Friday, September 5, 2014

Wall Street Journal reporter jokingly emails CIA: 'Just checking in on our al Qaeda friend...'

WSJ Intelligence Correspondent Siobhan Gorman often asked CIA Office of Public Affairs for "guidance" before filing stories; 2010 articles claiming French man once linked to 9/11 plotters was killed by US drone attack in Pakistan remain uncorrected on WSJ website

"Just checking in on our al Qaeda friend Naamen Meziche, who is now enjoying the hospitality of Pakistani authorities," a Wall Street Journal reporter jokingly wrote the CIA regarding "a French Man Linked to al Qaeda 9/11 Plotters," on June 20, 2012, apparently for a story that was updated on June 21, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. EST. The email was obtained through a FOIA request by The Intercept, and is one of many that show a friendly relationship between Siobhan Gorman and the CIA, whom she often looked to for "guidance" before filing stories or after discussing stories reported by her colleagues at the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ story credited to Tom Wright and David Crawford - but also notes that Intelligent Correspondent "Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article" - added, "A U.S. official confirmed the capture of Mr. Meziche and described it as an important victory in the battle against al Qaeda. 'Meziche has a long history with al Qaeda and his capture deprives them of an operative whose experience living in Europe helped them plot against the West,' the official said." That quote doesn't seem to have been included in the initial report.

Gorman's letter to a CIA office of public affairs spokesperson continued, "Any perspective you can offer on his significance, the significance of picking him up, and whether this involved US-Pakistani cooperation would be much appreciated. Apparently he was reported dead (by a colleague of mine) in 2010, so any light you can shed on why he might have been dead then but not dead now would also be very helpful."



The email is intriguing, since the CIA, along with German and Pakistan sources appear to have used the media to over-hype a marginal supporting character - at best - into an "important" al Qaeda operative, and it's not the only time Gorman has used the term "friend" to jokingly refer to terror suspects before they were convicted of crimes or other subjects of interest.





"However," after Pakistan deported Meziche to France, the BBC reported on October 12, 2013, "analysts say there appears to be little evidence of his involvement in any attack and the case against him is unclear."

The BBC reported, "Naamen Meziche was considered an associate of al-Qaeda commander Younis al-Mauritani, who was believed to have been ordered by Osama Bin Laden to plan attacks in Australia, Europe and the US. 'This is a big fish, at the historic heart of al-Qaeda,' a French anti-terrorism official told AFP news agency."

Before Pakistan made the arrest, Souad Mekhennet reported for the New York Times on January 10, 2012, "Another European hiding in Iran is Namaan Meziche, 41, a German resident with dual French-Algerian citizenship, whom European and American security officials believe played a key role in recruitment for jihadist movements. They say that he was close to Mohammad Atta and other Sept. 11, 2001, operatives and spent time at terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s."

An unnamed US official told the Times that Meziche was a 'lower midlevel' commander and that he had "been involved in Al Qaeda external operations activities for some time now." Then living in Hamburg, Germany, his wife, Mariam Fizazi, claimed that Meziche denied any connection to the terror group, and had gone to Iran after moving to Pakistan to "live under Shariah law," the paper reported. "After he had reached Pakistan, he called and asked me to come over with the children and join him," Fizazi said. "I told him there was no chance."

"Meziche was questioned by German authorities in 2003 for purported links to the 9/11 attacks based on evidence it had on him having received a phone call a week prior to the event from the attack’s coordinator, Ramzi Binalshibh," Al Arabiya reported on June 20, 2012. "However, one year later, the case was suspended and Meziche was never indicted."

David Crawford reported on October 11, 2010 that a German intelligence official claimed Meziche was dead in an article co-written by Marcus Walker and by himself on October 16, 2010 that Meziche "was one of eight people" killed by a U.S. drone attack, according to unnamed Pakistan officials. Both articles remains uncorrected on the Wall Street Journal website.

"Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly helped to coordinate and finance the 9/11 attacks, placed a 34-second phone call on Sept. 5, 2001, to the home of Naamen Meziche," Crawford wrote in the second WSJ article from 2010. "That phone call and alleged contacts that followed represent a possible link between the attacks in the U.S. nine years ago and recent suspected terrorist plots to hit European cities, which the Oct. 5 drone strike was intended to disrupt."

"Three of the eight drone victims were part of a group of jihadists who left Hamburg in early 2009 for military training in Pakistan and to fight on behalf of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda, a German intelligence official said.

The eldest, Mr. Meziche, a 40-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent and longtime German resident, had been under investigation for nearly nine years in connection with the Sept. 11 plot, court records show, though he was never charged with a crime, a spokesman for the office of Germany's Federal Prosecutor General said.

German authorities began investigating Mr. Meziche in late 2001 after they discovered telephone and email communications he maintained with suspected members of al Qaeda. Police asked dozens of witnesses to provide evidence against Mr. Meziche. Ultimately the investigation went nowhere, a spokesman for the office of Germany's Prosecutor General said."
"In statements to police in 2002, Mr. Meziche denied he was home on that day and said he didn't receive a phone message from Mr. Binalshibh," Crawford reported. "He also disavowed being in contact with Zacarias Moussaoui, who is serving a life sentence at a Colorado federal prison after pleading guilty to involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, though a cell-phone number used to phone Mr. Meziche's home in August 2001 was found on a piece of paper among Mr. Moussaoui's belongings after his arrest."

On May 22, 2013, during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the Committee of homeland Security for the House of Representatives, Thomas Joscelyn - a Senior Fellow from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and senior editor of The Long War Journal - stated, "Initial reports indicated that Meziche was killed in the same drone strike, but he survived it and was sheltered by the Iranians before being captured inside Pakistan."

The Wall Street Journal reporter's emails to the CIA "were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with...ten national security reporters sent from March to July 2012," Ken Silverstein reported for The Intercept yesterday. "That request turned up correspondence between the press office and [Ken] Dilanian, then at The Los Angeles Times and now at the Associated Press, Adam Goldman, then at the AP and now at The Washington Post, Matt Apuzzo, then at AP and now at The New York Times, Brian Bennett of The Los Angeles Times, Scott Shane of the New York Times, and David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist."

"It’s impossible to know precisely how the CIA flacks responded to reporters’ queries, because the emails show only one side of the conversations. The CIA redacted virtually all of the press handlers’ replies other than meager comments that were made explicitly on the record, citing the CIA Act of 1949, which exempts the agency from having to disclose 'intelligence sources and methods' or 'the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by the Agency.' The contents of off-the-record or background emails from CIA press handlers clearly don’t disclose names, titles, or salaries (which can easily be redacted anyway); they may disclose sources and methods, depending on whether you view manipulation of American reporters as an intelligence method. (The Intercept is appealing the redactions.)"
Other emails from Gorman to the CIA included many requests for "guidance" and a "heads up" that WSJ was going to publish an article using something reported by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.



On May 8, 2012, Gorman wrote, "I appreciate all the work you and your colleagues do to guide the accuracy of our reporting and these intense periods are tough for everyone to manage."

Gorman was sent an invitation to an off the record dinner with then CIA director David Petraeus in March of 2012, and when she was asked if she had any food allergies the WSJ Intelligence Correspondent replied, "Nope. I eat pretty much anything."







In this exchange, Gorman passes on a tip that the editor of The Wall Street Journal received, and claimed that "tips from our top boss often don't pan out" or "aren't always accurate." Gorman appears to have been referring to Robert James Thomson, who was the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal from May 2008 to December of 2012, before leaving to become the Chief Executive for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in January of 2013.





All emails obtained by The Intercept can be seen at this pdf link, at this text link or viewed online here.

Another interesting exchange suggests that the Wall Street Journal dropped a story on alleged intel obtained from the Osama bin Laden raid after the CIA responses she obtained - which were mostly redacted - appear to have been at odds with military sources. And one in which Gorman weakly complains about how a "guest" had excused himself "suddenly", but then decides to discuss late night host Jimmy Kimmel instead. Here are screenshots of many of Gorman's emails asking for "guidance", sharing info, and joking with the CIA.



































