Saturday, March 31, 2007


Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They ‘Made It’

While the number of the world’s billionaires grew from 793 in 2006 to 946 this year, major mass uprisings became commonplace occurrences in China and India.

Alan Note: While this article has a resentful anti-capitalistic and somewhat pro-proletariat slant, to even praising Venzuela's Chavez in his confiscation of anything lucrative within his country, the facts and numbers are interesting.

The author's conrast, for example, of India's billionaires with Maoist terror activity stretches the link of billionaire to poverty as a root of India's challenges.

The poverty was there - as were the Maoists - before these billionaires came to be. And, within the size of India's national economy, the wealth of these billionaires is a drop in the ocean and not the "huge evil blight" he tries to present.

Almost every long established, thus accepted, industrial magnate's family background goes back to robber barons. Though you may have to go back several hundred years to reach the founder of this elite. It just took longer to reach the peaks being reached more rapidly today - in economies far greater than those available to the old financial "nobility".

In India, which has the highest number of billionaires (36) in Asia with total wealth of $191 billion USD, Prime Minister Singh declaredthat the greatest single threat to ‘India’s security’ were the Maoist led guerrilla armies and mass movements in the poorest parts of the country.

In China, with 20 billionaires with $29.4 billion USD net worth, thenew rulers, confronting nearly a hundred thousand reported riots andprotests, have increased the number of armed special anti-riot militia ahundred fold, and increased spending for the rural poor by $10 billionUSD in the hopes of lessening the monstrous class inequalities andheading off a mass upheaval.

The total wealth of this global ruling class grew 35% year to year topping $3.5 trillion USD, while income levels for the lower 55% of theworld’s 6-billion-strong population declined or stagnated.

Put another way, one hundred millionth of the world’s population (1/100,000,000) owns more than over 3 billion people. (The proletariat is suffering, they are "owned", they are enslaved by the greedy rich)!

Over half of the current billionaires (523) came from just 3 countries: the US (415), Germany (55) and Russia(53). (Discrimination of some kind?)

The 35% increase in wealth mostly came from speculation on equity markets, real estate and commodity trading, rather than from technical innovations, investments in job-creating industries or social services. (Seems perfectly normal investment practises of most businessmen. Why are these billionaires taken to task for doing what the "populace" in almost every country with stock exchanges or fast developing economies are doing)?

Among the newest, youngest and fastest-growing group of billionaires,the Russian oligarchy stands out for its most rapacious beginnings. Overtwo-thirds (67%) of the current Russian billionaire oligarchs began their concentration of wealth in their mid to early twenties. (The modern day robber barons were young. These "young turks" should not have been permitted to use their youth and aggressive minds to fight their way to the top? Admittedly murder, assassination and corruption were all an integral part of thier rise but other than in scale no different from the ancestors of our long established and reputable financial elite).

During theinfamous decade of the 1990’s under the quasi-dictatorial rule of BorisYeltsin and his US-directed economic advisers, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar the entire Russian economy was put up for sale for a ‘political price’, which was far below its real value.

Without exception, the transfers of property were achieved through gangster tactics –assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buy-outs.

The future billionaires stripped the Russian state of over a trillion dollars worth of factories, transport, oil, gas, iron, coal and other formerly state-owned resources.

Contrary to European and US publicists, on the Right and Left, very few of the top former Communist leaders are found among the current Russian billionaire oligarchy.

Secondly, contrary to the spin-masters’ claimsof ‘communist inefficiencies’, the former Soviet Union developed mines,factories, energy enterprises were profitable and competitive, before they were taken over by the new oligarchs. (Now that is stretching the truth. soviet industry was notoriously renowned for inefficiency and surviving on state funding of short falls, not profits).

This is evident in the massive private wealth that was accumulated in less than a decade by these gangster-businessmen.

Virtually all the billionaires’ initial sources of wealth had nothing to do with building, innovating or developing new efficient enterprises.

Wealth was not transferred to high Communist Party Commissars (why should it have been?) (lateral transfers) but was seized by armed private mafias run by recent university graduates who quickly capitalized on corrupting, intimidating or assassinating senior officials in the state and benefiting from BorisYeltsin’s mindless contracting of ‘free market’ Western consultants.

Forbes Magazine puts out a yearly list of the richest individuals and families in the world. What is most amusing about the famous Forbes Magazine’s background biographical notes on the Russian oligarchs is the constant reference to their source of wealth as ‘self-made’ as if stealing state property created by and defended for over 70 years (of Communism?) by the sweat and blood of the Russian people was the result of the entrepreneurial skills of thugs in their twenties.

Of the top eight Russian billionaire oligarchs, all got their start from strong-arming their rivals, settingup ‘paper banks’ and taking over aluminum, oil, gas, nickel and steel production and the export of bauxite, iron and other minerals.

Every sector of the former Communist (totally inefficient) economy was pillaged by the newbillionaires: Construction, telecommunications, chemicals, real estate,agriculture, vodka, foods, land, media, automobiles, airlines etc..

With rare exceptions, following the Yeltsin privatizations, all of the oligarchs quickly rose to the top or near the top, literally murdering or intimidating any opponents within the former Soviet apparatus and competitors from rival predator gangs.

The key ‘policy’ measures, which facilitated the initial pillage and takeovers by the future billionaires, were the massive and immediate privatizations of almost all public enterprises by the Gaidar/Chubais team.

This ‘Shock Treatment’ was encouraged by a Harvard team of economic advisers and especially by US President Clinton in order to make the capitalist transformation irreversible. (Consequences of dismantling the Communist state and regime).

Massive privatization led to the capitalist gang wars and the disarticulation of the Russian economy. As a result there was an 80% decline in living standards, a massive devaluation of the Ruble and the sell-off of invaluable oil, gas and other strategic resources at bargain prices to the rising class of predator billionaires and US-European oil and gas multinational corporations.

Over a hundred billion dollars a year was laundered by the mafia oligarchs in the principle banks of New York, London, Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere – funds which would later be recycled in the purchase of expensive real estate in the US, England, Spain, France as well as investments in British football teams, Israeli banks and joint ventures in minerals.

The winners of the gang wars during the Yeltsin reign followed up by expanding operations to a variety of new economic sectors, investments in the expansion of existing facilities (especially in real estate,extractive and consumer industries) and overseas.

Under President Putin, the gangster-oligarchs consolidated and expanded – from multi-millionaires to billionaires, to multi-billionaires and growing. From young swaggering thugs and local swindlers, they became the ‘respectable’ partners of American and European multinational corporations, according to their Western PR agents.

The new Russian oligarchs had ‘arrived’ on the world financial scene, according to the financial press.

Yet as President Putin recently pointed out, the new billionaires have failed to invest, innovate and create competitive enterprises, despite optimal conditions. Outside of raw material exports, benefiting from high international prices, few of the oligarch-owned manufacturers are earning foreign exchange, because few can compete in international markets.

The reason is that the oligarchs have ‘diversified’ into stock speculation (Suleiman Kerimov $14.4 billion USD), prostitution (Mikhail Prokhorov $13.5 billion USD), banking (Fridman $12.6 billion USD) and buyouts of mines and mineral processing plants.

The Western media has focused on the falling out between a handful of Yeltsin-era oligarchs and President Vladimir Putin and the increase in wealth of a number of Putin-era billionaires.

However, the biographical evidence demonstrates that there is no rupture between the rise of the billionaires under Yeltsin and their consolidation and expansion under Putin.

The decline in mutual murder and the shift to state-regulated competition is as much a product of the consolidation of the great fortunes as it is the ‘new rules of the game’ imposed by President Putin.

In the mid 19th century, HonorĂ© Balzac, surveying the rise of the respectable bourgeois in France, pointed out their dubious origins: “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.”

The swindles begetting the decades-long ascent of the 19th century French bourgeoisie pale in comparison to the massive pillage and bloodletting that created Russia’s 21st century billionaires.

(The same could be said of the Mullahs in Iran several of whom number among the billionaires of the world. Supreme Ruler "ayatollah" Ali Khamenei, fearing for his fortune, transfered about $2 Billion from European and Western accounts to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Another "ayatollah" Hashemi Rafsanjani, another long acknowledged billionaire, has worldwide interests, including a sinble reported real estate development in Canada in excess of $1 Billion.

