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Canadian companies have a long way to go to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, a recent report argues.
SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education), a non-profit that advises institutional investors like foundations and religious organizations about ethical and socially responsible investments, released a study last month about how well publicly listed companies report on Indigenous relations.
The study includes results from 173 publicly listed companies from financial, telecommunications, materials, energy, renewable energy and clean technology, health care, and consumer sectors.
Researchers looked at how companies reported about the number of Indigenous employees at their company and their roles; recruitment, education and advancement of Indigenous employees; contracting with Indigenous companies; how companies complied with international laws about Indigenous rights, particularly the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); policies about free and prior informed consent and companies' investments in Indigenous communities. Canada fully committed to implement UNDRIP last year.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final report in 2015 called on businesses to use the UNDRIP as a framework for promoting reconciliation. This includes committing to building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities and obtaining free and prior informed consent; making sure Indigenous people have access to jobs and employment training and educating employees about Indigenous history and culture.
Of the 173 companies surveyed, only 10 made any commitment to international law. Only five companies specifically mentioned a commitment to free and prior informed consent: three mining companies, an energy company and a financial company. Consent can be a difficult concept to define, but it involves building relationships with affected communities early on in a project's development, and involving them in the management and oversight of projects so the authority is shared, said Delaney Greig, a co-author of the report.
This means companies need to treat Indigenous people as "neighbours and partners," said Greig, and look for "opportunities for relationship-building between groups instead of looking at [Indigenous people] as this outside other who's a risk."
Often, companies view building relationships with Indigenous people as a way to prevent a lawsuit or protest, Greig said. They may not consult with them until environmental assessments are needed.
Businesses can begin building better relationships with Indigenous communities by having Indigenous people involved in senior roles where they can guide companies towards reconciliation.
Only two companies reported having an Indigenous board member, one in each company, said Greig.
"To expect those two individuals to represent the entire company and cause shifts in the way these enormous organizations operate is not reasonable," she said.
Many companies -- 18.5 per cent -- said they prioritize hiring Indigenous employees, and many use Indigenous organizations in the recruitment process. But companies provided little data about the types of jobs Indigenous people had. This makes it hard to determine if they are in entry-level, temporary or upper-management roles.
Only 11 per cent of companies gave quantitative data about their Indigenous employees, and only five per cent gave information about what level Indigenous employees were at in the company.
In general, few companies provided any reporting about their relationships with Indigenous peoples. Companies that did report were more likely to include case studies and examples instead of facts and figures. This cursory detail and lack of specifics makes it difficult to know exactly how companies relate to Indigenous peoples, or if their interactions with Indigenous peoples are isolated activities related to specific projects, something to help the company's public relations or something the company is pursuing intentionally, said Greig.
Companies were most likely to report about their community involvement with Indigenous peoples. Thirty per cent of the companies surveyed reported on this. But even then, specific details about their involvement were slim and reporting mainly consisted of anecdotes. For many companies, the report says, this community involvement was part of their broader philanthropic activities, and the only indicator on which they reported. A company's financial contributions to a community, or investment in community initiatives may be helpful, the report says, but they may also be short-term, or motivated by the company's interest.
The report indicates a large gap in companies' reporting on their relationships with Indigenous peoples, but it doesn't offer clear reasons for why this gap exists.
Some companies may not be used to reporting on the topic, said Greig. For example, telecommunications and financial companies scored the highest in including Indigenous people in employment diversity goals. All four telecommunications companies surveyed for the report reported on this, as did 30 per cent of financial institutions. But as the report notes, banks and telecommunications companies are required by federal law to report on employment diversity, including the number of Indigenous people in their workforce, and therefore already have systems in place to collect and disseminate this data.
Greig said it was particularly surprising how poor the reporting from sustainable energy companies was. Many Indigenous groups are interested in renewable energy, and energy projects often have a large impact on their land. None of the 19 companies in this sector reported any mention of respecting Indigenous rights in international law or obtaining free and prior informed consent -- even though the report says many proposed wind, solar and hydro developments are located on traditional Indigenous territories.
SHARE plans to hold workshops with Indigenous and non-Indigenous business leaders and investors to learn more about how companies can pursue reconciliation with Indigenous communities, Greig said.
Meagan Gillmore is rabble.ca's labour reporter.
Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism.
Below are two news items not found in mainstream media and two actions.
But before that I report very briefly that we had another very productive week with many positive actions despite the negative news and challenges that face us in Palestine and around the world.
We received many delegation to the Palestine Museum of Natural History and capped the week with a very special delegation: the Japanese group earth caravan and our volunteers and visitors (about 60 people half from Japan) had a beautiful interfaith gathering in memory of Hiroshima day (August 6).
Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and many others joined hands and pledged to redouble our work so that such atrocities do not happen again.
The dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was nothing short of state terrorism and was not needed for ending the war as claimed by the US government (google this if you want more information). But as before what we need to think about is lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness.
We received summer camps who visited the nascent botanical garden and the museum. We did field work in marginalized areas of the West Bank last week. We have significant new data on issues like decline in biodiversity and environmental health. We submitted more research papers highlighting our findings (see: palestinenature.org/research for published papers).
News not covered in mainstream media:
1) A cross sectional study of the relationship between the exposure of pregnant women to military attacks in 2014 in Gaza and the load of heavy metal contaminants in the hair of mothers and newborns by Paola Manduca, Safwat Y Diab, Samir R Qouta, Nabil Albarqouni, Raiija-Leena Punamaki.