Sunday, August 10, 2014

Musharraf spokesperson introduced Christine O'Donnell to 'well-connected' Texas socialite Joanne Herring

UPDATES: In late 2007, Musharraf declared "virtual martial law" in Pakistan, meanwhile his allegedly unpaid spokesperson gave $4,300 to Biden's and McCain's POTUS campaigns, and $4,600 to Hillary Clinton; Dr. Raza Bokhari's wife gave $2,300 each to Biden and McCain campaigns, plus $2,300 to Mitt Romney; 6 days after Musharraf's spokesman gave him $2,000 donation, Biden "applauded" coup leader for stepping down; In 2011, Dr. Bokhari paid $175,000 for retainer to hire US lobbying firm to lobby US Congressmen after Musharraf was hit with charges of alleged treason and for his alleged involvement in the assassination of a former Pakistani Prime Minister

At his Twitter account, Raza Bokhari's profile describes himself as "President Musharraf's International spokesperson & North American Point of Contact". Since hooking up with the former military coup leader in 2001, Bokhari not only helped hook Musharraf up with many US congressmen, he also apparently helped a Tea Party activist pursue Vice President Joe Biden's vacated United States Senate seat by introducing her to a "well-connected" Texan socialite and fundraiser.

According to a biography at his eponymous personal website, Dr. Raza Bokhari "has a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Punjab, Rawalpindi Medical College, and an Executive MBA from Temple University, Fox School of Business & Management."

"Raza currently serves as the Managing Partner of RBx Capital, LP, a private equity fund in formation that is focused on investing in all segments of the US laboratory testing market, including pharmacogenomics enabled personalized medicine. Raza also volunteers his time as President Musharraf’s North American Point of Contact. He was elected as the National President for the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC) for the years 2006-07. He currently serves on the Board of Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, as Chairman of the Executive Advisory Committee. He is also Vice Chairman of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and a Trustee of the esteemed Foreign Policy Research Institute. Raza also served as a Trustee of the prestigious Franklin Institute for the years 2007-2012."
While Dr. Bokhari claims he "voluntarily and on his own initiative, began assisting" Musharraf "without compensation" in "the summer of 2010", he did support him publicly in the past, such as in this December 19, 2007 press release, arguing that "President Musharraf's abrupt departure from the center stage is neither in the best interest of us in the United States nor in the best interest of the people of Pakistan," since "[h]e is a pivotal anchor for moderate forces and various stakeholders, such as the armed forces, intelligence agencies, secular and religious political parties, and global allies to foster a consensus toward building a secure, stable and a democratic Pakistan."

"It is a mistake for us not to recognize that agitation against President Musharraf and his policies on the streets of Pakistan directly demonstrate agitation and opposition against the interest of United States in the region," Dr. Bokhari wrote, while serving as the president of the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC). "Suggestions of curtailing economic and military assistance to Pakistan by some presidential candidates and legislators are not wise at this time, and will serve only to fuel these agitations and jeopardize U.S. interests."

Bokhari maintained, "We must and should continue to support President Musharraf to lead the way in fighting terrorism and restoring civilian rule in Pakistan,"

In her book "Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again", conservative activist Christine O'Donnell referred to an alleged chance encounter with Bokhari as one of "two serendipitous tipping points in [her] decision to finally seek the 2010 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate - the bright, neon signs [she'd] been looking for that would shine unmistakably and irrefutably as the answer to [her] prayers."

"As I was preparing for [a trip to Houston, Texas for her "first major fund-raiser"] the day before, a friend casually suggested I try to meet up with Joanne Herring, a prominent Texas socialite, while I was in Houston. This was easier said than done. Joanne Herring was a well-known, well-connected political activist, and had a assumed a significant role in foreign affairs. Julia Roberts portrayed her in the movie Charlie Wilson's War...."
While sitting on the plane reading an article in The Wall Street Journal about "President Obama's new plan to stimulate the economy and help the environment by creating green jobs," which "really set [her] off" causing her to make "furious notes in the margins", O'Donnell "made eye contact with the man seated next to [her]. He smiled and said, 'You read the paper quite passionately.'"
"We both laughed, and struck up a conversation. Soon, we'd moved from politics in general to the Delaware U.S. Senate race. My seatmate turned out to be Raza Bokhari, a well-connected political consultant himself, and he knew a good deal about our race back home. After a while, he said, 'You know, you should really meet Joanne Herring.'

I told him he was the second person in two days to bring up her name.

He said, 'There's a reason for that. She's a lot like you. She's passionate about the same things you are.'"
O'Donnell continued, "As it happened - and here's the serendipity part - Raza had a lunch meeting scheduled with Joanne that very afternoon, to talk about the situation in in Pakistan, and he invited me to join them. We went directly to her house from the airport, and we hit it off immediately. Raza was right, and so was my friend back home. Joanne and I were passionate about many of the same things, and I had to marvel at the happenstance that led to that unlikely visit, and that she would take the time to meet with me, clear out of the blue. Even more exhilarating was her pledge to help my campaign, in what ways she could. She was instrumental in some of my earliest fundraising efforts, introducing me to several key donors. She also introduced us to Mitt Romney and paved the way for his later endorsement, so it really was an invaluable meeting for our campaign.'"

O'Donnell's book never mentions Musharraf, but Troublemaker's Chapter Notes do link to Raza Bokhari's biography at his website, which notes, "Raza also volunteers his time as President Musharraf’s North American Point of Contact."

According to this CNN timeline, O'Donnell's meeting with Bokhari occurred about five months after "Pakistani officials announce that Musharraf faces arrest if he returns to Pakistan," and around four months before Pervez "announces on CNN that he plans to re-enter Pakistan politics."

"Since Christine had put in such a strong showing against Joe Biden in 2008, the Delaware Republican Establishment, solidly behind Mike Castle, began circulating a file of lies about Christine to local reporters in January of 2010," Senior Contributing Editor Gary H. Johnson wrote for Tea Party Tribune in October of 2011. "O’Donnell had not even officially announced her entry in the race when false reports began to surface about her. According to one false charge, Christine had lost her house in foreclosure even though she had chosen to sell the house to pay off the loan."

"As the slanderous, demonstrably false accusations began to fly, Christine’s campaign was in start-up mode. She traveled to Houston, Texas for a fund-raiser. A chance encounter with a political consultant name Raza Bokhari presented Christine with an opportunity to secure the support of a well-connected, prominent socialite named Joanne Herring, whose support would eventually earn her the endorsement of Mitt Romney."
O'Donnell defeated former Governor Michael Castle in Delaware's September 2010 GOP primary, but she lost to Democratic candidate Chris Coons in the general election. Since her loss, O'Donnell has remained in the public eye by doing reports for the Fox News Channel and CNN.

According to a December 2009 Philly Mag story, "Musharraf sampled local fare during a leisurely 11 days in September and October with his buddy Raza Bokhari, a Villanova doctor turned businessman.

"Bokhari met Musharraf in 2001, at a Pakistani embassy event in NYC. 'I told my wife I was going to get to know him,' Bokhari recalls, 'and she said, ‘How are you going to do that?' Bokhari, who developed and sold two cancer diagnostic companies and is now raising money for economic development in Pakistan, got involved with the U.N.'s Millennium Development, which put him into small meetings with then-President Musharraf. A friendship bloomed.

When Musharraf came to the U.S. for a 43-day, 25-city lecture tour, he stayed at Bokhari's home on Spring Mill Road before and after the tour; Bokhari hosted a dinner that included radio host Michael Smerconish and basketball coaches Jay Wright and Fran Dunphy. Conversation with the general floated from the problems of terrorism to the bloated serving sizes in American restaurants to movies—Musharraf likes Westerns. One night, Villanova police showed up: 'I think,' Bokhari says, 'the music was a little loud.'"
In September of 2011, Bokhari signed an agreement for $175,000 between Musharraf and US lobbying firm, Advantage Associates International, which is "owned by former congressman Bill Sarpalius from Texas." A few months later, Politico noted that Dr. Bokhari paid for the retainer.

"The Advantage Ltd will work with Mr Bokhari to 'develop a strategy to represent the interest of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the US' and the firm will assist Mr Bokhari 'in any other area that would be of benefit to Gen (retd) Musharraf,'" Pakistan's Daily News reported in 2011.