Latin America

If blood and guns were the instruments for the rise of the Russian billionaire oligarchs, in other regions the Market, or better still, the US-IMF-World Bank orchestrated Washington Consensus was the driving force behind the rise of the Latin American billionaires.

The two countries with the greatest concentration of wealth and the greatest number of billionaires in Latin America are Mexico and Brazil (77%), which are the two countries, which privatized the most lucrative, efficient and largest public monopolies.

Of the total $157.2 billion USD owned by the 38 Latin American billionaires, 30 are Brazilians or Mexicans with $120.3 billion USD.

The wealth of 38 families and individuals exceeds that of 250 million Latin Americans; 0.000001% of the population exceeds that of the lowest 50%. (So their wealth should be confiscated and redistributed to the poor? Who would then spend it wisely? Invest it in the industries the alleged lack of action by the billionaires which the author bemoans? Or simply fritter away the comparatively insignificant amount each of the "oppressed proletariat" would receive as their share)?

In Mexico, the income of 0.000001% of the population exceeds the combined income of 40 million Mexicans.

The rise of Latin American billionaires coincides with the real fall in minimum wages, public expenditures in social services, labor legislation and a rise in state repression, weakening labor and peasant organization and collective bargaining. (Sound like a peeved, disgruntled Communist to you, too)?

The implementation of regressive taxes burdening the workers and peasants and tax exemptions and subsidies for the agro-mineral exporters contributed to the making of the billionaires.

The result has been downward mobility for public employees and workers, the displacement of urban labor into the informal sector, the massive bankruptcy of small farmers, peasants and rural labor and the out-migration from the countryside to the urban slums and emigration abroad.

The principal cause of poverty in Latin American is the very conditions that facilitate the growth of billionaires.

In the case of Mexico, the privatization of the telecommunication sector at rock bottom prices, resulted in the quadrupling of wealth for Carlos Slim Helu, the third richest man in the world (just behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) with a net worth of $49 billion USD.

Two fellow Mexican billionaires, Alfredo Harp Helu and Roberto Hernandez Ramirez benefited from the privatization of banks and their subsequent de-nationalization, selling Banamex to Citicorp.

Privatization, financial de-regulation and de-nationalization were the key operating principles of US foreign economic policies implemented in Latin America by the IMF and the World Bank.

These principles dictated the fundamental conditions shaping any loans or debt re-negotiations inLatin America.

The billionaires-in-the-making, came from old and new money.

Some began to raise their fortunes by securing government contracts during the earlier state-led development model (1930’s to 1970’s) and others through inherited wealth. Half of Mexican billionaires inherited their original multi-million dollar fortunes on their way up to the top. The other half benefited from political ties and the subsequent big payola from buying public enterprises cheap and then selling them off to US multi-nationals at great profit.

The great bulk of the 12 million Mexican immigrants who crossed the border into the US have fled from the onerous conditions, which allowed Mexico’s traditional and nouveaux riches millionaires to join the global billionaires’ club.

Brazil has the largest number of billionaires (20) of any country in Latin America with a net worth of $46.2 billion USD, which is greater than the new worth of 80 million urban and rural impoverished Brazilians.

Approximately 40% of Brazilian billionaires started with great fortunes– and simply added on – through acquisitions and mergers. (How criminal! How dare they!)?

The so-called‘self-made’ billionaires benefited from the privatization of thelucrative financial sector (the Safra family with $8.9 billion USD) and the iron and steel complexes.

How to Become a Billionaire

While some knowledge, technical and ‘entrepreneurial skills’ and market savvy played a small role in the making of the billionaires in Russia and Latin America, far more important was the interface of politics and economics at every stage of wealth accumulation.

In most cases there were three stages:

1.During the early ‘statist’ model of development, the current billionaires successfully ‘lobbied’ and bribed officials for government contracts, tax exemptions, subsidies and protection from foreign competitors. State handouts were the beach head or take-off point to billionaire status during the subsequent neo-liberal phase.

2.The neo-liberal period provided the greatest opportunity for seizing lucrative public assets far below their market value and earning capacity. The privatization, although described as ‘market transactions’, were in reality political sales in four senses: in price, in selection of buyers, in kickbacks to the sellers and in furthering an ideological agenda.

Wealth accumulation resulted from the sell-off of banks,minerals, energy resources, telecommunications, power plants and transport and the assumption by the state of private debt. This was the take-offphase from millionaire toward billionaire status. This was consummated inLatin America via corruption and in Russia via assassination and gangwarfare.

3.During the third phase (the present) the billionaires have consolidated and expanded their empires through mergers, acquisitions, further privatizations and overseas expansion.

Private monopolies of mobile phones, telecoms and other ‘public’ utilities, plus high commodity prices have added billions to the initial concentrations. Some millionaires became billionaires by selling their recently acquired, lucrative privatized enterprises to foreign capital.

In both Latin America and Russia, the billionaires grabbed lucrative state assets under the aegis of orthodox neo-liberal regimes (Salinas-Zedillo regimes in Mexico, Collor-Cardoso in Brazil, Yeltsin in Russia) and consolidated and expanded under the rule of supposedly ‘reformist’regimes (Putin in Russia, Lula in Brazil and Fox in Mexico).

In the rest of Latin America (Chile, Colombia and Argentina) the making of the billionaires resulted from the bloody military coups and regimes, which destroyed the socio-political movements and started the privatization process. This process was then even more energetically promoted by the subsequent electoral regimes of the right and ‘center-left’.

What is repeatedly demonstrated in both Russia and Latin America is that the key factor leading to the quantum leap in wealth – from millionaires to billionaires – was the vast privatization and subsequent de-nationalization of lucrative public enterprises. (Once again I am not quite sure which government run industries in ANY country have proved to be that lucrative. Certainly none come to mind as well=managed or operated).

If we add to the concentration of $157 billion in the hands of an infinitesimal fraction of the elite, the $990 billion USD taken out by the foreign banks in debt payments and the $1 trillion USD (one thousand billion) taken out by way of profits, royalties, rents and laundered money over the past decade and a half, we have an adequate framework for understanding why Latin America continues to have over two-thirds of its population with inadequate living standards and stagnant economies.

The responsibility of the US for the growth of Latin American billionaires and mass poverty is several-fold and involves a wide gamut of political institutions, business elites, and academic and media moguls. (Blame America for everything - good Marxist profile, being spread in Latin America).

First and foremost the US backed the military dictators and neo-liberal politicians who set up the billionaire-oriented economic models.

It was ex-President Clinton, the CIA and his economic advisers, in alliance with the Russian oligarchs, who provided the political intelligence and material support to put Yeltsin in power and back his destruction of the Russian Parliament (Duma) in 1993 and the rigged elections of 1996. (Socialist, almost Marxist Clinton to blame? Supporter of the former USSR and China? Oh my!)

And it was Washington, which allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to be laundered in US banks throughout the 1990’s as the US Congressional Sub-Committee on Banking (1998) revealed. (On Clinton's watch? Oh my!)

It was Nixon, Kissinger and later Carter and Brzezinski, Reagan and Bush, Clinton and Albright who backed the privatizations pushed by Latin American military dictators and civilian reactionaries in the 1970’s,1980’s and 1990’s . (Notice how in the heat of passion the language of the autor becomes ever more Communist. "Reactionaries")

Their instructions to the US representatives in the IMF and the World Bank were writ large: Privatize, de-regulate and de-nationalize (PDD) before any loans should be negotiated. (Because, unlike what the author appears to believe and claim, government run institutions are too inefficient to fund?)

It was US academics and ideologues working hand in glove with the so-called multi-lateral agencies, as contracted economic consultants, who trained, designed and pushed the PDD agenda among their former Ivy League students-turned-economic and finance ministers and Central Bankers in Latin America and Russia.

It was US and EU multi-national corporations and banks which bought out or went into joint ventures with the emerging Latin American billionaires and who reaped the trillion dollar payouts on the debts incurred by the corrupt military and civilian regimes.

The billionaires are as much a product and/or by-product of US anti-nationalist, anti-communist policies as they are a product of their own grandiose theft of publicenterprises.


Given the enormous class and income disparities in Russia, Latin America and China (20 Chinese billionaires have a net worth of $29.4 billion USD in less than ten years), it is more accurate to describe these countries as ‘surging billionaires’ rather than ‘emerging markets’ because it is not the ‘free market’ but the political power of the billionaires that dictates policy.

