Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pilger:  Media Spreads Disinformation  (Erdoğan Picks Up New Contract From The West)  Turkey Lies (Only Voting En Masse Will Bring Real Change)

Oh my god.

John Pilger on Paris, ISIS and Media Propaganda

Afshin Rattansi goes underground with John Pilger.

Award winning journalist and author, John Pilger talks to us about how Washington, London and Paris gave birth to ISIS-Daesh. Plus we examine the media's role in spreading disinformation ahead of a vote in Parliament for UK bombing of Syria. Afshin looks at the Autumn Statement and why in a time of high alert we are cutting the police force and buying drones.

Always the agendas.

Don't you just love the (new) American War Century?

Doesn't it make you feel strong and vital? (And superior to all others?)

And unapologetically unable to remember the last official story you heard?

Erdoğan Picks Up A New Contract From The West...

By Emre Uslu
November 25, 2015
Today's Zaman
The world is now debating the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey. Most observers agree that bringing down that plane was very risky for Turkey. But is no one asking how Turkey had the courage to do this?
I think this is the essential question in fact. What is giving Turkey the courage to stand up to like this to Russia, which is so much bigger, both militarily and economically? We are talking about the same Turkey that has never even brought down a Greek jet; Greece, of course, being many times smaller in all ways than Turkey. You might also stop and recall that some time ago, Israeli war planes strayed into Turkish airspace while heading to Syria to bomb some facilities there; Turkey did nothing to those jets. In contrast, however, Turkey brought down the Russian plane, without much warning, after an airspace violation that lasted all of 17 seconds.

There are, of course, technical explanations for what happened. But to understand, from a political angle, why Turkey made this decision, calls for examination from a wider perspective.

Let us first make this clear:  The decision to down the Russian plane was not one Turkey made alone. If it were, the reactions from various Western capitals would be different than what we are hearing now. It's clear now that Turkey - more specifically, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - has picked up a new contract with the West, and that the downing of the Russian jet is just the first stage of this contract.

So what makes this all so clear now? A few essential signals. The first is the process of preparing domestic public opinion, which we have witnessed in recent days. The second is the statement made by US President Barack Obama after the plane came down. The third is the public statements we now hear coming from high-level offices in Turkey.

Let's start with the first signal, though. A project - one which always seems to work with the Turkish public - was implemented by Ankara in the weeks preceding the plane incident. A loud media fuss was made over the “massacres being carried out against the Turkmens” in Syria.

For those familiar with Turkish state traditions, it was definitely not a fuss to be ignored. In Turkey, whenever there is a stir made over Turks or Turkmens being harmed (or being in harm's way) abroad, it always means that a military operation is soon to come. This is actually a strategy that's been in place since the 1950s, when the whole campaign aimed at raising awareness of Cyprus started. Likewise, we've seen the Turkmen population of northern Iraq used the same way that the Turkmens of Syria have now been used. And recalling the Sept. 6-7, 1955 pogrom, it was the same thing, with the Turkish population in Thessaloniki being used. In nearly all of these situations, there have been deep state operations.

In fact, I began to get suspicious about all the news being broadcast regarding massacres against Turkmens in Syria some time ago, which is why I wrote this on my Twitter account back on Nov. 20:

When there is TURKMEN DRAMA news in Turkey, it means society is being prepared for something. They're going to put our military into Syria, which is why all the news about Turkmen Mountain is quite suspicious.”

Just four days after this tweet of mine, the Russian plane was brought down. It's clear now that Turks were being prepared for something like this. Which means, in this case, the bringing down of the Russian plane was not an act committed in the heat of the moment, but a planned operation.

But does this mean it's an operation Turkey carried out alone, or with the backing of a network of Western countries?

We see answers to this question in the statement made by Obama in the wake of the incident. While Obama warned both sides “not to increase the tension,” he only directly blamed Russia. He said that Russia claims to be bombing ISIL, but it is in fact bombing the opposition along the borders. The second half of this statement is crucial, as it marks the first time we've heard Obama mention Turkmen Mountain, in the north of Syria, and use protective language in talking about the groups there, while simultaneously blaming the Russians. But who are these groups that Obama is pushing to protect?

Well, there's al-Nusra, as well as Ahrar al-Sham and the Fatih brigades. Most of these are groups linked one way or another with al-Qaeda. The protective sort of rhetoric we're hearing from Obama with regard to these groups shows us that Turkey was not the main planner of this latest operation.

What's more, the near perfection of the messages given by Ankara to the global public the moment Turkey brought down the Russian jet show us that this was no last-minute operation, and that the scenario as a whole had been well thought out. Think about this:  The plane goes down and immediately Ankara is able to show the entire world the maps showing the route flown by the plane.

Then we hear the audio tapes of the Turkish pilots warning the Russian planes; the voices are so clear and audible, it's as though they had been taped in a studio beforehand. After this, we hear statements from Western pilots and soldiers - in this case, American and Dutch - noting that they, too, had clearly heard the Turkish pilots warning the Russian plane.

Clearly, it's all a well-rehearsed scenario. We've seen the downing of a Syrian helicopter and a plane in the past, not that long ago, but there was nothing like the map distribution and preparation of public opinion in advance we saw this time around.

For those who know the normal speed of Turkish bureaucracy, it's obvious that unless this scenario was prepared in advance, there's no way the statements we've already heard - and the reactions we've already seen - would have come in such a timely fashion.

So, in the end, all this data points to just one possible conclusion, as I mentioned at the start:  Erdoğan has picked up a new contract. . . .

Turkey Is Lying

By Paul Craig Roberts

November 25, 2015
Tyler Durden at "Zero Hedge" has posted the flight paths of the Russian aircraft according to Turkey and to Russia.

We know that Turkey is lying for three reasons.

One reason is that NATO governments lie every time that they open their mouths.

A second reason is that Turkey’s claim that the SU-24 was in Turkey’s airspace for 17 seconds but only traveled 1.15 miles means that the SU-24 was flying at stall speed! The entire Western media was too incompetent to do the basic math!

A third reason is that, assuming Turkey’s claim of a 17 second airspace violation is true, 17 seconds is not long enough for a Turkish pilot to get clearance for such a serious and reckless act as shooting down a Russian military aircraft. If the SU-24 was flying at a normal speed rather than one that would be unable to keep the aircraft aloft, the alleged airspace violation would not have been long enough to be noticed. A shootdown had to have been pre-arranged.

The Turks, knowing that the Russians were foolishly trusting to the agreement that there be no air to air encounters, told pilots to look for an opportunity.

In my recent article, I gave a reason for this reckless act:

Turkey’s explanation to the UN Security Council gives itself away as a lie. The letter states:  “This morning (24 November) 2 SU-24 planes, the nationality of which are unknown have approached Turkish national airspace. The Planes in quesion have been warned 10 times during a period of 5 minutes via ‘Emergency’ channel and asked to change their headings south immediately.”
As SU-24 are Russian aircraft, as Turkey is able to identify that the aircraft are SU-24s, how then can the nationality of the aircraft be unknown? Would Turkey risk shooting down a US or Israeli aircraft by firing at an unknown aircraft?

If the SU-24 takes 17 seconds to fly 1.15 miles, the SU-24s would have only traveled 20.29 miles in five minutes. Does anyone believe that a supersonic aircraft can fly at stall speed for 17 seconds, much less for five minutes?

Do not expect any truth from any Western government or from any Western media. Governments and media know that the Western populations are uneducated, unaware, and can be relied upon to accept any preposterous story. In the West the Matrix has a firm grip. The Russians need to wake up to this fact.

NPR this morning confirmed that the media is a government propaganda organ. The Diane Rehm show on NPR presented us with a group of talking heads. Only one was informed, a professor at the Middle East Institute of the London School of Economics. The rest of the “experts” were the typical dumbshit Americans. They repeated all of the lies. “Russia is attacking everyone except ISIS.” How can there be anyone but ISIS to attack when the US general overseeing the area recently told Congress that “only 5” of our trained “rebels” remained? Yet the myth of “moderate rebels” is kept alive by these liars.

“The refugees are fleeing the brutal Assad.” Notice that it is always Assad who is brutal, not ISIS which has cut out opponents hearts and eaten them and routinely cuts off peoples heads and commits the most atrocious atrocities. Here we have “experts” blaming Assad. The “experts” said that the refugees are fleeing from Assad not from ISIS. The refugee problem is Assad’s fault, not the faut of ISIS. It is all Assad’s fault because he doesn’t give up and turn Syria over to Washington’s ISIS henchmen.

There was no acknowledgement from the “experts” that ISIS is a Washington creation or that until the Paris attack Washington was strongly backing ISIS with both words and weapons against the Russian air attacks that caught both Washington and ISIS off guard. This is extraordinary considering the fact that US responsibility for ISIS was acknowledged on TV by the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
Gullible Americans who give money to NPR are supporting lies and propaganda that have resulted in the deaths and dislocation of millions of peoples and that are leading to WWIII. The Western media whores are complicit in the crimes, because they fail their responsibility to hold government accountable and make it impossible for valid information to reach people. The Western media serves as cheerleaders for death and destruction.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Russian Plane Downed by NATO's Turkey  (Ben Carson:  Lear's Fool?)  Blowing It After Paris  (Bankster Fraud Outed:  Inside the Money Laundering Scheme That Citi Overlooked for Years)  Tangled Threads of US False Narratives

My hero says "Planet Earth has hit a brick wall (on growth). . . . Japan is back in recession. Abenomics did not work - and they invented QE!"

He's more than a little bit excited.


As for a real world-changing news item.

How about this? (Don't tell anyone but Turkey is also bombing the Kurds.)

On Tuesday, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that was carrying out military operations against jihadi groups in Northern Syria. The downing of the Su-24 fighter jet is part of a broader plan by the administration of Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan to topple the secular government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and to establish “safe zones” on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border. Erdogan needs the safe zones to provide a sanctuary for the militant extremists who are the foot soldiers in his war against Syria. The downing of the Russian fighter is a desperate attempt by Erdogan to incite a reaction from Russia that will draw either NATO or the United States deeper into a conflict which has dragged on for 4 and a half years and killed 250,000 people.

Or these?

An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness

Who Created This Monster?

After Paris:  Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large

Of course, sometimes . . . there's more than meets the eye.