"It is known that almost everyone in this firm is an ex-congressman, [Pakistan's Daily News] added," Pakistan news outlet Dawn.com reported in October of 2011.

[More on this lobbying effort, which occurred after Musharraf was hit with charges for alleged treason and his alleged involvement in the assassination of a former Pakistani Prime Minister will be explored in a future article.]

From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Raza Bokhari contributed money to the US presidential campaigns of three candidates from both major political parties.

On June 19, 2006, Bokhari gave $2,000 to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain's Straight Talk Express political action committee, and followed that up with $2,100 to John McCain 2008 Inc. on January 5, 2007 and - a month later - $200 on February 7th.

Bokhari wrote two checks for $2,300 each to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign on June 26, 2007, but - for unknown reasons - was refunded $2,300 from the Democratic New York Senator's campaign on August 28, 2008, two months after she bowed out of the race and endorsed Senator Barack Obama. However, since both Bokhari and his wife attended the $2,300 per person luncheon, and had their pictures taken with the presidential contender, the second check may have been meant to be a donation from his wife. Clinton ended up becoming Secretary of State after the Democratic senator from Illinois beat McCain for the presidency in 2008.

"Raza is the Past President of the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC), a national, membership-based, not-for-profit lobbying organization," according to Bokhari's website. Working with PakPac, Bokhari hosted a luncheon for Hillary Clinton on June 26, 2007. Other guests included Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security for the 110th Congress; Congressman Al Green, another member of that Committee; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittees on the Middle East and South Asia. It cost $2,300 per person to attend the VIP Reception, which included a "seat at [the] head table, luncheon, acknowledgment & picture with the Senator."

Dr. Bokhari's wife also gave money to three candidates from the two major US political parties during the 2008 election cycle. But, instead of Senator Hillary Clinton, Sabina Bokhari donated $2,300 on November 27, 2007 to a Republican candidate: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's campaign. At his website, Raza Bokhari posted a picture of Romney posing with him and his wife. The dentist also gave $2,100 to John McCain 2008 Inc. on January 5, 2007 and an additional $200 on February 7, 2007.

[Dr. Raza Bokhari also met President Barack Obama at least twice, which I will explore in a future story.]

"In what is a virtual martial law, President Pervez Musharraf, acting as army chief, on Saturday imposed a state of emergency throughout Pakistan, suspended the Constitution and replaced superior courts in a move that could put the country’s political future into disarray," Dawn reported on November 7, 2007.

"The move, greeted with immediate condemnation at home by opposition parties, lawyers and human rights groups and concern from 'war on terror' allies like the United States and Britain, came only 12 days before the expiration of General Musharraf’s presidency and the present assemblies and while an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court was in a weekend recess in its hearing of challenges to his election for another five-year presidential term mainly on grounds of his army office.

General Musharraf seemed to have run out of other political and constitutional options as he took one of the most extraordinary steps by a ruler in 60 years of Pakistan’s life, putting aside not only the Constitution but also his own sweeping powers as president and preferring to act as Chief of the Army Staff."
Another article at DAWN reported, "Shortly before the declaration of the state of emergency on Nov 3, the government had used its influence over local cable operators to pull the plug on all domestic and foreign news channels. These included Dawn News, Aaj, Geo, Ary One World, as well as BBC World, CNN and Al-Jazeera."

"This was perhaps the biggest news blackout in the history of Pakistan as for nearly two weeks viewers were deprived of all independent news on private television channels, with only the state-run Pakistan Television being allowed to beam news," the article continued.

In his press release defending Musharraf published on November 19, 2007, Dr. Bokhari argued, "The recent extra constitutional steps taken by President Musharraf resulting in the imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan remain a continued target of criticism by U.S. presidential candidates, legislators and policy makers. While it is true that such extreme measures are rarely popular, it is quite troubling that there is no note of recognition that the head of a nation has a fiduciary responsibility to make tough decisions in the interest of national security in order to preserve and protect the nation and its citizens."

"Even before September 11, 2001 , several U.S. presidents had declared national states of emergency in response to various situations. During the American Civil War, President Lincoln suspended civil liberties to save the Union. In 1995 President Clinton declared a limited state of emergency to deal with the threats of disruption of the Middle East peace process; he expanded this national emergency in 1998 to order a strike against Osama Bin Laden."

"Since September 11 , President Bush has taken several steps through executive orders and the U.S. Congress has passed laws, notably the NSA warrant-less surveillance program and Military Commission Act of 2006, which infringe on civil liberties in the interest of national security. In addition, U.S. presidents historically have resorted to extra constitutional measures by issuing Signing Statements when enacting laws in an attempt to nullify parts of the legislation passed by the Congress."
"While pursuit of perfection is an unfinished business and President Musharraf can and must do more, he has nonetheless been a reliable U.S. partner in fighting terrorism, promoting enlightened moderation, empowering women, catalyzing economic growth, fostering permanent peace in the sub-continent, and is speedily working toward restoring complete democracy and civilian rule," PakPAC president Dr. Bokhari wrote in 2007. "For the past seven years he has adeptly walked a very fine line that has resulted in the people of Pakistan beginning to realize the universally essential value of better relations with the United States."

Two days after Musharraf lifted the State of Emergency, on December 17, 2007, Bokhari donated $2,300 to future Vice President Joe Biden - while his wife contributed another $2,300 - and another $2,000 to the Democatic Senator from Delaware's presidential campaign on August 12, 2008.

The 2007 donation to Biden appears to be the same day he criticized Musharraf on the radio, while campaigning in New Hampshire.

"Senator Biden says the United States should support the country of Pakistan, not President Pervez Musharraf, who has just relaxed harsh restrictions on press freedom and judges," WDEL reported on December 17, 2007. "Speaking in New Hampshire this morning, Biden said he has told Musharraf there will be consequences if the elections scheduled in Pakistan next month are not fair and open."

The article added, "Speaking on New Hampshire Public Radio, Biden said he is lagging in the polls because he hasn't been able to raise as much money as his rivals. Biden said the others are wedded to special interests and can out-raise him."

This came a month after Biden vowed to block military sales to Pakistan after speaking to Musharraf on the telephone. "During a 25-minute phone conversation with Musharraf on Tuesday, Biden said, he told the Pakistani leader that he needed to move quickly to end the state of emergency and step down as head of the Army," Kevin Whitelaw reported for US News on November 8, 2007. "According to Biden, Musharraf admitted that he was reacting to an impending Supreme Court ruling that would have barred him, along with every other serving government official, from running for election until two years after they left government."

"I do not believe Musharraf can maintain this dictatorship for three, four, five, six years from now," Biden said. "If he engages in a permanent crackdown, a suspension of the Constitution, and a permanent dictatorship, that is not a recipe for stability."

Biden later bragged in a campaign ad, "When Pakistan erupted in crisis, I spoke to Musharraf before Bush did."

"Indeed, Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke with Musharraf on Nov. 6, according to a statement from his office that day and wide news coverage of contacts with Musharraf," Politifact confirmed. "In the statement, Biden described it as 'a very frank and detailed discussion. I told President Musharraf how critical it is for relations between our two countries that elections go forward as planned in January, that he follow through on his commitment to take off his uniform and that he restore the rule of law to Pakistan.'"

"President Bush spoke with Musharraf on Nov. 7, one day after Biden did. At a press availability that day at Mount Vernon, Bush's remarks were very similar to Biden's the day before. 'My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform,' Bush said. 'You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time. So I had a very frank discussion with him.'"

It's not clear why Bush didn't speak with Musharraf until after Biden, but the records indicate that Biden's claim is True."
Months later, bragging that he's "known him for a long time," Biden spoke softer about Musharraf after the Pakistani president's party suffered huge losses in the election the military coup leader had attempted to block. But this came after Biden told CNN, "If Musharraf's party beats all odds and ends up being the winner here, I think it will be viewed as a totally discredited undertaking," as the AFP reported

On February 19, 2008, Jonathan S. Landy reported for McClatchy Newspapers. "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, apparently handed a huge defeat in elections for his country's national assembly, accepts the results and may be willing to assume a largely ceremonial role, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Tuesday."