Countries of ‘surging billionaires’ produce burgeoning poverty, submerging living standards. The making of billionaires means the unmaking of civil society (really, or just in a Comunist mind?) – the weakening of social solidarity, protective social legislation, pensions, vacations, public health programs and education. (Perks of a Communist State run country or union run factories?)

While politics is central, past political labels mean nothing. Ex-Marxist Brazilian ex-President Cardoso and ex-trade union leader President Lula Da Silva privatized public enterprises and promoted policies that spawn billionaires. (Bad, bad, bad boys).

Ex-Communist Putin cultivates certain billionaire oligarchs and offers incentives to others to shape up and invest. (ditto).

The period of greatest decline in living standards in Latin America and Russia coincide with the dismantling of the nationalist populist and economies. (He means Communist?)

Between 1980-2004, Latin America – more precisely Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – stagnated at 0% to 1% per capita growth.

Russia saw a 50% decline in GNP between 1990-1996 and living standards dropped 80% for everyone except the predators and their gangster entourage.

Recent growth (2003-2007), where it occurs, has more to do with the extraordinary rise in international prices (of energy resources, metals and agro-exports) than any positive developments from the billionaire-dominated economies.

The growth of billionaires is hardly a sign of ‘general prosperity’ resulting from the ‘free market’ as the editors of Forbes Magazine claim. In fact it is the product of the illicit seizure of lucrative public resources, built up by the work and struggle of millions of workers, in Russia and China under Communism and in Latin America during populist-nationalist and democratic-socialist governments.

Many billionaires have inherited wealth and used their political ties to expand and extend their empires – it has little to do with entrepreneurial skills.

The billionaires’ and the White House’s anger and hostility toward President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is precisely because he is reversing the policies which create billionaires and mass poverty: He is re-nationalizing energy resources, public utilities and expropriating some large landed estates. (Ah! The sweet sensation of a dictator turning his country back to full fledged Communism, to rigged elections, to rule by decree, to unlimited tenure of power. Ah!)

Chavez is not only challenging US hegemony in Latin America but also the entire PDD edifice that built the economic empires of the billionaires in Latin America, Russia, China and elsewhere.

(Communist/Marxist gentle rant against capitalism and the USA, poorly disguised (pun intended) as a valid fiscal examination of economies. Well worth the read for some of he facts and an insight as to how agitators in Latin America present their anti-US and anti-capialism positions to persuade the populaces to elect Communist leaders - before losing he right to vote or be heard - as in Venezuela).
How Have Terrorists Entered the U.S.?

Study: Since 1993, almost every means of immigration exploited

Panel Discussion Transcript

WASHINGTON — A new study from the Center for Immigration Studies examines how foreign terrorists entered and remained in the country over the past decade.

To provide a more complete picture of the threat, the report examines the immigration status not only of the September 11 hijackers but of all 48 foreign-born, radical Muslim terrorists, almost all of them linked to al Qaeda, who have been charged, convicted, or admitted involvement in terrorism in the United States since 1993.

The report, entitled "The Open Door: How Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001," by the Center's Director of Research Steven A. Camarota, contains immigration histories for each of the 48 terrorists.

Contrary to claims that foreign terrorists have come only as temporary visitors, research indicates that they have manipulated almost every possible means of admission to the United States:

Some have indeed come as students, tourists, and business travelers; others, however, have been Lawful Permanent Residents and naturalized U.S. citizens; while yet others have snuck across the border, arrived as stowaways on ships, used false passports, been granted amnesty, or been applicants for asylum.

The report is on line at

Among the findings:

*At the time they committed their crimes: 16 (one-third) of the 48 terrorists were on temporary visas (primarily tourists); 17 (another third) were Lawful Permanent Residents or naturalized U.S. citizens; 12 (one-fourth) were illegal aliens; 3 of the 48 had applications for asylum pending.*

Violations of immigration laws are very common among terrorists.

Not only were 12 of the 48 terrorists illegal aliens when they committed their crimes, but at least ten others had significant violations of immigration law prior to taking part in terrorism.

"Because every part of our immigration system has been exploited by terrorists, we cannot reform just one area, but must address the problems that exist throughout," said Camarota. "The solution is not to single out Middle Easterners for exclusion or selective enforcement.

Instead we need to more carefully check the backgrounds of all visa applicants, better police the borders, strictly enforce the law within the country, and, most important, reduce the level of immigration to give the INS the breathing space it needs to implement fundamental reforms."

Other findings:
Past amnesties for illegal aliens have facilitated terrorism. Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was legalized as a seasonal agricultural worker as part of the 1986 amnesty, which allowed him to travel abroad, including several trips to Afghanistan, where he received terrorist training.

Several terrorists should probably have been denied temporary visas, because they had characteristics that made it likely they would overstay and live in the U.S. illegally. Under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, individuals who are young, unmarried, unemployed, or lack strong attachment to a residence overseas are to be denied temporary visas. Several of the September 11th hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, fit these criteria.*

Although the September 11th hijackers entered on temporary visas, legal immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens have also played key roles in terrorism on U.S. soil. For example, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, ringleader of the plot to bomb New York City landmarks in 1993, is an LPR, and Ali Mohammed, who wrote al Qaeda's terrorist handbook, is a naturalized U.S. citizen.*

In addition to overstaying visas, terrorists have engaged in fraudulent marriages to American citizens, such as Khalid Abu al Dahab, who raised money and helped recruit new members for al Qaeda.

Others have provided false information on their applications for green cards, like Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. And at least eight terrorists held jobs illegally.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS: While no security can be foolproof, if only some of those involved in a terrorist plot can be stopped by our immigration system, then it is possible that whatever conspiracy they are involved in will unravel, as was the case with the Millennium plot. Four general reforms are needed.

First, improvements in how visas are processed overseas are needed, including more vigorous background checks and interviews for all visa applicants.

Second, the fact that terrorists often flout the law means that strict enforcement of immigration law within the United States could reduce the terrorist threat.

Third, there needs to be a significant increase in efforts to police the borders. Improving visa processing while leaving the borders largely undefended is an invitation for terrorists to do as attempted Brooklyn subway bomber Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer did; having been denied a visa, he simply went to Canada and snuck across the border.

The fourth reform that is needed is a reduction in overall immigration, both temporary and permanent.

Given limited governmental resources, issuing fewer visas would mean that greater resources could be devoted to background checks on each applicant. It would also mean fewer people to keep track of within the country. Most important, it would give the State Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service the breathing space they need to deal with enormous processing backlogs, now close to 5 million applications, and allow them to undertake necessary reforms.

It is simply not reasonable to expect any agency, and especially the INS, to deal with such huge backlogs and take on steadily proliferating responsibilities and at the same time fundamentally restructure itself.

Alan Note: Iran claims that together with other Islamic countries supporting anti-USA and terrorists (including Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) there are close to 500,000 - yes HALF A MILLION people in placed around the world to carry out attacks on soft targets and US assets. Assets include businesses such as McDonalds, Starbucks and other clearly American oritented enterprises.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Iran's Suicide BrigadesTerrorism Resurgent

by Ali Alfoneh
Middle East QuarterlyWinter 2007

More than five years after President George W. Bush's declaration of a global war against terrorism, the Iranian regime continues to embrace suicide terrorism as an important component of its military doctrine.

In order to promote suicide bombing and other terrorism, the regime's theoreticians have utilized religion both to recruit suicide bombers and to justify their actions.

But as some factions within the Islamic Republic support the development of these so-called martyrdom brigades, their structure and activities suggest their purpose is not only to serve as a strategic asset in either deterring or striking at the West, but also to derail domestic attempts to dilute the Islamic Republic's revolutionary legacy.

Such strategy is apparent in the work of the Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha-ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz), an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank.

Its director, Hassan Abbasi, has embraced the utility of suicide terrorism. On February 19, 2006, he keynoted a Khajeh-Nasir University seminar celebrating the anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fatwa (religious edict) calling for the murder of British author Salman Rushdie. As Khomeini often did, Abbasi began his lecture with literary criticism.

He analyzed a U.S. publication from 2004 that, according to Abbasi, "depicts the prophet of Islam as the prophet of blood and violence." Rhetorically, he asked, "Will the Western man be able to understand martyrdom with such prejudice? [Can he] interpret Islam as anything but terrorism?"

The West sees suicide bombings as terrorism but, to Abbasi, they are a noble expression of Islam.