Published in BMJ Open: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/7/e014035.full
1)Sign the petition by Defense of Children International-Palestine to end collective punishment of Gaza’s Children. An entirely man-made humanitarian crisis faces the nearly 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza, 43 percent of whom are under 15 years old. Israel’s 10-year military siege of the tiny coastal enclave and repeated Israeli military offensives have trapped Palestinians in dire conditions. http://www.dci-palestine.org/campaign_end_collective_punishment_of_gaza_s_children_petition
2)Another action for US citizens: some congressmen and senators are already saying no so our actions make a difference. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act will criminalize our First Amendment rights to free speech, and silence a movement that aims to ensure equal, human rights for Palestinians. https://act.mpowerchange.org/sign/senate-anti-boycott-act
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Join me on facebook https://www.facebook.com/mazin.qumsiyeh.9
With the war between mainstream and independent media heating up,
YouTube has weaponized a new content censorship program, calling it an
effort to “fight terror content online.” With standards set by groups
like the Anti-Defamation League, political agendas are sure to intrude.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA — Ever since “fake news” found its place among the various explanations used by the Clinton campaign and supporters to account for their candidate’s loss, there has been a quiet but concerted effort on the part of establishment media, technology, and telecommunications companies to thwart the surging popularity of independent media.
The rise of the independent media has been hugely detrimental to the once privileged position of the mainstream media, who have now lost the trust of the vast majority of Americans and – along with that trust – their ability to control political and social narratives.
Chief among the groups seeking to clamp down on independent media has been Google, the massive technology company with deep connections to the U.S. intelligence community, as well as to U.S. government and business elites.
Since 2015, Google has worked to become the Internet’s “Ministry of Truth,” first through its creation of the First Draft Coalition and more recently via major changes made to its search engine that curtail public access to new sites independent of the corporate media.
Google has now stepped up its war on free speech and the freedom of the press through its popular subsidiary, YouTube. On Tuesday, YouTube announced online that it is set to begin censoring content deemed “controversial,” even if that content does not break any laws or violate YouTube’s user agreement.
Misleadingly dubbed as an effort “to fight terror content online,” the new program will flag content for review through a mix of machine algorithms and “human review,” guided by standards set up by “expert NGOs and institutions” that are part of YouTube’s “Trusted Flagger” program. YouTube stated that such organizations “bring expert knowledge of complex issues like hate speech, radicalization, and terrorism.”
One of the leading institutions directing the course of the Trusted Flagger program is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but has gained a reputation over the years for labeling any critic of Israel’s government as an “anti-Semite.”
In addition to its labeling of Palestinian rights activists as “extremists,” the ADL has also given numerous U.S. conservatives the same label, including Mike Cernovich and Gavin McInnes.
Cernovich and McInnes, though controversial, are extremely popular figures among conservatives and Trump supporters on YouTube and social media. Cernovich’s website, Danger & Play, gets nearly 150 million views every month. McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media, also enjoys a wide viewership, with many of his videos boasting millions of views.
The ADL is also known for being quite selective in identifying what it terms “extremism.”
While it consistently labels pro-Palestinian groups and those critical of the Israeli government as “extremists,” it has avoided that label with respect to the right-wing Israeli groups and figures that openly call for the murder or even genocide of Palestinians.
In addition, although it has flagged figures of the so-called “alt-right,” the ADL has not done the same for similar left-wing groups — such as Antifa, a group some states have listed as a “domestic terror” organization. With the ADL at the helm, YouTube’s new censorship policy is likely to selectively target those critical of Israel’s government, as well as conservative voices.
Even more unsettling, YouTube’s new policy doesn’t stop with merely censoring content.
According to the announcement, any user who searches for keywords or terms deemed “controversial” by YouTube’s chosen authorities will be redirected to a playlist of “curated” videos intended to “directly confront and debunk” the content sought by the user.
Critics have warned that the mix of censorship and redirection to “curated” propaganda videos would create a “PC, extreme-left, propagandizing echo chamber” with consequences that would go far beyond combating “online terrorism.” Indeed, given that Google’s Jigsaw once created tools intended to bolster the ranks of al-Qaeda in Syria, Google and YouTube’s desire to fight the spread of actual terrorism is dubious, making it all the more likely that this latest move is instead targeting free speech and expression.
Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others - she currently resides in Southern Chile.
1 - Letting Imperial Metals and Murray Edwards off with no fines or penalties for the worst mining disaster in Canadian history.
The remains of Mount Polley's tailings pond.
Source: YouTube screengrab.
In August 2014, a retaining wall on a tailings pond at Mount Polley mine collapsed, spilling 24,000,000 litres of toxic sludge and water near the small BC community of Likely. Over the next two years, an investigation determined that Imperial Metals, the owner of the mine, had been warned repeatedly since 2007 about the structural integrity of the wall – and did nothing about it.
[This Is Now: In August 2017, having taken the reins of power in the province, the BC NDP condemn the spill, but not the company; promising to "investigate" why charges were not brought against Imperial Metals, while allowing the statute of limitations on the crime lapse without filing charges. Meanwhile, a First Nations organization took the initiative to act, filing 15 private prosecution charges against the company. No word yet if the NDP will support that effort. - Ape]
Methane "seeps" on the tundra may be more problematic than previously
thought, according to a new report co-authored by Torsten Sachs, a
researcher at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Germany
Methane gas trapped under the Arctic tundra has been called the ticking time bomb of climate change. Due to its high propensity to trap heat in the atmosphere, methane's global warming potential over a 20 year period is 86 times that of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas at the heart of most climate change discussion and analysis. So how concerned should we be about all the methane contained in the far north's permafrost?