"The results are clear, we lost. The outcome isn't going to change,' Biden quoted Musharraf as telling a delegation of three American senators that included Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. 'I've known him for a long time . . . He seemed like reality had set in.'"
"Biden told McClatchy that he believed that Musharraf, who assumed power in a military coup in 1999, would ask one of his opponents to form a new government," Landy reported. "Whether he would then step into the background 'will depend on how the coalition government is formed and how he is treated personally.'"

Despite the first Bokhari donation, Biden took a harsher tone against Musharraf in an op-ed published in the New York Times on March 2, 2008, claiming, "When President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan concluded that we were not serious about finishing the job in Afghanistan, he began to cut deals with extremists in his own country."

"As a result, the border area remains a freeway of fundamentalism: the Taliban and Al Qaeda find sanctuary in Pakistan, while Pakistani suicide bombers wreak havoc in Afghanistan," Biden added. "The recent Pakistani elections gave the moderate majority its voice back and gives the United States an opportunity to move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy."

On June 26, 2008, PAKPAC held a luncheon for Senator Biden, and the Bokharis were members of the host committee. The "VIP Reception cost $1000 per person, and included the "luncheon, acknowledgment & picture with the Senator." PAKPAC's website noted, "Please make personal checks payable to 'Citizens for Biden.'"

But less than a week before Obama selected Biden as his running mate, and after Bokhari made the second check for Biden (which appears to be related to the luncheon, since it was for Citizens for Biden), the Democratic senator released a statement "applauding" Musharraf for stepping down. Biden's August 18, 2008 press release was issued six days after Bokhari's donation.

"I congratulate the people of Pakistan on the peaceful resolution of their political crisis, and I applaud the decision of President Musharraf to give up his office for the good of his nation," Senator Biden stated five days before teaming up with Obama.

"The two major parties in the governing coalition – the PPP and the PML-N – worked together to bring about a change in government through constitutional and nonviolent means," Biden added. "This transition represents the first time in Pakistani history in which a president installed by the military has been removed by constitutional political action."

Biden continued, "I urge Pakistan's leaders to focus now on the pressing challenges of the future and resist the temptation to settle scores of the past. President Musharraf made the right choice in stepping down. I hope his resignation marks the end of the political turmoil that has immobilized the Pakistani government in recent months."

In 2009, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "US Vice President-elect Joseph Biden had played a major role in getting former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to doff his uniform," India Express reported. "Justifying his government's decision to bestow one of the country's highest civilian honours on Biden, a move that has been criticized by opposition and Islamic hardline parties, Gilani said Biden is 'pro-Pakistan' and 'has given a lot of support for Pakistan and democracy.'"

"During Biden's visit in Pakistan last week with a bipartisan Congressional delegation, President Asif Ali Zardari had conferred the Hilal-i-Pakistan award on him," the article added. "The citation for the award said Biden was being recognized for his 'consistent support for democracy and socio-economic development in Pakistan and for his outstanding contribution to the strengthening of US-Pakistan relations.'"

While attending an Army versus Navy football game in December of 2011, Vice President Biden briefly greeted Musharraf, as the former dictator was avoiding arrest for constitutional crimes. "The Vice President was visiting wounded warriors during halftime at the Army-Navy game," an unnamed Biden spokesperson told Politico. "Former President Musharraf was sitting in a neighboring box. Vice President Biden said a brief hello to President Musharraf and his party. They had no substantive conversation."

A press release published at Musharraf's website on December 13, 2011 - which claims that it was "distributed by Raza Bokhari, an agent on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf" - states, "Former President of Pakistan and Chief of All Pakistan Muslim League, General Pervez Musharraf wrapped up a six day private visit to United States."

President Musharraf also attended the 112th annual Army Navy football game at FedEx Field in Maryland. During the game, the former President met with several serving and retired military personnel, business and political leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden."
Before Musharraf was arrested in 2013 for alleged constitutional crimes and his alleged involvement in the December 28, 2007 assassination of former Pakistan prime minister turned opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, former US Congress members working for Advantage Associates lobbied many current Congress members to discuss and support the "President's return to Pakistan," according to one filing with the US government. The document "Advantage Associates International, LTD., through Raza Bokhari Foreign Agents Registration Act filing" can be viewed at this link.

Musharraf is currently on trial in Pakistan - and has connections to an alleged "soft coup" that might be taking place in Pakistan which I've been reporting on. The US media is - once again - mostly ignoring Musharraf's trial.

On July 9, 2014, Bokhari tweeted a picture of himself with Musharraf [see above] recently in Karachi.

In response, Musharraf tweeted, "I was happy to see Nomi, my rep in #Houston, Tx and Raza, my International spokesperson in my home in #Karachi."

In February of 2011, I reported how the "the US media has practically ignored stunning news regarding another former ally in the global war on terror."
"'A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for ousted military leader Pervez Musharraf on Saturday over allegations he played a role in the 2007 assassination of an ex-prime minister and rival,' the Associated Press reported over the weekend, although no major US newspaper seems to have followed up. 'It was a major setback for the onetime U.S. ally, who was plotting a political comeback from outside the country.'

Musharraf 'seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999' and resigned in 2008 after impeachment charges were finalized against him by the newly elected government. After returning from self-imposed exile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a campaign rally on December 27, 2007.

But with an arrest warrant now issued for Musharraf --- a very close partner for much of the last decade in the U.S. 'War on Terror' --- involving the assassination of a former Prime Minister, the U.S. corporate media has been curiously quiet, or otherwise extraordinarily sympathetic to Pakistan's former dictator..."
[Also, see my follow-up article - US, UK Media Ignore Musharraf Arrest Warrant in Bhutto Assassination Sent to Britain in March of of 2011.]

In future articles I'll cover Musharraf's curious relationship with Michael Smerconish, his ties to Pakistani opposition cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadr and how his Texas rep, Nomi, helped raise millions of dollars for the Obama campaign.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Opposition cleric claims Pakistan government hired terrorists to attack police

Pictures posted on Twitter back claim, however, Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri reportedly has ties to the Pakistan military and may be harbinger of "soft coup"

"A leading opposition figure returned to Pakistan on Monday, resulting in chaos at two major Pakistani airports and posing a new challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to keep his grip on power," Tim Craig and Shaiq Hussain report for the Washington Post.

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a religious scholar and moderate politician, said he was returning from exile in Canada to lead a “democratic revolution” against Sharif’s government just a year after the prime minister regained power. Qadri said Sharif has not done enough to implement electoral and social-justice reforms and has been too timid in his approach to the Pakistani Taliban.

“I will soon call for a movement to usher in revolution in the country,” said Qadri, leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party, when he arrived in Lahore. “This government will be toppled. . . . I will lead the revolution, and I will be the one in charge to ensure that these terrorists, these killers and corrupt rulers are punished.”
In January of 2013, Qadri led a "Long March" before the spring elections which led to the reelection of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was deposed in a military coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 1999. The march was supposed to attract a million followers, but only thousands joined it. Qadri's protest was against the government of President Asif Ali Zardari who was the "1st president to complete his constitutional term and hand over duties to [a] democratically elected successor," - as the Pakistan Tribune noted - a few months later in the fall of 2013.

"Last week, Qadri had vowed to continue the sit-in protest in Islamabad until the government gave in to his demand for a preelection caretaker administration appointed with the input of the country's judiciary and military," Alex Rodriguez reported for the Los Angeles Times eighteen months ago. "That demand has led many observers to speculate that the country's powerful military could be behind Qadri's agenda, a charge the military has denied."

Many analysts and commentators have questioned whether Qadri's mission ultimately imperils what could be a historic transfer of power from one civilian government to another in a country with a history of military takeovers and interference in governance.

"This represents a big threat to Pakistan's parliamentary process and its hard-fought democratic freedoms," said Raza Rumi, a political analyst at the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute.
Last year, Declan Walsh at the New York Times reported, "Barely a year after fears of a possible military coup plunged Pakistani politics into chaos, the country is in crisis again — this time besieged on multiple fronts by forces that threaten the civilian government just a few months ahead of elections."

Walsh noted that "the country’s powerful military command, long at odds with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, is in sphinx mode. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and his commanders have maintained a cool distance from the unfolding political chaos, their silence stoking speculation about whether the military’s days of political intervention are really, as it claims, over."