So what is terrorism if not suicide bombing? To Abbasi, terrorism includes any speech and expression he deems insulting to Islam.

According to press coverage of his lecture, Abbasi noted that "[German chancellor] Merkel and [U.S. president] Bush's support of the Danish newspaper, which insults Islam's prophet, has damaged their reputation in the Islamic world and has raised the question of whether Christianity, rather than Islam, is of terrorist nature."

From the Iranian leadership's perspective, therefore, Jyllands-Posten's cartoons are evidence of Christian terrorism.

By Abbasi's definition, Iran may not sponsor terrorism, but it does not hesitate to promote suicide attacks. He announced that approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers) were ready to carry out suicide operations against "twenty-nine identified Western targets" should the U.S. military strike Iranian nuclear installations.

Such threats are not new. According to an interview with Iran's Fars News Agency released on Abbasi's weblog, he has propagated haras-e moghaddas (sacred terror) at least since 2004.

"The front of unbelief," Abbasi wrote, "is the front of the enemies of God and Muslims. Any deed which might instigate terror and horror among them is sacred and honorable."

On June 5, 2004, he spoke of how suicide operations could overcome superior military force: "In ‘deo-centric' thought, there is no need for military parity to face the enemy … Deo-centric man prepares himself for martyrdom while humanist man struggles to kill."

Abbasi's rise to prominence in the state-controlled Iranian media coincides with the growth of a number of organizations that have constrained those prone to moderation within the Islamic Republic.

Take, for example, the Headquarters Commemorating the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement (Setad-e Pasdasht-e Shohada-ye Nehzat-e Eslami), an organization founded in 2004 as a protest against President Mohammad Khatami's attempts at improving Iran's relations with Egypt.

The organization's prominence continued to grow throughout the year. On June 5, 2004, the reformist daily Shargh granted Mohammad-Ali Samadi, Headquarters' spokesman, a front page interview.

Samadi has a pedigree of hard-line revolutionary credentials. He is a member of the editorial boards of Shalamche and Bahar magazines, affiliated with the hard-line Ansar-e Hezbollah (Followers of the Party of God) vigilante group, as well as the newspaper Jomhouri-ye Eslami, considered the voice of the intelligence ministry.

Samadi said he had registered 2,000 volunteers for suicide operations at a seminar the previous day.

Copies of the registration forms show that the "martyrdom-seekers" could volunteer for suicide operations against three targets: operations against U.S. forces in the Shi‘ite holy cities in Iraq; against Israelis in Jerusalem; and against Rushdie.

The registration forms also quote Khomeini's declaration that "[I]f the enemy assaults the lands of the Muslims and its frontiers, it is mandatory for all Muslims to defend it by all means possible [be it by] offering life or property," and current supreme leader Ali Khamene'i's remarks that "[m]artyrdom-seeking operations mark the highest point of the greatness of a nation and the peak of [its] epic.

A man, a youth, a boy, and a girl who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the interests of the nation and their religion is the [symbol of the] greatest pride, courage, and bravery." According to press reports, a number of senior regime officials have attended the Headquarters' seminars.

The Iranian officials appeared true to their word.

During a September 2004 speech in Bushehr, home of Iran's declared nuclear reactor, Samadi announced the formation of a "martyrdom-seeking" unit from Bushehr while Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the official daily Keyhan, called the United States military "our hostage in Iraq," and bragged that "martyrdom-operations constitute a tactical capability in the world of Islam."

Then, on November 23, 2004, in response to the U.S. campaign against Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah, Samadi announced the formation of the first suicide unit.

Named after the chief bomb-maker of Hamas, Yahya Ayyash, also known as Al-Muhandis (The Engineer) assassinated on January 5, 1996, it consisted of three teams of unknown size: the Rim Saleh ar-Riyashi team, named after Hamas's first female suicide bomber; the Mustafa Mahmud Mazeh team, named after a 21-year-old Lebanese who met his death in a Paddington hotel room on August 3, 1989, priming a book bomb likely aimed at Salman Rushdie; and the Ahmad Qasir team, named after a 15-year-old Lebanese Hezbollah suicide bomber whose operation demolished an eight-story building housing Israeli forces in Tyre, southern Lebanon, on November 11, 1982.

Samadi said there would be an additional call for volunteers at Tehran's largest Iran-Iraq war cemetery, the Behesht-e Zahra, the following week, and even promised to consider establishing special elementary schools to train for suicide operations.

He kept his word. On December 2, 2004, the Headquarters gathered a crowd in the Martyr's Section of Behesht-e Zahra, where those who conducted suicide operations are honored. According to the Iranian Mehr News Agency, the organization unveiled a memorial stone commemorating the "martyrs" killed in the 1983 Hezbollah attacks on the U.S. Marine and French peacekeepers' barracks in Beirut.

They set the stone next to one commemorating Anwar Sadat's assassin. Samadi concluded the ceremony with a raging speech, declaring, "The operation against the Marines was a hard blow in the mouth of the Americans and demonstrated that despite their hollow prestige and imagined strength … they [have] many vulnerable points and weaknesses.

We consider this operation a good model. The cemeteries in which their dead are buried provide an interesting view and cool the hearts of those Muslims who have been stepped upon under the boots of the Yankees while they were ignored by the international community."

The suicide corps continued to expand even though there is no evidence that their patrons have made them operational. In April 2005, the semi-official daily Iran announced convocation of a unit of female suicide bombers nicknamed the Olive Daughters.

The Baztab news website, which is associated with Mohsen Rezai, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from 1981 to 1997 and since secretary of the Expediency Council, cited one Firouz Rajai-Far, who said, "The martyrdom-seeking Iranian women and girls … are ready to walk in the footsteps of the holy female Palestinian warriors, realizing the most terrifying nightmares of Zionists."

Rajai-Far, a former hostage taker at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holds the license for Do-Kouhe (Two Mountains, referring to one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Iran-Iraq war) magazine, which is affiliated with the vigilante organization Ansar-e Hezbollah.

Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani bestowed theological legitimacy upon such suicide terror operations in a written message to the gathering.

Attendance at the rally indicates some endorsement and a support network for suicide operations. Attending the rally were Palestinian Hamas representative Abu Osama al-Muata; Muhammad Hasan Rahimian, the supreme leader's personal representative to the powerful Bonyad-e Shahid (The Martyr Foundation); Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, an Iranian parliamentarian; Mustafa Rahmandust, general secretary of the Association for Support to the People of Palestine; and model female fighter Marziyeh Hadideh Dabbagh.

More vocal expressions of solidarity are limited, however. The Mehr News Agency reports only a single declaration of solidarity from the spokesman of the University Basij at the Tehran branch of Islamic Azad University, who compared contemporary suicide operations with the "revolutionary deeds" of Mirza-Reza Kermani, the assassin of Nasser al-Din Shah, a nineteenth-century king vilified by the Islamic Republic, and with Navvab Safavi, founder of the Fadayian-e Islam and famous for assassinating the liberal nationalist author and historian Ahmad Kasravi.

Still, that a group at the Islamic Azad University endorsed the organization is significant. Founded to broaden the reach of education after the Islamic Revolution, the university has several dozen satellite campuses across the country and today is the largest higher education system in Iran.

On May 13, 2005, officials declared the second suicide terror unit, the so-called "Martyr Shahada unit," consisting of 300 martyrdom-seekers, to be ready. Some months later, there was a gathering of the "martyrdom-seekers" at Shahrud University. While the invited Hamas representative did not attend, they watched Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech from the "World without Zionism" conference on screen.

While the status of the third and fourth suicide brigades remains unclear, new suicide units continue to declare their readiness. In May 2006, a fifth "martyrdom-seeking" unit, named after Commander Nader Mahdavi, who died in a 1988 suicide mission against the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, declared itself ready to defend Iran. The Headquarters even claims to have recruited "thirty-five foreign Jews" for suicide attacks.\

Lebanese Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006, provided another press opportunity for Iranian suicide brigades. On July 17, 2006, Arya News Agency reported an expedition of two "martyrdom-units," one consisting of eighteen and the second consisting of nine "martyrdom-seekers," to Lebanon.

At demonstrations in Tehran and Tabriz ten days later, sixty Iranian volunteers declared their readiness for holy war. There was also a rally in Rasht, capital of the Caspian province of Gilan, on July 29. But despite the bravado, Iranian police stopped a caravan of self-described "martyrdom-seekers" at the Turkish border.