But don't quote me.

Turkey Has Destroyed Russia’s Hope Of Western Cooperation

Turkey’s unprovoked shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft over Syria raises interesting questions. It seems unlikely that the Turkish government would commit an act of war against a much more powerful neighbor unless Washington had cleared the attack. Turkey’s government is not very competent, but even the incompetent know better than to put themselves into a position of facing Russia alone.

If the attack was cleared with Washington, was Obama bypassed by the neocons who control his government, or is Obama himself complicit? Clearly the neoconservatives are disturbed by the French president’s call for unity with Russia against ISIL and easily could have used their connections to Turkey to stage an event that Washington can use to prevent cooperation with Russia.

Washington’s complicity is certainly indicated, but it is not completely out of the question that the well-placed Turks who are purchasing oil from ISIL took revenge against Russia for destroying their oil tanker investments and profitable business. But if the attack has a private or semi-private origin in connections between gangsters and military, would Turkey’s president have defended the shoot-down on such spurious grounds as “national defense”? No one can believe that one Russian jet is a threat to Turkey’s security.

. . . The responses to the shoot-down are also interesting. From what I heard of Obama’s press conference, Obama’s definition of “moderate Syrian rebels” includes all the extremist jihadish groups, such as al Nursa and ISIL, that are the focus of the Russian attacks. Only Assad is an extremist. Obama, following the neocon line, says that Assad has too much blood on his hands to be allowed to remain president of Syria.

Obama is not specific about the “blood on Assad’s hands,” but we can be. The blood is the blood of ISIL forces fighting the Syrian army. Obama doesn’t refer to the blood on ISIL’s hands, but even the presstitutes have told us the horror stories associated with the blood on ISIL’s hands, with whom Obama has allied us.

And what about the blood on Obama’s hands? Here we are talking about a very large quantity of blood:  the blood of entire countries — Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and the blood that Obama’s puppet government in Kiev has spilled of the ethnic Russian inhabitants of Ukraine, not to forget the Palestinian blood spilled by Israel using US supplied weapons.

If the blood on Assad’s hands disqualifies Assad from office, the much greater quantity on Obama’s hands disqualifies Obama. And Cameron. And Hollande. And Merkel. And Netanyahu.

Throughout the entire Washington orchestrated conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Ukraine, the Russian government has spoken reasonably and responded in a diplomatic manner to the many provocations. The Russian government relied on European governments realizing that Europe does not benefit from conflicts generated by Washington and separating themselves from a policy that is against their interests. But Europe proved to be a collection of American vassals, not independent countries capable of independent foreign policies.

In its campaign against ISIL in Syria, the Russian government relied on the agreement made with NATO countries to avoid engaging in the air. Now Turkey has violated this agreement.

I will be surprised if the Russian government any longer places any trust in the words of the West and any hope in diplomacy with the West. By now the Russian government and the Russian people will have learned that the Wolfowitz doctrine means what it says and is in force against Russia.

From the Ukrainian attack on Crimea’s power supply and the blackout that is affecting Crimea, the Russian government has also learned that Washington’s puppet government in Kiev intends further conflict with Russia.

Washington has made it clear from the beginning that Washington’s focus is on overthrowing Assad, not ISIL. Despite the alleged attack on France by ISIL, the US State Department press spokesperson, Admiral John Kirby, said that Russia cannot be a member of the coalition against ISIL until Russia stops propping up Assad.

It's difficult to see the Republican Party Follies as serious as those in "King Lear."

Although, they are in there trying and there is an awe-inspiring fool.

And not just one.

What a country.

“I’ll take my chances with the brain tumor:”  Larry Wilmore devastates Ben Carson’s Geography-gate debacle

Do we really need another President who is geographically dyslexic (can't read a map)?

From the suddenly un-subtle Trevor Noah:

Ben Carson apparently doesn’t know anything about foreign policy. Shocking, I know, for the guy who thinks the pyramids were used as grain silos. He was asked three times for the first person he would have called after the Paris attacks if he’s been in office. He couldn’t answer the question.
Trevor Noah had some fun with that on Wednesday night’s “Daily Show,” saying these issues are really complex and you can’t change the way a person thinks. That’s really left up to a neurosurgeon.

After advisor Duane Clarridge made a few truthful comments outing Carson as lacking the foreign policy chops to debate on his feet, the campaign denied that the adviser was ever actually an adviser. Well, except for that time they used him to help with an op-ed in the "New York Times."

He is a person who has come in on a couple of our sessions to offer his opinions about what was going on,” Carson said in an interview trying to distance himself from the non-adviser adviser.

So, basically that’s like “I don’t think of myself as a surgeon; I’m just a guy people pay to stab their brain until they’re healthy,” Noah joked.

The campaign actually disavowed Clarridge as “an elderly gentleman” a comment Noah felt was “dickish.” That’s a decent characterization when a presidential candidate uses “elderly” as a derogatory term to imply someone doesn’t know anything. Kind of like if we coined the phrase “Carson” to be synonymous with being an ill-informed, featherbrained, ditz on foreign policy matters.

Such as:  “Huckabee just Carsoned his way through that question on ISIS” or “That governor is Carsoning his response on refugees.”

He then played the hilarious clip of Chris Matthews on “Hardball” nearly dying with laughter when Carson openly pondered if a Palestinian territory should be in Israel, or if perhaps they could instead “slip it into Egypt.”

“‘Can’t you just slip it into Egypt?'” Noah asked. “You think the Egyptians won’t just notice him walking in with Palestine?”

Check out the hilarity below:

I lost my last teaching position after 9/11 after I mentioned the word "blowback" (okay, I wrote it on the board), and made the same boring arguments for cool heads and measured responses that appear below. My problem with how today's events are transpiring is almost exactly the same. The integrity of the reporting on "RT" ("Russia Today") and Thom Hartmann's "FSTV" show " is miles above that on all the other channels and that which occurred during the 9/11 event (which was never believable as reported by the mainstream media beginning the day of or as the government's appointed 9/11 Commission detailed ultimately as the investigated truth). The coordinated strikes on display in Paris demand the same if not a closer analysis and measured response (although this is never what the mob screams for). And somehow, against all historical perspective, the mob always rules.

We Blew It After 9/11. We’re Blowing It Again After Paris

On Sept. 14, 2001, 800 million Europeans in 43 countries observed three minutes of silence for the victims of 9/11. From Europe and around the world came pleas that the U.S. not squander this global goodwill. I recall the words of my brother John, a French-American Medieval scholar and co-author of “Europe and Islam:  Fifteen Centuries of History,” who wrote then from France:  “This massive unity of public opinion and political will provides the United States with a tremendous opportunity and risk:  the chance to capitalize on this good will and the danger of taking action that will splinter the forces that stand with us now.”
Of course, we blew it, instead pursuing a foolhardy war under false pretense and prompting a 14-year ongoing nightmare:  half a million Iraqi civilians dead, by one estimate, a deep and abiding rage against America and its occupation, and a mighty vacuum in the wake of Saddam Hussein that prompted the rise of ISIS and the biggest global refugee crisis since World War II.
Now, the fury has exploded, again:  129 people dead in Paris at the hands of a twisted ideology forged in a cauldron of rage, disenfranchisement, perverse religious interpretation and cool military calculation. And again, the West is faced with a choice:  lash out in vengeance, stigmatize certain immigrants, and seal off the borders, or devise a more measured response in keeping with values that for centuries have led refugees to Western shores.

And returning once again to the financial world that was constructed by connected insiders behind the public's back (and that has never been rectified):

Inside the Money Laundering Scheme That Citi Overlooked for Years

How Citigroup's Banamex USA unit turned a blind eye on the Mexican border.
When Antonio Peña Arguelles opened an account in 2005 at Citigroup’s Banamex USA, the know-your-customer documents said he had a small business breeding cattle and white-tailed deer, ranch-raised for their stately antlers. About $50 a month would come into the account, according to the documents.
A week later, Peña Arguelles wired in $7.09 million from an account in Mexico, allegedly drug money from Los Zetas, a violent cartel founded by former Mexican soldiers, documents in his money-laundering case in Texas say. In all, Peña Arguelles shuttled $59.4 million through the account, according to a confidential report by banking regulators that berated Banamex USA in 2013 for its failure to comply with anti-money-laundering rules.
Banamex USA didn’t file a suspicious activity report about the account, according to regulators, even after Peña Arguelles’s brother Alfonso was killed in late 2011, his body dumped at the Christopher Columbus monument in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, with a banner draped above it accusing Antonio of being a money launderer and stealing from the Zetas. The bank didn’t produce an activity report after U.S. prosecutors asked for the account documents at the end of that year or when Peña Arguelles was indicted in early 2012 for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. And it didn’t file one until May 2013, months after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the California Department of Business Oversight issued a written order in August 2012 demanding the bank check old accounts.
Alfonso Peña Arguelles was murdered in 2011 and his body was dumped at the Christopher Columbus monument in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, under a banner calling his brother Antonio 'a money-laundering murderer living in the U.S.'
Alfonso Peña Arguelles was murdered in 2011 and his body was dumped at the Christopher Columbus monument in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, under a banner calling his brother Antonio 'a money-laundering murderer living in the U.S.'
(Photographer: STR/AFP/Getty Image)