More than anything else, there is a sense that gears are again shifting in Pakistan, in a direction few dare to predict — bad news for Mr. Zardari’s government, of course, but also potentially for American interests, which see stability in Pakistan as crucial to a smooth withdrawal in Afghanistan next year, as well as a guarantor of the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

“There’s a sense that things are snowballing — hard to predict in any way,” said Cyril Almeida, a senior writer at Dawn newspaper.
"The chief catalyst of this jolting change comes in the form of a 61-year-old preacher, Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who catapulted himself into the political limelight less than a month ago, and now finds himself issuing ultimatums to Mr. Zardari from inside a bulletproof container within view of the soaring presidential residence," Walsh reported.

“There is no Parliament; there is a group of looters, thieves and dacoits” — bandits — he said in a thundering voice, pointing to the building behind him. “Our lawmakers are the lawbreakers.”

The dramatic climax of that speech, however, came not from the preacher himself, but from the marble-walled Supreme Court about 200 yards up the street.

As Mr. Qadri spoke, news broke that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had issued an order for the arrest of the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf. The report visibly thrilled the crowd, prompting loud cheers and a sense that the promised “revolution” was going their way.
"Speculation that the judge and the preacher acted in concert, perhaps with the backing of powerful generals, has electrified the political firmament," Walsh added.

In last night's Washington Post story, Craig and Hussain noted that Qadri "is said to have close ties to the Pakistani military."

Rasul Bux Rais, an Islamabad-based political science professor and analyst, said Qadri’s return is another sign that a rift may be emerging between Sharif and the country’s powerful military leadership. Many former military commanders say army chiefs were eager to launch a military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban this past winter. But Sharif authorized the operation only 10 days ago, after Taliban militants stormed Karachi’s international airport, killing 26 security personnel and civilians.

....

Ayaz Amir, a columnist and former member of Parliament, said the drama surrounding Qadri’s return made the national government appear weak. “The message that comes out from this is the thing that can control this situation is the army,” he said.
Tweets from the "official twitter account of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, Chairman of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Founder of Minhaj-ul-Quran Int; being run by his spokesman," @TahirulQadri backed the military offensive against the Taliban, but also charge that the Pakistan government hired terrorists to attack the police yesterday.

"I completely support the Army’s current operation Zarb-e-Azb to eliminate terrorism," Qadri's official account tweeted about five hours ago.

Other tweets accused the Punjab Government for "demonstrat[ing] brutal terrorism" on his arrival, and claimed, "Armed terrorists were sent to Islamabad to deteriorate law and order so that the world considers the PAT workers as terrorists."

"The Punjab govt is orchestrating terrorism through its police," @TahirulQadri tweeted. "The govt will have to answer for its misdeeds one day.

And in a tweet which included the picture at the top of this article, @TahirulQadri alleged, "Terrorists were hired by the government in civil clothes to attack the police and blame PAT workers." So far, it was retweeted 538 times, and tweets in response include "Caught red handed!" and "Anything can be expected from this government.".

A tweet with another picture posted by a "[p]roud member of #PTIFamily" @XIApk added, "It seems @TahirulQadri is some what right. Another guy with Police Riot gear but in plain clothes."

"The drawing rooms of the political elite have been humming with speculation of a 'soft coup' — the imposition of a technocratic government, backed by the generals — for several years," Declan Walsh reported for the New York Times eighteen months ago.

The pictures posted on Twitter are reminiscent of ones often posted by US protesters after rallies which claim that police or FBI agents infiltrated the demonstrators to cause or provoke violence. Sometimes those pictures are correct, sometimes they are paranoia, sometimes they are just plain wrong.

Caveat emptor - Latin for "Let the buyer beware" - is something that anyone who follows Twitter should always heed. Instead of a revolution being televised, a "soft coup" engineered by Pakistan's military might have just been tweeted earlier today.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Despite plea deal, last Barrett Brown charge 'potentially implicates journalists who use hackers as sources'

4/5 UPDATE: It's been two full days since it was reported that Barrett Brown agreed to a plea deal, but the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post have completely ignored the news. The initial March 6, 2012 raid, the September 12, 2012 arrest, the gag order, and all of Brown's charges - including those that were dropped and the latest superseded ones - should concern all journalists, so it's strange and disturbing that three of the top news sources for the American public have ignored the reported plea agreement, which appears to have been reached on March 31. After I posted this update and tweeted him, NY Times columnist David Carr retweeted me, so hopefully more media outlets will report on the plea deal, and the consequences this entire case could have on all journalists and bloggers.

It's been nearly nineteen months since embedded Anonymous journalist Barrett Brown was arrested and jailed for what many supporters consider unjust reasons. Although the initial charges were for making what Brown's detractors consider threatening YouTube videos against an FBI agent, most critics ignore that his anger was largely based on what he perceived as the government's persecution for his reporting on security firms that spy on activists.

Brown was also upset at FBI Special Agent Robert Smith, because he threatened to charge Barrett's mother for allegedly helping to hide laptops in her house before agents obtained a search warrant for it.. In his third video, Barrett complained (pdf trancript), that - after that raid - "my lawyer told me he'd just talked to the Assistant District Attorney, um, spearheading this case over agent Robert Smith at the FBI, and she had said, well it looks like, uh, well looks like now, that uh, mom has a problem, is what, what he relayed...by which they meant that, uh, my mom is being threatened with obstruction of justice charges."

"My mom has not been involved in any of this at all and was not, is not, did not know about the tip I received the previous day, didn't know I was over there, I come over there a lot, uh, didn't know why I brought, you know, laptops over, you know, didn't notice, didn't pay attention. I hid the laptops the next morning after the first visit from the FBI, not her. She didn't know they were hidden."
She wasn't charged until after Brown spent months in jail, and she ended up pleading guilty in November 2013, and was sentenced to six months of probation and a $1,000 fine. Brown initially faced two similar charges, but after his lawyers filed a motion arguing that he was being overcharged, the new indictment only charges him once.

In a pastebin that Brown posted a day after the March 6, 2012 raid, he complained that "the Feds...fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did." Brown's one-time colleague and friend Michael Hastings, who tragically died last August in a one-vehicle motor accident, reported in April 2012, "The warrant, exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed, suggests the government is primarily after information related to Anonymous and the hacking group Lulzec." In another pastebin that Brown posted in April 2012, Brown wrote that "the FBI is now searching through my belongings for information on HBGary, Endgame Systems, and the website that my group Project PM maintains for the purpose of disseminating info on such firms as these, Echelon2.org."

While, at first, not many journalists sympathetically covered Brown, or just ignored his arrest, he ended up becoming a cause célèbre in 2013, after Glenn Greenwald wrote an article for The Guardian, which also helped raise money for the Free Barrett defense fund. Greenwald hailed Brown as "a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism."

In February 2013, Christian Stork reported for Russ Baker's WhoWhatWhy, "The Barrett Brown case is simply the latest in a string of prosecutions in which the government pursues anyone involved in making information “liberated” from governmental or corporate entities easily accessible to the public. Those targeted are not necessarily accused of the illegal entry itself (the “hack”) or violating contracts (as in the case of a “leak”). These are people performing a function analogous to that of a newspaper—yet they can face prison sentences longer than those prescribed for murderers, rapists, and terrorists."

"The Obama administration’s assault on accountability is dual-pronged: attack the messenger (as in the case of Brown, WikiLeaks, even New York Times reporters) and attack the source (Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, etc.). In fact, seven of those sources have been indicted as traitors under the 1917 Espionage Act during the Obama years alone—more than double the “espionage” charges against whistleblowers by all previous presidential administrations combined.
Finally, The New York Times covered the Barrett Brown case. As I reported last November, "New York Times reporters often used Brown as a source for Anonymous, but - except for a few republished wire reports and an April 14, 2013 op-ed by Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter J. Ludlow - the so-called 'paper of record' pretty much ignored Brown's September of 2012 arrest for nearly a full year." Last August I also chided the NY Times, because he hadn't been mentioned by any of their reporters in a story since his March 2012 raid was mysteriously scrubbed from an article. In his second video regarding FBI Agent Robert Smith (pdf transcript), Barrett said that he called a New York Times reporter he had dealt with before and "they printed right then that I'd been raided and that I'd told before that I'd hid my laptops, and they took – they deleted that part for some reason, uh, later on that day. I don't know why, they never explained it to me, they didn't also explain why they were deleting stuff."