A leftist weblog quoted the governor of the West Azerbaijan province in which the border crossings with Turkey lie as saying he received a telephone call from Ahmadinejad asking him to stop the suicide units.

Training and Command

While the Iranian government seeks propaganda value out of announcements of new suicide units, it remains in doubt just how committed recruits are. When an Iranian youth magazine interviewed Rajai-Far, an organizer of the Olive Daughters, she remained elusive about how serious her recruits were about suicide.

Despite its rhetoric and the occasional rally, there is little evidence that the Iranian government has established camps to train suicide terrorists. While the Revolutionary Guards operate a network of bases inside Iran, there is little coverage—at least in open source newspapers and Iranian media—of actual training of those recruited by the Headquarters.

There have been two mentions of a military exercise for the suicide brigades around the Karaj Dam. Muhammad-Reza Ja'afari, commander of the Gharar-gah-e Asheghan-e Shahadat (Congregation of the Lovers of Martyrdom) training camp, referred to one exercise as the "Labeik Ya Khamene'i" (We are responding to your call, Khamene'i).

With the exception of the representation of Hamas in the early development of the Iranian "martyrdom-seekers," there is little proof of organizational links to external terrorist organizations.

Nor does the training of any unit mean that the Iranian government is prepared to deploy such forces. In June 2004, Samadi explained that the "activities of the Headquarters will remain theoretical as long as there is no official authorization, and martyrdom-seeking operations will not commence unless the leader [Khamene'i] orders them to do so."

But command and control remain vague. Hussein Allah Karam, a well-known figure from Ansar-e Hezbollah without formal ties to the "martyrdom-seekers," stresses that Khamene'i need not grant permission for any exercises since the trainees are not armed.

Evading the question of what need there is to create "martyrdom-seeking" units parallel with the Basij, Karam responded, "Martyrdom-seeking groups are non-governmental organizations," not part of Iranian officialdom.

The Basij, a paramilitary militia of irregulars loosely charged with defending the revolution, has not been happy with the competition. Basij Commander Mohammad Hejazi condemned the Headquarters' declaration that it sought to dispatch suicide units to Lebanon.

"Such actions have absolutely no link to [Iran's] official apparatus and only serve propaganda aims," he declared. In an indirect critique of the suicide units' leadership, he added: "Some seemingly independent groups are trying to attract … the youth with no coordination with official institutions and without the approval of the command structure for propaganda purposes.

Their goals might be noble, but their means are not correct." Government spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham underlined this argument.

The non-governmental status of the Headquarters and the "martyrdom-seekers" was reinforced in comments of an anonymous Revolutionary Guards commander to Shargh. He explained, "Since the Headquarters … is a non-governmental organization, the organization does not look for orders from the military in case they should take action. Their operations are to be compared with the martyrdom-operations of the Palestinians which are not related to the government of Iran."

The foreign ministry, which under Khatami was more reformist than the hard-line Revolutionary Guards, referred to the Headquarters members as "irresponsible elements" who did "not reflect the line of government,"[40] and, on August 3, 2006, Iranian parliamentarian Mehdi Kuchekzadeh called the Headquarters an NGO during a rally at Behesht-e Zahra.

Baztab reacted angrily to the publication of advertisements for "martyrdom operations" in Partov, the hard-line monthly of the Imam Khomeini Research Institute in Qom, accusing the publication, the Headquarters, and the director of the institute, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi—perhaps the most radical of the Islamic Republic's religious theoreticians—of enabling outsiders more easily to label Iran as a terror sponsor.

Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi expressed similar sentiments. "Martyrdom-operations against the interests of other states must remain secret … The public exposure of such gatherings is the very proof that they are not going to do anything," he wrote.

Abtahi accuses Yazdi of harming the national interests of Iran, and more seriously, of attempting to create parallel institutions in the Islamic Republic in order to eliminate internal opposition to his political interests. Such attacks called member of the parliament Shokrollah Attarzadeh to the defense of Mesbah Yazdi.

Attarzadeh said that volunteers without connection to the ayatollah organized the "martyrdom operations," which he claimed, at any rate, to be purely defensive.

An Instrument for Power Struggles

Baztab's hostility toward Mesbah Yazdi is significant. The Islamic Republic of Iran has long sanctioned widespread use of terror and vigilante justice to keep its citizens in line. Perhaps the most prominent example was the 1997-99 serial killings in which the Iranian secret services systematically liquidated Iranian intellectuals with the aim of intimidating dissidents.

This case has been subject to extensive debate, causing a considerable uproar among the Iranian public. The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and National Security claims that the murders were committed by rogue cells in the ministry. However, Iran's most famous journalist and political dissident, Akbar Ganji, accuses the former minister of intelligence, Ali Fallahian, and Khamene'i of responsibility for the killings.

During the 2005 presidential campaign, the reformist daily Rooz warned of the formation of a new Forghan,[46] a radical Islamist group from the early days of the Islamic Revolution.[47] Ali Yunesi, minister of intelligence, and Abtahi both seconded such concerns.

Baqir Nobakht, spokesman for ‘Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's election campaign, criticized Yazdi by suggesting that he sought to use the "army of martyrdom-seekers" for operations against his political enemies inside Iran.

For more than a century, hard-line officials have turned to vigilante groups during periods of political upheaval. Their political influence is noticeable. The 1979 Islamic revolution only strengthened such tendencies, and there is no doubt that the patrons of the "martyrdom-seekers" have used the Headquarters as a tool to maintain revolutionary values against those that might ameliorate them.

Here, the crisis regarding the change in Iran's policy towards Egypt is instructive. From almost the start of the Islamic Republic, there has been considerable tension between Tehran and Cairo. Ayatollah Khomeini objected to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's recognition of and peace treaty with Israel. After Sadat's assassination, Iranian authorities named a street after his assassin, Khaled Islambouli.

For years after, this action has been an irritant in Egyptian-Iranian relations.[52] But in January 2004, toward the end of Muhammad Khatami's presidency, the Mehr News Agency reported that the Iranian government had asked Tehran's city council to change the street name. The city council acquiesced, renaming it "Intifada Street."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi attributed the decision to improving Egyptian-Iranian relations.

The Headquarters protested, sending a letter to then-mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad defended the decision in the name of promoting unity among Muslim countries "in order to face the global Zionist front." The Headquarters responded with a press release, and a demonstration against the decision.

Mehdi Chamran, the Tehran city council chairman and brother of the late commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Mostafa Chamran, said that the foreign ministry had imposed the decision but that he preferred to honor Islambouli.

In an Iranian-style compromise, the street was finally called Mohammad al-Durrah Street after a 12-year old boy who was caught in crossfire and killed in the opening days of the second intifada. But the Headquarters was successful in scuttling rapprochement with the largest Arab state to make peace with Israel.

On January 28, 2004, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat announced that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak would not visit Iran due to the presence of a picture of Khaled Islambouli on public display in Tehran.

Those associated with the Headquarters appear willing to use irregular forces against enemies not only foreign but also domestic. Groups connected to Mesbah Yazdi roughed up Rafsanjani on June 5, 2006, in Qom.

In the past, vigilantes directed such attacks against reformers or free thinkers, but now the first generation of the Iranian revolutionaries such as Rafsanjani receive the same treatment.

And as in the past, the violence is connected to the same groupings in Iranian politics: the Keyhan editor Shariatmadari, now close to the Headquarters, as the intellectual proponent of violence against liberal elements, and Hussein Allah Karam of Ansar-e Hezbollah, now also linked to the "martyrdom-seekers" and, more directly, with Ansar-e Hezbollah itself, which publishes advertisements for the Headquarters and interviews with their spokesmen.


Since 9-11, the increased focus on international terror has amplified fear of terrorism. By forming suicide terrorists units, Tehran can, at a minimum, exploit such fear. Already, Western policymakers warn that any strike against Iran could spark a resurgence of Iranian-backed terror.

That the Islamic Republic has already formed suicide bomber brigades underscores that point. But the fact that the Iranian leadership must embrace such nonconventional deterrents may suggest that Tehran recognizes that the Iranian military is weaker than Iranian figures admit.

However, the suicide units may serve a dual function. They are, in effect, the most radical factions' guns-for-hire, unquestioning loyalists who are willing to die to preserve revolutionary values. As such, Iranian hard-liners can use them to saber-rattle as well as to keep reformers and liberals at bay.