So in June 2013, when more than a dozen Citigroup and Banamex USA executives walked into a meeting to discuss progress on satisfying that order, they faced a group of angry state and national regulators. “Management and board supervision of the bank’s affairs has been critically deficient,” the FDIC and the California agency wrote about Banamex USA in the confidential report, reviewed by Bloomberg, which has never been publicly disclosed. “The willingness to accept and maintain a customer relationship identified with major illicit activity is revealing as to the board’s appetite for reputational and money laundering risk.” The report blasted Banamex USA for looking the other way and for failing to fix problems despite budgeting $32 million that year alone to correct them.
Mark Costiglio, a spokesman for Citigroup in New York, said in an e-mail that Banamex USA has made a “comprehensive effort over a number of years” to address regulators’ concerns, including enhancing controls and ending certain customer relationships.
Seven years after the financial crisis laid bare Wall Street’s inability to contain risk, big global banks are still struggling to stamp out bad behavior and profitably manage their international operations. They’ve paid billions of dollars in fines after employees were found to have manipulated interest rate and foreign-exchange benchmarks, helped clients avoid taxes, and funneled money to countries such as Sudan and Iran.
Big banks, including Citigroup, have continued to stumble over compliance with U.S. anti-money-laundering laws. Citigroup has been reprimanded repeatedly during the past two decades for inadequately monitoring groups that use the financial system to turn dirty funds into legal means of exchange. Since HSBC Holdings agreed in 2012 to pay $1.9 billion for Mexican money-laundering lapses and sanctions violations, it and other banks have severed ties to some foreign lenders and money-changers. “This is the kind of situation where, if you’re a top manager at Citi, you have to say, ‘What are we doing here?’” says Jack Blum, a former investigator for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
What the regulators’ account of the Peña Arguelles case and interviews with more than a dozen former Citigroup employees and consultants show is that Banamex USA tolerated a culture of negligence during years of moving money across the U.S.-Mexico border. And they provide a rare look into how Citigroup failed to oversee a small but risky business in one corner of its global operation. Regulators use the words failed and failure more than 60 times in their report to describe how Banamex USA didn’t comply with anti-money-laundering rules before and after being ordered to do so. The lapses are now the subject of a government investigation that could cost Citigroup hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
“You would certainly think, with all the going back and forth, that know-your-customer would have merited a much more aggressive or closer scrutiny of this client,” says Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency who now works as a security consultant for companies doing business in Latin America.
Citigroup Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat pledged in April to have 30,000 people working in regulatory and compliance functions by the end of 2015, an increase of about 15 percent from a year earlier. Since then, Citigroup has continued to be fined. In May, the bank settled probes into currency rigging, agreeing to pay the U.S. government $925 million, and its Citicorp unit pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros. In July, Citigroup was ordered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to pay $700 million to customers for illegal practices related to the marketing of credit card add-on products.

(Click to enlarge photo.)

Citigroup is still under orders from its two main regulators, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, to fix its anti-money-laundering practices and is the subject of a Justice Department investigation that focuses on money-laundering controls at Banamex USA.
Costiglio, the Citigroup spokesman, declined to comment on specific allegations made in the FDIC report and by former employees. More broadly, he defended the bank’s efforts. “Citi is committed to achieving the strongest possible system for anti-money-laundering and sanctions compliance,” Costiglio said. “We fully understand our obligation to be vigilant and respond to the changing patterns of criminal and terrorist behavior. Over the past several years, we have spent nearly a billion dollars annually and now employ more than 11,000 full-time employees to prevent money laundering.”
Banamex USA, based in Century City, California, was the U.S. arm of Banco Nacional de Mexico, the country’s third-largest bank, known as Banamex, when Citigroup bought the Mexican lender in 2001. The U.S. unit operated as California Commerce Bank for the next five years, offering U.S. dollar credit cards for Mexican customers traveling north, maintaining deposit accounts like the one used by Peña Arguelles, and wiring money to Mexico and elsewhere as part of an agreement with Western Union.
Although California Commerce was formally part of the U.S. banking division, Citigroup started using the Banamex name in 2006 to align it more closely with the Mexican operation. While the unit’s compliance group reported to New York, the banking operations worked closely with Mexico, former employees say.
In 2010, Banamex USA CEO Salvador Villar embarked on an expansion strategy that ultimately attracted regulatory scrutiny. In June of that year, the unit had just two branches, in Century City and Calexico, California. A year later, the number had grown to 17, from California to Texas, many along the Mexican border, according to the FDIC.
The strategy coincided with a push by Manuel Medina-Mora, 65, the CEO of Banamex when it was sold to Citigroup, who had at that point risen to become Citigroup’s head of consumer banking in the Americas. Medina-Mora, who didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment, sent a memo to staff in July 2010 detailing “multi-year investments in people, infrastructure, and marketing” to expand the North American consumer business.
The CEO of Banamex when Citigroup bought it in 2001, Manuel Medina-Mora became head of consumer banking in the Americas and Citigroup’s co-president.
The CEO of Banamex when Citigroup bought it in 2001, Manuel Medina-Mora became head of consumer banking in the Americas and Citigroup’s co-president.
(Photographer: Marco Ugarte/Bloomberg News)
In 2012, the bank opened a branch in Laredo, Texas, in the bustling Mall del Norte, about a mile from the Rio Grande. In April of that year, Sonia de Pau opened an account. She said she was a Mexican housewife who wanted to save money in dollars and pay for personal expenses, according to the 2013 FDIC report. (The FDIC didn’t identify de Pau or Peña Arguelles by name; it called them Customer A and Customer B. But the report provided many details about their cases, including information about de Pau’s ex-husband, who had been indicted in the U.S. for money laundering and bank fraud, and the timing of Peña Arguelles’s indictment, which made it possible to identify them.)
In November 2012, de Pau deposited a $25,000 check. Then, 11 days after that, she deposited four cashier’s checks issued by the International Bank of Commerce in Brownsville, Texas, for a total of $1.44 million. “When someone says they are a housewife, and with that amount of money going through, that should raise questions,” says Peña, the former immigration official.
What Banamex USA failed to note until after de Pau had drained the account, according to the FDIC report, was that she had been arrested in Mexico almost a year before she showed up at Banamex USA. She was alleged to be a financial operator for a former governor of Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, the FDIC report said. He was indicted in Texas in May 2012 for allegedly taking bribes from drug cartels and laundering funds. The bribes came from, or were on behalf of, the same Zetas cartel that Peña Arguelles had worked for, as well as the Gulf Cartel, according to a separate affidavit in the case against de Pau’s ex-husband. De Pau, who is in a witness-protection program in Mexico, couldn’t be reached for comment.
(Click to enlarge figure.)

Citigroup and its subsidiaries have been cited for multiple anti-money- laundering lapses over the past two decades and under five CEOs. Click to enlarge.
Citigroup and its subsidiaries have been cited for multiple anti-money- laundering lapses over the past two decades and under five CEOs.
The bank had been alerted to a problem before de Pau took the money out of the account. On Dec. 3, 2012, Banamex USA contacted Banamex in Mexico and was told that de Pau had an account there and that it was blocked by a judicial order. Banamex USA did nothing until Dec. 20, when it filed a suspicious activity report with the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the FDIC report said. Even that was insufficient, because it didn’t mention that de Pau had already withdrawn most of the money. After the initial report, the bank neglected to conduct a review for continuing suspicious activity, as required by the rules governing the filing, preventing law enforcement from tracing where the funds were eventually deposited, according to the FDIC report.
Before the FDIC issued a formal agreement in August 2012 spelling out what the bank needed to fix, known as a consent order, management displayed only negligible interest or ability to detect or report suspicious transfers, the agency said in its report. Even after the order, the bank was slow to address shortcomings, regulators said. Many of the efforts it did make as of mid-2013 were ineffective.
By the time the FDIC presented its report to bank executives, the Fed had filed its own consent order with Citigroup, citing Banamex USA’s deficiencies. The document, like the FDIC consent order, called for a plan to plug the holes in the screening process and for funding personnel, systems, and other resources. The OCC, the regulator for Citigroup’s U.S. national bank, issued a separate order in 2012 demanding improvements in money-laundering controls.
In January 2015, the Justice Department sent a subpoena to Citigroup’s Mexico unit, following up on a probe into Banamex USA that focuses on fund transfers between the U.S. and Mexico. The information demanded in that subpoena highlights many of the issues raised by the FDIC. 
It took the 2013 Fed order to get senior management at Citigroup to take action on Banamex USA, according to two people who worked at the bank at the time, and New York compliance staff soon descended on the Century City offices.
They weren’t the only ones. A slew of independent consultants arrived, with at least six firms working on various projects. As the workforce swelled from a couple of hundred to 700 or more, the bank ran out of space to house all of the additional people on the floors it occupied near the top of a 44-story skyscraper west of downtown Los Angeles. Some employees were forced to camp out in hallways, according to three people who worked there.
Progress was slow. Consultants operated in silos, and senior compliance officers were discouraged from sharing information within the department, according to one former Citigroup employee who worked on the project. Citigroup compliance and internal audit staff members weren’t able to check easily on correspondence within the unit because Banamex USA’s e-mails were kept on separate servers, two former employees say.
Less than two weeks after the Fed’s 2013 consent order, Citigroup placed Villar on leave, choosing as CEO Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, now 51, then president of Citigroup’s California operations. Villar, who declined to comment, left the bank in September of that year.
Macieira-Kaufmann hired a new Bank Secrecy Act officer in charge of making sure Banamex USA complied with anti-money-laundering rules. She also added employees to oversee transaction monitoring, know-your-customer procedures, and compliance with Office of Foreign Assets Control rules, which prohibit U.S. companies from doing business with certain individuals and firms.
The new team quickly got bogged down in the minutiae of responding to the consent orders, according to two former employees. Executives broke the documents down by paragraph and created lists of items to address each deficiency. When a bunch of those was completed, management would hold an ice cream social or bring a fruit basket into a conference room to celebrate with staff, says one person who attended. By the fall of 2014, the bank had completed only about half of what regulators demanded and didn’t fully comply until June 2015, another person said. Citigroup declined to make Macieira-Kaufmann available for comment.
At its peak, Banamex USA was just one thread in a global bank that carpeted the globe. The unit never had more than $3 billion in assets, compared with Citigroup’s $1.8 trillion. Yet its compliance failures were a bellwether for lapses in risk controls in other parts of the bank, including a $400 million loan fraud and embezzlement scandal in 2014 at Banamex, Citigroup’s largest international subsidiary.
Citigroup’s money-laundering issues, and the regulatory rancor they bring, go back decades. The bank helped Raúl Salinas, the brother of Mexico’s president at the time, move as much as $100 million into Swiss and U.K. accounts in the mid-1990s and disguised the funds’ source, according to a 1998 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, which was followed by Senate hearings the next year. In 2001, a Senate investigations committee said Citigroup allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to flow through an account of a correspondent bank operating in Argentina after U.S. law enforcement officials ordered the seizure of $7.7 million of alleged drug money. Japanese regulators shut down the firm’s private bank in 2004 for failing to conduct money-laundering checks.