Media reporter David Carr wrote in his September 9, 2013 New York Times column that "much of what has Mr. Brown staring at a century behind bars seems on the right side of the law, beginning with the First Amendment of the Constitution." But other Times journalists continued to ignore Brown's case, perhaps because he leaked some of their emails in #OpNYT, not long before his arrest.

Carr noted, "Journalists from other news organizations link to stolen information frequently. Just last week, The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica collaborated on a significant article about the National Security Agency’s effort to defeat encryption technologies. The article was based on, and linked to, documents that were stolen by Edward J. Snowden, a private contractor working for the government who this summer leaked millions of pages of documents to the reporter Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian along with Barton Gellman of The Washington Post."

"By trying to criminalize linking, the federal authorities in the Northern District of Texas — Mr. Brown lives in Dallas — are suggesting that to share information online is the same as possessing it or even stealing it. In the news release announcing the indictment, the United States attorney’s office explained, “By transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders.”"
Then, a month ago, prosecutors dropped the charges against Brown, which concerned most journalists. Reporting for The Guardian, Ed Pilkington wrote, "Federal prosecutors had come under widespread criticism for seeking to prosecute Brown for the republishing of a hyperlink. Lawyers, publishers and internet freedom campaigners had warned it could set a precedent that would have put a chill on the culture of linking across the web."

The US government’s decision to drop counts one and three to 12 in the indictment relating to the Stratfor hack came just a day after lawyers for Brown filed a legal memorandum calling for those counts to be dropped. Brown’s attorneys argued in the memo that the prosecution was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, saying that “republishing a hyperlink does not itself move, convey, select, place or otherwise transfer, a file or document from one location to another”.

Federal prosecutors have given no further information about why they decided to drop the counts, and a request for comment was not immediately returned. One possible explanation is that government lawyers assessed the steep hill they had to climb overcoming First Amendment protections and decided instead to focus on the other charges still facing Brown.
However, as Free Barrett's Kevin Gallagher wrote on March 6th, "With the linking charges dropped, there are still important free press issues on the table. We cannot declare mission accomplished."

"Barrett Brown still faces up to 40 years for asserting reporter’s privilege—attempting to protect his journalistic sources by placing his laptops in a kitchen cabinet," Gallagher wrote. "In the midst of writing a book about Anonymous and reporting on private intelligence firms, Brown made a decision to make it slightly harder for government agents to obtain his sources, which he had a duty to protect."

Gallagher continued, "The fact that the search warrant being executed sought records on ‘HBGary’ and ‘Endgame Systems’, two companies he’d written and reported about, in addition to the Project PM wiki, makes clear that this FBI probe was all about his investigative journalism, and his sources, from the very beginning. This cannot be in doubt. An established journalist, Brown himself never participated in the criminal hacking activities of Anonymous—he was only involved in research using the information that was leaked."

"In conclusion, these remaining charges are still of great consequence for journalists and for press freedom," Gallagher added. "It amounts to the question of whether intrepid reporters should be unfairly targeted for exposing the ties between government intelligence agencies and their private-sector counterparts."

Yesterday, as Dell Cameron reported for The Daily Dot, "Federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment on Monday seeking to modify the criminal charges against Barrett Brown, an American journalist who was arrested on Sept. 12, 2012, after allegedly threatening the "life" of an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Adjusting the charges in such a way indicates that federal prosecutors may be negotiating a deal with Brown’s attorneys."

The U.S. government claims that Brown knowingly hindered the apprehension of a hacker identified by the motion only as “o”—a nickname [Jeremy] Hammond used when interacting with Brown during online chats. Additionally, the motion claims that Brown assisted Hammond specifically by creating “confusion regarding the identity of the hacker.” Brown also communicated with representatives of Stratfor, the government said, "in a manner that diverted attention" away from Hammond.
The indictment waiver stated, "After being advised of the nature of the charges and of his rights, Brown hereby waives in open court prosecution by indictment and consents to proceeding by information instead of by indictment." It notes that Brown "fully discussed with his attorney the right to have this case presented to a Federal Grand Jury and the consequences of waiving this right. After discussing the same with his attorney, Brown voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waives the right to have this case presented to a Federal Grand Jury."

The superseding indictment claim that "Barrett Lancaster Brown did...create confusion regarding...the purpose of the hack" may be partially based on a pastebin he wrote on December 26, 2011, that stated, "In the wake of the recent operation by which Stratfor's servers were compromised, much of the media has focused on the fact that some participants in the attack chose to use obtained customer credit card numbers to make donations to charitable causes. Although this aspect of the operation is indeed newsworthy, and, like all things, should be scrutinized and criticized as necessary, the original purpose and ultimate consequence of the operation has been largely ignored."

"Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm's servers. This wealth of data includes correspondence with untold thousands of contacts who have spoken to Stratfor's employees off the record over more than a decade. Many of those contacts work for major corporations within the intelligence and military contracting sectors, government agencies, and other institutions for which Anonymous and associated parties have developed an interest since February of 2011, when another hack against the intelligence contractor/security firm HBGary revealed, among many other things, a widespread conspiracy by the Justice Department, Bank of America, and other parties to attack and discredit Wikileaks and other activist groups. Since that time, many of us in the movement have dedicated our lives to investigating this state-corporate alliance against the free information movement."
Although may critics - and trolls - that rail against Barrett Brown refuse to acknowledge that he's a journalist, he has a lengthier resume than most, and back in 2010 I actually first became aware of him when he sought a job with RAW STORY, the political website I used to work for as Executive Editor. The superseding indictment claiming that Brown did "conceal the involvement and identity" and "create confusion regarding the identity of the hacker" 'o' - aka Jeremy Hammond who was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November - should especially concern all journalists who depend on sources to do their reporting, and who are supposed to be protected by the 1st Amendment under the "Freedom of the Press" clause. Many would be out-of-work if they were expected to essentially "rat out" sources and whistle blowers, since no one would confide in them anymore.

At D Magazine, Tim Rogers reported that Gallagher "guesses that this new indictment is good news," because he told him, "The new documents suggest that this was negotiated by both parties and that there is a plea agreement imminent. If so, it could mean Barrett could get out soon with time served."

However, tweets by Gallagher at the @FreeBarrett_ twitter account, suggested that Kevin was still concerned that the superseding indictment could have a chilling effect on journalists who report on Anonymous or use hackers as sources.

"'Accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access' is a new #CFAA charge which could have consequences for journalists reporting on hacks," @FreeBarrett_ tweeted, and, "If you report on hackers or use them as sources, maybe you could get charged w/ 'accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access...' too."

Kevin Gallagher told me, "The government has substituted an access device fraud charge for a new charge of being an 'accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer' which is surprising and troubling, especially as this new construction may potentially implicate journalists who report on leaks and hacks, and use hackers as sources, in the future. We don't know what the evidence is for this particular allegation but I'm sure we'll find out."

"The superseding indictment suggests that the parties may be negotiating something and we have yet to find out the exact form it will take," Gallagher added.

After I suggested Brown might be facing at least a year alone on the new charge - "Accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer" (pdf link) - and prosecutors might still want at least a two year sentence for probably the toughest charge he faced - retaliation against an FBI agent - Gallagher told me, "Any plea deal would necessarily involve some risk that Brown will receive more than time served at sentencing, but on the balance of everything we still remain hopeful that he will get out this year. The charges remaining against him cannot be worth much more."

Today, just a few hours ago, news broke that Barrett Brown had reportedly reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. The Free Barrett_ tumblr account announced, "After a year and ½ in jail awaiting trial, the writer/journalist Barrett Brown, best known for his previous association with Anonymous, through his defense team has reportedly reached an agreement with the government to plea to some counts. Full details are not available since the documents are sealed."