This may pose the more immediate threat since the willingness of Iranian hard-liners to use violence against their internal political opponents, could pose an almost insurmountable impediment to those who might seek to liberalize the Islamic Republic from within.

Ali Alfoneh is a Ph.D. fellow in the department of political science, University of Copenhagen, and a research fellow at the Royal Danish Defense College. He thanks Henrik Joergensen and Thomas Emil Jensen, both from the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defense College, for their input.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Secret Service Needs Better Management?

The Secret Service has been plagued by high turnover rates because of mismanagement, a NewsMax investigation has found.

According to current and former agents, the Secret Service has senseless transfer policies that drive agents to quit before retirement and add to the government's costs. This comes at a time when, because of threats from terrorists, the need for the Secret Service has never been greater.

In particular, the agents cite numerous situations where agents are denied transfers to cities where their spouses work, while other agents are forced to transfer to those same cities. Often, the agents who want to transfer have offered to pay their own moving costs. Instead, the Secret Service pays $50,000 to $100,000 each to move agents who do not want to be transferred to those cities.

Other poor management practices stand in contrast to the way the FBI does business.

"We sign up to take a bullet, but that's not the hardest part of the job," Jessica Johnson, a former Secret Service agent, told NewsMax. "It's not anything that we normally face. The risk is there. But what makes the job very difficult is the mismanagement.

If the Secret Service were better managed, you'd have a lot better workforce, a lot more people who don't quit," Johnson said.

Current and former agents say the Secret Service is oblivious to the fact that since 9/11, the private sector has been offering hefty salaries to anyone with a federal law enforcement background. For those who want to keep their government pensions, opportunities have expanded as well at other federal law enforcement agencies. Secret Service and FBI agents are prized catches.

Sacrificing Quality Agents

The FBI has taken steps to retain agents, while the Secret Service has not.

In contrast to the Secret Service, after an FBI agent is with the bureau three years, unless he or she chooses to go into management, the agent can stay in the same city for the rest of his or her career. An agent going into management can stay in the same city for five years.

The Secret Service, on the other hand, typically transfers agents three to four times during a 25-year career. An agent who enters management may move five to six times. The rationale is that agents need to obtain experience in different offices, but agents say experience in one office does not translate to another office. Decades ago, the FBI had the same policy.

The bureau scrapped it because the constant moves were not necessary and led many agents to leave the bureau, wasting taxpayer dollars on moving costs and the cost of training new agents to replace those who left.

Not having to transfer as often, FBI agents can better work out living arrangements with spouses. The FBI at least tries to take into account situations where a spouse must work in a particular city, sometimes addressing these as hardship cases.

A Secret Service agent for almost 10 years, Johnson quit early this year partly because of what she called poor management practices. She said the agency is mostly run by agents who are "old school" and think everyone wants to be a Secret Service agent at any cost.

"In the old days, the Secret Service was a great gig," Johnson said. "People lined up to join. They had applications on the shelves for years. People would drop everything at the drop of a hat to get a Secret Service job. It was great pay and offered stability. Well, times have changed, but their mentality hasn't.

People can go out and make a lot more money in the private sector, a lot more money on their own, for much less risk.

Management's attitude is almost as though we should literally be thanking them every day we wake up and have a job."

The Secret Service did not respond to NewsMax's requests for comment or for percentage statistics on agent turnover.

Resignations on the Rise

Agents say resignations before retirement have increased substantially in recent years. In all, the Secret Service has close to 3,000 agents who protect the president and other national leaders as well as visiting foreign dignitaries. The agency also investigates crimes ranging from counterfeiting to fraud involving financial institutions, computers, telecommunications, and electronic funds transfers.

Out of around 140 agents in the Los Angeles office alone, agents say that every other month an agent quits before retirement.

Nationally, an agent transfers to another federal law enforcement agency two or three times a week, one agent said. That does not include agents who leave for the private sector or retire.

The Secret Service asked an analyst, then based in Washington, to study the problem of retention and the costs associated with agent turnover. She found it was an increasingly serious problem. The cost to the government of training a new agent is at least $50,000.

"The higher-ups basically dismissed her findings, saying, 'Oh, we don't have any kind of retention problem,'" said a current agent.

"They didn't want to hear it."

"Who's going to admit there's a problem?" Johnson said. "They just want to hear that everything's fine."

Internally, the Secret Service tries to hide the actual turnover rate by counting in its statistics only agents who leave the government, rather than those who accept jobs at another federal law enforcement agency, according to agents.

Those who remain with the government account for the greatest portion of the turnover.

Johnson, who is now a real estate investor, described trying to raise the issue during her exit interview.

"The supervisor who was giving me the exit interview was literally saying, 'Tell me if there are any problems we should know about,' as he was starting to escort me out the door," Johnson said. "I said, 'Well, yes, I'm sure you hear this a lot,' and I began to lay out examples of unnecessary burdens imposed on agents."
The supervisor became defensive.

"He started going on about how the military does more, and there are civilians who sacrifice more than we do in the service," she said.

In recent years, agents say a dismissive culture and a disregard for the need to retain agents have remained constant. They say that Secret Service directors stay for two or three years, then leave without changing the culture. Mark Sullivan, the current director, was sworn in on May 31, 2006.

Johnson said she accepts that by its very nature, a Secret Service agent's job is demanding. She was assigned to protect President Clinton, who was constantly traveling all over the world. She could hardly ever plan anything in her personal life because her schedule was his schedule.

"If you're on what we call the ROTA [travel rotation] for that month, then you could be called out at any time, with very little notice, to travel anywhere - in-country, out-of-country, to support a protective mission," she said. "So if the president was going to Timbuktu, you could get one or two day's notice before you'd fly off. It's very hard to make plans during that time.

Depending on how your office does it, you could get the ROTA back to back."

If a former president dies, for example, and a protectee goes to the funeral, "Your New Year's leave is canceled because you have to go stand post," she said. "And that's something we sign up for."
Johnson is single and found prospects for marriage slim while in the Secret Service.

"It was hard enough when I just had a master's degree, my own house and a career, and then add to that a gun and a badge, and I'm traveling all over the world," she said. "Oh and by the way, were you going to transfer with me? Were you going to move around the country following my career?"

The 'Juice' Required for Change

What Johnson and others resented was that the Secret Service ignored opportunities to lessen necessary burdens that go with the job. Secret Service upper-management simply doesn't want to be bothered with taking an agent's wishes into account, they say.

Nor does the agency have an open process for listing anticipated vacancies and agents' preferences for transfers. All are kept secret. If an agent has "juice" - connections to higher-ups - he or she is bumped ahead of others, agents say.

In contrast, the FBI, which has 12,500 agents, maintains online lists of requested transfers to each field office so that agents can see who is ahead of them. FBI agents say connections play no role in transfers. Because of the open lists, if the FBI did engage in such under-the-table preferential treatment, the agents would know about it.

The fact that the Secret Service's computer program for listing agent transfer preferences and bidding on promotions is an antiquated DOS-based program symbolizes how much the Secret Service cares about agents' wishes, agents say.

Johnson said that the agency's high-handed approach and preferential treatment for those who have "juice" contribute to low morale and a high turnover rate.

"One agent wanted to take leave on Christmas, and her supervisor said, 'Nobody gets their first holiday off; you're going to work,'" Johnson said.

"She had volunteers who wanted to work her assignment during Christmas.

Plenty of people who wanted the overtime. Instead, she was forced to cancel her plans to see family. The volunteers were the same grade, same pay, and same or better experience; but they weren't allowed to take her trip."

About a year ago, the Secret Service imposed limits on overtime pay and then often denied agents the opportunity to use compensatory or flex time which they had earned in lieu of overtime pay.

When flex time is taken, it usually must be taken within a week. If an agent has other duties already scheduled, the agent may be forced to forfeit the flex time. After seven years, an agent based in a major city might make upwards of $110,000 a year without overtime.

The most senseless management policy has to do with transfers. Essentially, according to agents, the Secret Service moves agents around like pieces on a checkers board without regard to their wishes. The exception is when an agent has "juice." Because agents rightly feel they are being treated unfairly, that situation contributes to poor morale in the Secret Service.