Five years later, Citigroup was barred for a month from marketing banking services to individuals in Japan because it didn’t have adequate money-laundering controls. Citigroup spokesman Costiglio said the bank has strengthened its compliance program “across business and geographic lines” and improved controls, technology, and audit operations to support a “zero-tolerance approach.”
Citigroup isn’t the only global bank to be punished for lax controls linked to operations in Mexico. Wells Fargo paid $160 million in 2010 after Wachovia, which it bought in 2008, admitted it had willfully failed to maintain an anti-money-laundering program linked to transactions with Mexican currency-exchange houses. HSBC agreed in 2012 to pay $1.9 billion for similar failures, as well as for sanctions violations. Both banks were found to have allowed Mexican drug cartels to launder money through their institutions.
It may take prison time for senior executives or even bigger fines to get more banks to focus on preventing money laundering, says Jerry Robinette, a former compliance officer at JPMorgan Chase who served as the agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio. “Until you start sending people to jail, the pockets are there to satisfy the penalties,” he says. “It’s not until the ends don’t justify the means that you may start seeing people thinking differently.”
On the same day as the HSBC settlement, Banamex USA officers in Laredo failed to raise an alarm when Sonia de Pau took $1.4 million out of her account. But the biggest miss appears to be Antonio Peña Arguelles and the bank’s lack of action despite publicity around his brother’s 2011 murder, one of 27,213 in Mexico that year, the most homicidal in Mexico’s history, according to the national statistics agency.
“Still a money-laundering murderer living in the U.S., nice and peaceful,” read the banner hung above the body, taunting the dead man’s brother. Before relations with the Zetas soured — Peña Arguelles and his brother allegedly stole $5 million from the cartel, according to an affidavit by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent — he also had allowed the Zetas to use his ranch to move drugs, bypassing a federal checkpoint, and served as the conduit between the cartel head and several Mexican politicians, the affidavit said.
Peña Arguelles, 60, pleaded guilty in federal court in Texas in March 2014 to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, most of that time already served. He agreed to forfeit about $5.5 million in cash and real estate. His lawyer, Gerry Goldstein, declined to make Peña Arguelles available for this story, citing a lawsuit he’s filed trying to get back some forfeited property. Charlie Strauss, the assistant U.S. attorney in San Antonio who led the prosecution, declined to comment on the case or on Banamex USA.
The FDIC fined Banamex USA $140 million in July for violating anti-money-laundering laws. It didn’t provide an estimate of how much money, if any, was actually laundered. Barbara Hagenbaugh, a spokeswoman for the agency, declined to comment on the action or on the 2013 report.
If Peña Arguelles walked into a Banamex USA branch today, he’d find a much different institution. In fact, he’d likely be turned away — not just because of his record. In July, Citigroup said it was shutting Banamex USA’s remaining branches and winding down the business. — With assistance from Ben Bain.

