Daily Archives: October 6, 2008

Reports Link Karzai’s Brother to Afghanistan Heroin Trade

Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother, in 2001. Both say accusations of drug trafficking are politically motivated.

New York Times | Oct 4, 2008

By JAMES RISEN

WASHINGTON — When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.

Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Mr. Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times. He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.

Two years later, American and Afghan counternarcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin. Soon after the seizure, United States investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to a participant in the briefing.

The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan.

Related

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll

Both President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks by longtime foes.

“I am not a drug dealer, I never was and I never will be,” the president’s brother said in a recent phone interview. “I am a victim of vicious politics.”

But the assertions about him have deeply worried top American officials in Kabul and in Washington. The United States officials fear that perceptions that the Afghan president might be protecting his brother are damaging his credibility and undermining efforts by the United States to buttress his government, which has been under siege from rivals and a Taliban insurgency fueled by drug money, several senior Bush administration officials said. Their concerns have intensified as American troops have been deployed to the country in growing numbers.

“What appears to be a fairly common Afghan public perception of corruption inside their government is a tremendously corrosive element working against establishing long-term confidence in that government — a very serious matter,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who was commander of coalition military forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and is now retired. “That could be problematic strategically for the United States.”

The White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.

Numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.

“We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” one official said. But President Karzai has resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, several officials said. “We don’t have the kind of hard, direct evidence that you could take to get a criminal indictment,” a White House official said. “That allows Karzai to say, ‘where’s your proof?’ ”

Neither the Drug Enforcement Administration, which conducts counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, nor the fledgling Afghan anti-drug agency has pursued investigations into the accusations against the president’s brother.

Several American investigators said senior officials at the D.E.A. and the office of the Director of National Intelligence complained to them that the White House favored a hands-off approach toward Ahmed Wali Karzai because of the political delicacy of the matter. But White House officials dispute that, instead citing limited D.E.A. resources in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and the absence of political will in the Afghan government to go after major drug suspects as the reasons for the lack of an inquiry.

“We invested considerable resources into building Afghan capability to conduct such investigations and consistently encouraged Karzai to take on the big fish and address widespread Afghan suspicions about the link between his brother and narcotics,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who was the coordinator for Afghanistan and Iraq at the National Security Council until last year.

It was not clear whether President Bush had been briefed on the matter.Humayun Hamidzada, press secretary for President Karzai, denied that the president’s brother was involved in drug trafficking or that the president had intervened to help him. “People have made allegations without proof,” Mr. Hamidzada said.

Spokesmen for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

An Informant’s Tip

The concerns about Ahmed Wali Karzai have surfaced recently because of the imprisonment of an informant who tipped off American and Afghan investigators to the drug-filled truck outside Kabul in 2006.

The informant, Hajji Aman Kheri, was arrested a year later on charges of plotting to kill an Afghan vice president in 2002. The Afghan Supreme Court recently ordered him freed for lack of evidence, but he has not been released. Nearly 100 political leaders in his home region protested his continued incarceration last month.

Mr. Kheri, in a phone interview from jail in Kabul, said he had been an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration and United States intelligence agencies, an assertion confirmed by American counternarcotics and intelligence officials. Several of those officials, frustrated that the Bush administration was not pressing for Mr. Kheri’s release, came forward to disclose his role in the drug seizure.

Ever since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, critics have charged that the Bush administration has failed to take aggressive action against the Afghan narcotics trade, because of both opposition from the Karzai government and reluctance by the United States military to get bogged down by eradication and interdiction efforts that would antagonize local warlords and Afghan poppy farmers. Now, Afghanistan provides about 95 percent of the world’s supply of heroin.

Just as the Taliban have benefited from money produced by the drug trade, so have many officials in the Karzai government, according to American and Afghan officials. Thomas Schweich, a former senior State Department counternarcotics official, wrote in The New York Times Magazine in July that drug traffickers were buying off hundreds of police chiefs, judges and other officials. “Narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government,” he said.

Suspicions of Corruption

Of the suspicions about Ahmed Wali Karzai, Representative Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who has focused on the Afghan drug problem in Congress, said, “I would ask people in the Bush administration and the D.E.A. about him, and they would say, ‘We think he’s dirty.’ ”

In the two drug seizures in 2004 and 2006, millions of dollars’ worth of heroin was found. In April 2006, Mr. Jan, by then a member of the Afghan Parliament, met with American investigators at a D.E.A. safe house in Kabul and was asked to describe the events surrounding the 2004 drug discovery, according to notes from the debriefing session. He told the Americans that after impounding the truck, he received calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai and Shaida Mohammad, an aide to President Karzai, according to the notes.

Mr. Jan later became a political opponent of President Karzai, and in a 2007 speech in Parliament he accused Ahmed Wali Karzai of involvement in the drug trade. Mr. Jan was shot to death in July as he drove from a guesthouse to his main residence in Kandahar Province. The Taliban were suspected in the assassination.