After two years on the Clinton detail based in Chappaqua, N.Y., Johnson wanted to transfer back to California, where she grew up.
"All of a sudden, they said they can't transfer anyone out of New York," she said. "They said they have no one to replace me. At the same time, they're sending out an e-mail that says anyone, regardless of where you are in your career track, if you would like to go to Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco, raise your hand and you're there.

So I write the little memo and I raise my hand. I jump up and down, and they tell me, 'Oh, well, we can't replace you. So you can't go.'"
At the same time, Johnson said, agents who are her friends in the Los Angeles office were sending her copies of e-mails they were receiving from management saying they had to leave Los Angeles to go to protective details.

"A year later when I went to my management, they said, 'Oh well, L.A.'s full. How about the New York field office?'" she said.
When the Secret Service finally agreed to transfer her to Los Angeles after three years in New York, "I find out that we were 11 bodies short in L.A. So how did we go from being full to being 11 bodies short in four months?"

In other cases, the Secret Service disregards situations where a spouse has a job in another city. Johnson and others described one situation where an agent who was based in Los Angeles began dating a doctor in Hawaii.

Eventually, they married, and the agent put in for a transfer to Hawaii, where his wife had an established medical practice.
"We have an office in Hawaii, so it's easier for him to transfer than it is for her," Johnson said. "But the management we had in L.A. at the time had no 'juice.' He was told he couldn't be transferred to Hawaii. He quit because he said his marriage was more important."

About a month later, after he moved to Hawaii, he applied to return to the Secret Service. The head of the Hawaii office, who had the requisite "juice," re-hired him.

"Here you're being told you can't transfer; and the bottom line was, it was all about who your boss is," Johnson said.

In another case, an agent in Los Angeles married a doctor whose specialty made it difficult to find a position there. Finally, she obtained a job in Denver.

The agent asked for a transfer to Denver and offered to pay for the move himself, which would have saved the government about $75,000 in moving costs. The agent was denied a transfer. For the past year, the agent has been flying to Denver once or twice a month to see his wife and young daughter.

"He was willing to go to an office that had serious management issues just to be near his family and pay for it himself," Johnson said. "They still said no."

Meanwhile, the service asked for volunteers to transfer to Denver. Now several other agents are being transferred to Denver at a cost to the government upwards of $100,000 each. Some have greater seniority while others do not.

Agents point out that even when another agent has more seniority, the Secret Service is losing out when agents quit because the agency refuses to transfer them to a city where their spouse has a job.

"If the opening isn't available at that moment, then they can say, 'Oh, sorry, that office is overstaffed. Here are your only options,'" a current agent said. "Then sure enough, while you're still on orders to move somewhere else, orders come out for someone else to go to the same city."

In fact, agents are often "force transferred" - meaning they have no choice except to move or quit - when other agents actually want to go to those same cities.

"There are people who literally pass each other in the air because, let's say one person is leaving Detroit and the other person is leaving Kansas, and they're both being forced to switch," Johnson said. "They're making these people pay to move to a spot where they're literally having the other person in the other city move to replace them. I mean it's just mindless."

Another example of the Secret Service's high-handed way of doing business involves an agent who was based in Washington, D.C. and is married to a Navy lawyer. When the Navy gave her orders to transfer to San Diego, the Secret Service agreed to transfer him there. But after they purchased a home near San Diego, the Secret Service told the agent his transfer orders were being changed. Instead, he was to report to the Los Angeles field office.

The agent asked to transfer to a closer office in Santa Ana, but that request was denied. He has been commuting between San Diego and Los Angeles - a two-hour drive each way - every day.

Meanwhile, Johnson said, the Secret Service has trouble finding qualified applicants to replace those who are driven away.

"Getting a number of applicants is not a problem. Getting qualified applicants is always a problem," she said. "Because of the high standard they have, a large portion of the population wouldn't qualify to be an agent. They've done various things trying to recruit good people, but the bottom line is that their policies are driving away the good people they already have."

"If this were a private company, they couldn't survive," a current Secret Service agent says. "But it's the government, and nobody's accountable.

Somebody probably gets a big fat bonus because we meet our hiring goals, but nobody loses out on a bonus because we had a high attrition rate. What we need is people from outside to shake up the Secret Service."

CHINA Openly Claimed Credit for 9/11 Mission/Attack Plan

China’s Military Planners Took Credit for 9/11

by John O. EdwardsWednesday, Sept. 25, 2002

Soon after the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, two high-ranking Chinese military planners took credit for the 9/11 attacks – and were even hailed as national heroes in China.

In fact, three years before 9/11, the Chinese colonels had proposed the attacks and cited Osama bin Laden by name in their book "Unrestricted Warfare.”

The authors of "Unrestricted Warfare” are Senior Cols. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, and in 1999 they wrote that an attack by bin Laden on the World Trade Center would be just the type of "unrestricted warfare” that could bring down America.

The book was published by China’s People’s Liberation Army and had the endorsement of the Chinese government."Unrestricted Warfare” makes clear its purpose: offering China and other "weak” countries a strategy to destroy the U.S. without a full-scale invasion, using unusual or "asymmetrical” warfare.

NewsMax has recently obtained the CIA translation of this astounding book and has made it available with an introduction by Al Santoli, editor of the prestigious China Reform Monitor.

The importance of this book was highlighted soon after 9/11, when the Chinese colonels were treated as national heroes.

In one interview with the Chinese government-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper in Hong Kong, the colonels offered little sympathy for the Americans killed in 9/11.

They told the paper, "The series of attacks taking place in the United States were very dreary and terrifying, but they must not be viewed from a single perspective” – that is, the U.S. as victims. The colonels then added coldly that the Americans "were victims of U.S. foreign policy.”

The colonels were quick to take credit for the attacks on the World Trade Center, telling the paper their strategy had worked and that "September 11, 2001 very likely is the beginning of the decline of the United States, as a superpower."

Qiao and Wang offer in "Unrestricted Warfare” several new methods for destroying the U.S. – from manipulating U.S. media, to homicide-suicide bombing, to using immigrants as a fifth column, and even employing cyber attacks to destroy America’s critical infrastructure.

Both colonels agreed that the unconventional attacks of 9/11 were right from the pages of their book, and they demonstrated their theory works. "The attacks demonstrated the United States' fragility and weakness and showed that essentially it is unable to stand attacks. ...

The United States, a giant tiger, has been dealing with mice; unexpectedly, this time it was bitten by mice – it has been wielding a large hammer but has been unable to find the flea.

"From a short-term perspective, the attacks in the United States will very likely have some effect on China's economy – they might affect China's economic growth. However, from a long-term viewpoint, they could be favorable to China.""Unrestricted Warfare” has set off alarm bells among several high-ranking U.S. officers.

Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns, "'Unrestricted Warfare' reveals China’s game plan in its coming war with America.” He adds ominously, "China thinks it can destroy America by using these tactics.”Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, former chief of staff of U.S. Forces Korea, shares Adm. Moorer’s view.

"The 9/11 attacks may just be the beginning. Many terrorist nations and groups will try to imitate this operation,” Gen. Singlaub said, noting "China’s war book 'Unrestricted Warfare' will be their text.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Deceitful Islamic Iran's Foreign Minister


'We Warned the United States' Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, 53, discusses efforts to resolve the conflict over Tehran's nuclear program, his country's right to resist and its offer to help bring peace to Iraq.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Minister, fears are growing all over the world that the intensifying conflict with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program could lead to a new military conflict. Do you share this concern?

Mottaki: There has been conflict between the United States and Iran for the past 28 years. Look at the war in Iraq and the US's unilateral approach. Time has shown that our view of things can prevail, even, more recently, in parts of the United States. Now we have sat down at the table in Baghdad with Washington, and one of the messages of this meeting is: There are political and diplomatic ways out of the crisis, but increasing military strength is not a solution. However, there are still irreconcilable differences when it comes to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

SPIEGEL: Isn't it a serious mistake to underestimate the US's resolve? Saddam Hussein experienced that first-hand. Mottaki: We underestimate neither the United States nor the Iranian people. SPIEGEL: Does this mean that you would be prepared for an attack on your nuclear plants?

Mottaki: The United States cannot support another crisis for its taxpayers. Certainly, the Americans have always made it clear that they are keeping all options open. From the very start, we have prepared ourselves for both a solution at the negotiating table and a confrontation. Naturally we prefer the first option. We hate war. But we also view resistance as our obligation.

SPIEGEL: Is Iran's nuclear program truly so important that you would even risk going to war over it?