Tangled Threads of US False Narratives

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

20 November 15

Official Washington’s many false narratives about Russia and Syria have gotten so tangled that they have become a danger to the struggle against Sunni jihadist terrorism and conceivably a threat to the future of the planet, a risk that Robert Parry explores.
ne way to view Official Washington is to envision a giant bubble that serves as a hothouse for growing genetically modified “group thinks.” Most inhabitants of the bubble praise these creations as glorious and beyond reproach, but a few dissenters note how strange and dangerous these products are. Those critics, however, are then banished from the bubble, leaving behind an evermore concentrated consensus.
This process could be almost comical – as the many armchair warriors repeat What Everyone Knows to Be True as self-justifying proof that more and more wars and confrontations are needed – but the United States is the most powerful nation on earth and its fallacious “group thinks” are spreading a widening arc of chaos and death around the globe.
We even have presidential candidates, especially among the Republicans but including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, competing to out-bellicose each other, treating an invasion of Syria as the least one can do and some even bragging about how they might like to shoot down a few Russian warplanes.
Though President Barack Obama has dragged his heels regarding some of the more extreme proposals, he still falls in line with the “group think,” continuing to insist on “regime change” in Syria (President Bashar al-Assad “must go”), permitting the supply of sophisticated weapons to Sunni jihadists (including TOW anti-tank missiles to Ahrar ash-Sham, a jihadist group founded by Al Qaeda veterans and fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front), and allowing his staff to personally insult Russian President Vladimir Putin (having White House spokesman Josh Earnest in September demean Putin’s posture for sitting with his legs apart during a Kremlin meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu).
Not surprisingly, I guess, Earnest’s prissy disapproval of what is commonly called “man spread” didn’t extend to Netanyahu who adopted the same open-leg posture in the meeting with Putin on Sept. 21 and again in last week’s meeting with Obama, who – it should be noted – sat with his legs primly crossed.
This combination of tough talk, crude insults and reckless support of Al Qaeda-connected jihadis (“our guys”) apparently has become de rigueur in Official Washington, which remains dominated by the foreign policy ideology of neoconservatives, who established the goal of “regime change” in Iraq, Syria and Iran as early as 1996 and haven’t changed course since. [See’s “How Neocons Destabilized Europe.”]
Shaping Narratives
Despite the catastrophic Iraq War – based on neocon-driven falsehoods about WMD and the complicit unthinking “group think” – the neocons retained their influence largely through an alliance with “liberal interventionists” and their combined domination of major Washington think tanks, from the American Enterprise Institute to the Brookings Institution, and the mainstream U.S. news media, including The Washington Post and The New York Times.
This power base has allowed the neocons to continue shaping Official Washington’s narratives regardless of what the actual facts are. For instance, a Post editorial on Thursday repeated the claim that Assad’s “atrocities” included use of chemical weapons, an apparent reference to the now largely discredited claim that Assad’s forces were responsible for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.
After the attack, there was a rush to judgment by the U.S. State Department blaming Assad’s troops and leading Secretary of State John Kerry to threaten retaliatory strikes against the Syrian military. But U.S. intelligence analysts refused to sign on to the hasty conclusions, contributing to President Obama’s last-minute decision to hold off on a bombing campaign and to accept Putin’s help in negotiating Assad’s surrender of all Syrian chemical weapons (though Assad still denied a role in the sarin attack).
Subsequently, much of the slapdash case for bombing Syria fell apart. As more evidence became available, it increasingly appeared that the sarin attack was a provocation by Sunni jihadists, possibly aided by Turkish intelligence, to trick the United States into destroying Assad’s military and thus clearing the way for a Sunni jihadist victory.
We now know that the likely beneficiaries of such a U.S. attack would have been Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the spinoff known as the Islamic State (also called ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). But the Obama administration never formally retracted its spurious sarin claims, thus allowing irresponsible media outlets, such as The Washington Post, to continue citing the outdated “group think.”
The same Post editorial denounced Assad for using “barrel bombs” against the Sunni rebels who are seeking to overthrow his secular government, which is viewed as the protector of Syria’s minorities – including Christians, Alawites and Shiites – who could face genocide if the Sunni extremists prevail.
Though this “barrel bomb” theme has become a favorite talking point of both the neocons and liberal “human rights” groups, it’s never been clear how these homemade explosive devices shoved out of helicopters are any more inhumane than the massive volumes of “shock and awe” ordnance, including 500-pound bombs, deployed by the U.S. military across the Middle East, killing not only targeted fighters but innocent civilians.
Nevertheless, the refrain “barrel bombs” is accepted across Official Washington as a worthy argument for launching devastating airstrikes against Syrian government targets, even if such attacks clear the way for Al Qaeda’s allies and offshoots gaining control of Damascus and unleashing even a worse humanitarian cataclysm. [See’s “Obama’s Ludicrous ‘Barrel Bomb’ Theme.”]
False-Narrative Knots
But it is now almost impossible for Official Washington to disentangle itself from all the false narratives that the neocons and the liberal hawks have spun in support of their various “regime change” strategies. Plus, there are few people left inside the bubble who even recognize how false these narratives are.
So, the American people are left with the mainstream U.S. news media endlessly repeating storylines that are either completely false or highly exaggerated. For instance, we hear again and again that the Russians intervened in the Syrian conflict promising to strike only ISIS but then broke their word by attacking Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and “our guys” in Sunni jihadist forces armed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the CIA.
Though you hear this narrative everywhere in Official Washington, no one ever actually quotes Putin or another senior Russian official promising to strike only at ISIS. In all the quotes that I’ve seen, the Russians refer to attacking “terrorists,” including but not limited to ISIS.
Unless Official Washington no longer regards Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization – a trial balloon that some neocons have floated – then the Putin-lied narrative makes no sense, even though every Important Person Knows It to Be True, including Obama’s neocon-leaning Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
The U.S. political and media big shots also mock the current Russian-Iranian proposal for first stabilizing Syria and then letting the Syrian people decide their own leadership through internationally observed democratic elections.
Okay, you might say, what’s wrong with letting the Syrian people go to the polls and pick their own leaders? But that just shows that you’re a Russian-Iranian “apologist” who doesn’t belong inside the bubble. The Right Answer is that “Assad Must Go!” whatever the Syrian people might think.
Or, as the snarky neocon editors of The Washington Post wrote on Thursday, “Mr. Putin duly dispatched his foreign minister to talks in Vienna last weekend on a Syrian political settlement. But Moscow and Tehran continue to push for terms that would leave Mr. Assad in power for 18 months or longer, while — in theory — a new constitution is drafted and elections organized. Even a U.S. proposal that Mr. Assad be excluded from the eventual elections was rejected, according to Iranian officials.”
In other words, the U.S. government doesn’t want the Syrian people to decide whether Assad should be kicked out, an odd and contradictory stance since President Obama keeps insisting that the vast majority of Syrians hate Assad. If that’s indeed the case, why not let free-and-fair elections prove the point? Or is Obama so enthralled by the neocon insistence of “regime change” for governments on Israel’s “hit list” that he doesn’t want to take the chance of the Syrian voters getting in the way?
Reality Tied Down
But truth and reality have become in Official Washington something like Gulliver being tied down by the Lilliputians. There are so many strands of lies and distortions that it’s impossible for sanity to rise up.
Another major factor in America’s crisis of false narratives relates to the demonizing of Russia and Putin, a process that dates back in earnest to 2013 when Putin helped Obama sidetrack the neocon dream of bombing Syria and then Putin compounded his offense by assisting Obama in getting Iran to constrain its nuclear program, which derailed another neocon dream to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.
It became ominously clear to the neocons that this collaboration between the two presidents might even lead to joint pressure on Israel to finally reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, a possibility that struck too close to the heart of neocon thinking which, for the past two decades, has favored using “regime change” in nearby countries to isolate and starve Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian groups, giving Israel a free hand to do whatever it wished.
So, this Obama-Putin relationship had to be blown up and the point of detonation was Ukraine on Russia’s border. Official Washington’s false narratives around the Ukraine crisis are now also central to neocon/liberal-hawk efforts to prevent meaningful coordination between Obama and Putin in countering ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.
Inside Official Washington’s bubble, the crisis in Ukraine is routinely described as a simple case of Russian “aggression” against Ukraine, including an “invasion” of Crimea.
If you relied on The New York Times or The Washington Post or the major networks that repeat what the big newspapers say, you wouldn’t know there was a U.S.-backed coup in February 2014 that overthrew the elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, even after he agreed to a European compromise in which he surrendered many powers and accepted early elections.
Instead of letting that agreement go forward, right-wing ultra-nationalists, including neo-Nazis operating inside the Maidan protests, overran government buildings in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, causing Yanukovych and other leaders to flee for their lives.
Behind the scenes, U.S. officials, such as neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, had collaborated in the coup plans and celebrated the victory by Nuland’s handpicked leaders, including the post-coup Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whom she referred to in an earlier intercepted phone call as “Yats is the guy.”
Nor would you know that the people of Crimea had voted overwhelmingly for President Yanukovych and – after the coup – voted overwhelmingly to get out of the failed Ukrainian state and reunify with Russia.
The major U.S. news media twists that reality into a Russian “invasion” of Crimea even though it was the strangest “invasion” ever because there were no photos of Russian troops landing on the beaches or parachuting from the skies. What the Post and the Times routinely ignored was that Russian troops were already stationed inside Crimea as part of a basing agreement for the Russian fleet at Sevastopol. They didn’t need to “invade.”
And Crimea’s referendum showing 96 percent approval for reunification with Russia – though hastily arranged – was not the “sham” that the U.S. mainstream media claimed. Indeed, the outcome has been reinforced by various polls conducted by Western agencies since then.
The MH-17 Case
The demonization of Putin reached new heights after the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people onboard. Although substantial evidence and logic point to elements of the Ukrainian military as responsible, Official Washington’s rush to judgment blamed ethnic Russian rebels for firing the missile and Putin for supposedly giving them a powerful Buk anti-aircraft missile system.
That twisted narrative often relied on restating the irrelevant point that the Buks are “Russian-made,” which was used to implicate Moscow but was meaningless since the Ukrainian military also possessed Buk missiles. The real question was who fired the missiles, not where they were made.
But the editors of the Post, the Times and the rest of the mainstream media think you are very stupid, so they keep emphasizing that the Buks are “Russian-made.” The more salient point is that U.S. intelligence with all its satellite and other capabilities was unable – both before and after the shoot-down – to find evidence that the Russians had given Buks to the rebels.
Since the Buk missiles are 16-feet-long and hauled around by slow-moving trucks, it is hard to believe that U.S. intelligence would not have spotted them given the intense surveillance then in effect over eastern Ukraine.
A more likely scenario of the MH-17 shoot-down was that Ukraine moved several of its Buk batteries to the frontlines, possibly fearing a Russian airstrike, and the operators were on edge after a Ukrainian warplane was shot down along the border on July 16, 2014, by an air-to-air missile presumably fired by a Russian plane.
But – after rushing out a white paper five days after the tragedy pointing the finger at Moscow – the U.S. government has refused to provide any evidence or intelligence that might help pinpoint who fired the missile that brought down MH-17.
Despite this remarkable failure by the U.S. government to cooperate with the investigation, the mainstream U.S. media has found nothing suspicious about this dog not barking and continues to cite the MH-17 case as another reason to despise Putin.
How upside-down this “Everything Is Putin’s Fault” can be was displayed in a New York Times “news analysis” by Steven Erlanger and Peter Baker on Thursday when all the “fundamental disagreements” between Obama and Putin were blamed on Putin.
“Dividing them are the Russian annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s efforts to demonize Washington and undermine confidence in NATO’s commitment to collective defense, and the Kremlin’s support of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria,” Erlanger and Baker wrote.
Helping ISIS
This tangle of false narratives is now tripping up the prospects of a U.S.-French-Russian-Iranian alliance to take on the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other Sunni jihadist forces seeking to overthrow Syria’s secular government.
The neocon Washington Post, in particular, has been venomous about this potential collaboration which – while possibly the best chance to finally resolve the horrific Syrian conflict – would torpedo the neocons’ long-held vision of imposed “regime change” in Syria.
In editorials, the Post’s neocon editors also have displayed a stunning lack of sympathy for the 224 Russian tourists and crew killed in what appears to have been a terrorist bombing of a chartered plane over the Sinai in Egypt.
On Nov. 7, instead of expressing solidarity, the Post’s editors ridiculed Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for not rushing to a judgment that it was an act of terrorism, instead insisting on first analyzing the evidence. The Post also mocked the two leaders for failing to vanquish the terrorists.
Or as the "Post"’s editors put it:  “While Mr. Putin suspended Russian flights on [Nov. 6], his spokesman was still insisting there was no reason to conclude that there had been an act of terrorism. … While Western governments worried about protecting their citizens, the Sissi and Putin regimes were focused on defending themselves. …
“Both rulers have sold themselves as warriors courageously taking on the Islamic State and its affiliates; both are using that fight as a pretext to accomplish other ends, such as repressing peaceful domestic opponents and distracting attention from declining living standards. On the actual battlefield, both are failing.”
Given the outpouring of sympathy that the United States received after the 9/11 attacks and the condolences that flooded France over the past week, it is hard to imagine a more graceless reaction to a major terrorist attack against innocent Russians.
As for the Russian hesitancy to jump to conclusions earlier this month, that may have been partially wishful thinking but it surely is not an evil trait to await solid evidence before reaching a verdict. Even the Post’s editors admitted that U.S. officials noted that as of Nov. 7 there was “no conclusive evidence that the plane was bombed.”
But the Post couldn’t wait to link the terrorist attack to “Mr. Putin’s Syrian adventure” and hoped that it would inflict on Putin “a potentially grievous political wound.” The Post’s editors also piled on with the gratuitous claim that Russian officials “still deny the overwhelming evidence that a Russian anti-aircraft missile downed a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine last year.” (There it is again, the attempt to dupe Post readers with a reference to “a Russian anti-aircraft missile.”)
The Post seemed to take particular joy in the role of U.S. weapons killing Syrian and Iranian soldiers. On Thursday, the Post wrote, “Syrian and Iranian troops have lost scores of Russian-supplied tanks and armored vehicles to the rebels’ U.S.-made TOW missiles. Having failed to recapture significant territory, the Russian mission appears doomed to quagmire or even defeat in the absence of a diplomatic bailout.”
Upping the Ante
The neocons’ determination to demonize Putin has upped the ante, turning their Mideast obsession with “regime change” into a scheme for destabilizing Russia and forcing “regime change” in Moscow, setting the stage for a potential nuclear showdown that could end all life on the planet.
To listen to the rhetoric from most Republican candidates and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, it is not hard to envision how all the tough talk could take on a life of its own and lead to catastrophe. [See, for instance, Philip Giraldi’s review of the “war with Russia” rhetoric free-flowing on the campaign trail and around Official Washington.]
At this point, it may seem fruitless – even naïve – to suggest ways to pierce the various “group thinks” and the bubble that sustains them. But a counter-argument to the fake narratives is possible if some candidate seized on the principle of an informed electorate as vital to democracy.
An argument for empowering citizens with facts is one that transcends traditional partisan and ideological boundaries. Whether on the right, on the left or in the center, Americans don’t want to be treated like cattle being herded by propaganda or “strategic communication” or whatever the latest euphemism is for deception and manipulation.
So, a candidate could do the right thing and the smart thing by demanding the release of as much U.S. intelligence information to cut this Gordian knot of false narratives as possible. For instance, it is way past time to declassify the 28 pages from the congressional 9/11 report addressing alleged Saudi support for the hijackers. There also are surely more recent intelligence estimates on the funding of Al Qaeda’s affiliates and spin-offs, including ISIS.
If this information embarrasses some “allies” – such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – so be it. If this history makes some past or present U.S. president look bad, so be it. American elections are diminished, if not made meaningless, when there is no informed electorate.
A presidential candidate also could press President Obama to disclose what U.S. intelligence knows about other key turning points in the establishment of false narratives, such as what did CIA analysts conclude about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin attack and what do they know about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of MH-17.
The pattern of the U.S. government exploiting emotional moments to gain an edge in an “info-war” against some “enemy” and then going silent as more evidence comes in has become a direct threat to American democracy and – in regards to nuclear-armed Russia – possibly the planet.
Legitimate secrets, such as sources and methods, can be protected without becoming an all-purpose cloak to cover up whatever facts don’t fit with the desired propaganda narrative that is then used to whip the public into some mindless war frenzy.
However, at this point in the presidential campaign, no candidate is making transparency an issue. Yet, after the deceptions of the Iraq War – and with the prospects of another war based on misleading or selective information in Syria and potentially a nuclear showdown with Russia – it seems to me that the American people would respond positively to someone treating them with the respect deserving of citizens in a democratic Republic.

(Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

War On Cash!  (Phony ISIS Videos Abound)  CIA Out(ed) From Under the Veil  (Under the Cover of Humanitarian Aid:  U.S. Military Is All Over Africa)

Ellen Brown can always be counted on to warn us of the nefarious plans of the banksters.

This is not even beyond belief any more.

