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New Investigative Report on FBI's Use of Terror Informants

Mother Jones has partnered with the University of California-Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program and compiled a fascinating report on the FBI's use of informants in the war on terror. The crucial question:

The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots—or leading them?

The number of informants has dramatically increased since 9/11:

The bureau now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies, some paid as much as $100,000 per case, many of them tasked with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States.

They aren't just ratting out their partners in crime, they are setting them up.

The bureau's answer has been a strategy known variously as "preemption," "prevention," and "disruption"—identifying and neutralizing potential lone wolves before they move toward action. To that end, FBI agents and informants target not just active jihadists, but tens of thousands of law-abiding people, seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.

Really a good series and well worth reading.

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When JSOC, Commandos and Intelligence-Gathering Converge

Last night on NBC, the correspondent with Brian Williams kept repeating we would be hearing more about JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) in connection with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Today, there is this description from Marc Ambinder at the National Journal. It makes warrantless wiretapping seem so last year.

McChrystal and Flynn introduced hardened commandos to basic criminal forensic techniques and then used highly advanced and still-classified technology to transform bits of information into actionable intelligence. One way they did this was to create forward-deployed fusion cells, where JSOC units were paired with intelligence analysts from the NSA and the NGA. Such analysis helped the CIA to establish, with a high degree of probability, that Osama bin Laden and his family were hiding in that particular compound.

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Obama Administration's Expansion of The War on Terror Abroad

In the Sunday Times: a feature article on the Obama administration’s "shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies."

In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

...The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya.

The Times calls it a stealth war on terror, and says while it began under Bush, it has expanded under Obama. It also points out the risks: [More...]

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Obama to Ask Congress For $33 Billion More to Fight Wars

Apparently, $708 billion isn't enough for the Defense Department for the coming year. The AP reports that military commanders briefed on an upcoming report say President Obama will ask Congress to approve another $33 billion when it submits its budget request in February.

What for? Supposedly for beefing up the war in Afghanistan, but it sounds more like the global war on terror, even though Obama insists on not using that phrase.

The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.

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Obama and the War on Terror: Where's the Change?

The New York Times has published its Sunday Magazine feature article, 9 pages long, by Peter Baker on President Obama's handling of the war on terror. Here's what you need to know:

While setting a one-year deadline to close Guantánamo and formally banning the interrogation methods that had already fallen out of favor, he left the surveillance program intact, embraced the Patriot Act, retained the authority to use renditions and embraced some of Bush’s claims to state secrets. He preserved the military commissions and national security letters he criticized during the campaign, albeit with more due-process safeguards. He plans to hold dozens of suspected terrorists without charges indefinitely. And he expanded Bush’s campaign of unmanned drone strikes against Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Troop levels in Afghanistan are set to triple on his watch.

Bush Administration Veterans say Obama is not "Bush Lite", he is Bush. [More...]

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CIA at the crossroads

As I continue my research into Obama's reported CIA and DNI candidate fields, I am finding it remarkable that among the candidates there is such dissent when it comes to what they believe is right/acceptable in interrogation policy and information collection. It's really quite amazing.

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Bush Quietly "Repeals" Major Privacy Law

Bush is fed up with hearing how his actions and policies violate our privacy rights. True to Bush's Orwellian worldview, his answer is to create a privacy board to ostensibly protect our rights. In reality, it is Mr. Decider who controls the privacy board so that his interpretation of laws will determine how and if our rights are actually protected by more than shallow words. It is the implementation of these interpretations which will chip away through the backdoor or repeal/amend our privacy rights under federal law. The chipping has already started.

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