Because the Arctic is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, parts of the Arctic tundra are thawing. This may be allowing long buried pockets of methane to be released into the atmosphere, new research suggests. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports has concluded that, "Strong geologic methane emissions from discontinuous terrestrial permafrost in the Mackenzie Delta, Canada suggests that these methane seeps on the Tundra may be more problematic than previously thought."
Torsten Sachs is a researcher at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany, studying the exchange of carbon dioxide and methane between various ecosystems and the atmosphere using stationary instrumentation on the ground as well as low-flying aircraft.
In the five years running up to 9/11 the NSA were monitoring Osama Bin Laden’s satellite phone and Al Qaeda’s communication hub, and the CIA were closely following their key operatives, including to the so-called ‘9/11 summit’ in Malaysia.
So why didn’t they prevent the attacks?
This week we look at the ‘failure’ of the NSA, CIA and FBI to share important information and ask whether these intelligence failures were the result of deliberate decisions on the part of those responsible for preventing terrorist attacks.
Following the World Trade Center bombing trials, the end of the war in Bosnia and the capture of Ramzi Yousef in 1995, a second phase of Al Qaeda began. Osama Bin Laden moved back to Afghanistan, aided by Ali Mohamed, and the group set up a communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen. It was run by Ahmed Al-Hada, an associate of Bin Laden who had fought alongside him during the Soviet-Afghan War. Bin Laden regularly used his satellite phone to call this house in Yemen, when Al-Hada lived with his family, as did numerous other Al Qaeda members. This quickly led the NSA, who were monitoring the satellite phone, to the Yemen hub, which they also monitored from 1996 right up until 9/11. The NSA had previously tapped into the older satellite phone Bin Laden used while he was hiding out in Sudan, and possibly even tracked the new phone from the moment it was purchased.
Meanwhile, the CIA began tracking Bin Laden more closely and between February 1996 and May 1998 they repeatedly asked the NSA for verbatim transcripts of the calls being made both on the satellite phone and to and from the hub in Yemen. The NSA refused to hand them over to the Bin Laden unit and other CIA officers who asked, providing only reports on the calls, not the content of the calls themselves. Sometime after December 1996 the CIA built their own listening post on Madagascar, duplicating the NSA’s, but apparently this only gave them access to half of the calls – for the other halves of the conversations they needed a satellite. When they took these half-transcripts to the NSA to ask for the other halves, the NSA refused.
After Mohamed Al-Owhali’s arrest in the wake of the embassy bombings, he gave up the Al Qaeda communications hub to the FBI. He gave them the number and phone records showed him calling the house in the days running up to the bombings, and apparently after the bombings to say that he ‘had not travelled’ i.e. hadn’t died in the explosion as planned. So why didn’t the NSA know about the bombings ahead of time? Or if they did, why did they do nothing with the information?
Also following the embassy bombings in August 1998 the NSA did briefly start responding to the CIA’s requests for full transcripts, but then soon went back to the old system of keeping the information to themselves. The FBI picked up on Al-Owhali’s information and likewise asked the NSA for records of any calls between the Yemen hub and the US, though the NSA later didn’t bother to do this in the run-up to 9/11.
It has also been widely reported that following the 1998 bombings the CIA and NSA bugged the house itself, and used a spy satellite to watch all the comings and goings. They learned that it wasn’t simply a switchboard for people to talk to each other around the world, but also a operations centre through which attacks and other operations were planned.
In January 2000 Al Qaeda tried to bomb USS The Sullivans while it was in the port of Aden in Yemen. This was part of the so-called Millenium Plot, which either failed or was intercepted in all its different aspects. In Aden, the would-be bombers loaded their small boat with so many explosives that it sank before they could get to the US Navy ship and blow it up. However, months later in October 2000 the same group bombed the USS Cole while it was refueling in Aden, killing over a dozen people. The bombers floated up alongside the ship, waved at those on board, and then blew themselves up. The group responsible for both the Cole bombing and the attempt on The Sullivans – an Al Qaeda cell calling themselves the Islamic Army of Aden – were funded into existence by Jamal Khalifa – Osama’s brother in law and the financier behind the Bojinka plot in the Philippines.
Officially, the CIA and NSA didn’t know about the attempted attack on The Sullivans until sometime later, and had no opportunity to prevent the bombing of the USS Cole. But realistically, how is this possible? They were monitoring the Al Qaeda operations centre in Yemen, they knew about Jamal Khalifa. He was in US custody in late 1994-95, before being let go only after spending months in an unnamed ‘in transit facility’ which may well have been a US intelligence debriefing centre. They also knew about the on-the-ground operative Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, who one of the witnesses in the KENBOM investigation said was planning to hit US ships in the port of Aden. They definitely identified the right guy, because during his interrogation Al-Owhali recognised him from photographs. Al-Nashiri provided a fake passport for one of the embassy bombers, was in frequent contact with the Yemen hub, and was the principal manager of the USS Cole bombing and likely the attempt on The Sullivans as well. For several months after the bombing he was hiding out in a small town in Yemen, under the protection of the Yemeni government. He wasn’t caught until November 2002, and since then he’s been imprisoned in CIA black sites and subjected to torture.
Khalid Al-Midhar is perhaps the most important Al Qaeda operative in this second phase of the group’s development. He fought in Bosnia in the early to mid 1990s, possibly meeting the supposed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed while he was there. In 1997 both he and his close associate Nawaf Al Hazmi were watchlisted in their home country of Saudi Arabia due to their role in a gun-running scheme. However, they continued to move freely in and out of the country and would end up getting their visas to get into the US from embassies in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Midhar was probably involved in both the bombings on the US embassies in 1998 and the USS Cole bombing, as phone records show he called the communications hub frequently around the times of both attacks. In Kevin Fenton’s book Disconnecting the Dots he makes a strong case for Al-Midhar being involved in both bombings, and at the very least proves he knew about them ahead of time. This is unsurprising as he married the daughter of Ahmed Al-Hada, the guy running the communications hub in Yemen, and Al-Midhar sometimes lived there.