Hang Onto Your Wallets:  Negative Interest, the War on Cash, and the $10 Trillion Bail-in

November 22nd, 2015
In uncertain times, “cash is king,” but central bankers are systematically moving to eliminate that option. Is it really about stimulating the economy? Or is there some deeper, darker threat afoot?
. . . Four European central banks – the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, Sweden’s Riksbank, and Denmark’s Nationalbank – have now imposed negative interest rates on the reserves they hold for commercial banks; and discussion has turned to whether it’s time to pass those costs on to consumers. The Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve are still at ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy), but several Fed officials have also begun calling for NIRP (negative rates).
The stated justification for this move is to stimulate “demand” by forcing consumers to withdraw their money and go shopping with it. When an economy is struggling, it is standard practice for a central bank to cut interest rates, making saving less attractive. This is supposed to boost spending and kick-start an economic recovery.
That is the theory, but central banks have already pushed the prime rate to zero, and still their economies are languishing. To the uninitiated observer, that means the theory is wrong and needs to be scrapped. But not to our intrepid central bankers, who are now experimenting with pushing rates below zero.
The problem with imposing negative interest on savers, as explained in the UK Telegraphe, is that “there’s a limit, what economists called the ‘zero lower bound’. Cut rates too deeply, and savers would end up facing negative returns. In that case, this could encourage people to take their savings out of the bank and hoard them in cash. This could slow, rather than boost, the economy.”

Again, to the ordinary observer, this would seem to signal that negative interest rates won’t work and the approach needs to be abandoned. But not to our undaunted central bankers, who have chosen instead to plug this hole in their leaky theory by moving to eliminate cash as an option. If your only choice is to keep your money in a digital account in a bank and spend it with a bank card or credit card or checks, negative interest can be imposed with impunity. This is already happening in Sweden, and other countries are close behind. As reported on

The War on Cash is advancing on all fronts. One region that has hogged the headlines with its war against physical currency is Scandinavia. Sweden became the first country to enlist its own citizens as largely willing guinea pigs in a dystopian economic experiment: negative interest rates in a cashless society. As Credit Suisse reports, no matter where you go or what you want to purchase, you will find a small ubiquitous sign saying “Vi hanterar ej kontanter” (“We don’t accept cash”)

You may be left uncomfortable by Stephen Lendman's reporting, but you will never be left unmoved.

Likely Phony Threatening ISIS Videos

November 22nd, 2015

Most American are so out-of-touch with reality, they’ll believe most everything government sources or media scoundrels claim. Propaganda is effective because it works.

Media reports now hype videos attributed to ISIS, warning of impending US and European attacks. They feature militant-looking characters threatening to strike New York, Paris, Rome and the White House.

. . . Another video threatens Times Square, featuring it prominently in footage along with other midtown New York locations - with a militant-looking character appearing to strap on an explosive belt device, perhaps making sure he’s carrying his passport for easy ID.

ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra are US creations - armed, funded, trained and directed for use as US imperial proxy foot soldiers. The obvious question media scoundrels don’t ask or answer is why would these elements attack their paymasters - America, Britain, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other rogue partners in high crimes against humanity.

Assume the videos are fakes unless proved otherwise, no verification forthcoming so far, nor is any expected. Any individual or group can make statements or videos claiming, hyping or warning anything.

Ones hyped by screaming scoundrel media headlines are best ignored or challenged to prove authenticity or report nothing.

America’s only real threat is homegrown, residing in government offices in Washington, at the Pentagon, and other locations connected to the nation’s imperial agenda - featuring endless wars of aggression on humanity and growing internal tyranny.
Fear-mongering is longstanding rogue state strategy - hyped by media scoundrels gets most people to believe what they should ignore, along with condemning state-sponsored ruthlessness, humanity’s real threat, not ISIS.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.

If you think trying to understand the facts about the USA/USA/USA's "owners" or its "Deep State" is a lot of wasted effort (or hooey), you'll be unimpressed with the documentation found in the essays below.

But if you'd like to know exactly what's going on in the new rush to war and the plans to use tax money for the further enrichment of the very, very, very rich (who pay little of any taxes) already . . . .

As we shall see in the following pages, one of the important sources of covert agencies’ power is their ability to falsify their own records, without fear of outside correction. Does this ability to rewrite their own history empower them to affect, if not control, the history of the rest of society? I believe the evidence in this book will justify a limited answer to this question:  covert agencies, and the CIA in particular, were powerful enough to control and defuse a possible crisis in US political legitimacy. They did so by reinforcing an unsustainable claim:  Oswald killed the President, and he acted alone.

The CIA and the International Drug Traffic

But the power of the CIA to influence history became even greater when, as we shall see, they acted in concert with forces allied to the powerful international drug traffic. Most people are unaware of the size of this unrecorded drug economy. In 2008 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the profits from the global drug trade to be $352 billion; and reported that the funds from laundering illicit drugs, now often estimated to be third largest commodity in international trade, “became an important factor” in preventing a number of major banks from collapsing during the 2008 economic meltdown.[6]

While estimates of the unrecorded drug traffic remain questionable, it is obvious that this traffic is large enough to be a major factor in both the economic and political considerations of government, even while it does not form part of recorded economic statistics. The unrecorded, illicit, but nonetheless important shadow economy is so large, and so powerful, that often governments have no choice but to plan to manage it, even before attempting to suppress it.[7]

There is a third factor contributing to the invisible alliance of the CIA, the independently wealthy, and the banks that cater to them. Informed observers of American politics have more than once commented to me that most of the hundred wealthiest people in the US know each other, and in addition often have connections to both the CIA and to organized crime.

There is no shortage of anecdotal examples:  James Angleton of CIA Counterintelligence delivering the sole eulogy at the small private funeral of Howard Hughes, or Joseph Kennedy Sr. being a point-holder in the same casino (the Cal-Neva) as Chicago mob figure Sam Giancana.[8] Perhaps more relevant to the milieu of the JFK assassination is the example of Clint Murchison, Sr. Murchison paid for the horse-racing holidays of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the same time as he sold stakes in his investments to mob figures like Jerry Catena, and enjoyed political influence in Mexico.[9]

These connections are no accident. More often than not, as we shall see in examining the career of William Pawley, the extremely wealthy acquired their resources by ignoring or bending the rules of society, not by observing them. In corrupting politicians, or in bypassing them to secure unauthorized foreign intercessions, both the mob and the CIA can be useful allies.

In addition drug profits need to be laundered, and banks can derive a significant percentage of their profits by laundering them, or otherwise bending or breaking the rules of their host countries.[10] Citibank came under Congressional investigation after having secretly moved $80 million to $100 million for Raul Salinas de Gortari, brother of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas.[11]

As a rule the power of the biggest drug traffickers is not autonomous, but depends on their government connections; and the top trafficker in any country is usually the one with the best government connections. This means not just that the government is protecting certain drug traffickers, but also that these drug traffickers will have an interest in protecting the government.

I believe that an example of this is the collaboration we shall examine in Mexico, between the CIA and the corrupt DFS, to influence history by presenting false stories about Oswald. But it would be very wrong to think of the CIA-DFS collaboration as a simple alliance.

One of the most crime-ridden CIA assets we know of is the Mexican DFS, which the US helped to create. From its foundation in the 1940s, the DFS, like other intelligence agencies in Latin America, was deeply involved with international drug-traffickers.[12] By the 1980s, possession of a DFS card was recognized by DEA agents as a “license to traffic;” DFS agents rode security for drug truck convoys, and used their police radios to check of signs of American police surveillance.[13]

Eventually the DFS became so identified with the criminal drug-trafficking organizations it managed and protected, that in the 1980s the DFS was (at least officially) closed down.[14] Thus the CIA-DFS alliance was at best an uneasy one, with conflicting goals. The CIA’s concern was to manage and limit the drug traffic, while the DFS sought to manage and expand it.

Management of the drug traffic takes a variety of forms:  from denial of this important power source to competing powers (the first and most vital priority), to exploitation of it to strengthen the existing state. There now exists abundant documentation that, at least since World War II, the US government has exploited the drug traffic to finance and staff covert operations abroad. Perhaps the most conspicuous example is the massive paramilitary army organized and equipped by the CIA in Laos in the 1960s, for which drugs were the chief source of support. This alliance between the CIA and drug-financed forces has since been repeated in Afghanistan (1979), Central America (1982-87), and most recently Kosovo (1998).

It is now fairly common, even in mainstream books, . For example Elaine Shannon, in a book written with DEA assistance, speaks as follows of the CIA-DFS alliance:

DFS officials worked closely with the Mexico City station of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the attaché of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The DFS passed along photographs and wiretapped conversations of suspected intelligence officers and provocateurs stationed in the large Soviet and Cuban missions in Mexico City…. The DFS also helped the CIA track Central American leftists who passed through the Mexican capital.[15]

But it is important to remember that such alliances were often first formed in order to deny drug assets to the enemy. In Mexico as in Asia, just as in the US “Operation Underworld” on the docks of New York City, the US government first began its drug collaborations out of fear that drug networks, if not given USG protection, would fall under that of some other foreign power.

“Operation Underworld,” like its Mexican equivalent, began after signs that the Sicilian Mafia in New York, like the drug networks Latin drug networks of Central and South America, were being exploited by Axis intelligence services. The crash program of assistance to Kuomintang (KMT) drug networks in post-war Southeast Asia was motivated in part by a similar fear, that these networks would come under the sphere of mainland Chinese influence.

Thus it would be wrong to portray the CIA-drug alliance, particularly in Mexico, as one between like-minded allies. The cooperation was grounded in an original, deeper suspicion; and, especially because dealing with criminals, the fear of betrayal was never absent. This was particularly true of the DFS when guided by Luis Echeverría, a nationalist who in the late 1960s (despite being a CIA asset, with the cryptonym LITEMPO-8) developed stronger relations between Mexico and Cuba. Some have questioned whether the increased Cuban-Mexican relations under his presidency (1970-76) were grounded partly in the drug traffic, overseen by his brother-in-law.[16]

Even in 1963 the fear of offending Mexico’s (and Echeverría’s) sensibilities led the CIA to cancel physical surveillance of a Soviet suspect (Valeriy Kostikov); the CIA feared detection by the DFS, who also had Kostikov under surveillance.[17] By the 1970s there were allegations that the CIA and/or FBI were using the drug traffic to introduce guns into Mexico, in order to destabilize the left-leaning Echeverría government.[18]

This is perhaps the moment to point out another special feature of the US-DFS relationship in Mexico. Both the CIA and FBI (as Shannon noted, and as we shall see) had their separate connections to the DFS and its intercept program. The US effort to wrest the drug traffic from the Nazi competition dated back to World War II, when the FBI still had responsibility for foreign intelligence operations in Latin America.