Mottaki: Every country in the world sets its goals and should also be able to achieve them. On March 5, 1957, exactly 50 years ago, we signed a treaty with the United States that granted us the right to acquire nuclear power plants. The first sentence in that agreement guarantees that the peaceful use of atomic energy is one of the fundamental rights of all nations. We consider the right to development to be inalienable.

SPIEGEL: The international community would certainly be more willing to believe your claims if Iran had not repeatedly deceived the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Mottaki: There have certainly been some open questions with respect to the past. However, our current work on the nuclear program is completely transparent. There are absolutely no deviations from this program. However, there are some concerns over the future. We are willing to answer all further questions concerning the past and will provide the necessary assurances and guarantees for possible future problems.

SPIEGEL: The veto powers in the United Nations Security Council don't appear to take much stock in such assurances. They support sanctions.

Mottaki: Every country is obligated to respect the decisions of the UN bodies. But the Security Council should not jeopardize its legitimate powers through illegal behavior and pressures from individual member states. There is a historical precedent. Iran is in the process of completing the nationalization of its oil industry. The beginning of this nationalization process was the subject of debate in the Security Council 50 years ago. It too was seen as a threat to peace and stability at the time, which of course was absurd. In the nuclear conflict, the question that now arises is over which offence we are actually being punished for. Uranium enrichment is one of the fundamental rights of every country.

SPIEGEL: Could you imagine, as a compromise, negotiations over outsourcing uranium enrichment to another country?

Mottaki: If we consider the history of treaties with other countries, then we have serious doubts about that.

SPIEGEL: Are you referring to Russia's current refusal to supply the fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant -- the construction of which is nearing completion?

Mottaki: We cannot invest billions of dollars in our nuclear power plants and then rely on the help of other nations to produce and supply the fuel.

SPIEGEL: How do you imagine a solution to the conflict?

Mottaki: First the path to new negotiations must be cleared. If the Security Council refers the treatment of Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA once again, we can take up the ratification of the supplementary protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in our parliament ...

SPIEGEL: ... which would allow the agency's inspector to conduct inspections at any time.

Mottaki: Only if the case is withdrawn from the Security Council at the same time. The two must be treated equally, although we doubt this will be the case. Nevertheless, we will view such steps as an attempt to build a bridge between the positions of both sides.

SPIEGEL: But Tehran is also considering cutting off oil shipments to the West if new sanctions are imposed.

Mottaki: We are the ones who must tolerate sanctions today, and that's why we are opposed to boycotts to achieve political interests. But of course we too must be granted the right to a full energy supply.

SPIEGEL: So you are using oil as a threat, after all?

Mottaki: Securing our energy supply has always been an established element of our policy.

SPIEGEL: Your president, who has a penchant for provocation, has cancelled his appearance before the Security Council in New York. Are you perhaps secretly relieved?

Mottaki: Why? The president's first speech before the General Assembly was already very constructive. At the time, he proposed that governments or private companies from other countries invest in the Iranian nuclear program. Can anybody think of a nuclear program more transparent than this?

SPIEGEL: You speak of building bridges, but thanks to his shrill speeches, your president is more notorious for demolishing bridges.

Mottaki: It so happens that we are confronted with statements of those seeking to deny us the right to use nuclear energy under any circumstance. We see this as an attempt to rob us of an inalienable right, and that is the only price we will never pay. Our president has always supported dialogue.

SPIEGEL: He caused an international outcry when he suggested wiping Israel off the map.

Mottaki: We see the constant repetition of this accusation as a sign that some countries are determined not to address the real questions but to suppress them. World War II was a tragedy that happened to take place in Europe. Many millions of people died in that war, including Jews. Who were these Jews? All documents prove that they were Europeans. Why should the Islamic world be responsible for the consequences of that war?

SPIEGEL: We see the most important question as a different one: Is Iran willing, after more than a half-century, to recognize Israel's right to exist?

Mottaki: We consider the Zionist regime in Palestine to be illegitimate. It is wrong to claim, as many do, that people without a country arrived in a country without people. There were many inhabitants of Palestine, and the Jewish survivors of World War II were not a people without a country. They were Europeans.

SPIEGEL: And because you deny the Jewish state its right to exist, you support its archenemies, like the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Mottaki: Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorists. We call this resistance. You are making a big mistake if you view the events in the region too much from the perspective of the United States. America has already made enough mistakes in this region. One is that it gives the Zionist regime free rein to conduct its aggression.

SPIEGEL: Even if Washington's actions aren't always the smartest, this by no means justifies supporting extremists.

Mottaki: If one truly wants democracy -- the declared goal of the Americans -- one must also accept the consequences. Both Hamas and Hezbollah succeeded in democratic elections, and they owe this success to their resistance to the Zionist regime.

SPIEGEL: So the bloodshed in the Middle East will continue?

Mottaki: It doesn't have to be. We are seeing recent approaches in America to a constructive policy for the region, which makes us hopeful.

SPIEGEL: Despite this domestic American criticism, especially of the Iraq policy of the administration of President George W. Bush, many US politicians believe that your country is helping fuel the Iraqi civil war between Sunnis and Shiites by supplying weapons to fellow Shiites.

Mottaki: Washington is simply trying to divert attention from its failed Iraq policy with these kinds of claims.

SPIEGEL: Do you deny that Iran has interests in its neighboring country, especially in the Shiite south?

Mottaki: We have no interest in Iraq being broken up into a Kurdish north, a Sunni central portion and a Shiite south. That would make the horrible situation even worse. This is why we support the government in Baghdad in its attempts to save the country's unity.

SPIEGEL: Tehran's growing influence is already sparking fears among Arab neighbors of Shiite dominance in the region.

Mottaki: But we Shiites are the minority in the Islamic world. If Shiites play a more dominant role in one country or another because they are the majority there, this is no cause for concern. Our strength is not a threat to anyone. Our religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa that forbids sowing discord between Sunnis and Shiites. Those who do so are neither Shiites nor Sunnis. Besides, as we see in Iraq, this conflict between fellow Muslims is being brought into our community from the outside.

SPIEGEL: It is an irony of history that Iran has the "great Satan," the United States, to thank for its new strength. Shouldn't you be grateful to Washington for having liberated Iran from its enemies, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Mottaki: We have always been a powerful country. We can look back on a long and great history, and we have enormous capacities and possibilities. The Americans are now paying the price for not wanting to listen to us, and others. We warned the United States against spending billions of dollars to arm Saddam and the Taliban. By bringing down these regimes they simply corrected their old mistakes. We just hope that the US will not make any further mistakes.

SPIEGEL: German troops are also deployed in Afghanistan. The German navy is patrolling the Lebanese coast. Could this adversely effect relations with Iran?

Mottaki: The Germans are involved in Lebanon at the request of the Beirut government, whose decisions we respect. As far as the Afghanistan mission is concerned, I hope, together with my German counterpart, (Foreign Minister) Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that people will see the Germans mostly as development workers and not military personnel. However, we are very concerned about developments there and have warned our German friends that the situation could spin out of control.

SPIEGEL: Should there be further talks with the United States over solving the conflicts in the region?

Mottaki: The meeting in Baghdad was worthwhile. Our exchange was very constructive and productive. No one spoke badly about the other. We are prepared to forget the mistakes of the past. We should turn to the future, especially in the case of Iraq.

SPIEGEL: Does this mean that you will meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and that you plan to shake hands with the Americans?

Mottaki: As a devout Muslim, I adhere to our Islamic principles and will certainly not shake hands with Ms. Rice. As far as we are concerned, resolving the crisis in Baghdad is more important than all symbolic gestures. All parties must work together to bring the suffering in Iraq to an end.

SPIEGEL: Will Tehran be as constructive if Washington continues to intensify pressure in the nuclear conflict?

Mottaki: We will not allow our brothers and sisters in Iraq to suffer because the United States wants to deprive us of our right to uranium enrichment. But this will not make it easier to find a solution for Iraq.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, we thank you for this interview. The interview was conducted by editors Dieter Bednarz and Hans Hoyng.

Note to readers: SPIEGEL conducted its interview with Mottaki prior to the news on Friday that Iran had detained 15 British Navy personnel Tehran said had illegally entered into Iranian waters near the border with Iraq. It also preceded Saturday's move in the UN Security Council to broadened sanctions against Iran.