Mali’s Islamist conflict spreads as new militant group emerges
August 26, 2015
Imam Elhadji Sekou Ba was one of the few people in his village of Barkerou who dared to speak out against the rise of Islamist militants in central Mali, denouncing in his sermons the young men taking up arms in the name of religion. Last Thursday, shortly after dinner, he was gunned down on his doorstep. Locals suspect the killing was carried out by the Massina Liberation Front (MLF), a new group blamed for a wave of attacks that is shifting Mali’s three-year-old Islamist conflict from the remote desert north ever closer to its populous south. The emergence of the new group, recruiting among central Mali’s marginalised Fulani ethnic minority, has sown panic among residents, forced some officials to flee, and undermined the efforts of a 10 000-strong UN peacekeeping mission to stabilise the West African state. Inspired by veteran jihadist Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher from the central Malian town of Mopti, the MLF has introduced a volatile new ethnic element to the Islamist conflict in a nation riddled with tribal tensions. Security experts fear that the rise of a jihadist group among the Fulani, whose 20-million members are spread across West and Central Africa, could regionalise the violence. “The risk is that links develop between Fulanis throughout the region and it could be the next major regional conflict,” said Aurelien Tobie, a conflict adviser formerly based in the Malian capital Bamako. “Everywhere Fulanis are marginalised, they have a strong identity and there are connections between them.” The assassination was the latest in a wave of killings in the Mopti region targetting those opposed to Mali’s array of Islamist groups. Many of the militants come from the ranks of jihadist fighters that seized the northern two-thirds of Mali in 2012 alongside Tuareg rebels. A French-led military intervention in early 2013 scattered the insurgents, after Paris said the Islamist enclave could become a launchpad for terror attacks on Europe. Some militants have since gone to Mali’s centre belt to regroup and recruit, using it as a staging post to strike at areas in the south once considered safe During the Islamist occupation of northern Mali, Mopti was the last bastion of government power before the lawless desert. That image was destroyed this month when armed men attacked a hotel in nearby Sevare and killed at least 12 people, including five United Nations contractors. One of the attackers wore an explosive belt that did not detonate, in the first suicide attempt outside the north. The army blames the MLF for the siege and at least two other attacks in Mali’s centre and south which are hindering attempts by the government and the UN peacekeeping force to restore order. The Sevare attack has also been claimed by a group led by veteran Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, which has rebranded itself as Al Qaeda in West Africa. Experts say the claims are not mutually exclusive and there are fluid relations between Mali’s Islamist cells. “The strategy of those loyal to Koufa appears to be to empty the region of administrative leaders, government officials and others collaborating with the army to both establish their authority and, perhaps, recruit more easily,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. ISLAMIC EMPIRE To achieve this, Dufka said, the Islamists are employing tactics of intimidation and targeted killings. She documented five summary executions of people accused of collaborating with the army this year. A resident said several other village leaders had fled to Bamako, fearing reprisals. Military sources say MLF is formed partly from local fighters who went north to fight three years ago but then returned to Mopti as French military pressure increased. Its leaders have been able to exploit local grievances among the locally dominant, semi-nomadic Fulani population to swell their ranks. Some Fulani, who represent 9% of Mali’s population, have obtained weapons from long-established militias set up to protect grazing lands. Similar Fulani militia exist across much of the arid Sahel belt stretching across west to east across Africa, from Senegal to Sudan. The MLF is believed to be closely allied with Malian Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine, whose leader Iyad Ag Ghali fought alongside Koufa during the northern occupation. Ansar Dine also has a group of fighters called the Massina brigade – a reference to the 19th century Fulani empire of Massina – and has claimed a series of attacks against UN peacekeepers and Malian army targets in Bamako and the border areas near Ivory Coast and Mauritania. Andrew Lebovich, visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, says Mopti is an appealing area for radical groups’ expansion because of its historical importance as a centre for Islamic governance. Koufa’s speeches evoke the jihad led by Fulanis against the rival Bambara ethnic group to create the vast Massina Empire which spread across Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. Its capital Hamdallaye, near present day Mopti, now lies in ruins. Residents say there are few outwards signs of support for Koufa, whose whereabouts are unknown, although one local said cassettes of his sermons sell well in the market. Dufka says support for radical groups has been stirred by the army’s summary executions army of Fulanis accused of being jihadists. A UN human rights report documented signs of dried blood on the side of wells in Sevare in 2013. Mali never investigated the killings. FULANI REBELLION? Mali’s former defence minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, said the army was struggling to contain the rapid emergence of the militants. The government needed to improve intelligence gathering in the region and check on mosques. Aba Ibrahim Ba, a Fulani mayor from the commune where the imam was assasinated, said the government had done little to respond to the recent assassinations and the local population was in panic. He said he had been forced into hiding. “Besides reaching people by word of mouth, I cannot do anything else to stop this as it would be too risky,” he said. Reprisals seen to be targeting the Fulani community could play into the hands of extremists. Guillaume Ngefa, director of human rights in the UN mission MINUSMA, said at least 50 people had been arrested with alleged ties to MLF since December. This prompted complaints from a Fulani organisation that they were being targeted indiscriminately, he added. Alghabass Ag Intalla, a senior member of the Tuareg-led rebel coalition Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and a former leader of Ansar Dine, said there was reason to fear the radicalisation of some Fulanis. “We see Fulanis as very marginalised in Mali, even from their own leaders,” he told Reuters. “They are forming a rebellion.”
Edited by Reuters
Find this story at 19 August 2015
Mali rebels doubtful over new peace deal
August 26, 2015
Despite treaty, Tuareg and Arab rebels say that while they are denied territorial separation, the war will continue.
Mali, Foyta – Hammy Ag Ehya was a veteran soldier in the Malian army. But now he’s a rebel fighter who says he regrets only the 20 years he wasted defending Mali.
Around a campfire in the wilderness and while a lamb is being prepared for roasting, Ag Ehya and a few dozen of his comrades make sure they display their readiness for war in front of our camera.
Their leaders have just agreed on a new deal with the government, which is supposed to end the conflict.
But Ag Ehya and his co-fighters don’t seem to care about that process.
“Whoever talks of guarantees for ending the conflict only talks nonsense,” Ag Ehya says.
“That’s a big lie. This war cannot be ended with a stroke of a pen. As long as we’re denied territorial separation there will be no end to the war.”
In a few minutes, nearly two dozen army Toyota lorries drive into the makeshift base in northern Mali near the border with Mauritania.
They are fully loaded with fighters with light and heavy guns and rocket launchers.
‘Fight for independence’
Ag Ehya’s elder brother Himmety, who served even longer in the Malian army, stands beside him with a khaki turban around his neck toting an old Kalashnikov.
Tuareg and Arab rebels are in control of the major town of Kidal as well as large areas of northern Mali, also known as Azawad [Al Jazeera]
I ask if he thinks the agreement marks the end of the conflict.
It’s not Mali that gave us the weapons. We paid for them with our own blood. Now Mali wants to take them from us a second time. But its behavior during the previous experience is the cause of our rejection now.
“In fact this is the real beginning!” he says.
“Now we can start to take security matters in Azawad into our own hands. Then we will start the next phase, the fight for independence.”
Tuareg and Arab rebels are in control of the major town of Kidal as well as large areas of northern Mali, also known as Azawad.
Recently, they made new territorial gains, pushing the army further south.
The rebels announced an independent state in northern Mali in 2012. But under the present agreement, they get only a type of decentralised local administration.
The positive point Himmety referred to was that the agreement has given the rebels a share in the keeping of security in the north.
But on the other hand it implies an eventual integration into the official state apparatus and an eventual disarmament.
This is a prospect that provokes anger and uncertainty among the rebels.
“As long as there’s no separation there will be no disarmament,” the younger brother vehemently declares.
“It’s not Mali that gave us the weapons. We paid for them with our own blood. Now Mali wants to take them from us a second time. But its behaviour during the previous experience is the cause of our rejection now.”
The rebels say they agreed to disarm in the past after the peace treaty of 1993 and 1994, but instead of gaining their rights the army began to kill them.
Several peace agreements in the past have failed. This is why the people of the north are lukewarm about the prospects of success for the new agreement.
On June 15, several movement leaders held a rally at the Mbera camp for Malian refugees in south east Mauritania. But their efforts to sell the agreement to the people were rejected.
These are the same leaders who announced what they called the Independent Republic of Azawad three years ago.
Several months later in Burkina Faso, they signed a deal waiving their claim of independence in favour of limited self-rule.
Climate change, food shortages, and conflict in Mali
However, Mali’s government has failed to even discuss the self-rule demand.
The new treaty will allow only:
• The right to form local institutions in the north.
• More parliamentary representation for the north in Bamako.
• A role in the region’s security for armed movements.
• More economic and social development in the area.
The rebels’ demands that the government spend 40 percent of the national budget on development in the north has been rejected.
In the face of such perceivably painful concessions, the rebel leaders have resorted to a rhetoric based on realpolitik.
“We think this is the most we can get at the moment in view of the current context and of the world community level of readiness to accept our demands as we put them” Redhwan Mohamed Ali, the deputy president of the rebel coalition Supreme Council for Azawad tells me.
Mali violence driving refugees into Mauritania
“So I think this is what’s available for us now.”But grass-root northern Malians have a different opinion.
“This document does not respond to our demands and those of our leaders,” says a young refugee.
“If they want a final solution they should separate us from Mali. Let us remain here in our drought-stricken Azawad and let them enjoy their green Mali. We don’t want Mali and we don’t want any reconciliation with it.”
A leading female social activist in the camp says: “It’s clear that we have been forced to sign this agreement. Indeed, we don’t see any single point in it that serves our interests.”
At the refugee camp which was first created a quarter of a century ago, there was a general feeling of deja vu.
How many agreements like this have been made in the past and how many of them have no sooner been signed than violated?
The people here tell me they have all lost count. But they know that the present agreement is not going to be different.
Source: Al Jazeera
17 Jun 2015 14:04 GMT | War & Conflict, Africa, Mali, Mauritania
Find this story at 17 June 2015
UN peacekeepers who rape and abuse are criminals – so treat them as such
August 26, 2015
UN peacekeepers guilty of sex crimes have long been treated with impunity, cementing a long-standing problem. The organisation must get its house in order
Appalled by horrific descriptions of sexual abuse by UN peacekeeping forces, the organisation’s secretary general spoke passionately about the need to stop such crimes in its ranks.
“We cannot rest,” he said, “until we have rooted out all such practices. And we must make sure that those involved are held fully accountable.”
These words sound very much like the ones spoken by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon last week in response to reports of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in Central African Republic (CAR).
But they were spoken more than a decade ago. It was a previous secretary general, Kofi Annan, who first pledged to eliminate the scourge of sexual abuse from the UN.
Sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers remains ‘significantly under-reported’
Annan, to his credit, did more than just deplore the problem: he announced a zero-tolerance policy, commissioned a seminal report on the issue, and helped the UN to institute several reforms.
Yet the sex abuse scandals have continued. Earlier this month, Amnesty International found credible evidence that a UN peacekeeper in CAR sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl during a 2am search of her family’s home. The girl says he dragged her out to a secluded part of the courtyard, slapped her when she began to cry, tore her clothing, and raped her. Her claims are supported by medical evidence.
On Wednesday, the UN revealed more allegations of abuse of girls or young women by peacekeepers in CAR.
In response to the earlier revelations, Ban sacked the head of the peacekeeping mission in the country and called an emergency meeting of the UN security council to address the matter.
Heads do not often roll at the UN. The public spectacle of one of their own being forced to resign must have been unedifying for UN peacekeeping chiefs elsewhere. At a minimum, though, it should encourage increased vigilance of the sexual abuse problem.
Sadly, it has become crystal clear over the past two decades that CAR is not the only country where sexual crimes have been carried out by the very individuals charged with protecting the local population from harm. The list of countries in which cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers have been reported is now quite long, with abuse apparently systemic in some.
In Haiti, for example, a recent study (pdf) found that members of the UN peacekeeping mission engaged in “transactional sex” with at least 229 women in exchange for necessities like food and medication. The same study said that between 2008 and 2013, nearly 500 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made against UN peacekeeping personnel, one-third of which involved minors.
In his resignation letter, the head of the UN mission in CAR alluded to the possibility that sexual abuse by peacekeeping forces might be a “systemic problem” requiring a structural response. This is certainly the case.
At the root of the problem is impunity: almost none of those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes of sexual violence face a real threat of criminal prosecution for their crimes. At the UN, many cases do not receive a thorough and immediate investigation. But even if a UN inquiry finds a suspect responsible for rape, there are almost no consequences.
Typically, the alleged perpetrator is sent back home and the case ends there. Because of questionable rules regarding peacekeeper immunity, the onus is generally on the troop-contributing country to undertake prosecutions. They rarely, if ever, do so.
India was recently in the news for punishing a few of its soldiers for sexual abuses that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but those were military disciplinary measures, not criminal sanctions. And the number of cases bore no relation to the magnitude of the incidents.
A much more aggressive approach to justice for such crimes is needed. Concrete and effective preventive measures must be instituted. Accountability must be made real and public, not just theoretical. Countries need to feel meaningful pressure to bring sexual abuse cases before their civilian courts; if they fail to do so, they need to be publicly outed. There has to be follow-up and transparency.
Because accountability starts from within, the UN should take a critical look at its own failures in dealing with sexual abuse. It has already taken a step in that direction by setting up a review panel to examine its handling of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in CAR. Either that panel’s mandate and powers should be expanded, or its work should be followed by a more comprehensive, investigative assessment of the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse allegations.
As Ban has said, “enough is enough”. After years of discussion, promises and strategies, the UN must solve the problem of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, once and for all.
Thursday 20 August 2015 12.27 BST Last modified on Tuesday 25 August 2015 17.03 BST
Find this story at 20 August 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
UN peacekeepers face new sex abuse allegations in CAR
August 26, 2015
Three more accusations levelled against peacekeepers in CAR a week after Ban Ki-Moon asked UN head of mission to resign.
UN peacekeepers earlier had been accused of sexually abusing children in Bangui and in the eastern part of the country [AP]
Three young females, including a minor, have accused United Nations peacekeepers of raping them in the Central African Republic, the global body has announced, taking the number of allegations to 13 since the UN stationed troops in the country in September.
The announcement on Wednesday comes a week after Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary-general, removed the head of the peacekeeping mission in CAR over the handling of a series of similar allegations in the conflict-wracked country.
Vannina Maestracci, spokesperson for the secretary general’s office, told reporters that families of the three young females made the allegations on August 12 and that the alleged rapes occurred in “recent weeks”.
Similarly, a statement from the peacekeeping mission said UN headquarters was “immediately informed” of the allegations and that it was collecting “all available evidence”.
The alleged rapes occurred in the city of Bambari, where peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are stationed.
The CAR is still battling daily clashes between rival militias in the country’s hinterlands [Reuters]
Congo’s UN ambassador, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, told The Associated Press news agency that three members of Congo’s military have been accused and that he had just met with UN officials about looking into the allegations.
He didn’t address the allegations but said it’s “not normal” that vulnerable people would be victims of those meant to protect them.
Congo’s troops serve in no other UN peacekeeping missions, and its nearly 900 troops were accepted into the mission in CAR at a time when few countries were volunteering people to serve in the chaotic country, which has been ripped by unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims.
Last August, the New York-based Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said Congo’s troops, which were already in the country as part of an African Union mission, should be excluded from the UN mission.
The advocacy network pointed out that Congo’s armed forces have been noted in Ban’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence. They were included again this year.
Last week, following the removal of the head of the CAR peacekeeping mission, Ban met with the Security Council and the heads of all UN peacekeeping missions to discuss new measures to swiftly investigate alleged sexual assaults and hold peacekeepers accountable.
Ban’s actions came after Amnesty International accused UN peacekeepers in CAR’s capital this month of indiscriminately killing a 16-year-old boy and his father and, in a separate incident, of raping a 12-year-old girl.
Related: Are UN peacekeepers doing more harm than good?
UN peacekeepers earlier had been accused of sexually abusing children in Bangui and in the eastern part of the country.
The peacekeeping mission is also being investigated over how it handled child sexual abuse allegations against French troops last year, in which children as young as nine said they had traded sex for food.
Maestracci, the UN spokeswoman, said that so far, the peacekeeping mission has received 13 allegations of possible sexual abuse and exploitation since UN troops began arriving last year.
Under an agreement with the UN, countries have the sole responsibility to prosecute their troops taking part in peacekeeping missions, but if they take no action to investigate, the UN can step in. Even then, the UN only has the power to repatriate troops and suspend payments to countries for troops who are accused.
In at least one case of alleged sexual abuse or exploitation by a peacekeeper in CAR, a country repatriated its accused citizen, the UN said.
20 Aug 2015 08:33 GMT
Find this story at 20 August 2015
UN’s Central Africa force hit by new allegations of rape
August 26, 2015
The United Nations’ (UN’s) troubled peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic has been hit with new allegations of rape by peacekeepers, including one underage victim, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday. Last week the head of the Central African Republic (CAR) mission, known as MINUSCA, was sacked after a series of allegations of sexual abuse and excessive use of force by peacekeepers. MINUSCA chief Babacar Gaye was replaced by Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who was named the mission’s acting chief. “A new series of disturbing allegations of misconduct have recently come to light,” UN spokesperson Vannina Maestracci told reporters. “The events allegedly took place in recent weeks,” she said. “These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent.” She said one of the women was a minor and the incident occurred in Bambari, where troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are deployed. The allegations were reported to MINUSCA’s human rights division on August 12 by the families of the three women, Maestracci said. UN sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to Reuters that the accused troops were from DRC. The sources said the United Nations in New York was made aware of the allegations on August 17 and the Congolese authorities the same day. “The troop contributing country has been asked to indicate within 10 days if it intends to investigate the allegations itself,” Maestracci said. “Should the member state decline to investigate or fail to respond the United Nations would rapidly conduct its own investigation.” MINUSCA has been asked to preserve all evidence. Maestracci said that since its establishment in April 2014, MINUSCA has received 61 allegations of possible misconduct. That includes 13 cases of possible sexual exploitation and abuse. She said that so far two UN police officers and four soldiers have been repatriated on disciplinary grounds, which is in addition to 20 soldiers who were sent home “on administrative grounds” for suspected excessive use of force pending the conclusion of an investigation.Allegations of misconduct by UN troops are not new. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has vowed to crack down on abuse and misconduct by peacekeepers and is pushing to ensure greater transparency and accountability by governments of those found guilty of such behavior.
Edited by Reuters
Find this story at 20 August 2015
Code Blue: U.N. Accused of Giving Immunity to Peacekeepers Who Commit Sexual Abuse
August 14, 2015
The United Nations is coming under criticism for failing to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and June 2014. The Guardian obtained a leaked report that says French soldiers raped and sodomized starving and homeless young boys who they were supposed to be protecting at a center for internally displaced people during intense fighting in the country. Even after the exploitation was brought to the attention of senior U.N. officials, the U.N. never reported it to French authorities — nor did it do anything to immediately stop the abuse. So far, the only person to be punished is a U.N. aid worker, Anders Kompass, who stepped outside official channels to alert French authorities about the sexual exploitation. Kompass has since been accused of leaking the confidential report in breach of U.N. protocols and now faces dismissal. We speak to Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The United Nations is coming under criticism for failing to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and June 2014. The Guardian obtained a leaked report that says French soldiers raped and sodomized starving and homeless young boys who they were suppose to be protecting at a center for internally displaced people during intense fighting in the country. Even after the exploitation was brought to the attention of senior U.N. officials, the U.N. never reported it to French authorities, nor did it do anything to immediately stop the abuse. So far, the only person to be punished is a U.N. aid worker, Anders Kompass, who stepped outside official channels to alert French authorities to the sexual exploitation occurring. Kompass has since been accused of leaking a confidential report in breach of U.N. protocols and now faces dismissal.
The Guardian obtained the leaked report from Paula Donovan, who will join us shortly. She and other activists have just launched a new campaign called Code Blue, which seeks to hold the United Nations accountable for sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, the group held a press conference to announce the campaign. This is Stephen Lewis of AIDS-Free World, followed by Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund and Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh.
STEPHEN LEWIS: Never, but never, can sexual exploitation and abuse be subject to immunity. That’s the first step. The second step flows logically. Once the immunity is removed from non-military personnel, then the military will be under tremendous pressure to expunge sexual exploitation and abuse from their ranks.
THEO SOWA: When the U.N. becomes the protectors of predators instead of the prosecutors of predators, that destroys me, because I believe in the U.N.
AMBASSADOR ANWARUL CHOWDHURY: Transparency, I think, is the keyword here. We need to be open about how many such cases are there of sexual abuse and exploitation, which countries are involved in it, what they are doing, and how the cases now being sent by the U.N. to them are being handled.
AMY GOODMAN: United Nations peacekeeping missions have long been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kosovo to Bosnia, also Burundi, Haiti and Liberia. In March, the U.N. came under criticism for ignoring an internal report that called sexual exploitation, quote, “the most significant risk” to peacekeeping missions across the globe. The leaked document described a culture of “impunity” when dealing with sexual misconduct cases among U.N. peacekeepers, saying, quote, “UN personnel in all the missions we visited could point to numerous suspected or quite visible cases of [sexual exploitation and abuse] that are not being counted or investigated.”
For more, we go to Boston, Massachusetts, where we are joined by Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign.
Paula Donovan, in the last two weeks, you’ve issued major findings. You first held a news conference at the U.N. and now released another report. Tell us what you have found.
PAULA DONOVAN: What we’ve found overall, Amy, is that there is a tremendous amount of lip service given to the zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse policy by the United Nations. And that really came to light over the past month or so, when we received leaked documents about this U.N. official, Anders Kompass, who was under fire, ostensibly for having leaked a document that demonstrated how serious, very serious, documented cases of the rape and sodomy of children, of young boys in the Central African Republic, had been known to the U.N., had been documented by the U.N., and had been completely ignored by them for eight months. And what it shows is that when the United Nations learns of these abuses, it seems to be that the first—the first response is to simply lie low and see whether or not they can get away with not reporting it to governments and not alerting the public about the danger, the imminent danger that they’re in, and just sort of maintaining almost a forensic view that “we’ll watch as these abuses go on and develop, and maybe record them, but we have no obligation to intervene.”
And the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNICEF were taking these horrible testimonies from children, as the abuse was continuing, mainly by French soldiers, also by Equatorial Guinean and Chadian soldiers, and simply sitting on the reports for a month at a time, continuing to take these documented cases and testimonies from the children, and then eventually sending them on to Geneva to the headquarters of the human rights office, where only one person stepped up and said, “I need to alert the French right away and get an investigation started.” He’s now, months and months later, under review for having handed over the document with the information about the kids and the soldiers they described to the authorities who could—in France, who could take things into hand.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how have the French authorities responded since this has come to light?
PAULA DONOVAN: They have—initially, they opened an investigation, a preliminary investigation, in July of 2014, when Anders Kompass first handed the document over to them. It seems as though that was stalled almost immediately by the refusal of the United Nations to allow them to—to allow the police to talk to the people who had interviewed—the U.N. staff who had interviewed the children and could give them more information about their whereabouts and about the soldiers. Then there was a long period of silence, when no one appears to have done anything. And once AIDS-Free World exposed this to the media—and that was only on April 29th, 2015—then things kicked into gear, and the French have now taken up their investigation again in earnest.
AMY GOODMAN: Paula Donovan, we only have about two minutes to go. You’re leading a campaign to get rid of immunity in the United Nations around sexual abuse and exploitation. Explain how the U.N. shields its own members from due process when they are accused of sexual assault.
PAULA DONOVAN: Under an ancient convention from 1946, the U.N. staff are all protected from being involved in any sort of legal process. So whether they’re witnesses, whether they have evidence, whether they’re the perpetrators themselves, if it has to do with sexual exploitation and abuse, then the secretary-general has to, on a case-by-case basis, decide to waive their immunity and allow them to be subject to what the rest of the world is subject to—called in to testify, cooperating with a criminal investigation, or actually arrested, in the case of perpetrators. And this just infects the entire U.N. system, and the way they deal with sexual exploitation and abuse is such a sham that we’re essentially saying it needs an external, independent investigation from top to bottom.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, what do you think the U.N.—what kinds of internal changes are you calling for within the U.N. so that these allegations can be dealt with in a better way in the future?
PAULA DONOVAN: I think—right, so as the Central African Republic case shows, serious member states of the United Nations have to take hold of things, and they need to move in and figure out: When an allegation of sexual abuse is first brought to light, what are the—what are the mandated protocols? How do we respond? And then, what do the various agencies and institutions within the entities within the U.N. have to do? Should UNICEF—and my answer is absolutely yes—should they have to move in immediately to protect—
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
PAULA DONOVAN: —children from further abuse? The whole U.N. needs to be looked at from top to bottom by an external commission.
AMY GOODMAN: Paula Donovan, thanks so much for being with us, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign, seeking to end sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. military and non-military peacekeeping personnel.
FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015
Find this story at 29 May 2015
THE UN’S DIRTY SECRET: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ANDERS KOMPASS AND PEACEKEEPER SEX ABUSE IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
August 14, 2015
On April 29, 2015, the world learned of disturbing accounts of sexual abuse of young boys by French, Chadian, and Equatorial Guinean peacekeepers at a displaced persons camp in the Central African Republic (CAR). The interviews, which had been conducted nearly a year earlier by staff from the UN’s Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and UNICEF, were leaked to the Guardian newspaper by AIDS-Free World. The resulting article also detailed the account of Anders Kompass, a career human rights official from Sweden, who had been suspended and was being investigated by the UN for his role in passing details of the abuse to the French government.
For the past month, Anders Kompass has remained silent on his role in this affair, even as the UN publicly blamed him for ‘leaking’ the report. AIDS-Free World has since obtained and is releasing today a series of incriminating internal UN documents, memos and email correspondence—including Kompass’ own account of the events—that expose the UN’s inaction. They also point to efforts by several senior UN officials to silence a staff member who could expose their failure to sound the alarm or protect children from imminent harm.
This is the untold story.
In early May of 2014, an international NGO requested help from MINUSCA, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic: several displaced children in the capital, Bangui, had reported that they and their friends were being raped by international forces in exchange for food.
On May 19, 2014, a junior OHCHR Human Rights Officer on temporary assignment with MINUSCA and a UNICEF staff member conducted an interview with an 11-year-old boy. The child reported that a French soldier promised him food in exchange for oral sex, negotiated with a guard to bring him onto the base, raped him, and then gave him biscuits and cash. The boy gave a detailed description of the soldier and said he could positively identify him in a photo.
The human rights officer ‘immediately’ relayed her interview notes to a MINUSCA official who acted as her supervisor in the Central African Republic. By all accounts, Renner Onana, Chief of Human Rights and Justice, did not take action: No warning was sent out to soldiers, no effort was made to inform the French or other authorities, nothing was done to prevent ongoing abuse, no alert was issued to the tens of thousands of internally displaced adults in the camp that sexual predators were disguised as protectors and posed imminent danger to children and other civilians. There is no record that on May 19th, 2014 that first child interviewed was offered the immediate protection he required.
Over the next five weeks, the Human Rights Officer and UNICEF staff members interviewed multiple known child victims as they were tracked down by a volunteer for the NGO that had requested the UN’s assistance. Several child victims known to the volunteer couldn’t be located. After each interview—on May 19th, May 20th, June 5th, June 17th, June 18th, and June 24th—the OHCHR human rights officer delivered her notes to MINUSCA; the UNICEF staff members wrote up their own notes of forced oral sex and anal rape of boys aged 8 to 15—and still no action was taken.
During the June 18th interview, a 13-year-old boy said he couldn’t number all the times he’d been forced to perform oral sex on soldiers but the most recent had been between June 8th and 12th, 2014—several weeks after the UN’s first interview. Even with solid proof that the crimes were still occurring as they gathered additional testimonies from children, MINUSCA, OHCHR, and UNICEF took no action. (UNICEF is cited in the human rights officer’s reports as having plans to attend to the interviewees’ education, family reunification, and psycho-social needs. UNICEF spokespeople have since been directed, ‘if asked,’ to state that those needs were met. No specifics are included about which children received assistance, or how many in total.)
Leaked documents show that additional UN officials in MINUSCA, Geneva, and New York received the human rights officer’s official final report of interviews with child victims before her departure from CAR, on July 14th, 2014. It is not known which UNICEF officials received final reports. In total, the interviews document sexual abuse of 13 children by a total of 16 peacekeepers: 11 were French, 3 were from Chad, and 2 were from Equatorial Guinea. Another 7 peacekeepers solicited children or acted as accomplices. The report implicates 23 soldiers in all.
By agreeing to be interviewed by the UN, the children expected the abuse to stop and the perpetrators to be arrested. When children report sexual abuse, adults must report it to the authorities. A child needs protection and, by definition, does not have the agency to decide whether to press charges. They deserved the protection they assumed they would receive once the UN knew of their abuse.
Instead, more than a year passed before their stories came to light, and the investigations began in earnest.
By mid-July 2014, at least 12 UN staff had received the human rights officer’s report. All were aware that no action had been taken, no authorities had been alerted, and the abuse was ongoing. One of the 12 recipients, Roberto Ricci, brought the report directly to the attention of his supervisor in Geneva, Anders Kompass. It was then that Mr. Kompass informed French diplomatic authorities, who requested a copy of the report in order to launch an investigation. Kompass delivered the report to the French authorities in July with a written and signed cover note and received written acknowledgement and thanks on July 30th from the French government, informing him that an investigation was underway. That official letter was stamped as received on August 5th and entered into the OHCHR correspondence log.
French investigators arrived in CAR’s capital, Bangui, on August 1st and questioned Renner Onana, MINUSCA’s Chief of Human Rights and Justice—the official who had received a summary report from the Human Rights Officer after each interview. The investigators were referred by MINUSCA to the Human Rights Officer, who asked first Renner Onana, and then Cecile Aptel, OHCHR’s Senior Legal Advisor, about whether to speak to the police. After consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs in New York, Aptel instructed her to reply to the French authorities that they should present any questions in writing through UN lawyers; the legal office would convey written answers.
The Human Rights Officer’s UN immunity from legal process had been invoked. The UNICEF staff members who had taken part in the interviews were similarly approached by French investigators. They too referred investigators to the Office of Legal Affairs.
The French investigation stalled.
Anders Kompass. UN Photo/ Violaine Martin
Anders Kompass. UN Photo/ Violaine Martin
On August 7th, 2014, Anders Kompass briefed OHCHR Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri and emailed the report to her on August 8th. The Deputy High Commissioner’s assistant, acknowledging receipt, informed Mr. Kompass by email that same day that the Executive Office of the Secretary-General had been briefed.
Despite Kompass’ definitive assertion and reference to an August 8th email, Pansieri testified in her official account of events—submitted months later to ‘inform’ the investigation into Kompass’ actions—that she first “became aware of the situation some time in early fall, most probably September 2014 (I regret I do no[t] recall the exact date)” through Cecile Aptel, in the context of a leak. Pansieri expressed regrets for having failed to follow up once she learned about the abuses in CAR, (citing a ‘very hectic’ period dealing with budget cuts and the inherent staff tensions and stresses), and attests that her attention was only turned to it again many months later, in early March 2015.
In his statement to the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also claims to have learned about the allegations of sexual abuse in CAR in “Autumn of 2014,” shortly after he took over the post.
Around the same time, OHCHR formally requested that the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) investigate Anders Kompass regarding ‘leaked cables’ in an incident involving Western Sahara.
On December 22, 2014, just before the UN offices closed for the holiday break, the Secretary-General submitted the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (S/2014/928). While the commission did not reference the MINUSCA/OHCHR/UNICEF report of abuse by international peacekeepers, it did provide a very specific recommendation: “The Secretary-General’s periodic reports on peacekeeping operations in the CAR should include an analysis of any violations that are alleged to have been committed by both UN peace-keepers and non-UN peacekeepers authorized by the Security Council.”
Three months later, when the Secretary-General submitted his annual report on the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse for 2014, it contained no mention whatsoever of the reports of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic.
In early March 2015, High Commissioner Zeid learned informally from UN Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra that Anders Kompass had been cleared of wrongdoing in the Western Sahara case because the investigation “could not substantiate any responsibility for Kompass.”
On March 6th, a full eight months after she’d last heard any news about the CAR case, the Human Rights Officer who had interviewed the child victims spoke with two senior OHCHR lawyers. They questioned her about her report and her assignment in CAR, and then they briefed both Zeid and his deputy, Flavia Pansieri.
On March 12th, on Zeid’s orders and at the request of UN Peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous, Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri asked Anders Kompass to resign.
In demanding Kompass’ resignation, the UN made a grave tactical error: a career human rights official from Sweden, Kompass was so trusted that he’d been put in charge of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) just weeks before his abrupt dismissal, when the High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner were both absent from the office. The sudden move to terminate him stunned Kompass; the reasons given outraged him. He was being accused of having inappropriately alerted the government of France, nearly a year earlier, to the discovery by OHCHR and UNICEF staff of rampant child sex abuse by French soldiers who’d been sent to protect civilians in the war-ravaged Central African Republic.
Kompass refused to resign, and he threatened to go to the press.
On March 13th, Pansieri briefed High Commissioner Zeid about her interaction with Kompass. Zeid decided that the situation was serious and that they should brief Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra and “other senior colleagues” in person.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
The following week, at the Secretary-General’s Senior Staff Retreat in Turin, Italy on March 19-20, 2015, Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra arranged a meeting between Zeid, Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri, Under-Secretary-General (USG) for OIOS Carman Lapointe, and the UN’s Director of Ethics, Joan Dubinsky, to discuss Anders Kompass.
At the meeting, these senior UN officials decided to open an investigation into Kompass—a fact made even more striking by the knowledge that OIOS and the UN Ethics Office are meant to operate at arm’s-length from the rest of the UN system, in order to ensure accountability and transparency.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Deputy High Commissioner, and the most senior officials of the UN in New York had known for many, many months about Kompass’ ‘inappropriate’ emergency transmittal of a report documenting the child abuse. And they knew that it was only thanks to his transmission of that report to the government of France that the French had immediately reacted and sent an investigation team to the CAR.
With the High Commissioner’s ill-considered demand that Kompass resign, and Kompass’ unexpected refusal to do so, the UN’s most senior officials were finally forced to pay long-overdue attention to the contents of the document they were claiming he had leaked. That was enough to instill panic: clearly, they had all ignored and neglected the appalling crisis it described. If their negligence became public, the UN would face questions for which there were no reasonable answers.
In Turin, it was decided that Zeid and Pansieri would collect statements from a select group and would send them on with a request for a formal OIOS investigation. Pansieri asked Kompass to write an account of his role in passing documents to the French and suggested he send it to her at her personal email account, rather than her UN account. When Kompass gave his statement, he was not informed that it was intended to be used as part of an investigation against him.
On April 7th, the Deputy Swedish Ambassador to the UN called Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra. Unable to reach her, he called Joan Dubinsky, Director of the UN Ethics Office. He told her he was informed about an OHCHR report about paedophilia alleged against French soldiers in MINUSCA. Furious that Kompass had been asked to resign without any trace of an investigation or due diligence, he warned that “it would not be a good thing if the High Commissioner for Human Rights forced Mr. Kompass to resign. If that occurred, it would go public, and a harmful and ugly debate would occur.”
Following the initial meeting in Turin, the group continued corresponding via email about an investigation into Kompass. Two weeks later, on April 9, 2015, Zeid formally requested an OIOS investigation into Kompass for his ‘leak’ of the report of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic.
Attached to the High Commissioner’s official request for an investigation into Kompass’ actions are six statements: a statement from Anders Kompass, the subject of the investigation; a long and a short statement from the Human Rights Officer who conducted the interviews; a statement from High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein; a statement from Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri; and a joint statement from two OHCHR lawyers recounting their conversation with the Human Rights Officer about her request from the French investigators and the fact that the request had immediately been turned over to the UN Office of Legal Affairs. The request for investigation and the statements were sent together as one package, first to the Director of Ethics, then to OIOS.
The statements conflict dramatically, with one exception: throughout the period when the abuse of African children first came to the attention of numbers of people within the UN, senior officials who were informed seem to have kept no records of meetings or discussions, and recollections are vague. The child victims receive no mention in the statements, nor are there any expressions of concern or curiosity about their welfare. No one providing testimony claims to have inquired about the status of any investigations, about any protection measures enacted, or about any tracing, prevention or support provided to child victims; those omissions are neither noted nor explained. The sole focus of concerted attention is on the alleged ‘leak’ by Anders Kompass.
During the week of April 13, 2015, a month after his refusal to resign, Kompass was suspended with pay and escorted from his office. He challenged OHCHR’s actions against him before the UN’s Dispute Tribunal; a judge subsequently found in his favor and demanded his reinstatement—pending the outcome of the investigation that is now under way.
The Director of the Investigations Unit in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), who would normally oversee such a case, recused himself from involvement in the investigation. He had protested in writing to his supervisor, OIOS USG Carman Lapointe, that a decision had been made at the highest levels to investigate Kompass, that the requisite intake process to first determine whether an investigation was warranted had been bypassed, that due process had been abridged, and because of this, any investigation would be prejudiced and improper. The USG for OIOS replied that while she agreed that such processes are usual, the senior management had decided to bypass these processes, and the Director of the Investigative Unit should abide by senior staff’s wishes. She wrote, “Agreed; however in this case I have decided.”
When questioned by Member States in mid-May about why her Director of Investigations had recused himself from the investigation of Kompass, OIOS Under-Secretary-General Lapointe responded that she did not know why.
Since the Guardian reported on the information provided by AIDS-Free World, the High Commissioner, his spokesperson, a UNICEF spokesperson, the Secretary-General’s spokespersons, and officials from Peacekeeping have addressed the media. There is ample reason for Member States to question the answers given.
UNICEF statements regarding the agency’s involvement in the interviews raise grave questions about UNICEF protocols and mandatory disclosure regulations when dealing directly with children in general, and with child victims of sexual abuse in particular. The fact that a child victim of sex abuse by soldiers still at-large was interviewed in the MINUSCA offices, ushered past military and civilian peacekeepers—many of whom could have been perpetrators, their accomplices, or friends—raises critically important questions about the training and skills of all involved. Also of concern is the fact that there appear to have been no ‘mandated disclosure’ guidelines for OHCHR or UNICEF staff, making clear the obligation to report, without delay, any allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. The interviewing also raises questions about whether protocols exist regarding the interviewing, by UNICEF and OHCHR staff, of minors who are unaccompanied by an appropriate adult and whose legal parents or guardians may not have consented to the interview.
The investigation is currently underway to determine whether Kompass is guilty of any wrongdoing. Susana Malcorra, who occupies one of the most powerful positions in the UN system as Chef de Cabinet for the Secretary-General, is publicly stating to governments and the media that Kompass is being investigated because he is guilty of wrongdoing. This suggests a pre-determined, inevitable outcome of the investigation and calls into question the judgment of the Chef de Cabinet regarding public statements. More seriously still, it should cause Member States to wonder whether the entire system of adjudication in the UN has become a kangaroo court.
The account above, the leaked documents linked to it, and the strong implications of misconduct and impunity at the very highest levels of the UN may come as a shock to many readers. The grim reality is that those with experience within the UN system are unlikely to be surprised. They know that this is not an unusual case; it is simply one that has come, partially, to light. For those of us who are staunch believers in the UN’s critical purpose and noble ideals, this case is deeply troubling because it is not unique. It is part of a continuing and disturbing pattern afflicting and endangering the entire UN system. That pattern is never more overtly on display than in the UN’s handling of sexual exploitation and abuse. The starkest miscarriages of justice and disregard for victims of UN sexual abuse occur within peacekeeping operations.
The UN secretariat exists to serve the collective interest of the world’s governments, to uphold their highest standards, and to implement their agreed actions.
Today, those Member States are balanced on a precipice, in imminent danger of losing all control over a UN secretariat that acts without discretion, without governments’ full knowledge, with no real oversight, and with increasing levels of impunity.
Member States must commission an external investigation into the whole UN system, at every level, in headquarters and country offices, to review all components related to sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping, the UN’s most costly undertaking. Investigating this CAR case is critically important, but insufficient; the external investigation must focus on the handling by the UN system of sexual exploitation and abuse allegations in all peacekeeping operations. That investigation must comprise—and be administratively supported by—entirely external, totally independent, impartial experts, with no past or current conflicts of interests, and no future interests that would hamper their ability to judge, critique, demand accountability, and recommend harsh sanctions if and where necessary.
This account raises the tragic spectre of countless children in the Central African Republic who will be scarred for life by sexual abuse. They were betrayed when they disclosed to the UN, and it failed to protect them. In the life of a 9- or 12-year-old, a year waiting for protection from an abuser is an eternity. In the life of a serial rapist, a year provides countless opportunities to abuse and exploit more children and become more practiced at escaping detection.
The events and their gross mishandling have done tremendous damage to civilians, and to the UN’s reputation and credibility. They call into question the top leadership, while casting a dark shadow on the many thousands of principled, hard-working UN staff who report to them.
If these dreadful revelations aren’t enough to press Member States to initiate an external investigation and take back control of the United Nations, nothing will.
POSTSCRIPT: On June 3, 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced plans for an external independent review to examine events following the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic. AIDS-Free World welcomed the UN’s response and issued the following statement:
The announcement from the Secretary-General today of plans for an external, independent review to examine events following the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic is to be welcomed. It responds to one of the urgent demands that AIDS-Free World has been making over the last several weeks, and since we launched our Code Blue campaign.
The Secretary-General has three challenges.
First, this must be a truly external and independent inquiry. No member of existing UN staff should be appointed to investigate nor to act as the investigators’ secretariat.
Second, it must be understood that top members of the Secretary-General’s own staff will have to be subject to investigation. This must go right up to the level of Under-Secretaries General. No one can be excluded, whether the Director of the Ethics Office or the USG of the Office of Internal Oversight Services or the Secretary-General’s own Chef de Cabinet. It would appear that all of them and more acted inappropriately in response to the dreadful events in CAR.
Third, the reference in the Secretary-General’s announcement of a review to ‘the broad range of systemic issues’ is crucial to the inquiry. What happened in the Central African Republic was an atrocity, but the fact that the UN stood silent for nearly a year after its own discovery of widespread peacekeeper sexual abuse (even if by non-UN troops) is itself a bitter commentary on the Secretary-General’s declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’.
If Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Member States want to rescue zero tolerance, they must cleanse the UN system of negligence and misconduct once and for all.
May 29, 2015
Editor’s note: For the full list of internal UN documents leaked to AIDS-Free World, visit: www.codebluecampaign.com/undocuments
Download the PDF version of the statement here.
Find this story at 29 May 2015
Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit (2011)
June 1, 2015
TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.
Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.
Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.
The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.
It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.
And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.
A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”
While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.
“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.
The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)
The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.
The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.
While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.
One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.
When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.
Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.
Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.
On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.
The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.
While questioning alleged terror group members plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.
The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”
By ROD NORDLANDSEPT. 2, 2011
Find this story at 2 September 2011
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New Data Raise Further Doubt on Official View of August 21 Gas Attack in Syria
May 1, 2014
President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about possible US action against Syria during a meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania at the White House in Washington, August 30, 2013. Obama said he was considering a “limited” attack and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier declared there was “clear” and “compelling” evidence that the Syrian government had used poison gas against its citizens. (Photo: Christopher Gregory / The New York Times)
President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about possible US action against Syria during a meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania at the White House in Washington, August 30, 2013. Obama said he was considering a “limited” attack and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier declared there was “clear” and “compelling” evidence that the Syrian government had used poison gas against its citizens. (Photo: Christopher Gregory / The New York Times)
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Eight months after an August 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs, the assumption that it was a Syrian government-sponsored attack continues to dominate discussion of the issue. But significant new information has become available that makes an attack by opposition forces far more plausible than appeared to be the case in the first weeks after the event.
Seymour Hersh’s revelation in an early April article in the London Review of Books that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had collected intelligence on a Jabhat al-Nusra cell working on a sarin weapons capability was far from being definitive evidence of a plot by jihadist groups to mount a false-flag sarin attack.
But the totality of the new information has eliminated or cast doubt on the major arguments that were advanced by the Obama administration and others in the aftermath as to why the attack must have been carried out by the Syrian regime. The new information suggests a much less lethal attack with munitions that were less effective and perhaps even using much less sarin than was initially assumed.
The “Smoking Guns” That Failed
The debate over the August 21 attacks has focused primarily on a series of assertions about “smoking guns” that allegedly proved Syrian government guilt. The first – and best known – of those “smoking guns” was the generally accepted belief that the rockets said to have delivered the sarin must have originated in a government-controlled area. The United Nations investigating team’s initial report, issued on September 16, gauged the angle of one rocket’s impact in Zamalka and its arc without reporting explicitly on its launch point. But Human Rights Watch immediately showed that the trajectory led to the Syrian Army Republican Guard 106th Brigade’s Base 9.6 km away. And it calculated that the UN report’s bearings for two other impact points in Moamadiyah showed trajectories ending in the same Syrian army base.
Those calculations depended on the assumption that the ranges of the rockets in question were more than 9 kilometers. But within weeks, a rocket specialist blogger at the website Who Attacked Ghouta, going by the name “Sasa Wawa,” had concluded that the maximum range of the rockets that hit Zamalka was 2.5 kilometers. And former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and weapons analyst Theodore A. Postol of MIT determined that the maximum range of the previously unknown rockets that landed in Zamalka would have been 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles. In his press conference on the release of the second UN investigation report in December, the head of the UN investigating team, Ake Sellstrom, agreed that the estimate of 2 kilometers “could be a fair guess” for the maximum range of the rockets.
The debate over the August 21 attacks has focused primarily on a series of assertions about “smoking guns” that allegedly proved Syrian government guilt.
Blogger Eliot Higgins – better known as “Brown Moses” – who has achieved the status of favorite news media source on munitions issues in Syria, has argued in recent months that the rockets must have been fired from in or near the Jobar-Qaboun industrial zone, wedged in between Jobar and Qabun neighborhoods, which is between 2.2. and 2.5 km from the farthest impact points in Zamalka, over which he claimed the government had control. Still later, Higgins pinpointed an area near the cloverleaf east of that zone over which, he said, government had exercised control through a series of checkpoints.
But apart from the fact that those sites are all farther away from the impact sites than current research supports, the Higgins argument suffers from an additional problem: Charles Wood, a Perth, Australia-based forensic expert who has studied the military situation in that area at the time of the August 21 attack, told Inter Press Service (IPS) that, far from being government-controlled, the entire area in and around the industrial zone was actually thoroughly infiltrated by the rebels through tunnels they had built into the area. Based on videos posted by the rebels themselves, Wood said the rebels had fought off a government attack on a position in the area pinpointed by Higgins on August 21. He also pointed out that, three days later, the insurgents carried out a chemical IED attack against one of the government checkpoints very near the open field from which Higgins says the attack was launched.
The rocket found in Moadamiyah on the morning of August 21 was a BM-14 440 mm rocket manufactured in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. UN inspectors were taken to the scene where the BM-14 rocket hit and were told that it had killed everyone in an adjoining apartment. The BM-14 rocket was known to have a range of 9.8 km, so it was certainly capable of delivering an attack from the army base to Moadamiyah.
There is very serious question, however, whether that rocket actually held sarin. Of five swipes taken in the bedroom where an entire family was said to have perished in the attack, only one showed any trace of sarin or byproducts in the lab results from one of the labs, and none of them registered any trace of sarin or byproducts in the other laboratory’s test results. There were traces of sarin found on various items, including metal fragments sampled outside the building near the impact point. But the UN report complains about the fact that evidence had been moved and that the site may have been “manipulated.”
A second “smoking gun” was the discovery of traces of a form of hexamine (hexamethylenetetramine) that can be used as a stabilizer in sarin production, in some of the samples taken at rocket impact sites. UK-based chemical weapons analyst Dan Kaszeta noticed that the official Syrian declaration of chemical weapons listed 80 tons of hexamine and concluded that that combination of facts indicated government culpability. The head of the UN investigating team, Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, referred to the form of hexamine as being in Syria’s “formula” and as “their acid scavenger” in a portion of the interview with Gwyn Winfield, the editor of CBRNe World that was not published in the February 2014 issue due to lack of space, according to Kaszeta. (CBRN stands for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.)
But further research revealed that hexamine is also used to make explosives, and a form of hexamine was found on a swipe taken from the central tube of one of the rockets – the location of the explosive in the rockets. Mark Bishop, who teaches chemistry at Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey, California and is the author of a college textbook on the subject, told Truthout he believes the presence of hexamethylenetetramine most likely means that it was an impurity formed in the making of the explosive.
The incriminating 80 tons of hexamine declared by the Syrian government to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also turned out to have an another explanation: It is also used as a stabilizer for the form of mustard gas found in the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.
The rockets would not have been difficult to duplicate.
The main argument that the attack had to be launched by the Syrian government was that the government alone possessed the 330 mm rockets with a long barrel and tail fins called “Volcanos” that were found at the sites of the attack and had used such weapons before August 21. That was misleading, however: The rockets that government forces had used, from late 2012 on, had been configured for high explosives, and none of the alleged chemical attacks involved that type of rocket.
The question is whether the rebels could have copied the type of rocket that had been used by the Syrian army over the previous year and made adjustments for chemical use. Certainly, the rebels had access to the remnants of the rockets configured for high explosives and white phosphorous payloads, as well as videos showing the intact rockets.
The rockets would not have been difficult to duplicate, according to Postol and Lloyd, based on both their own personal experience and video evidence. Postol recalled in an interview with Truthout that he had personally constructed comparable devices in his own machine shop as a graduate student. Lloyd pointed out in a separate interview that videos show that the insurgents had “production lines” for rockets. “I have pictures showing 40 to 60 rockets stacked in a row, with people working on the tail assemblies,” he said.
Who Had the Capability to Make Sarin?
After Seymour Hersh reported April 6 that DIA analysts had compiled a highly classified five-page “talking points” brief for Deputy Director David Shed in June 2013, outlining the intelligence indicating that Al Nusra had a Sarin production cell, the possibility of an opposition sarin program could not longer be dismissed out of hand.
The intelligence paper, from which Hersh was able to quote extensively, referred to intelligence reports from various agencies that Turkey- and Saudi-based “chemical facilitators” were attempting to obtain the “precursors” for sarin in quantities of tens of kilograms, prompting speculation about plans for “large-scale production” in Syria. It cited the reported plan of al Nustra’s “emir for military manufacturing for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large-scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria.'”
The argument for Syrian government culpability has not been that the rebels could not make sarin, but that they would never be able to make enough of it.
The spokesperson for the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, issued what appeared to be a denial of the DIA document but was not. “No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts,” the spokesperson said. But Hersh had not suggested that the paper had been “requested” or “produced” by “community analysts” – a term reserved for intelligence assessments arrived by a process coordinated by the office of the DNI.
A former intelligence official told Truthout he recalls papers such as the one described by Hersh being issued by DIA. “They were called talking points papers,” he said. Such papers were used to brief not only the top officials of the agency, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he said. “This one would have gone to Chairman [General Martin] Dempsey.”
The argument for Syrian government culpability has not been that the rebels could not make sarin, but that they would never be able to make enough of it. In a Foreign Policy magazine article by Higgins, Kaszeta compared the sarin requirements of the August 21 attack with the sarin program of the Japanese terrorist group Aum Ashinryko, which attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin in 1995. “Even if the Aug. 21 attack is limited to the eight volcano rockets that we seem to be talking about,” said Kaszeta, “we’re looking at an industrial effort two orders of magnitude larger than the Aum Shinrikyo effort.”
But a study of the Aum Shinryko’s weapons programs, published by the pro-military think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS), shows that the Aum Shinryko facility in which sarin was to be made was intended to be a major factory for the production of as much as 70 tons of sarin. That would have been orders of magnitude greater than the largest amount that anyone has suggested might have been used in the August 21 attack. On the other hand, the CNAS account shows that the lab actually achieved a production of 40-50 liters of sarin within roughly a year, and with a minimal staff.
Kaszeta has estimated that as much as a ton of sarin may have been used in the attack, based on an old US military manual for planning a battlefield attack to achieve sufficient casualties – an amount presumed to be beyond the capability of the Syrian opposition. Postol and Lloyd have estimated, on the other hand, that 600 liters of sarin would have been required to launch the attack on August 21, based on a total capacity of 50 liters of sarin for each rocket and a total of 12 rockets.
That estimate was based on the volume of the rockets, which can hold roughly 50 liters of liquid. Postol told Truthout he believes they must have been fully loaded, because loading them only partially could have resulted in the rockets being unstable and “tumbling,” rather than traveling their full range.
But sarin is soluble in water, and if the pH of the water is neutral (i.e., pH=7), the sarin does not break down for roughly 5.4 hours, according to a 2002 article in the journal Critical Care Medicine. That means that each rocket could have contained as little as 5 to 10 liters of sarin mixed with 40 to 45 liters of water, thus reducing the total amount of sarin used in the attack to as little as 60 liters – the same order of magnitude of Sarin as produced by the clandestine Aum Shinryko laboratory.
How Lethal Was the Attack?
The use of a water solution to fill the rockets would have dramatically reduced the lethality of the attack compared with what has been widely assumed and would help explain anomalies in the data published in the UN investigation report that have puzzled chemical weapons experts. The data gathered by the UN team from a few dozen survivors showed that most of those claiming to have been most heavily exposed to sarin failed to present symptoms that would be expected from such exposure.
The UN team reported that the investigating team had asked an opposition leader to help identify a total of 80 people “who had been badly hurt but had survived.” The opposition leader chose the doctors who in turn identified the patients to be interviewed. The 36 individuals ultimately selected for detailed profiles of symptoms described themselves as among the most seriously exposed to sarin. Thirty of those 36 reported rocket strikes either on or near their homes. The remaining six said they had gone to a point of impact to help those suffering from the attack.
The UN report states that the data on symptoms collected on the 36 individuals are “consistent with organophosphate intoxication.” But both Kaszeta and Dr. Abbas Faroutan, who treated Iranian victims of Iraqi nerve gas attacks, have pointed to serious irregularities in the symptoms reported by these people.
Twenty-eight of the 36 victims – nearly four-fifths of the sample – said they had experienced loss of consciousness, according to the UN report. The second most frequent symptom was difficulty breathing, which was reported by 22 of the 36, followed by blurred vision, which 15 of them suffered. But only five of the 36 reported miosis, or constricted pupils.
Kaszeta explained to Truthout that miosis is the most basic and reliable indicator of nerve gas poisoning. And according to the 2002 Critical Care Medicine article, exposure of only 1 mg of sarin per cubic meter for as little as 3 minutes would have caused miosis. Yet it was the least prevalent symptom among these people claiming to have been very seriously exposed to sarin. Faroutan noted that the data were “not logical.”
“The objective was not to kill people, but to terrify people.”
Even stranger, seven of the 36 victims told investigators they had lost a combined total of 39 members of their immediate families killed in buildings they said were either points of impact of the rockets or only 20 meters (64 feet) away from one. Yet only one of the seven exhibited the most common symptom of exposure to sarin – the constriction of pupils – and only one reported nausea and vomiting.
The UN team found that six people who claimed high levels of exposure had no trace of sarin in their blood, but the rest all showed evidence of exposure to sarin. The fact that all but seven of them failed to exhibit the most basic sign of such exposure suggests that the amount of sarin to which they were exposed was extremely low. After comparing the data on the 36 survivors with comparable data on survivors of the Tokyo sarin attack, Kaszeta told Truthout that the people interviewed and evaluated by the UN “didn’t have serious exposure” to nerve gas.
The UN investigating team itself apparently came to a similar conclusion about the survivors who had supposedly experienced the most serious exposure to Sarin. The head of the UN Investigating team, Ake Sellstrom, appeared to suggest in a February 2014 interview with Gwyn Winfield, the editor of the CBRNe World Magazine, that many of the survivors to whom they had been steered by the opposition had merely imagined that they had been victims of sarin. “In any theater of war,” he told Winfield, “people will claim they are intoxicated. We saw it in Palestine, Afghanistan and everywhere else.”
The individuals claiming to have been victims of sarin were not necessarily falsifying their testimony. The symptoms they described were consistent with those associated with conventional weapons such as smoke and tear gas munitions known to be used by the Syrian military.
Another factor may also help to explain the evidence from the UN investigating team’s report indicating that the August 21 attack was much less lethal than was claimed by the opposition and the Obama administration. In research that has not yet been published but that the researchers have described to Truthout, Postol and Lloyd discovered that the amount of explosive in the rocket used to disperse the sarin may have been much smaller than they had originally assumed. The resulting explosion, they concluded, would not have created the large, dense cloud of droplets in the air that would normally characterize a sarin attack. Instead, the rocket would have dispensed a puddle of sarin on the ground that would then have evaporated into a much smaller and less dense plume of sarin.
They carried out computer simulations on the ground effects of the plumes that would have been created by such a rocket. They concluded that such a plume could still be lethal, but would result in much higher numbers of people who survived than who died – contrary to the usual pattern in a sarin attack.
Because of the new information about the attack, Postol now suspects that the attack was not planned to have the highest possible level of lethality – regardless of who was responsible. “The objective was not to kill people, but to terrify people,” he told Truthout. “Or it was to look as much like the Syrian government [attacking] as possible.”
The UN team found evidence that the total number of victims being claimed by the opposition was also exaggerated. Sellstrom told Winfield that the figures presented to the team by hospital administrators at the two hospitals it had visited could not possibly have been accurate. “[I]t is impossible that they could have turned over that amount of people they claim they did,” declared Sellstrom.
The Obama administration’s use of the figure of 1,429 fatalities in the August 21 attack in its August 30 intelligence summary has always been suspect. Despite the Obama administration’s claim that the figure was derived from a complicated methodology for counting bodies in videos and still pictures, the head of the independent, UK-based anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdurrahman, told Associated Press that US officials had not consulted SOHR about the total casualty figure. Abdurrahman said US officials were “working with only one part of the opposition that is deep in propaganda”.
Capabilities vs. Motive
What is now known about the attack makes it highly questionable that only the government side had the capability to carry out the August 21 attack. The exaggerated numbers of sarin patients admitted by hospitals, the dubious data on symptoms from those supposedly most affected, and the new evidence that the attack was much less lethal than believed at first are all consistent with a sarin attack that a determined rebel group such as Al Nusra could have carried out.
The UN team’s Sellstrom was not convinced that only the regime had the capability to carry out the attack. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sellstrom said he believes both sides in the conflict had the “opportunity” and the “capability” to “carry out chemical weapons attacks.”
It was always easier to see the capability of the Syrian government to mount such an attack, but it was also easier to see the opposition’s motive for doing so. The rebels would have benefited dramatically from US military intervention in response to an ostensible crossing of the “red line” Obama had publicly adopted in August 2012. The opposition had charged the Syrian military with using chemical weapons repeatedly beginning in December 2012, with the obvious hope of provoking a major US military response.
The only motive attributed to support the argument of the Syrian regime’s guilt is that it was allegedly losing the war, especially around Damascus, and therefore used chemical weapons out of desperation. But the two-page assessment issued by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation August 29 appeared to contradict that argument. “There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”
Even more puzzling, were it the guilty party, was the Syrian regime’s agreeing within 24 hours of the United Nations request to allow UN investigators to have access to the areas where it was being accused of having launched sarin attacks, thus allowing the UN to take samples for traces of sarin.