Winston Scott, the CIA Station Chief in Mexico City, was a veteran of this wartime overseas FBI network; and he may still have had an allegiance to Hoover while nominally working for the CIA.[19] We shall see that on a key policy matter, the proposed torture of Oswald’s contact Silvia Durán, Scott allied himself with the FBI Legal Attache and the Ambassador, against the expressed disapproval of CIA Headquarters.

What is particularly arresting about this CIA-mob nexus that produced false Oswald stories, is its suggestive overlay with those responsible for CIA-mob assassination plots. Key figures in the latter group, such as William Harvey and David Morales, did not conceal their passionate hatred for the Kennedys. It is time to focus on the CIA-mob connection in Mexico as a milieu which will help explain, not just the assassination cover-up, but the assassination itself.

The Exemption of the CIA from the Rule of Law

From other sources, we learn more about the autonomy of the CIA. It was almost by accident that the public learned of a secret agreement, in violation of a Congressional statute, whereby the CIA was exempted from reporting crimes of which it was aware to the Justice Department. This agreement was so secret that for almost two decades successive Attorneys General were unaware of it.[20] (My understanding is that the agreement arose from a “flap” in Thailand, where a CIA/OSO officer who was about to report on the local drug traffic was murdered by another from the OPC, who was working with it.)[21]

Although this agreement was temporarily ended under the Ford Administration, a new secret Memo of Understanding under Reagan again lifted the obligation to report the criminal acts of CIA assets who were drug-traffickers. I have argued elsewhere that these covert agreements have been significant factors in augmenting the flows of heroin and cocaine into this country.

Obviously a memo from the Reagan Administration is of little relevance to the Kennedy assassination. But it is of extreme relevance that a prior agreement was in force from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, exempting the CIA from a statutory requirement to report any criminal activity by any of its employees or assets.

This agreement, drawn up under Eisenhower and eventually rescinded under Gerald Ford, was so secret that the Attorneys General under JFK and LBJ (including Robert Kennedy) were never informed of it.[22] We can assume however that the agreement was known to those CIA officers who suppressed an important clue that would have led to their Soviet intercept program, and thereby obstructed a proper investigation of President Kennedy’s murder.

This exemption from a statutory obligation might be considered anomalous, except that in one form or another the CIA has enjoyed such exemptions for most of its history.


[1] Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, And The Deep Politics Of War (New York: Skyhorse, 2013), 171.
[2] Peter Dale Scott, Oswald, Mexico, and Deep Politics (New York: Skyhorse, 2013).

[3] There are previous examples where the actual events of American history are at odds with the public record. Allen Dulles represented the conventional view of John Wilkes Booth when he represented Booth to the Warren Commission as a loner, ignoring both the facts of the case and what is known now of Booth’s secret links to the Confederate Secret Service (Scott, Deep Politics, 295; cf. Tidwell, William A., with James O. Hall and David Winfred Gaddy, Come Retribution:  the Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln. [Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1988]).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The following essay brings up once again that unpleasant (Iraqi) nation-building question:  how in the world were these structures built and what in the world were the specs for excellence in all this Africa building?

Under the Cover of Humanitarian Aid:  The U.S. Military Is All Over Africa

Nov 21, 2015

Nick Turse
In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent,” a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and — north to south, east to west — you’ll find the fruits of that effort:  a network of bases, compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of nations on the continent.

For a military that has stumbled from Iraq to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts say, into a laboratory for a new kind of war.
So how many U.S. military bases are there in Africa?  It’s a simple question with a simple answer.  For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) gave a stock response:  one. Camp Lemonnier in the tiny, sun-bleached nation of Djibouti was America’s only acknowledged “base” on the continent.  It wasn’t true, of course, because there were camps, compounds, installations, and facilities elsewhere, but the military leaned hard on semantics.
Take a look at the Pentagon’s official list of bases, however, and the number grows.  The 2015 report on the Department of Defense’s global property portfolio lists Camp Lemonnier and three other deep-rooted sites on or near the continent:  U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, a medical research facility in Cairo, Egypt, that was established in 1946; Ascension Auxiliary Airfield, a spacecraft tracking station and airfield located 1,000 miles off the coast of West Africa that has been used by the U.S. since 1957; and warehouses at the airport and seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, that were built in the 1980s.

That’s only the beginning, not the end of the matter.  For years, various reporters have shed light on hush-hush outposts — most of them built, upgraded, or expanded since 9/11 — dotting the continent, including so-called cooperative security locations (CSLs).  Earlier this year, AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez disclosed that there were actually 11 such sites.  Again, devoted AFRICOM-watchers knew that this, too, was just the start of a larger story, but when I asked Africa Command for a list of bases, camps and other sites, as I periodically have done, I was treated like a sap.

“In all, AFRICOM has access to 11 CSLs across Africa. Of course, we have one major military facility on the continent:  Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti,” Anthony Falvo, AFRICOM’s Public Affairs chief, told me.  Falvo was peddling numbers that both he and I know perfectly well are, at best, misleading.  “It’s one of the most troubling aspects of our military policy in Africa, and overseas generally, that the military can’t be, and seems totally resistant to being, honest and transparent about what it’s doing,” says David Vine, author of Base Nation:  How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.

Research by "TomDispatch" indicates that in recent years the U.S. military has, in fact, developed a remarkably extensive network of more than 60 outposts and access points in Africa. 
Some are currently being utilized, some are held in reserve, and some may be shuttered.  These bases, camps, compounds, port facilities, fuel bunkers, and other sites can be found in at least 34 countries — more than 60% of the nations on the continent — many of them corruptrepressive states with poor human rights records.  The U.S. also operates “Offices of Security Cooperation and Defense Attaché Offices in approximately 38 [African] nations,” according to Falvo, and has struck close to 30 agreements to use international airports in Africa as refueling centers.

There is no reason to believe that even this represents a complete accounting of America’s growing archipelago of African outposts.  Although it’s possible that a few sites are being counted twice due to AFRICOM’s failure to provide basic information or clarification, the list TomDispatch has developed indicates that the U.S. military has created a network of bases that goes far beyond what AFRICOM has disclosed to the American public, let alone to Africans. 

AFRICOM’s Base Bonanza

When AFRICOM became an independent command in 2008, Camp Lemonnier was reportedly still one of the few American outposts on the continent.  In the years since, the U.S. has embarked on nothing short of a building boom — even if the command is loath to refer to it in those terms.  As a result, it’s now able to carry out increasing numbers of overt and covert missions, from training exercises to drone assassinations.

“AFRICOM, as a new command, is basically a laboratory for a different kind of warfare and a different way of posturing forces,” says Richard Reeve, the director of the Sustainable Security Programme at the Oxford Research Group, a London-based think tank.  “Apart from Djibouti, there’s no significant stockpiling of troops, equipment, or even aircraft.  There are a myriad of ‘lily pads’ or small forward operating bases… so you can spread out even a small number of forces over a very large area and concentrate those forces quite quickly when necessary.”

Indeed, U.S. staging areas, cooperative security locations, forward operating locations (FOLs), and other outposts — many of them involved in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities and Special Operations missions — have been built (or built up) in Burkina Faso,Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon,Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda.  A 2011 report by Lauren Ploch, an analyst in African affairs with the Congressional Research Service, also mentioned U.S. military access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Zambia.  AFRICOM failed to respond to scores of requests by this reporter for further information about its outposts and related matters, but an analysis of open source information, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and other records show a persistent, enduring, and growing U.S. presence on the continent.

“A cooperative security location is just a small location where we can come in… It would be what you would call a very austere location with a couple of warehouses that has things like: tents, water, and things like that,” explained AFRICOM’s Rodriguez.  As he implies, the military doesn’t consider CSLs to be “bases,” but whatever they might be called, they are more than merely a few tents and cases of bottled water.

Designed to accommodate about 200 personnel, with runways suitable for C-130 transport aircraft, the sites are primed for conversion from temporary, bare-bones facilities into something more enduring.  At least three of them in Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon are apparently designed to facilitate faster deployment for a rapid reaction unit with a mouthful of a moniker: Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF).  Its forces are based in Morón, Spain, and Sigonella, Italy, but are focused on Africa.  They rely heavily on MV-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor aircraft that can take-off, land, and hover like helicopters, but fly with the speed and fuel efficiency of a turboprop plane.

This combination of manpower, access, and technology has come to be known in the military by the moniker “New Normal.”  Birthed in the wake of the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the New Normal effectively allows the U.S. military quick access 400 miles inland from any CSL or, as Richard Reeve notes, gives it “a reach that extends to just about every country in West and Central Africa.”

The concept was field-tested as South Sudan plunged into civil war and 160 Marines and sailors from Morón were forward deployed to Djibouti in late 2013.  Within hours, a contingent from that force was sent to Uganda and, in early 2014, in conjunction with another rapid reaction unit, dispatched to South Sudan to evacuate 20 people from the American embassy in Juba.  Earlier this year, SPMAGTF-CR-AF ran trials at its African staging areas including the CSL in Libreville, Gabon, deploying nearly 200 Marines and sailors along with four Ospreys, two C-130s, and more than 150,000 pounds of materiel.

A similar test run was carried out at the Senegal CSL located at Dakar-Ouakam Air Base, which can also host 200 Marines and the support personnel necessary to sustain and transport them.  “What the CSL offers is the ability to forward-stage our forces to respond to any type of crisis,” Lorenzo Armijo, an operations officer with SPMAGTF-CR-AF, told a military reporter. “That crisis can range in the scope of military operations from embassy reinforcement to providing humanitarian assistance.”

Another CSL, mentioned in a July 2012 briefing by U.S. Army Africa, is located in Entebbe, Uganda.  From there, according to a "Washington Post" investigation, U.S. contractors have flown surveillance missions using innocuous-looking turboprop airplanes.  “The AFRICOM strategy is to have a very light touch, a light footprint, but nevertheless facilitate special forces operations or ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] detachments over a very wide area,” Reeve says.  “To do that they don’t need very much basing infrastructure, they need an agreement to use a location, basic facilities on the ground, a stockpile of fuel, but they also can rely on private contractors to maintain a number of facilities so there aren’t U.S. troops on the ground.”