While some of these other elements are less certain, he reportedly fought in Chechnya and while he first entered the US in January 2000 he left in June, and didn’t return until over a year later after all the other hijackers had arrived in America. Some investigators believe he was one of the core 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives, responsible for recruiting and facilitating the travel of many of the others. At least according to the official version Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi were the main muscle hijackers on flight 77, which hit the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Al Hazmi was one of several supposed 9/11 hijackers who was trained in a camp in Turkey by Luai Sakra. Sakra was a triple agent who worked for Syrian and Turkish intelligence. And the CIA.
Sakra spent much of the 1990s involved in the Balkans, where he set up the local branch of the Services Office for the Mujahideen – the Maktab Al Khidemat organisation based at the Al Kifah in New York. Luai Sakra’s branch of this organisation was, like his training camp, in Turkey, and it helped provide jihadi recruits for the war in Bosnia and then into Kosovo, Albania and so on. He was then recruited by the CIA in late 1999 – early 2000, at the same time as he’s running this training camp in Turkey. The CIA then passed information to Turkish intelligence which led to him and this group of trainees being picked up and interrogated for a day, and then let go.
Sakra apparently knew about the 9/11 plot, and warned his Syrian handler the day before the attacks. According to media reports the Syrians didn’t pass this information onto the CIA – bear in mind at this point the Syrian government were quite friendly with the West. George Tenet, the director of the CIA throughout this period, even wrote in his book that, ‘[A] source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him that something big was about to go down.’
After 9/11 Sakra became a wanted man, and went to ground in Germany before escaping with the help of German intelligence, the BND. A parliamentary inquiry later exonerated the BND of any wrongdoing. Sakra went on to mastermind the 2003 Istanbul bombings which helped sell the Iraq war not particularly to the Turkish public who were very opposed to being involved in that war, but I think mainly to the British public because some of the bombings were on an HSBC bank and the British Consulate. Sakra still wasn’t caught for another two years and when he was finally brought to ground he started talking to interrogators about how ‘Al-Qaeda is the name of a secret service operation. The concept “fighting terror” is the background of the “low-intensity-warfare” conducted in the mono-polar world order.’ When he was eventually put on trial, reporters at the courthouse noted how they weren’t sure it was the same man who had been arrested.
Around the same time that Sakra was recruited by the CIA there was a major Al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from January 5-8th 2000. The NSA intercepted calls about this summit in the weeks running up to it, though the Malaysian government also had moles within their local Islamist militant gangs. As a result both the CIA and the FBI knew about this ahead of time, and the CIA along with local intelligence monitored the meetings. There is some contradiction in different accounts as to whether the meetings themselves were bugged, but certainly photos were taken, some surveillance video too.
Attendees at the Malaysia summit included Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Midhar, Hambali, who turns up in the Bojinka plot and is a major figure in Islamist militancy in South East Asia in this period, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the supposed 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Bin Attash, perhaps Bin Laden’s most senior intermediary, Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the facilitator of the embassy bombings and the Cole bombing and Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, the facilitator of the Hamburg cell that included supposed 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.
So looking back it seems that this summit was a major planning meeting (or series of meeetings) that would lead to the bombings of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attacks. While he was travelling to the summit the CIA broke into Al-Midhar’s hotel room and copied his passport, including his multiple-entry visa for the United States. After the summit several of the attendees, including Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi, flew to Bangkok. According to the CIA they lost track of Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi in the streets of Bangkok. A few days later the pair arrive in the US via Los Angeles international airport. Al Hazmi remains inside the US until 9/11, Al Midhar remains there until June 2000, after which he leaves the US, flies around the world including in and out of Saudi Arabia several times, before returning to America in early July 2001.
But no one bothers to tell the FBI. No one bothers to say that two men from the Malaysia summit have ready access to the US, let alone landed there. You might think this was a mistake, but it wasn’t. The CIA’s Bin Laden unit, Alec Station, knew all of this and deliberately withheld the information from the FBI.
Alec Station was the CIA’s first ‘virtual station’. Normal CIA stations are located around the world usually inside US embassies in different countries, but Alec Station was focused on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda so it was physically based in an obscure office in Langley with a remit that covered the whole world. In mid-1999 the unit got a new boss – Richard Blee, the son of the CIA legend David Blee, and most of the 9/11 intelligence problems happened on his watch. Others in this unit at the time included a supervisor named Tom Wilshire, known as ‘John’ in many of the official reports, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and Michael Anne Casey, who was the basis for the redhead in Zero Dark Thirty, and FBI agents Mark Rossini and Doug Miller, who were detailed from the Bureau to the CIA. There were others – in total about 50 people worked in Alec Station at this time.
Naturally, the FBI agents realised that this high-level Al Qaeda operative with a multiple-entry visa for the US was something the Bureau needed to know about, so if Al-Midhar turned up in the US the FBI could follow him and see what he was up to. Doug Miller drafted a cable to the FBI outlining all this, but it was blocked by Wilshire and Casey, known as Michael or Michelle in the reports. Indeed, Casey then circulated a cable within the CIA saying that the information had been shared with the FBI, thereby discouraging anyone else from doing it.