"The director of his legal defense fund, Kevin Gallagher, said: “The Barrett Brown who I know and call my friend has never been one to compromise with the government. But in this instance, I think he recognizes that taking this case before a jury in conservative Texas is a needless roll of the dice. In fact, I think this whole thing would have been settled long ago, if not for the fact that the government had filed excessive and meritless charges which they later dropped. I’m pleased that the parties were able to reach this agreement. Although in principle he shouldn’t have to plea to anything, this spares everyone the spectacle of a costly trial, and the bottom line is that Barrett will be coming home – as he’s already served 19 months unnecessarily. Supporters can be assured that this is in accordance with Barrett’s wishes plus expert legal advice.”"
"In motions filed with the Court, Brown’s defense made a very strong case for dismissal, which combined with negative publicity surrounding the prosecution of a non-violent writer/journalist who caused no actual harm, perhaps influenced the government to seek to settle," the Free Barrett_ tumblr statement added.

According to Wired's Kim Zetter - who, frankly, often makes errors in her reporting, "Brown is scheduled to be re-arraigned, on the charges on the superceding [sic] document, on April 29 in Texas."

"Brown is also facing charges related to threats he allegedly made against an FBI agent," Zetter added. "It’s unclear if the plea agreement will cover that indictment as well. If it does, and the two cases are combined, Brown’s maximum statutory sentence would likely be five years."

At The Guardian, Karen McVeigh reports, "A gag order on Brown's case prevents both sides from providing details, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Texas", and that "neither Brown's lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, nor prosecutors would provide details on the developments."

Thursday night, Ars Technica posted Judge Sam A. Lindsay's order regarding the "Government’s Agreed Motion to Seal the Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume, filed March 31, 2014."

"After careful consideration, the court grants the motion, with the stipulation that on or before the date of rearraignment hearing that the government will file an agreed motion to lift the court's September 4, 2013 Agreed Order Re: Extrajudicial Statements, and thereafter request that documents filed under seal pursuant to such order be unsealed," Lindsay's order, signed April 2, 2013 continued. "The Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume shall be filed under seal".

Judge Lindsay's order reveals that Barrett Brown's indictment waiver, the superseding indictment, the "Government’s Agreed Motion to Seal the Plea Agreement and the Factual Resume" were all filed on the same day, March 31, 2014.

FreeBarrett_ tweeted that "it applies to both cases", and that "the gag order in Brown's case could be lifted, and documents unsealed, around April 29th."

Back in March 2011, Michael Isikoff (pictured above with Barrett Brown) reported for NBC News, "Brown told us he is not personally involved in any computer hacking but he fully expects federal prosecutors will come after him." And he was right.

And Kevin Gallagher could also be right that the last Barrett Brown charge "may potentially implicate journalists who report on leaks and hacks, and use hackers as sources, in the future."

(Editor's Note: I helped provide some research for the Free Barrett website, but I've continued to report objectively and sometimes critically on Brown and his defense. And I will either update this article or write a new one regarding why the superseding indictment accused Brown of "communicat[ing] with representatives of Stratfor in a manner that diverted attention away from the hacker 'o'.")

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

EaglesPAC treasurer Dan Backer uses mysterious 'Victory Online' contribution to enrich his own law firm

"A split Supreme Court Wednesday struck down limits on the total amount of money an individual may spend on political candidates as a violation of free speech rights, a decision sure to increase the role of money in political campaigns," Robert Barnes and Matea Gold reported for the Washington Post earlier today. "The case at the court was brought by a wealthy Alabama political donor named Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee."

At Slate, Dave Weigel reports, "Three years ago Dan Backer had met the wealthy Alabaman at CPAC. He convinced him to challenge the court's donation limits. He'd been proved right about their chances."

"Who's [sic] client just won at the Supreme Court?" wrote Dan Backer on Facebook. "THIS GUY! SCOTUS rules in favor of McCutcheon!"
On August 30, 2012, I emailed a trio of Paris-based filmmakers to ask why an American political action committee called EaglesPAC was using their film 'The Gloaming' to raise money. I included a link to the PAC's website and its details page at the Federal Election Commission's website.

"The Gloaming" is a short animated French film written by Nicolas Pasquet and directed by three filmmakers who use the moniker NoBrain, that was released by Sabotage Studio in 2011. On June 28, 2012, "The Gloaming" was chosen as "short of the week" by a website which "seek[s] to discover and promote the greatest and most innovative storytellers from around the world."

It was screened at Italy's Euganea Film Festival for international short films and documentaries in 2011, and Nobrain also directed a music video for the song "All Downhill from Here" by New Found Glory, and according to a Wikipedia article, "When the music video for this song aired on MTV's TRL (Total Request Live), fans voted it on the show 50 days in a row."

A screenshot I took that week of www.EaglesPAC.com shows that underneath "The Gloaming" short, the website was asking for contributions to "The New Establishment," and that "$500 gets you our plan, $1,000 gets you our plan and a call from our Executive Director $5,000+ gets you on the strategy board etc."

"Please make your most generous contribution today," the EaglesPAC website pleaded, at the time. "Your donation will be spent immediately on the literature and advertising we need to win. Thank you so much!"



"We were not aware about that," Nobrain wrote back hours later. "And we gonna stop this immediately, thx for blowing the whistle."

I wrote back, "The lawyer behind that PAC seems to be the only name attached to it. And he is the Treasurer for many PACs, including one for Ron Paul and others for conservatives and tea party groups." I included a link to a March 14, 2012 Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group article written by Keenan Steiner called "Crusading lawyer takes aim at contribution limits," about Dan Backer, the Principal Attorney at DB Capitol Strategies," who has been pushing the FEC to "ease a host of campaign finance rules." Steiner's article focused on "Backer's latest target: the ceiling on how much money a person can give candidates for federal office in one election cycle, which currently stands at $46,200."

"My god, if someone ever told me my film will be used by those kind of mofos (excuse my french) one day, i never believed it," niko nobrain wrote back.

I also told nobrain,
"The website was registered on July 2, 2012...but I'm not sure how long your film has been on that website or if they collected any money...and what exactly it's going to. The lawyer [Dan Backer] is a proponent of PACs giving unlimited funds to candidates [Cutting Edge News Democracy21.org].

The PAC was registered with FEC on July 9 [link pdf link].
"
According to the October Quarterly (pdf link) filed by EaglesPAC treasurer Dan Backer on October 12, 2012, a group called "Victory Online" made a "Carey contribution" of $1,000 to the PAC, the day before I sent that email on August 29, 2012.



On September 6, 2012, I published a story called "'Crusading' legal eagle filches French film to raise cash for sketchy PAC," after I was informed that Nobrain had spoken to a lawyer and was contacting Backer "to ask them to stop this nonsense."

"Beyond the fact that the political ideas you are supporting scares me to death, i think it's very rude of you to use our work for this kind of purposes without any authorization from us," the director of 'The Gloaming' complained in a September 7, 2012 email to Backer, which was cc'd to an Intellectual Property Rights barrister at a London law firm. "The film is online to be watched as a film and not as a propaganda weapon to raise money."

The email to Backer continued, "For the respect of all the people who worked on this project, for us and artistic rights in general, i'm asking you to immediately remove the film from your website. If tomorrow the film is still on your web page i will use other ways to convince you."

Backer's response was brief and to the point: "Thank you for your email. I have communicated with my client and he has removed the content."

The EaglesPAC treasurer didn't mention the client's name, but the website at www.eaglesPAC.com was scrubbed that same day, and replaced with an "under construction" message that hasn't changed nineteen months later.

"And the mofos finally turned the web site off...," Niko nobrain wrote in a September 28, 2012 comment left on my article. "I'm still amazed how those people can be stupid enough to not understand what this film is really about."

I'm uncertain if niko nobrain's winning barrister earned a dime (or six pence or so), but the losing side's lawyers got paid. And, in this case, the EaglesPAC treasurer has his own law firm, DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, which scarfed up ninety-five percent of the PAC's treasury. According to the same October Quarterly (pdf link), Backer's firm collected $950 in "legal fees" from the mysterious PAC on September 7, 2012.



According to the Statement of Organization filed with the Federal Election Commission on July 9, 2012 and signed by Treasurer Dan Backer, the EaglesPAC "supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate, and is NOT a separate segregated fund or party committee." Backer claimed "NONE" on the portion of the FEC filing that asks for names of "any connected organization, affiliated committee, joint fundraising representative, or leadership PAC sponsor."