Mr. Mohammad, in a recent interview in Washington, dismissed Mr. Jan’s account, saying that Mr. Jan had fabricated the story about being pressured to release the drug shipment in order to damage President Karzai.

But Khan Mohammad, the former Afghan commander in Kandahar who was Mr. Jan’s superior in 2004, said in a recent interview that Mr. Jan reported at the time that he had received a call from the Karzai aide ordering him to release the drug cache. Khan Mohammad recalled that Mr. Jan believed that the call had been instigated by Ahmed Wali Karzai, not the president.

“This was a very heavy issue,” Mr. Mohammad said.

He provided the same account in an October 2004 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Mohammad said that after a subordinate captured a large shipment of heroin about two months earlier, the official received repeated telephone calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai. “He was saying, ‘This heroin belongs to me, you should release it,’ ” the newspaper quoted Mr. Mohammad as saying.

Languishing in Detention

In 2006, Mr. Kheri, the Afghan informant, tipped off American counternarcotics agents to another drug shipment. Mr. Kheri, who had proved so valuable to the United States that his family had been resettled in Virginia in 2004, briefly returned to Afghanistan in 2006.

The heroin in the truck that was seized was to be delivered to Ahmed Wali Karzai’s bodyguard in the village of Maidan Shahr, and then transported to Kandahar, one of the Afghans involved in the deal later told American investigators, according to notes of his debriefing. Several Afghans — the drivers and the truck’s owner — were arrested by Afghan authorities, but no action was taken against Mr. Karzai or his bodyguard, who investigators believe serves as a middleman, the American officials said.

In 2007, Mr. Kheri visited Afghanistan again, once again serving as an American informant, the officials said. This time, however, he was arrested by the Karzai government and charged in the 2002 assassination of Hajji Abdul Qadir, an Afghan vice president, who had been a political rival of Mr. Kheri’s brother, Hajji Zaman, a former militia commander and a powerful figure in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr. Kheri, in the phone interview from Kabul, denied any involvement in the killing and said his arrest was politically motivated. He maintained that the president’s brother was involved in the heroin trade.

“It’s no secret about Wali Karzai and drugs,” said Mr. Kheri, who speaks English. “A lot of people in the Afghan government are involved in drug trafficking.”

Mr. Kheri’s continued detention, despite the Afghan court’s order to release him, has frustrated some of the American investigators who worked with him.

In recent months, they have met with officials at the State Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence seeking to persuade the Bush administration to intervene with the Karzai government to release Mr. Kheri.

“We have just left a really valuable informant sitting in jail to rot,” one investigator said.

Reality show participants subjected to torture

Controversial: Activists demonstrate waterboarding on a volunteer in a human rights protest in Washington

Now TV contestants face water torture in most sickening reality show yet

Daily Mail | Oct 6, 2008

By Liz Thomas

A reality  television show has been accused of crossing the line from entertainment to sadism.

In Channel 5’s Unbreakable the contestants are buried alive, trapped in a tent full of CS gas and must wade through piranha-infested water.

They are also subjected to waterboarding – a torture technique used by the CIA on terror suspects –
waterboarding.

This involves being tied down on a board, tilted back and having water poured over the face, which recreates the experience of drowning.

One of the volunteers was so traumatised they had convulsions on the first day of filming. Another ran away into the African bush and had to be found with tracker dogs.

Critics say the content is simply ‘unacceptable’.

John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the media select committee, said: ‘You have to ask, where is it going to end?

‘It seems that scenes of torture are being used as entertainment. What next? Reality contestants having electric shock treatment? There is a point where such things should not be shown on television.’

The motto for Unbreakable, which starts on Five tonight, is Pain is Glory, Pain is Pride, Pain is Great to Watch.

The eight volunteers include a musician, a 20-year-old female bouncer and a personal trainer.

In another test, their hands and feet are bound and they are dumped in a 15ft tank of water and forced to leap up and down for air.

The presenter, explorer Benedict Allen, admitted that he was concerned about their safety and state of mind.

He said: ‘We knew we couldn’t afford to kill anyone but yes, there were times when I was seriously worried. It got pretty hairy.

‘Two hours into filming on the first day, one of the contestants collapsed on the floor and suffered convulsions. We were stuck in the depths of jungle in Guyana and we had to get him out. It didn’t start well.’

A source on the show added: ‘One of the contestants was in such a state he tried to run away into the middle of the African bush, and we had to use tracker dogs to find him.’

John Beyer, director of lobby group Mediawatch UK, said: ‘Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code states that programmes should not include material that is harmful and/or offensive. This programme could well be in breach of the code.

‘Waterboarding is a form of torture that I believe is illegal under international law and so should not feature in any programme merely as a form of entertainment.