This all begins in early January 2000, when they was plenty of time to do something about it, but instead the Bureau were kept in the dark. Likewise, a CIA cable in March detailing how Al-Hazmi and a companion (Al-Midhar) had arrived in the US also was not shared with the FBI. Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi went to San Diego and met up with Omar Al-Bayoumi, who pretty much everyone now accepts was working for Saudi intelligence. He gives them money, helps rent them an apartment from a guy who actually worked for a while as an FBI informant, basically sets them up in California. In the coming months they also get to know Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was also in San Diego at this time and among other things bought them plane tickets. When Al-Awlaki moved across the country to Virginia, so did Al-Hazmi and Al-Midhar. It’s probably relevant that Awlaki was being investigated by the FBI throughout this period, and one of the last articles he wrote before being killed in a CIA drone strike said that he had been approached by the Agency.
After the USS Cole bombing in October that year the FBI agent in charge of the investigation Ali Soufan asked the CIA – repeatedly – for information stemming from the Malaysia summit. Every single time his requests were refused, even when he gave them the number of the payphone outside the building where the meetings were, which the CIA monitored the participants using. Soufan asked if they had anything on that phone number, and even though they did, they still told him ‘no’.
In May 2001 Tom Wilshire was detailed to the FBI’s International Terrorism Center (ITOS) as a deputy chief, though he says he wasn’t actually managing people and describes himself as a ‘consultant’, though he appears to have also functioned as a liaison with the CIA’s Alec Station. He still doesn’t bother to tell anyone about Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi being in the US. He accesses all the cables again at this time – the CIA’s records system makes that much clear – but doesn’t bother to pass on the information or check to see if the two are still in the US.
Instead, he instigates a review of the material relating to the Malaysia summit because he apparently thinks it might be important somehow. Even though he’s just reviewed the material himself he thinks it’s necessary for someone else to do it too. He doesn’t give the job to anyone at the FBI International Terrorism centre but instead gives it to Margaret Gillespie, another FBI agent working in the CIA’s Bin Laden unit. He tells her not to make it a priority and to just do it when she has some free time. Wilshire doesn’t give her copies of the cables he’s just accessed, so Gillespie apparently doesn’t find these for another three months, in August 2001, just weeks before 9/11. There are other examples, such as photos of the Malaysia summit not being shared, that add up to an obvious, concerted effort to withhold this information about Al-Midhar from the FBI.
However, we should not forget the NSA in all this. Remember, the FBI found out about the Yemen communications hub in 1998 from Al-Owhali, and they used information they gleaned from telephone records in the US vs Bin Laden trial in early 2001. In the 1999 trial in Egypt of the men kidnapped and rendered from Albania that I mentioned in the last episode, they also referred to the Yemen hub. So Al Qaeda should have known by early 2001 at the latest that their communications hub was busted, and probably being spied on by Western intelligence. Which of course, it was.
But for reasons I cannot figure out, they continued using it. In the run-up to the Millenium Plot and the Cole bombing and on into 2001-2. In fact, multiple calls were placed to the Yemen hub from within the United States, by the people now identified as the hijackers. Did the NSA tell the FBI that these calls they’d been tracking through the Al Qaeda main communications hub now included people inside the US? Of course not.
While all this is going on, Al-Midhar arrives back in the US, on July 4th 2001. The following day Wilshire starts writing emails to the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center all about Al-Midhar and how he thinks Al-Midhar is going to be involved in the next big attack. But Wilshire still doesn’t bother to say any of this to the FBI. Bizarrely, in at least one of these emails he asked for permission to share the Al-Midhar information with the FBI, even though his junior, Michael Anne Casey, had circulated a cable over 18 months earlier saying that the information had already been shared with the Bureau.
This is where Wilshire’s story starts to fall apart, and with it the entire 9/11 intelligence failure in Alec Station. For some reason, throughout July 2001 he has a complete change of heart on the whole Al-Midhar question. The papertrail shows that Casey blocked Doug Miller’s cable to the FBI in January 2000 on the orders of Wilshire, deputy head of the unit. Wilshire had multiple opportunities, including when he reviewed all the Al-Midhar cables in mid 2001, to tell the FBI himself. After all, according to Casey’s cable the FBI had already been told, so he wasn’t really telling them anything they didn’t already know, more reminding them of its significance.
Instead, he commissions an FBI agent detailed to the CIA to conduct a review of materials he has just reviewed himself, but doesn’t give her the materials to review. Then, a month later just after Al-Midhar arrives back in the US, he starts sending emails to senior CIA colleagues talking about the importance of Al-Midhar and the next attack. To the CIA people he says Al-Midhar is of great interest, but he continues to say nothing to the FBI about the need to find this guy.
Then in mid-late August the FBI agent conducting the review finds all the cables and puts it together that Al-Midhar was in the US. She checks INS records and finds that he has recently arrived back in the US a few weeks earlier and doesn’t appear to have left yet. She takes this to Dina Corsi, an FBI agent working in their Bin Laden/Al Qaeda unit who was close to Wilshire. However, they don’t open a criminal investigation, which would allow them to trace credit cards and the like, they open an intelligence investigation. This is three weeks before 9/11.
Why did they open an intelligence investigation and not a criminal one? Because they didn’t think Al-Midhar was going to be involved in an imminent attack. But they liased directly with Tom Wilshire, him being the CIA liaison who ordered the review in the first place that took three months to find half a dozen cables and put all this together. Why didn’t Wilshire tell them what he’d told his CIA colleagues in emails a few weeks earlier, that Al-Midhar was going to be involved in the next big attack?
Nothing about Wilshire’s behaviour, or the behaviour of his immediate superior Rich Blee, makes any sense. If their superior Cofer Black, head of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center, and his superior CIA director George Tenet also knew this information, which by July 2001 they definitely did because Wilshire was writing these emails, then their behaviour makes no sense either.
