Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spooks clash over '9/11 mastermind'

Intelligence professionals are sharply critical of testimony provided by the alleged "9/11 mastermind," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, while in a CIA torment dungeon overseas, according to a New Yorker report.

Jane Mayer, writing for the magazine's Aug. 13 edition, painted a grim picture of the reliability of Mohammed's numerous confessions, though the 9/11 commission rested much of its narrative on the al Qaeda chieftain's purported statements. Mohammed so far has confessed to involvement in 31 criminal conspiracies, a number which Mayer found high even for a top-level terrorist.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told Mayer that all his spook associates were "100 percent certain" that Mohammed did not kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Similarly, FBI Special Agent Randall Bennett told her that of the many people he quizzed in Pakistan, none named Mohammed as the culprit.

Pearl's wife Mariane was skeptical when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed her that Mohammed had confessed to the murder. She'd heard this allegation before, only the information was classified and no evidence was available. Gonzales offered no new evidence and Mrs. Pearl suspected the attorney general was grandstanding in order to deflect political heat from his troubles.

Alcee Hastings, a House Democrat, said that he was disturbed by the methods used to interrogate Mohammed, Mayer reported. Hastings was prevented from revealing details but what went on "ain't right."

Mayer detailed CIA methods of torment that bore the earmarks of Teutonic diligence. Breaking people down was done according to precise technical formulas, based on sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and other nasty bits of business. Survivors have reported inmates in one Afghanistan hell hole trying to commit suicide by beating their heads against the wall.

Mohammed has been moved to Guantanamo naval base, where he awaits a military tribunal.

The 9/11 commission said it was not permitted to interview Mohammed but was forced to rely on "confessions" he gave to CIA interrogators. Mohammed, of course, did not have access to a lawyer during the questioning. This may seem silly but had he had such access there would be less concern about the validity of his statements, which, on reading the 9/11 panel report, appear to have been a matter of telling interrogators what they wanted to hear.

Yet, leading federal lawmakers have said that they don't wish to investigate 9/11 anew, claiming that the 9/11 commission had wrapped everything up.

Air Force shoots down war satellite?
Pravda is circulating a report that a powerful segment of the U.S. military establishment strongly opposes war with Iran and cites Western press accounts claiming that the U.S. Air Force shot down a spy satellite that would have been used to guide cruise missiles into Iran.

David L. Griscom, a retired naval physicist, said, "I can assure you that the impact in Peru and the fact that villagers were sickened" was "the buzz" on CCNet, an email digest for scientists concerned with climate change and extraterrestrial impacts.

Pravda ruled out a meteor strike based on expert analysis of the impact energy. Evidently the villagers were sickened by radiation given off by the satellite's plutonium 238 reactor.

Pravda's Sept. 20 report says the missile strike against the satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Sept. 26 update
El Diario La Prensa of New York reports today that Peruvian officials were checking into Pravda's claim that a U.S. KH-13 spy satellite appeared to have been felled by the U.S. Air Force in order to impede Bush administration war plans against Iran.

These sites have provided some information on what seems to have occurred near the village of Carancas:

http://livinginperu.com/news/health (scroll down)

The explanation of Peruvian scientists that a meteorite struck and perhaps unearthed some noxious ground gases doesn't seem altogether implausible. There seems to be no independent confirmation that a KH-13 satellite was downed, though there has been speculation that such a satellite's atomic reactor would sicken people. On Sept. 17, two days after the space object's fall, Peru's Diario La Republica reported that victims were suffering from radiation sickness, but the paper doesn't appear to have repeated that onetime claim.

One good story I've seen on the ET strike is by AP's Monte Hayes. That Sept. 19 story can be found at

Without better corroboration, I can't accept the Pravda story as worth anything at this point. In fact, I checked other articles by the writer, Sorcha Faal, and found them to be highly questionable. Her? work fits in well with the Bermuda Triangle genre. It's possible that Faal got her theory from a science minded blogger who early on posted the idea that a KH-13's atomic reactor had caused crater water to boil. (Sorry, I've mislaid that url.)

Shortly after the object crashed six miles from Lake Titicaca, some experts expressed skepticism that a meteorite would have done what it purportedly did. Jose Machare of Peru's Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Geology told Agence France Presse that the meteorite's impact seemed to have caused water in the crater to boil for about 10 minutes, which contributed to a noxious gray vapor given off from the site, apparently containing traces of arsenic and sulfur. Sickened locals had complained of a sulfuric odor.

But Jay Melosh, professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, was initially skeptical, Hayes reported. Boiling water didn't fit the profile since meteorites are generally cold upon impact, having shucked the hot outer layers during descent.

A number of experts, such as Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object program, doubted the initial meteor claim, suggesting that the event was more suggestive of some geothermal disruption from below the surface. Alex Bevan, an expert on meteorites with the Western Australian Museum in Perth, wondered whether the fireball and the ground explosion were two unrelated events.

Peter Schultz, a meteor crater specialist at Brown University, was intrigued, saying the impact might be an unusual type of meteor strike. He said the crater's size indicated the original meteoroid was at least 10 feet in diameter before breaking up.

At any rate Jose Ishitsaka of Peru's Geophysics Institute confirmed that the 42-foot-wide by 15-foot-deep crater had been caused by a meteor, according to institute president Ronald Woodman, who said the impact registered on seismic equipment as having the energy equivalent of 2.49 tons of dynamite.

See http://www.sci-tech-today.com/story.xhtml?story_id=12002HOFJ8G

Jose Lopez, Puno public health director, reported that seven policemen were among those sickened by crater fumes and given oxygen before being taken to a hospital, al Jazeera reported. They suffered from headaches and nausea, like 200 villagers who also breathed in the fumes.

Renan Ramirez, an engineer with Peru's Nuclear Energy Institute, said testers had found no radiation at the site. The Geophysics Institute gave the same information.

Ramirez said, "It was a conventional meteorite that, when it struck, produced gases by fusing with elements of the terrain."

A writer known as xcamel, posting on freerepublic.com, seems to have been quite diligent about finding out what scientists on the scene thought.

Xcamel says scientists think the meteorite met an undergound water supply tainted with arsenic. There are numerous local arsenic deposits which contaminate local drinking water, according to Modesto Montoya, a researcher with the geology institute. Ishitsuka theorized that the red-hot meteorite, upon plowing into the underground water, gave off a column of steam.

Xcamel's post is at http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1901657/posts

In sum, what we have is an event that the experts found to be very strange, but that could have been simply a very rare natural occurrence. On the other hand, since, as everyone knows, the first casualty in wartime is truth, there are grounds for suspicion. It seems likely that U.S. authorities could easily control the flow of information from the impact zone.

Physicist Griscom questions whether the United States has a satellite-killer capability yet, though he says a self-destruct mechanism is notionally possible. The U.S. does have rocket interceptors that can knock out missiles in subspace, but it is unknown whether these could be used against high-altitude satellites.

So anyway, throw into the mix a writer with a propensity for the fantastic and we have either perhaps a best-seller in the making or some sort of psywar disinformation operation.

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