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 10:13
By Gareth Porter, Truthout | News Analysis
Find this story at 29 April 2014
Environmental Groups “Shocked” by Reports of NSA Spying of U.N. Climate Talks
February 7, 2014
In one of the latest revelations based on the leaks of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency spied on foreign governments before and during the 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. An internal NSA document says its analysts and foreign partners briefed U.S. negotiators on other countries’ “preparations and goals,” saying, “signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the two-week event.” We speak to Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re still joined by Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth USA. Erich, I wanted to ask you about the recent reports that the National Security Agency spied on foreign governments before and during the 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. An internal NSA document says its analysts and foreign partners briefed U.S. negotiators on other countries’ preparations and goals, saying, quote, “signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the two-week event.” Your response?
ERICH PICA: Shocking, but not surprised, as we hear more and more about what the National Security Agency has been doing. You know, the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen was supposed to be this convening of the world leaders to take us into the future of climate negotiations and carbon pollution reductions. And, you know, the United States, throughout those negotiations, had a smug reality to their negotiating stance and was—can be blamed for the collapse of those talks. And kind of hearing through the Snowden documents that NSA was spying on the countries and the negotiators kind of explains many things about why those talks collapsed, because it seems that the United States wasn’t really interested in negotiating just like other countries should be. They were just interested in listening to what was going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the significance of those talks. I remember very well in Copenhagen when Friends of the Earth was kicked out.
ERICH PICA: Yeah, no, we were—we were kicked out for protesting within the U.N. confines. And so, those talks, you know, those 2009 talks, were really about how does the world come together to solve this great issue, which is how to reduce our carbon pollution and save the planet and our society from global warming. And, you know, a lot of countries from around the world, and heads of state, more importantly, came to Copenhagen to try to hammer out an agreement that would have taken us into the future over the next 20 years. And unfortunately, the United States led the—you know, several countries, including Canada, who we were just talking about, in basically destroying the goodwill that these talks had created, to the point where we’ve been now in these negotiations over the last four years, which have really gone nowhere.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you expect from the coming talks? We’ve just come out of Warsaw. Then they’re moving on to Lima, and the binding discussion is supposed to take place in Paris, France, in 2015.
ERICH PICA: Yeah, in Paris. Yeah, well, it’s not a good sign when you’re trying to build trust with other negotiators, other countries, and it comes out that, you know, the United States was spying on those negotiations. There’s already been a level of mistrust and distrust between the United States and countries around the world, particularly those developing countries. And so, you know, where we’re going in Paris, who knows? The United States has not been forthcoming with their negotiating stances. They have not been—we have not been aggressive in reducing our climate change emissions and putting out an offer that the rest of the world can accept. And we haven’t been terribly generous with funding to help these less-developed, these poorer countries in adjusting to both adapting and mitigating the climate impacts that are already happening to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Erich Pica—
ERICH PICA: And so the United States has very little trust in these talks.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, president of Friends of the Earth USA, as we turn right now to Michigan.
ERICH PICA: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.
Monday, February 3, 2014
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New from Snowden: The NSA was spying on U.N. climate talks Leaked documents reveal that the U.S. government monitored communications to gain an advantage in negotiations
February 7, 2014
The National Security Agency was spying on foreign governments’ communications before and during the 2009 United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, a new document released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden reveals.
The Huffington Post, partnering with Danish newspaper Information, has the exclusive:
The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners [the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship] will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”
“[L]eaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document reads. The NSA’s plan, Information adds, was to get the scoop on those private discussions in order to brief U.S. officials and give them an advantage in negotiations of CO2 reductions, which had the potential to harm U.S. (and other nations’) economic interests:
The general theme of the document is a set of risk assessments on various effects of climate change that the entire intelligence community was working on. However, the document suggests that the NSA’s actual focus in relation to climate change was spying on other countries to collect intelligence that would support American interests, rather than preventing future climate catastrophes. It describes the U.S. as being under pressure because of its role as the historically largest carbon emitter. A pressure to which the NSA spies were already responding:
“SIGINT (Signals Intelligence, ed.) has already alerted policymakers to anticipate specific foreign pressure on the United States and has provided insights into planned actions on this issue by key nations and leaders.”
A National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment directly on the document, but said in an email that “the U.S. Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”
The ultimate outcome of the Copenhagen talks is mostly seen as a disappointment: an agreement to keep warming below 2 degrees C, but one that was non-binding and that allowed each nation to develop its own plans for doing so. While a number of factors undoubtedly contributed to this, these new revelations signal a bad turn for future efforts to reach an international accord on fighting climate change. As HuffPo puts it, in a bit of an understatement, “The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.”
Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 03:38 PM +0100
Find this story at 30 January 2014
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Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied On Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit
February 7, 2014
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”
“Second Party partners” refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship. “While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event,” the document says.
The Huffington Post published the documents Wednesday night in coordination with the Danish daily newspaper Information, which worked with American journalist Laura Poitras.
The December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brings together 195 countries to negotiate measures to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact. The Copenhagen summit was the first big climate meeting after the election of President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to yield a significant breakthrough. Other major developed nations were already part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions limits, while the United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases when the protocol went into effect in 2004 — had famously declined to join. The two-week meeting was supposed to produce a successor agreement that would include the U.S., as well as China, India and other countries with rapidly increasing emissions.
The document indicates that the NSA planned to gather information as the leaders and negotiating teams of other countries held private discussions throughout the Copenhagen meeting. “[L]eaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document states. The information likely would be used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, among others, according to the document.
The document does not detail how the agency planned to continue gathering information during the summit, other than noting that it would be capturing signals intelligence such as calls and emails. Previous disclosures have indicated that the NSA has the ability to monitor the mobile phones of heads of state. Other documents that Snowden has released indicate that the U.K.’s intelligence service tapped into delegates’ email and telephone communications at the 2009 G-20 meetings in London. Other previous Snowden disclosures documented the surveillance of the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada in 2010, and the U.N. climate change conference in Bali in 2007.
The document also refers to some intelligence gathered ahead of the meeting, including a report that “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.” It refers to another report that “provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a ‘rescue plan’ to save COP-15.”
The Danish proposal was a draft agreement that the country’s negotiators had drawn up in the months ahead of the summit in consultation with a small number key of countries. The text was leaked to The Guardian early in the conference, causing some disarray as countries that were not consulted balked that it promoted the interests of developed nations and undermined principles laid out in previous climate negotiations. As Information reports, Danish officials wanted to keep U.S. negotiators from seeing the text in the weeks ahead of the conference, worried that it may dim their ambitions in the negotiations for proposed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Danes did share the text with the U.S. and other key nations ahead of the meeting. But the NSA document noting this as “advance details” indicates that the U.S. may have already intercepted it. The paragraph referring to the Danish text is marked “SI” in the Snowden document — which most likely means “signals intelligence,” indicating that it came from electronic information intercepted by the NSA, rather than being provided to the U.S. negotiators.
That could be why U.S. negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”
Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”
Despite high hopes for an agreement at Copenhagen, the negotiations started slowly and there were few signs of progress. Obama and heads of state from more than 100 nations arrived late in the second week in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, but the final day wore on without an outcome. There were few promising signals until late Friday night, when Obama made a surprise announcement that he — along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — had come up with the “Copenhagen Accord.”
The three-page document set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions — leaving out any legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty. Obama called the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough” in a press conference, then took off for home on Air Force One. But other countries balked, pointing out that the accord was merely a political agreement, drafted outside the U.N. process and of uncertain influence for future negotiations.
The climate summits since then have advanced at a glacial pace; a legally binding treaty isn’t currently expected until 2015. And the U.S. Congress, despite assurances made in Copenhagen, never passed new laws cutting planet-warming emissions. (The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, moving forward with regulations on emissions from power plants, but a new law to addressing the issue had been widely considered as preferable.)
The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.
“It can’t help in the sense that if people think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage or manipulate the process, they’re not going to have much trust in you,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a seasoned veteran of the U.N. climate negotiations. Meyer said he worried that the disclosure might cause the parties to “start becoming more cautious, more secretive, and less forthcoming” in the negotiations. “That’s not a good dynamic in a process where you’re trying to encourage collaboration, compromise, and working together, as opposed to trying to get a comparative advantage,” he said.
Obama has defended the NSA’s work as important in fighting terrorism at home and abroad. But the latest Snowden document indicates that the agency plays a broader role in protecting U.S. interests internationally.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment directly on the Snowden document in an email to The Huffington Post, but did say that “the U.S. Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” She noted that Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on the NSA “laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms the Administration will adopt or seek to codify with Congress” regarding surveillance.
“In particular, he issued a new Presidential Directive that lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities,” Hayden said. “It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President’s senior national security team.”
Posted: 01/29/2014 9:17 pm EST Updated: 01/30/2014 12:59 pm EST
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