Unless something like the scenario Richard Clarke describes is accurate. Richard Clarke was the former Counter-Terrorism Tsar in the Clinton White House, and in the early period of the Bush White House. This is the guy who went before the 9/11 Commission and apologised, saying the government and he himself had failed everyone. As far as anyone comes out of 9/11 with any credit, it’s Richard Clarke. So it’s no surprise that the producers of the Secrecy Kills: Who is Rich Blee? Podcast, who previously made the film 9/11 Press For Truth, got perhaps their most telling interview from Clarke.
In it he offers the idea that the CIA didn’t tell the FBI because after Cofer Black came in at Counter-Terrorism and Blee was made head of Alec Station, their ‘new strategy’ was to finally get a source inside Al Qaeda. So they were trying to recruit Al-Midhar and Al-Hamzi and didn’t want the FBI anywhere near that. Eventually they realised they were being double-crossed or their recruitment wasn’t working, so they gave the pair up to the FBI, but it was a bit too late to stop 9/11.
It’s a compelling narrative. But it’s almost certainly wrong. Much as I respect Clarke for being the only senior official to talk about this sort of thing in an explicit, critical way, I just don’t find this plausible. For one thing, US intelligence had sources inside Al Qaeda throughout the years – from the Blind Sheikh to Ali Mohamed, probably Ramzi Yousef and Jamal Khalifa. Then there’s the likes of Emad Salem, the FBI informant who became an entrapment operative after the WTC bombing, and Edwin Angeles, the Phillipines deep-cover spy inside the Bojinka plot. This is along with co-operators like Jamal Al-Fadl, and Ahmed Ressam, who was caught trying to smuggle explosives over the Canadian border into the US as part of the Millennium Plot. Admittedly, most of these people were now blown and either in prison or in witness protection but it’s hardly like US intelligence found it really difficult to get human sources inside Al Qaeda. That just isn’t true.
The other problem with this version is that even if they recruited Al-Midhar shortly after the Malaysia summit (or maybe before it?), and he then entered the US, left that summer and spent a year flying around the world informing on Al Qaeda but secretly still working for Al Qaeda, then why was Wilshire so convinced he would be involved in the next attack? Why would he only tell the CIA about these fears if the plan was to let the FBI pick him up weeks later? Why wouldn’t he get in touch with Gillespie and tell her to hurry up her review of the materials he forgot to give her? Why wouldn’t he insist they started a criminal investigation to immediately find Al-Midhar, if he or Rich Blee or whoever started to suspect a double-cross? Once you’ve decided to burn your spy and arrest him, you do it as fast as possible. You don’t sit on your ass for 6 weeks sending emails to the CIA talking about how urgent this is while continuing to tell the FBI absolutely nothing.
Likewise, the notion that these two guy were hands-off because they were Saudi intelligence assets is similarly absurd. The FBI are responsible for monitoring foreign intelligence activities inside the US. They don’t just let foreign governments operate spies in America without keeping an eye on what they’re up to.
So we’re left with a different set of possibilities. Did these CIA officials – Wilshire, Blee, Casey for certain but likely others as well – actually recruit Al-Midhar and maybe Al-Hazmi too? Was the aim to have them help facilitate the 9/11 attacks, or at least the hijacking element of those attacks? If so, then Wilshire’s sudden realisation in July 2001 that Al-Midhar, who had just arrived back in the US the day before, might be really important, but then his total failure to do anything productive with that realisation until it was too late, looks like a cover story. It’s a way of him covering his ass so the story becomes more about the FBI failure than what on earth the CIA officers were up to, just as with WTC93. However it’s quite plausible that it wasn’t the CIA as such who were ultimately behind this, but a semi-private network including former CIA officers and people in other agencies as well. It’s the sort of thing that even if the CIA found out a bunch of their former officers had done it, they would keep it a secret.
The same is true if, rather than making 9/11 happen they were allowing it to take place. If the aim was to secretly monitor these guys inside the US without the FBI knowing, then that fits most of the facts that we have and again makes Wilshire’s behaviour in the summer of 2001 make a lot more sense. Taking this story in isolation, without getting distracted by arguments about the physical nature of the attacks and the events of the day itself, it’s difficult to split these two interpretations. They both fit what we know, at least a lot better than most of the other explanations that have been offered, but there’s no piece of information or reasoning that supports one over the other.
In many ways perhaps it makes no difference if you help develop a terrorist gang and then sit back and watch them do something, or if you provoke and help them to do it. Legally there’s not much difference, morally too. Sadly, on both counts, they’ve got away with it. Most of this is the fault of the investigations and the general culture within these government institutions, whereby they simply don’t know how to deal with criminals inside the government. There are few precedents, no formal structure, no specialist investigators – dealing with this is a very difficult one.
But I will take a few seconds to say that the 9/11 Truth Movement played its part in this cover-up. I followed the movement for years while doing my own research into the topic – much of which formed the basis for this series. I watched as it devolved into endless, petty arguments about holographic planes and precisely which sort of thermite was used to take down the WTC and, most misleading and pointless of all, the five dancing Israelis. Or should I say Jews, since that’s one of the reasons so many people fixate on that detail. After all, if they were five dancing Indonesians or five dancing Nigerians, no one would make a big deal out of it.
One final question – what happened to these people? Well, most of them were promoted in one way or another. Richard Blee was made the CIA’s head of station in Kabul shortly after 9/11. Alfreda Bikowsky was made head of the CIA’s Global Jihad Unit, which presumably put her in overall charge of managing’s the CIA’s Global Jihad. Michael Anne Casey along with Bikowsky became the basis for the lionising portrait of Maya in Zero Dark Thirty. Cofer Black moved to the State Department after 9/11 and then became Vice-Chairman of Blackwater. I’m not sure what happened to Wilshire.
On the Al Qaeda side Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi are dead, probably on the plane that hit the Pentagon but regardless, they’re not going to tell us what was going on. Bin Laden is dead, Al-Nashiri is still awaiting trial, 15 years after being captured, as is Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh. Anwar Al-Awlaki is dead, killed in a drone strike. Which leaves Ahmed Al-Hada, the guy running the Yemen communication hub. The hub was shut down in early 2002 after a shootout with Yemeni security forces during which Al-Hada’s son, Samir Al-Hada, died when he blew himself up with a grenade, apparently by accident. Al-Hada senior was reported captured in 2005-6, but it seems no one is sure whether he’s still in prison or if not, where he might be. It seems that US authorities have completely forgotten about him, or at least are no longer pursuing him despite his key role in the second phase of Al Qaeda.
After al-Aqsa attack, Israeli PM backs controversial transfer plan of far-right defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman
Israel’s crackdown on access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound after two Israeli policemen were killed there last month provoked an eruption of fury among Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem and rocked Israel’s relations with the Arab world.
Three weeks on, the metal detectors and security cameras have gone and – for now, at least – Jerusalem is calmer.
But the shock waves are still reverberating, and being felt most keenly far away in northern Israel, in the town of Umm al-Fahm.
The three young men who carried out the shootings were from the town’s large Jabareen clan. They were killed on the spot by police.
Umm al-Fahm, one of the largest communities for Israel’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population, had already gained a reputation among the Jewish majority for political and religious extremism and anti-Israel sentiment.
In large part, that reflected its status as home to the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salah. In late 2015, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlawed the Movement as a terror organisation, despite his intelligence agencies failing to find evidence to support such a conclusion.
More likely, Netanyahu’s antipathy towards Salah’s group, and Umm al-Fahm, derives from its trenchant efforts to ensure the strongest possible presence of Muslims at al-Aqsa.
As Israel imposed ever tighter restrictions on Palestinians from the occupied territories reaching the mosque, Salah organised regular coaches to bring residents to the compound from Umm al-Fahm and surrounding communities.
Thousands attend funeral
Nonetheless, the three youths’ attack at al-Aqsa last month has served to bolster suspicions that Umm al-Fahm is a hotbed of radicalism and potential terrorism.
That impression was reinforced last week when the Israeli authorities, at judicial insistence, belatedly handed over the three bodies for burial.
Although Israel wanted the funerals as low-key as possible, thousands attended the burials. Moshe Arens, a former minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, expressed a common sentiment this week:
“The gunmen evidently had the support of many in Umm al-Fahm, and others seem prepared to follow in their footsteps.”
Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Israeli parliament who is himself from Umm al-Fahm, said such accusations were unfair.
“People in the town were angry that the bodies had been kept from burial in violation of Muslim custom for two weeks,” he told Middle East Eye.
“There are just a few extended families here, so many people wanted to show solidarity with their relatives, even though they reject the use of violence in our struggle for our civil rights.”
Nonetheless, the backlash from Netanyahu was not long in coming.
In a leak to Israeli TV, his office said he had proposed to the Trump administration ridding Israel of a region known as the Little Triangle, which includes some 300,000 Palestinians citizens. Umm al-Fahm is its main city.
The Triangle is a thin sliver of Israeli territory, densely packed with Palestinian citizens, bordering the north-west corner of the West Bank.
As part of a future peace deal, Netanyahu reportedly told the Americans during a meeting in late June, Umm al-Fahm and its neighbouring communities would be transferred to a future Palestinian state.
‘A double crime’
In effect, Netanyahu was making public his adoption of the long-standing and highly controversial plan of his far-right defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
This would see borders redrawn to allow Israel to annex coveted settlements in the West Bank in exchange for stripping hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship and reassigning their communities to a highly circumscribed Palestinian state.
Jamal Zahalka, another member of the parliament, from Kafr Kara in the Triangle, said Netanyahu was supporting a double crime.
“He wins twice over,” he told Middle East Eye.
“He gets to annex the illegal settlements to Israel, while he also gets rid of Arab citizens he believes are a threat to his demographic majority.”
Lieberman lost no time in congratulating Netanyahu for adopting his idea, tweeting:
“Mr Prime Minister, welcome to the club.”
With his leak, Netanyahu has given official backing to an aspiration that appears to be secretly harboured by many Israeli politicians – and one that, behind the scenes, they have been pushing increasingly hard with Washington and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
A poll last year showed that nearly half of Israeli Jews want Palestinians expelled from Israel.
With Netanyahu now publicly on board, it looks suspiciously like Lieberman’s role over many years has been to bring into the mainstream a policy the liberal Haaretz newspaper has compared to “ethnic cleansing”.
Marzuq al-Halabi, a Palestinian-Israeli analyst and researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, believed the move was designed with two aims in mind.
It left a “constant threat” of expulsion hanging over the heads of the minority as a way to crush political activity and demands for reform, he wrote on the Hebrew website Local Call. And at the same time it cast Palestinian citizens out into a “territorial and governmental emptiness”.
Inevitably, the plan revives fears among Palestinian citizens of the Nakba, the Arabic word for “Catastrophe”: the mass expulsions that occurred during the 1948 war to create Israel on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland.
Jabareen observed that the population swap implied that Palestinian citizens “are part of the enemy. … It says we don’t belong in our homeland, that our future is elsewhere.”
Backing from Kissinger
The idea of a populated land exchange was first formalised by Lieberman in 2004, when he unveiled what he grandly called a “Separation of the Nations” programme. It quickly won supporters in the US, including from elder statesman Henry Kissinger.
The idea of a land and population swap – sometimes termed “static transfer” – was alluded to by former prime ministers, including Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, at around the same time.
But only Lieberman set out a clear plan. He suggested stripping as many as 300,000 Palestinians in the Triangle of their Israeli citizenship. Other Palestinian citizens would be expected to make a “loyalty oath” to Israel as a “Jewish Zionist state”, or face expulsion to a Palestinian state. The aim was to achieve two states that were as “ethnically pure” as possible.
Jabareen noted that Lieberman’s populated land exchange falsely equated the status and fate of Palestinians who are legal citizens of Israel with Jewish settlers living in the West Bank in violation of international law.
Lieberman exposed his plan to a bigger audience in 2010, when he addressed the United Nations as foreign minister in the first of Netanyahu’s series of recent governments. Notably, at that time, the prime minister’s advisers distanced him from the proposal.
A month after Lieberman’s speech, it emerged that Israeli security services had carried out secret exercises based on his scenario. They practised quelling civil disturbances with mass arrests following a peace deal that required redrawing the borders to expel large numbers of Palestinian citizens.
Behind the scenes, other Israeli officials are known to have supported more limited populated land swaps.
Documents leaked in 2011 revealed that three years earlier the centrist government of Ehud Olmert had advanced just such a population exchange during peace talks.
Tzipi Livni, then the foreign minister, had proposed moving the border so that several villages in Israel would end up in a future Palestinian state. Notably, however, Umm al-Fahm and other large communities nearby were not mentioned.
The political sympathies between Lieberman and Livni, the latter widely seen as a peacemaker by the international community, were nonetheless evident.
In late 2007, as Israel prepared for the Annapolis peace conference, Livni described a future Palestinian state as “the answer” for Israel’s Palestinian citizens. She said it was illegitimate for them to seek political reforms aimed at ending Israel’s status as a “home unto the Jewish people”.
The first hints that Netanyahu might have adopted Lieberman’s plan came in early 2014 when the Maariv newspaper reported that a population exchange that included the Triangle had been proposed in talks with the US administration, then headed by Barack Obama.
The hope, according to the paper, was that the transfer would reduce the proportion of Palestinian citizens from a fifth of the population to 12 per cent, shoring up the state’s Jewishness.
Now Netanyahu has effectively confirmed that large-scale populated land swaps may become a new condition for any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, observed Jabareen.
At Lieberman’s request in 2014, the Israeli foreign ministry produced a document outlining ways a land and population exchange could be portrayed as in accordance with international law. Most experts regarded the document’s arguments as specious.
The foreign ministry concluded that the only hope of justifying the measure would be to show either that the affected citizens supported the move, or that it had the backing of the Palestinian Authority, currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Anything short of this would be a non-starter because it would either qualify as “forced transfer” of the Triangle’s inhabitants, a war crime, or render them stateless.
The problem for Israel is that opinion polls have repeatedly shown that no more than a quarter of Palestinians in the Triangle area back being moved into a Palestinian state. Getting their approval is likely to prove formidably difficult.
Zahalka rejected claims by Israeli politicians that this was a vote of confidence from Palestinian citizens in Israeli democracy.
“Israel has made the West Bank a living hell for Palestinians, and few [in Israel] would choose to inflict such suffering on their own families. But it also because we do not want to be severed from the rest of the Palestinian community in Israel – from our personal, social and economic life.”
Jabareen agreed. “We are also connected to places like Nazareth, Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Lid and Ramle.”
And he noted that Netanyahu and Lieberman were talking about redrawing the borders to put only their homes inside a future Palestinian state.
“Umm al-Fahm had six times as much land before Israel confiscated it. We still consider those lands as ours, but they are not included in the plan.”
Recognise Jewish state
It is in this context – one where Palestinians citizens will not consent to their communities being moved outside Israel’s borders – that parallel political moves by Netanyahu should be understood, said Jabareen.
Not least, it helps to explain why Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority a precondition for talks.
Aware of the trap being laid for it, the PA has so far refused to offer such recognition. But if it can be arm-twisted into agreement, Netanyahu will be in a much stronger position. He can then impose draconian measures on Palestinians in Israel, including loyalty oaths and an end to their demands for political reform – under threat that, if they refuse, they will be moved to a Palestinian state.
At the same time, Netanyahu has been pushing ahead with a new basic law that would define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, rather than of Israel’s entire population. The legislation’s intent is to further weaken the Palestinian minority’s claim on citizenship.
Netanyahu’s decision to ban the Islamic Movement as a terror organisation fits into the picture too.
In a 2012 report by the International Crisis Group, a Washington and Brussels-based conflict resolution group, an official in Lieberman’s party explained that one of the covert goals of Lieberman’s plan was to rid Israel of “the heartland of the Islamic Movement”.
Conversely, Netanyahu’s Likud allies and coalition partners have been pushing aggressively to annex settlements in the West Bank.
Zahalka noted that the prime minister gave his backing last week to legislation that would expand Jerusalem’s municipal borders to incorporate a number of large settlements – a move that would amount to annexation in all but name.
“The deal is Israel takes Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, and gives Umm al-Fahm and its surroundings to the PA,” he said.
The pieces seem to be slowly falling into place for a populated land exchange that would strip hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship.
Paradoxically, however, the ultimate obstacle may prove to be Netanyahu himself – and his reluctance to concede any kind of meaningful state to the Palestinians.