The only information for "Victory Online" that I've been able to obtain is the address found on the EaglesPAC FEC filing: 2029 Century Park East Suite 1400, Los Angeles, California 90067. Many lawfirms and businesses are located at that suite, so it's difficult to figure out which one is tied to "Victory Online". There is an online marketing company called "Victory Online" - which has worked on Tea Party campaigns - located in Los Angeles, but the name is generic and the address is different, so I'm unsure if they are related.

Backer filed to terminate EaglesPAC - which never contributed any money to any candidates or campaigns - on January 10, 2014. The PAC only spent a few hundred dollars on expenses, aside from the payment to Backer, and he is the only name tied to it on all its FEC filings, except for the mysterious "Victory Online" firm.

On January 23, 2014, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Nicole Miller from the Reports Analysis Division informed Dan Backer, "Your committee's filing has been accepted as a valid termination and "is no longer required to file reports on a periodic basis...However Commission's Regulations require that you maintain your records and copies of reports for inspection for at least three (3) years. In addition, you may be required to respond to Commission requests for information regarding your committee's federal election activity and previously filed reports."

The $1,000 2012 payment to EaglesPAC was marked as a "Carey contribution," which refers to the Retired Rear Admiral Carey v. FEC case, involving the National Defense PAC. Dan Backer also happens to represent the National Defense PAC, as FEC Compliance Counsel and Assistant Treasurer.

"That organization, the National Defense PAC (ND PAC), supported candidates who had served in the Armed Forces," Sean J. Miller reported for Campaigns and Elections on January 4, 2012. "Its support came primarily through direct contributions to candidates, which were limited by law. But taking advantage of the SpeechNow.org case and other precedents, ND PAC also wanted to accept unlimited contributions to spend on its own advertisements."

"A federal court ultimately issued a stinging injunction against the FEC. While Carey could set up another PAC to make independent expenditures (IEs), that would double his group’s record-keeping and registration burdens – not to mention dilute ND PAC’s name recognition. Carey and his team preferred to handle both direct contributions and IEs within ND PAC, using segregated bank accounts for the two pools of funds. The U.S. District Court for D.C. agreed, and the FEC entered into a settlement conceding the unconstitutionality of regulations forbidding ND PAC’s arrangement.

But that arrangement only applied to so-called non-connected PACs – those without a parent organization. Backer’s clients are asking for approval to apply the Carey ruling to connected PACs. 'Everyone wants to comply with the law,' said Backer, an attorney with DB Capitol Strategies. 'We just want to make sure what the law is.'

'We should make it easy to speak in politics and unclear rules don’t help,' he added. 'Nobody wants to go to jail over this stuff.'
"
Kelly S. Eustis, "President and Chief Executive Officer of Eusatrix Corporation, a strategic public relations and political consulting firm specializing in campaigns and issue advocacy, public affairs, and online strategy," (according to his website's bio), also was part of the Carey v. FEC lawsuit. Eustis is also the "founder of One Nation PAC, which raises money for conservative, tea party-affiliated causes," The WatertownDaily Times reported in a June 13, 2011 article. Backer is treasurer and counsel for One Nation PAC, as well.

Included in the "ongoing harm to plaintiffs" section of Carey v. FEC (pdf link) were the following arguments, in a complaint filed on January 31, 2011:

"As soon as possible, and certainly before the 2012 primary and general elections, National Defense PAC would like to make independent expenditures from its general fund, in various amounts, expressly advocating for or against clearly identified candidates of its choice. A specific example of this is included as EXHIBIT F, which includes a proposed advertisement for Newsmax – a popular Internet destination – expressly advocating against the retention of Anthony Weiner in New York’s Ninth Congressional District. This advertisement, with a guaranteed 50,000 views per week, would cost $6,300.00 to run in the months leading up to the November 2012 elections. The advertisements in question would include a picture of Anthony Weiner along with the call to 'defeat Anthony Weiner' – asking users to click on the advertisement to learn more.

A specific example of this is included as EXHIBIT G, a letter of intent from Kelly S. Eustis, who wishes to donate $6,300.00 to help fund independent expenditure communication campaigns against Anthony Weiner but cannot due to the current operation and interpretation of the law by the FEC.

As soon as possible, and certainly before the 2012 primary and general elections, Kelly S. Eustis would like to make a $6,300.00 contribution to National Defense PAC to help fund independent expenditure communications against Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District of New York. But for operation and interpretation of 2 U.S.C. §§ 441a(a)(1)(C) and 441a(a)(3), Kelly S. Eustis would make this contribution.
"
The letter from Eustis, dated January 25, 2011 and addressed to Rear Admiral James J. Carey [Ret.], stated, "Please accept this letter as a firm statement of my intent to support the Independent Expenditure advocacy of the National Defense PAC. I share your views as to the importance of defeating Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York in the next election, and want to join you in advocating for his defeat."

"I am only willing to contribute if my contribution will be able to have an actual impact, and if it is legal to do so under federal election law," the Eustis letter continued. "As such, I will contribute $6300, which is the cost you have shared with me to mount an online campaign in opposition to Congressman Weiner. Further, I await clarification from your counsel that my contribution exclusively to your independent expenditure activities is lawful, as determined by either the Federal Election Commission or the courts."



Exhibit F showed the "proposed online banner advertisement and script of 'click through page' in opposition to Congressman Anthony Weiner."



On March 8, 2013, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Nicole Miller informed Dan Backer, "A review of your reports discloses apparent activity for your committee's Non-Contribution Account. If a committee establishes a separate Non-Contribution Account, consistent with the judgment made in Carey v. FEC, it should notify the Commission by letter filed with their Statement of Organization. If your committee has established separate Non-Contribution Account, please amend your Statement of Organization to include a notification letter clarifying this."

Miller's email to Backer requested a response by April 12, 2013, and she wrote that if he had any additional questions he could contact her "on our toll free number (800)424-9530 (at the prompt press 5 to reach the Reports Analysis Division) or my local number (202) 694-1164)."

On April 8, 2013, Backer filed an Amended Statement of Organization, which noted, "Consistent with the stipulated judgment in Carey v. FEC, this committee has established a separate bank account (a Carey Account) to deposit and withdraw funds raised in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and/or other political committees (Carey Contributions). The Carey Contributions maintained in this Carey account will not be used to make contributions, whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications, or coordinated expenditures, to federal candidates or committees."

The Access National Bank - located at 14006 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy Chantilly, Virginia 20151 - was named by Backer as the bank for the committee's separate account.

Backer's 4/8/13 Amended Statement of Organization claimed that the committee's web address was EaglesPAC.org, rather than EaglesPAC.com, as did the original Statement of Organization filed on July 3, 2012.



Another Amended Statement of Organization filed by Backer - which changed the EaglesPAC address from his P.O. Box 75021 in Washington DC to the DB Capitol Strategies King Street address in Alexandria, Virginia - also claimed that EaglesPAC.org was the committee's website.

According to Who Is, EaglesPAC.com was created - through Domains By Proxy - on July 2, 2012, updated on June 27, 2013 and will expire on July 2, 2014, and lists EaglesPAC.net and EaglesPAC.org as similar domains but archive.org shows no activity for either listing, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that EaglesPAC owned any other website but EaglesPAC.com. Who Is shows no history for EaglesPAC.org, and it remains available for purchase.

[Editor's Note: Dave Weigel omits the fact that he's friendly with many colleagues of Dan Backer and Shaun McCutcheon - such as filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger Jr. - who he has hyped in many stories. Ehlinger has not only been hired by PACs controlled by Backer to create viral campaign ads - including one that McCutcheon's website brags he "sponsored...to encourage voters to support Republican Bob Turner in the special election to replace Anthony Weiner after his scandal" - he has also been a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the FEC (Stop This Insanity pdf, Docket showing Backer representing Ehlinger). Weigel has also hung out at CPAC parties sponsored by Backer and McCutcheon, but the Slate reporter is not big on transparency when it comes to himself. In 2012, Weigel and Slate leaked - and cherry-picked - Direct Messages I sent him regarding convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin, who I was falsely accused of working with in a conspiracy theory lawsuit argued by Dan Backer, that was tossed out of court, and Ehlinger also leaked emails to slander me at his blog.]