The Outpost Archipelago

AFRICOM ignored my requests for further information on CSLs and for the designations of other outposts on the continent, but according to a 2014 article in "Army Sustainment" on “Overcoming Logistics Challenges in East Africa,” there are also “at least nine forward operating locations, or FOLs.”  A 2007 Defense Department news release referred to an FOL in Charichcho, Ethiopia.  The U.S. military also utilizes “Forward Operating Location Kasenyi” in Kampala, Uganda.  A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office mentioned forward operating locations in Isiolo and Manda Bay, both in Kenya.

Camp Simba in Manda Bay has, in fact, seen significant expansion in recent years.  In 2013, Navy Seabees, for example, worked 24-hour shifts to extend its runway to enable larger aircraft like C-130s to land there, while other projects were initiated to accommodate greater numbers of troops in the future, including increased fuel and potable water storage, and more latrines.  The base serves as a home away from home for Navy personnel and Army Green Berets among other U.S. troops and, as recently revealed at the "Intercept," plays an integral role in the secret drone assassination program aimed at militants in neighboring Somalia as well as in Yemen.

Drones have played an increasingly large role in this post-9/11 build-up in Africa.  MQ-1 Predators have, for instance, been based in Chad’s capital,N’Djamena, while their newer, larger, more far-ranging cousins, MQ-9 Reapers, have been flown out of Seychelles International Airport.

As of June 2012, according to the Intercept, two contractor-operated drones, one Predator and one Reaper, were based in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, while a detachment with one Scan Eagle (a low-cost drone used by the Navy) and a remotely piloted helicopter known as an MQ-8 Fire Scout operated off the coast of East Africa.  The U.S. also recently began setting up a base in Cameroon for unarmed Predators to be used in the battle against Boko Haram militants.

In February 2013, the U.S. also began flying Predator drones out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.  A year later, Captain Rick Cook, then chief of U.S. Africa Command’s Engineer Division, mentioned the potential for a new “base-like facility” that would be “semi-permanent” and “capable of air operations” in that country.  That September, the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlockexposed plans to base drones at a second location there, Agadez.  Within days, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey announced that AFRICOM was, indeed, “assessing the possibility of establishing a temporary, expeditionary contingency support location in Agadez, Niger.”
Earlier this year, Captain Rodney Worden of AFRICOM’s Logistics and Support Division mentioned “a partnering and capacity-building project… for the Niger Air Force and Armed Forces in concert with USAFRICOM and [U.S.] Air Forces Africa to construct a runway and associated work/life support area for airfield operations.”  And when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 was introduced in April, embedded in it was a $50 million request for the construction of an “airfield and base camp at Agadez, Niger… to support operations in western Africa.”  When Congress recently passed the annual defense policy bill, that sum was authorized.

According to Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, there is also a team of Special Operations forces currently “living right next to” local troops in Diffa, Niger.  A 2013 military briefing slide, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, indicates a “U.S. presence” as well in Ouallam, Niger, and at both Bamako and Kidal in neighboring Mali.  Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a country that borders both of those nations, plays host to a Special Operations Forces Liaison Element Team, a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment, and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative which, according to official documents, facilitates “high-risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.

On the other side of the continent in Somalia, elite U.S. forces are operatingfrom small compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle, according to reporting byForeign Policy.  Neighboring Ethiopia has similarly been a prime locale for American outposts, including Camp Gilbert in Dire Dawa, contingency operating locations at both Hurso and Bilate, and facilities used by a 40-man team based in Bara.  So-called Combined Operations Fusion Centers were set up in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan as part of an effort to destroy Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Washington Post investigations have revealed that U.S. forces have also been based in Djema, Sam Ouandja, and Obo, in the Central African Republic as part of that effort.  There has recently been new construction by Navy Seabees at Obo to increase the camp’s capacity as well as to install the infrastructure for a satellite dish.

There are other locations that, while not necessarily outposts, nonetheless form critical nodes in the U.S. base network on the continent.  These include 10 marine gas and oil bunkers located at ports in eight African nations.  Additionally, AFRICOM acknowledges an agreement to use Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Senegal for refueling as well as for the “transportation of teams participating in security cooperation activities.”  A similar deal is in place for the use of Kitgum Airport in Kitgum, Uganda, and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia.  All told, according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has struck 29 agreements to use airports as refueling centers in 27 African countries.

Not all U.S. bases in Africa have seen continuous use in these years.  After the American-backed military overthrew the government of Mauritania in 2008, for example, the U.S. suspended an airborne surveillance program based in its capital, Nouakchott.  Following a coup in Mali by a U.S.-trained officer, the United States suspended military relations with the government and a spartan U.S. compound near the town of Gao was apparently overrunby rebel forces.

Most of the new outposts on that continent, however, seem to be putting down roots.  As "TomDispatch" regular and basing expert David Vine suggests, “The danger of the strategy in which you see U.S. bases popping up increasingly around the continent is that once bases get established they become very difficult to close.  Once they generate momentum, within Congress and in terms of funding, they have a tendency to expand.”

To supply its troops in East Africa, AFRICOM has also built a sophisticated logistics system.  It’s officially known as the Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred to as the “new spice route.”  It connects Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.  These hubs are, in turn, part of a transportation and logistics network that includes bases located in Rota, Spain; Aruba in the Lesser Antilles; Souda Bay, Greece; and a forward operating site on Britain’s Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.

Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, headquarters of U.S. Air Forces Europe and one of the largest American military bases outside the United States, is another key site.  As the "Intercept" reported earlier this year, it serves as “the high-tech heart of America’s drone program” for the Greater Middle East and Africa.  Germany is also host to AFRICOM’s headquarters, located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, itself a site reportedly integral to drone operations in Africa.

In addition to hosting a contingent of the Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily, Italy, is another important logistics facility for African operations.  The second-busiest military air station in Europe, Sigonella is a key hub for drones covering Africa, serving as a base for MQ-1 Predators and RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance drones.

The Crown Jewels

Back on the continent, the undisputed crown jewel in the U.S. archipelago of bases is indeed still Camp Lemonnier.  To quote Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, it is “a hub with lots of spokes out there on the continent and in the region.”  Sharing a runway with Djibouti’s Ambouli International Airport, the sprawling compound is the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and is home to the East Africa Response Force, another regional quick-reaction unit.  The camp, which also serves as the forward headquarters for Task Force 48-4, a hush-hush counterterrorism unit targeting militants in East Africa and Yemen, has seen personnel stationed there jump by more than 400% since 2002.
In the same period, Camp Lemonnier has expanded from 88 acres to nearly 600 acres and is in the midst of a years-long building boom for which more than $600 million has already been awarded or allocated.  In late 2013, for example, B.L. Harbert International, an Alabama-based construction company, was awarded a $150 million contract by the Navy for “the P-688 Forward Operating Base at Camp Lemonnier.” According to a corporate press release, “the site is approximately 20 acres in size, and will contain 11 primary structures and ancillary facilities required to support current and emerging operational missions throughout the region.”

In 2014, the Navy completed construction of a $750,000 secure facility for Special Operations Command Forward-East Africa (SOCFWD-EA).  It is one of three similar teams on the continent — the others being SOCFWD-Central Africa and SOCFWD-North and West Africa — which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.”

In 2012, according to secret documents recently revealed by the "Intercept," 10 Predator drones and four Reaper drones were based at Camp Lemonnier, along with six U-28As (a single-engine aircraft that conducts surveillance for special operations forces) and two P-3 Orions (a four-engine turboprop surveillance aircraft).  There were also eight F-15E Strike Eagles, heavily armed, manned fighter jets. By August 2012, an average of 16 drones and four fighters were taking off or landing at the base each day.

The next year, in the wake of a number of drone crashes and turmoil involving Djiboutian air traffic controllers, drone operations were moved to a more remote site located about six miles away.  Djibouti’s Chabelley Airfield, which has seen significant construction of late and has a much lower profile than Camp Lemonnier, now serves as a key base for America’s regional drone campaign.  Dan Gettinger, the co-founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, recently told the "Intercept" that the operations run from the site were “JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] and CIA-led missions for the most part,” explaining that they were likely focused on counterterrorism strikes in Somalia and Yemen, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, as well as support for the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.

A Scarier Future

Over many months, AFRICOM repeatedly ignored even basic questions from this reporter about America’s sweeping archipelago of bases.  In practical terms, that means there is no way to know with complete certainty how many of the more than 60 bases, bunkers, outposts, and areas of access are currently being used by U.S. forces or how many additional sites may exist.  What does seem clear is that the number of bases and other sites, however defined, is increasing, mirroring the rise in the number of U.S. troops, special operations deployments, and missions in Africa.

“There’s going to be a network of small bases with maybe a couple of medium-altitude, long-endurance drones at each one, so that anywhere on the continent is always within range,” says the Oxford Research Group’s Richard Reeve when I ask him for a forecast of the future.  In many ways, he notes, this has already begun everywhere but in southern Africa, not currently seen by the U.S. military as a high-risk area.

The Obama administration, Reeve explains, has made use of humanitarian rhetoric as a cover for expansion on the continent. He points in particular to the deployment of forces against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, the build-up of forces near Lake Chad in the effort against Boko Haram, and the post-Benghazi New Normal concept as examples.  “But, in practice, what is all of this going to be used for?” he wonders.  After all, the enhanced infrastructure and increased capabilities that today may be viewed by the White House as an insurance policy against another Benghazi can easily be repurposed in the future for different types of military interventions.

“Where does this go post-Obama?” Reeve asks rhetorically, noting that the rise of AFRICOM and the proliferation of small outposts have been “in line with the Obama doctrine.” He draws attention to the president’s embrace of a lighter-footprint brand of warfare, specifically a reliance on Special Operations forces and drones. This may, Reeve adds, just be a prelude to something larger and potentially more dangerous.

“Where would Hillary take this?” he asks, referencing the hawkish Democratic primary frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. “Or any of the Republican potentials?” He points to the George W. Bush administration as an example and raises the question of what it might have done back in the early 2000s if AFRICOM’s infrastructure had already been in place. Such a thought experiment, he suggests, could offer clues to what the future might hold now that the continent is dotted with American outposts, drone bases, and compounds for elite teams of Special Operations forces.  “I think,” Reeve says, “that we could be looking at something a bit scarier in Africa.”

Nick Turse is the managing editor of "" and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Timesthe "Nation," and regularly at "TomDispatch." He is the author/editor of several books, including the just published The Changing Face of Empire:  Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare  (Haymarket Books). This piece is the final article in his series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr.