Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hillary Joked About 2012 North Korean Missile Test & Pranking Kim Jong-un, But Is Anybody Laughing Now?

Secretary of State Clinton joked about a failed North Korean missile test after a senior aide facetiously suggested they send North Korea's dictator a signed picture from the movie "Failure to Launch."

The State Department team may have needed a laugh at the time, since the launch attempt days earlier in April 2012 had generated widespread criticism of the Obama Administration's policy toward North Korea.

"The launching has been politically problematic for the Obama administration, which only weeks ago completed an agreement with the North to provide food aid in return for Pyongyang’s agreement to suspend uranium enrichment and refrain from test launchings of long-range missiles," reported the New York Times. "..Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said the launching illustrated President Obama’s strategy of appeasement. 'This incompetence from the Obama administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and its allies'"(see article here.)

"Let's get Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey to sign the attached and send it to (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un," suggested State Department spin doctor Philippe Reines in his April 16, 2012 email. "His (Kim's) father was supposedly a huge movie buff. And the kid always looks like he could use a laugh" (see the email below).

Clinton responded that the movie, a 2006 romantic comedy, was playing on her TV at that very moment, writing: "auspicious sign?"

When Reines remarked on the coincidental timing, Clinton responded: "It's those strange signals you keep receiving from your dental fillings."

[The exact "Failure to Launch" picture sent by Reines to Clinton was not released. The image below is one of several available on the Internet.]

However, the joke turned out to be on the United States. Starting just months later in 2012, North Korea went on to successful tests of its long-range missiles, most recently earlier this year, when it also detonated an underground nuclear weapon,

U.S. military and intelligence officials now admit Pyongyang has made substantial progress during the Obama Administration in developing nuclear missiles that could one day hit the continental U.S. While public estimates of North Korean progress vary, in April 2015 the U.S. military commander in South Korea testified to the Senate that he believed the North could already mount a nuclear weapon on a missile capable of reaching the American mainland (see story here.)

This year's successful tests and the defiant progress they show have prompted unprecedented responses from North Korea's alarmed neighbors in South Korea and Japan, and President Obama recently signed into law enhanced sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korean issues have figured prominently in Sec. Clinton's email scandal, including reports of classified spy satellite information on North Korea stored on her private email server (see here).

The emails also raise questions about how informed Sec. Clinton was on North Korean issues. In a 2011 exchange below, Clinton appears caught off guard by international media reports that U.S. and North Korean negotiators had reached an agreement for Pyongyang to suspend its uranium enrichment in return for American food aid (the agreement that was later concluded but failed to prevent the North from conducting that 2012 missile test).

"Is this true?" Sec. Clinton asked aides.

Their responses are classified.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

How Screwed Up Is the US Classification System? Even Henry Kissinger + $150,000 Couldn't Solve "Perfect Catch-22 Situation" Involving Records

Kissinger had to beg (and butter up) then-Sec. of State Clinton to get help (see below) in getting the government to review and release some of 560,000 decades-old documents from his time in government, including thousands that had already been declassified but had to be reviewed again, in what he called a "perfect Catch-22 situation."

Even a Kissinger contribution of $150,000 to get the records digitized had to failed to move the process. And while the CIA was at least somewhat responsive, the State Department had declassified, or perhaps "re-declassified," only three of its app. 260,000 documents.

"The pace of declassification of these papers by the (State) Department is maddeningly -- and disproportionately -- slow. I would call it non-existent," he wrote Clinton in Feb. 2012. wonder the families of Korean War POW/MIAs still can't get 60+-year-old files relating to their loved ones released and the Air Force still keeps files classified on the hunt for Hitler.

Apparently Kissinger and his high-power lawyer were finally able to get relief (see bottom), although the final outcome is not clear from the Clinton emails released 12/31/15.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

As Libyan Collapse Began in Fall 2011, Hillary's Team Focused State Dept. Intel Unit on 75-Year-Old Missing Airplane Case (New Hillary Emails)

As Jihadists began to fill the gap left by the US-supported overthrow of dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and his regime, a four-person team of State Department intelligence analysts was assigned to analyze a pet project of Hillary Clinton's State Department -- the 1937 disappearance of pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, according to newly released Clinton emails.

The analysts, from the well-regarded Bureau of Intelligence and Research, conducted their work before a November 2011 meeting with the head of  The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a private group which promotes a detailed but controversial theory that Earhart and Noonan landed on a remote South Pacific island and survived for some time (The other major theory is that the aviators ran out of gas and ended up on the bottom of the ocean. Others claim that Earhart and Noonan were captured by the Japanese military and executed.)

The State Department intel analysts included a top expert on aircraft wrecks and reviewed recently discovered archival photos allegedly showing part of Earhart's plane on the island's reef after its disappearance.

"(W)e (the State Department) may have assisted them in a big new development. In short I think we may have found the plane location..." senior State official Kurt Campbell emailed Clinton on Feb. 17, 2012. The email appears part of an effort by the then-Assist. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs to encourage Clinton to throw her support behind a State Department event marking the 75th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance and, in effect, promoting TIGHAR and its activities.

Clinton decided to back the event, despite worries from the head of the National Air and Space Museum -- a retired Marine general -- that his experts might "question the credibility of the expedition." (See email below.)

At the March 2012 event, Secretary Clinton described her admiration for Earhart (with a shout-out for TIGHAR) and described her youthful disappointment at being told by NASA that women need not apply for astronaut jobs. "But I knew that there were women, like the ones we just recognized, who, if given the chance, would certainly be able to live up to their own God-given potential and lead the way for others. And in part, that was because there was this woman, Amelia Earhart, who, when it was really hard, decided she was going to break all kinds of limits – social limits, gravity limits, distance limits. NASA may have said I couldn’t go into space, but nobody was there to tell Amelia Earhart she couldn’t do what she chose to do."

"Hillary Clinton has jumped on the Amelia Earhart bandwagon..." reported the Washington Post concerning Clinton's comments. "The Secretary of State headlined the event to publicize an expedition this summer by researchers from... (TIGHAR), who believe they’ll find Earhart’s plane in the ocean off a remote island in the Pacific nation of Kiribati."

Unfortunately, TIGHAR's expedition that summer failed to find Earhart's plane or reveal any conclusive evidence concerning her fate.

Meantime in Libya, the security situation continued to deteriorate. State Department intelligence -- despite repeated warnings and requests from U.S. officials in the country for additional security -- apparently failed to predict a terrorist strike against U.S. diplomatic facilities there. The attack came in September 2012, leaving four Americans dead in Benghazi.

TIGHAR continues to seek funds for additional expeditions to the South Pacific. We don't know whether they still get support from the State Department.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wonder If Pyongyang Was Reading These Hillary Emails -- When Former President Carter Offered to Go to North Korea "Commercial"

In early 2009, a pair of U.S. television journalists got picked up by North Korean police near the border with China. Never ones to let a potential hostage crisis go to waste, North Korean officials in June sentenced the still-photogenic young women to hard labor. Within days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got an email.

It was an offer of help from a high-profile American who'd been to North Korea before as part of an unofficial effort to resolve a crisis (this one the 1994 showdown over North Korea's nuke program, which deflated into years of hapless American diplomacy that ultimately left Pyongyang with a stockpile of atomic weapons).

"Hillary: As I explained to you on the phone, I don't think it is appropriate to tell them (the North Koreans) that I will come only if they agree in advance to release the women. Your response was, in effect, 'They have already agreed.' Is this correct? If not, I will go, by commercial airline if necessary, representing The Carter Center, and try to induce them to approve the release. JC:" emailed someone with the first name "Jimmy" and the last initial "C," whose last name has been redacted from the email (below) by the State Department, but who is almost certainly former President Jimmy Carter.

Secretary of State Clinton's initial response was not to send a warm thank you back to Carter, or even offer him some frequent flyer miles for the trip, but rather to look for someone else to consult (Or dump the problem on?)

She asked her assistant for the emails of White House Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Kurt Campbell, State Department Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

If Secretary Clinton ended up emailing these officials, we didn't see that string in the declassified Hillary email files (are those resulting emails classified? or did Hillary pick up the phone instead?). But we do know one thing for sure: When the time came to send someone to Pyongyang to retrieve the journalists and boost his humanitarian cred, it was a former president, but not the one who emailed for the job.

In early August 2009, the world learned that Bill Clinton had jetted to North Korea (not on commercial, bur rather the private jet of one of his billionaire supporters). According to media reports, other emissaries had been discussed (former Veep Al Gore was cited in one report on a list that did not include Carter). But Pyongyang apparently held out for a bigger title.

After Bill offered some modest apologies and spent face time with then North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, the journalists received a special pardon and the former President whisked them home.

President Obama was quick to thank Clinton (and Gore): "I want to thank President Bill Clinton – I had a chance to talk to him – for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists."

[To be sure, Bill Clinton deserves praise, since flying across the world to a dangerous country, treating with a homicidal maniac dictator and riding back with two exhausted journalists long separated from American bath products was no doubt more risky and less enjoyable than other trips he's taken on that private jet. That said, it was some great press for the "Clinton Brand."]

Hillary was careful to emphasize that Bill's role was "private" and separate from the official discussions between America and the North: “I want to be sure people don’t confuse what Bill did, which was a private humanitarian mission to bring these young women home, with our policy..."

We haven't run across President Carter's reaction to losing out on the mission. Given his fondness for high-profile diplomatic initiatives, and willingness even to fly commercial on this one, we don't imagine he was smiling:

One addition note: Accompanying President Clinton on his trip to Pyongyang was his long-time aide and former White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta.

Podesta is now Chairman of Hillary's presidential campaign.

Returning from the trip Hillary's chief of staff pronounced "quite fab," Prodesta quipped: "I think I am now waived in to practice in the North Korean military courts." (Editorial aside: Those are probably not the courts in which Hillary may one day need Podesta's legal assistance.) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

U.S. Special Forces Now Train the Same Middle East Group They Helped Crush During the Top Secret "War That Didn't Happen"

In the tangle of ethnic and religious bloodletting across Iraq and Syria, one group stands out for its fighting spirit and friendliness to America: the Kurds. Many in Congress have urged the Obama Administration to do more to assist this ethnic minority and the region they control in Northern Iraq, and U.S. Special Forces are now training and supporting them.

Ironically, few Americans (but probably many more Kurds) are aware that U.S. Special Forces were once dispatched on a secret mission to crush the Kurds during a Cold War insurgency.

This was "The War That Didn't Happen," as an official U.S. special operations history calls it (see below a page in 1994's Air Commando! from the Air Force Special Operations Command, written by then-Air Force Colonel and well-known special operations historian Michael Haas.)

The 1963-4 mission to help subdue a Kurdish insurgency in Iran was "the one and only clear-cut, unambiguous victory I would be associated with in my career," later wrote a veteran of numerous American special operations during the Cold War, Air Force Maj. Gen Richard Secord. He adds in his book Honored and Betrayed (see below): "Perhaps it was the last such victory America would enjoy until the 'great' Panama raid of 1990..."

Secord writes respectfully of the Kurd's warrior spirit and desire for independence, long frustrated by the sprawl of their ancestral lands across the modern borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey. After World War II, the Kurds sought Soviet sponsorship for their fight to establish an independent Kurdistan, starting with territory in Iran, which put them on the wrong side of America and its then-ally, the Iranian government. Under the leadership of their so-called "Great General" Ben Bella Mustafa Barzani, the Kurds obtained safe haven in Iraq and began an insurgency across the border in Iran.

"By 1962, the Iranian police...had lost control in many of the rural and mountainous areas," wrote Secord (later known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair). Soon Iran's leader, the Shah, a major recipient of US military aid during the Cold War, asked for help.

Secord, another Air Force officer and 80 U.S. Army Special Forces troops arrived to help the large Iranian military defeat the Kurds. First the Americans helped develop a plan to seal the border between Iraq and Iran, reducing the movement of guerillas into the battle space, then moved to improve Iranian counterinsurgency units and their leaders, said to rely more on beating their troops than training and inspiring them.

The Army film "Assignment Iran," from this general era, shows U.S. Special Forces training Iranian special operations troops in Iran.

Iranians tutored in counter-insurgency tactics were sent into the mountains for the classic combination of civic action to win support from locals and combat operations to root out the guerillas.

"Our advisors went into the field with Iranians in the role of stiffeners," recalled Secord. He and the other Air Force advisor rigged Iranian trainer planes with rockets and machine guns to provide close air support, plus outfitted a transport plane with a load speaker for psychological operations.

"By spring 1964, the war was essentially over...the hard-core Kurdish troops withdrew permanently to the Iraqi side," Secord recounted.

Before long, the sides had flipped as Kurds re-targeted their guerilla war against the Iraqi government, with covert assistance from Iran and the U.S during the 1970s. This too ended badly for the Kurds when Iran suddenly shut off their aid and sanctuary, leaving many to the mercy of Saddam Hussein (and convinced they'd been double-crossed by Washington.)

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the Kurds fought alongside American Special Forces, ultimately carving out their own jurisdiction. More recently, the Kurdish "Peshmerga" military force in Iraq has proven the most effective Iraqi unit in the fight against ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

U.S. Special Forces units are now training the Peshmerga while a related group of Kurds across the border in Syria, the YPG, are helping direct American air strikes against ISIS. Yet a third Kurdish group is present in the area -- the PKK is a communist force that has long fought the Turkish government over Kurdish areas in Turkey. Considered a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States, the PKK controls bases in Northern Iraq.

These relationships grew even more tangled this month, as Turkey bombed PKK positions in Iraq, upsetting the American military. “We had U.S. Special Forces not far from where the Turks were bombing, training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters," a U.S. source told Fox News. There are also reports of the Turks firing on YPG forces, despite their help to the US fight against ISIS in Syria.

It's been over fifty years since U.S. Special Forces helped build what Secord called the "sinews of war" -- combat infrastructure such as communications, intelligence, training and logistics -- to help the Iranians beat the Kurds.

Now they're doing the same thing for the Kurds to help them beat ISIS.

Given that Iran's regime is now an enemy of the Kurds and Americans alike, it's certainly not out of the question that the Kurds might use their new "sinews" to help American special operators gather intelligence against Iran, where many Kurds still live.

And who is the president of today's Iraqi Kurdistan, which works so closely with the U.S. military? Massoud Barzani, son of the very "Great General" whose Kurdish guerilla army was beaten with the help of U.S. Special Forces advisors in the 1960s.