies to those areas where children or more vulnerable groups gather.’

Miss Whittaker, 34, from Wellington, near Telford, said the policy carried a ‘dangerous implication that if you have a child with you than everything is OK and you won’t be questioned’.

Former childcare social worker John Evans said: ‘It is authoritarian madness which can only be based on ignorance. It is absurd, it is insulting and it is dangerous as it panics people about the dangers their children face.’

A council spokesman insisted that only those ‘acting suspiciously’ would be stopped and questioned.

Poll: No World Consensus As To Who Was Behind 9/11

Reuters | Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, there is no consensus outside the United States that Islamist militants from al Qaeda were responsible, according to an international poll published Wednesday.

The survey of 16,063 people in 17 nations found majorities in only nine countries believe al Qaeda was behind the attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 3,000 people in 2001.

U.S. officials squarely blame al Qaeda, whose leader Osama bin Laden has boasted of organizing the suicide attacks by his followers using hijacked commercial airliners.

On average, 46 percent of those surveyed said al Qaeda was responsible, 15 percent said the U.S. government, 7 percent said Israel and 7 percent said some other perpetrator. One in four people said they did not know who was behind the attacks.

The poll was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project of research centers in various countries managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland in the United States.

In Europe, al Qaeda was cited by 56 percent of Britons and Italians, 63 percent of French and 64 percent of Germans. The U.S. government was to blame, according to 23 percent of Germans and 15 percent of Italians.

Respondents in the Middle East were especially likely to name a perpetrator other than al Qaeda, the poll found.

Israel was behind the attacks, said 43 percent of people in Egypt, 31 percent in Jordan and 19 percent in the Palestinian Territories. The U.S. government was blamed by 36 percent of Turks and 27 percent of Palestinians.

In Mexico, 30 percent cited the U.S. government and 33 percent named al Qaeda.

The only countries with overwhelming majorities blaming al Qaeda were Kenya with 77 percent and Nigeria with 71 percent.

Interviews were conducted in China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, the Palestinian Territories, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Ukraine.

The poll, taken between July 15 and Aug. 31, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 to 4 percent.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

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Bush secretly ordered raids into Pakistan

A U.S. soldier patrols the Jaji district of the southeastern Paktia province, near the Afghan-Pakistan border January 28, 2008.  (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Reuters | Sep 11, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) –  President George W. Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow U.S. special forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants, the paper said.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior U.S. official who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The newspaper said the orders also illustrated lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief some U.S. operations had been compromised once  Pakistanis were advised of the details.

U.S. officials told the Times they would notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last week in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but they would not ask for its permission.

Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani said on Wednesday Pakistan would not allow foreign troops to conduct operations on its soil.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost and no external force is allowed to conduct operations … inside Pakistan,” a military statement quoted Kayani as saying.

A senior U.S. official told the Times the Pakistani government had assented privately to the general concept of limited ground assaults by U.S. forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

The top U.S. military officer told Congress on Wednesday the military was not winning the fight against the insurgency in Afghanistan and said it would revise its strategy to combat militant safe havens in Pakistan.

“I’m not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional committee nearly seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban.

Mullen said he was “looking at a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region” that would cover both sides of the border, including Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Violence in Afghanistan has soared over the past two years as al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have regrouped in the remote region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The United States has stepped up attacks against militant targets inside Pakistan this year with a series of missile strikes from unmanned drones and a raid by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos in recent days. The attacks have been denounced by Pakistani leaders.