Tape Inquiry: Ex-Spymaster in the Middle

WASHINGTON — It would become known inside the Central Intelligence Agency as “the Italian job,” a snide movie reference to the bungling performance of an agency team that snatched a radical Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003 and flew him to Egypt — a case that led to criminal charges in Italy against 26 Americans.

C.I.A., via Associated Press

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine branch, in an undated photo.

Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director in 2005 when embarrassing news reports about the operation broke, asked the agency’s independent inspector general to start a review of amateurish tradecraft in the case, like operatives staying in five-star hotels and using traceable credit cards and cellphones.

But Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., now the central figure in a controversy over destroyed C.I.A. interrogation tapes, fought back. A blunt-spoken Puerto Rico native and former head of the agency’s Latin America division, he had been selected by Mr. Goss months earlier to head the agency’s troubled clandestine branch. Mr. Rodriguez told his boss that no inspector general review would be necessary — his service would investigate itself.

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Civil war fear as Afghans ponder arrest of warlord

AN INVESTIGATION into claims a notorious Afghan warlord led a drunken raid on his neighbour’s home, kidnapped its occupants and slapped the owner’s wife are threatening to split the country’s key power brokers along ethnic lines and plunge its only peaceful region into civil war.
The whisky-swilling warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum was stripped of his position as the army’s chief of staff yesterday, amid allegations he had laid siege to a rival commander’s home in Kabul.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said: “There is no doubt it was an illegal act.”

But the ministry has passed responsibility for the investigation to the attorney-general.

Gen Dostum’s allies in the Northern Alliance – which includes the country’s senior vice-president – have threatened to break away from Kabul if the prosecutor’s office pushes ahead with plans to bring him to justice.

The Uzbek commander allegedly led more than 50 armed militiamen in the booze-fuelled attack against the neighbour – one of his former lieutenants.

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Rules for Lawyers Of Detainees Are Called Onerous

The cadre of civilian lawyers representing terrorism suspects held by the military at Guantanamo Bay are not allowed to meet their clients in private, without video surveillance. All their mail and notes must be turned over to the military. Classified information cannot be shared with their clients. They are not entitled to everything the government knows about their clients.

Months before the trials of some of the detainees are set to begin, some of the attorneys say the Defense Department‘s regulations for their work are so onerous that they will be unable to provide a fair and adequate defense of their clients.

“How can I defend him if he is not allowed to see or hear classified information?” asked Brent Mickum, the Washington attorney representing alleged al-Qaeda operative Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, commonly known as Abu Zubaida. “He can’t play a meaningful role in his own defense.”

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German Arms Firm Ends Blackwater Deal After TV Report

Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch said it would end its relationship with Blackwater after German media reported that the controversial US-run military firm was using its guns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater, a private security company which has been contracted to protect high-profile US officials and foreign dignitaries in Iraq, had been using Heckler & Koch machine guns in both Iraq and Afghanistan, German broadcaster ARD’s “Report Mainz” program reported Monday, Feb. 19.

The German arms manufacturer contacted the program shortly before the report was aired on Monday night and said it would cut all its ties to the US firm, according to “Report Mainz.”

The German company on its Web site described its work with Blackwater as a “unique and strategic partnership” in which the two firms were cooperating to develop “special edition” firearms and offer training courses in the United States to use Heckler & Koch weapons.

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Nato troops called in as mobs torch checkpoints on Kosovan border

Nato peacekeepers were forced into action for the first time since Kosovo declared independence after Serbs attacked and set fire to official checkpoints on the border with Serbia.

More than 1,000 Serbs, including women and children, had met at the border to stage a demonstration rejecting Kosovo’s secession.

But the crowd, who were joined by another group from Serbia proper, quickly grew violent and attacked the two checkpoints at Banja and Jarinje guarded by ethnic Serb members of Kosovo’s multi-ethnic police force.

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Permanent U.S. Army command taking shape in Kuwait

By Vince Little, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — U.S. Army Central is establishing a permanent platform for “full spectrum operations” in 27 countries around southwest Asia and the Middle East, its commander says.

Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace said the Army has diverse capabilities here now but plans to reach a complete level of operational effectiveness by July.

The restructuring, which offers more flexibility for offensive, defensive and stability operations, is a major piece of transformation worldwide, said Lovelace.

“It’s the first Army command to do this,” said Lovelace, who also heads the Coalition Forces Land Component. “Now, we’re not only operational but the Army has committed other assets.”

They include the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), 335th Signal Command, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Group, and a Navy medical command.

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Israel ‘hatching serial killing plot’

Lest we forget; Terrorism is only terrorism if it’s Muslims doing it.

Mossad head Meir Dagan

Israel is planning to assassinate senior figures of Hezbollah, Hamas and even Iran after killing Imad Mugniyah in Syria, a new report says. The assassination of Mugniyah was only the first in a string of assassinations that Israel is planning to carry out, Israeli sources quoted by a report in the Kuwaiti daily al-Jarida on Wednesday.

“After Mugniyah there will be a second stage and a third stage, which will target Hezbollah and Hamas and perhaps even Iran,” the report said.

Mugniyah a Hezbollah top commander was killed in Damascus last week. A Sunday Times report earlier had said that Mossad had killed the senior commander using an explosive device planted in the headrest of the driver’s seat in his car.

The sources said that the successful assassination of Mugniyah prompted the Israeli regime to extend the mandate of Mossad head Meir Dagan.