‘We hope very much that Ofcom will be monitoring this series and taking whatever action is appropriate.’

A Five spokesman said: ‘All the participants in Unbreakable were aware of the type of the challenges they would face prior to filming.’

The spokesman added that all tests were supervised by experts and that volunteers had mental and physical assessments before the show.’

Britain’s Communist Party celebrates 59th anniversary of New China

Xinhua | Oct 5, 2008

LONDON, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) — The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) celebrated on Saturday evening the 59th anniversary of the founding of the New China, lending its unswerving support to China’s pursuit of socialism.

Reviewing China’s development since 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, Harpal Brar, chair of the party, hailed China’s evolving in the past decades into a “thriving economy.”

“China has come a long way since it had been the miserable place under imperialist control. When 13 million children in Africa under the age of 15 die every year, over 400 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 30 years… China has achieved the basic human rights. It’s a living example of socialism,” he said.

Although the Chinese people know they still have a long way to go, “so far it has been fantastic,” he added.

According to Brar, China has long been supporting countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America in their struggle for independence and development.

The Chinese revolution has inspired the world with great lessons, therefore, celebrating China’s National Day, which falls on Oct. 1, is actually “paying back a little to China for what it does for us,” he said.

Some 80 party members and representatives from the Indian Workers’ Association, Communist Workers & Peasants Party of Pakistan attended the celebration.

Jack Shapiro, a veteran member of the Society for Anglo-China Understanding who had facilitated exchanges between Britain and China on rehabilitation for the disabled, and Kojo Gottfried, former Ghanaian Ambassador to China, also shared their memories of China experience.

A resolution passed at the meeting congratulated China on the success of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics as well as the Shenzhou-7 manned space mission, in particular China’s first ever spacewalk.

“Through these epic events, the people of the whole world have been able to see the enormous progress and tremendous achievements of socialist China, which stand in stark and growing contrast to the crisis, chaos and despondency now gripping the capitalist world,” said the resolution.

The party also reaffirms its “invariable solidarity with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government and people in their struggle to build a powerful, modernized and prosperous socialist nation, to reunify the country and to contribute to the building of an independent and peaceful world against imperialist aggression and war.”

In July this year, the Communist Party of Great Britain launched a “Hands off China” campaign, supporting China in the waves of China-bashing in western media in the run up to the Beijing Olympics.

Sinister government spies to scan every call, text and email

Ministers are considering a £12 billion plan to monitor the e-mail, telephone and internet browsing records of every person in Britain.

Telegraph | Oct 5, 2008

By Nick Allen

The huge eavesdropping programme would involve the creation of a mammoth central computer database to store hundreds of billions of individual pieces of communications traffic.

Supporters say it would become one of the security services’ most comprehensive tools in the fight against terrorism but critics described it as “sinister”.

MI5 currently has to apply to the Home Secretary for warrants to intercept specific email and website traffic but, under the new plan, internet and mobile phone networks could be monitored live by GCHQ, the Government listening post.

The Home Office said no decision had been taken but security officials claim live monitoring is necessary to pick up terrorist plots.

It would allow them to capture records like chat room discussions on password-protected Islamic extremist websites.

The annual number of phone calls and other electronic communications in the UK is predicted to nearly double from 230 billion in 2006 to 450 billion by 2016.

Last year 57 billion text messages, or 1,800 a second, were sent. That rose from one billion in 1999.

The number of broadband internet connections rose from 330,000 in 2001 to 18 million last year. Three billion e-mails are sent every day, or 35,000 every second.

One of the spurs for a central database is a concern over how that electronic communications data is currently stored by hundreds of different internet service providers and private telephone companies.
Records may only be held for limited periods of time and are then lost which makes it impossible for police and the security services to establishing historical links, or so-called “friendship trees”, between terrorists.

If all communications information was centrally stored then links could be made between terrorist cells and other sympathisers could be identified.

The telephone and internet companies are currently required to give records of calls or internet use to law enforcement agencies if a senior officer authorises that it is needed for an inquiry.

Last year there were more than half a million such requests.

The cost of monitoring everything, and keeping it on a central database, has been estimated at £12 billion and would dwarf the proposed cost of the identity cards programme.

Critics also claim it would be virtually impossible to keep such a vast system secure and free from abuse by law enforcement agencies.

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: “It would mark a substantial shift in the powers of the state to obtain information on individuals.

“Given the Government’s poor record on protecting data, and seeing how significant an increase in power this would be, we need to have a national debate and the Government would have to justify its need.”

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has already called for a public debate about Government proposals for the state to retain people’s internet and phone records.

A spokesman for the commissioner said: “He warned that it is likely that such a scheme would be a step too far for the British way of life. Proposals that threaten such intrusion into people’s lives must be properly debated.”

Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, said the proposal would mean installing thousands of probes in telephone and computer networks which would re-route data to the central database.