Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, "confidential".
Greg Palast files this report from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
BORAT-STAN'S SOCIAL NETWORK DILEMMA
After the attacks in Boston, I flew to Central Asia, to Kazakhstan, the region our Western media portrays as the cradle for terrorist criminals. I thought it would be worthwhile to find out something about this part of the planet beyond what we've got thus far from Fox TV and Borat.
Yesterday, Boston Police arrested two men from Kazakhstan and another from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who are friends of the Boston Marathon bombers. The two young American-Muslim men who killed in Boston did so, it appears, to support the Chechen jihad. The fact that the two Kazakhs aren't accused of helping to plot the bombing – although they have been charged with covering up evidence after the event – won’t stop Americans from thinking of Central Asia as anything but a breeding dish for terrorists.
In Kazakhstan, I’ve joined a meeting of fellow journalists brought here by the government of this newly-born oil giant. Here on the Steppes, where armed Islamists use social networks to recruit killers, where rumours can be deadly as cyanide, where gangsters, conmen and liars use social networks to create riots and mayhem, the Kazakh government seeks advice from me and a gang of fellow reporters on “information wars and information security systems”.
Hmm. On my last visit to neighbouring Azerbaijan, I was arrested by the Azeri Security Ministry while attempting to report on BP’s oil operations in the Caspian Sea. That made me, temporily, an info-wars POW – and a fan of information insecurity.
But my fellow reporters, editors and ad salesmen from the New York Times, CNN International, Russia Today, and Al Jazeera all agreed that the internet is a dangerous, dark and scary place that needs controlling. They couldn’t wait to endorse all kinds of censorship, imprisonment of troublemakers and control of content by government and by media mogul overlords such as themselves.
I avoided vomiting on these fops of the Fourth Estate who fear they are losing their grip on the news spigot.
I reminded my colleagues that the fraudulent rumour that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction was carried as fact in the pages of the New York Times – and debunked on the internet.
A wiser man than me said, “The truth shall set you free.”
He did not say, “Censorship and cover-up will set you free.” Nor, “restrictions on internet access will set you free"; nor "ruinous libel laws which privatise censorship, beating journalists with night sticks, jailing them, running over their children with buses, the Official Secrets Acts and cyber-security laws will set you free". Nor will we be set free by billionaire media moguls' ownership of news-smothering monopolies.
The solution to lies, libels and rumours is Truth.
But, instead of the Truth, Big Media, its owners and retainers want to sell you Fear. And Chechen terrorists with cooking pot bombs are their unwitting advertisers.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Today, from the White House to the Kremlin, from NewsCorp to the NYT, they tell us, “We have nothing to sell but fear itself.”
And the suckers are lined up for it – demanding protection from nations you’ve never heard of who are coming to get you.
And so the new rulers of Kazakhstan heard from the old rulers of the media: fear sells better than sex and the iPhone 5 combined.
(By the way, most Kazakhs have no problem with Borat – although his “homeland” as portrayed in the film was actually Romania. In a world in which celebrity is currency, Borat helped Kazakhstan strike it rich by making Twitter’s "trending" list. Insh’allah!)
WHY DID THE FBI SPIKE THE CHECHEN JIHADI INVESTIGATION?
Following the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, I received documents marked “SECRET” from the file of the FBI’s Washington field office.
The information in those files will make you sick. But most ill-making were the chilling words of the official response my team received from the FBI:
"There are lots of things only the intelligence community knows and that no one else ought to know."
Here’s what my government thinks you “ought not to know”:
Long before the Boston bombing, even before September 11th, the FBI shut down an investigation of a group that ran a summer camp in Florida for America’s Muslim teenagers.
No, we shouldn’t be spying on Islamic campers. However, besides the usual swimming and soccer, these youngsters were encouraged to join the Chechen jihad. The kiddies were treated to videos praising Chechen bombers (who seized a school and hospital then killed their hostages). The group also produced an educational film praising, “that compassionate young man, Osama bin Laden”.
Here in Kazakhstan’s capital, televisions everywhere run endless loops of the bombs going off at the Boston Marathon, the screams, the blood, the victims... and the questions.
The first question is: How did America’s trillion-dollar intelligence apparatchiks wave off warnings from Russia about one of the bomber’s connections to the Chechen militants?
The answer, to paraphrase the famous journalist Yogi Berra, is that it’s amazing what you don’t see when you don’t look.
I went back to that “SECRET” memo. It fell into my hands in November 2001, just two months after that “compassionate young man” Osama killed thousands in my office building (I once worked at the World Trade Center).
On November 9th, a call came into BBC's Newsnight desk in London, from a US intelligence agent via a “clean” phone. The spook confirmed that, beginning as early as 1995, the CIA and other US spy agencies were told to stand down from investigating the bin Laden family in both the US and in France. The deliberate self-blinding included pulling agents away from the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), based just outside Washington DC, the kids-for-jihad group run by a man the FBI called, “ABL” – Abdullah Bin Laden, Osama’s brother.
Why would my own government spike an investigation that might have saved lives in New York in 2001 and in Boston in 2013?
Several insiders repeated the same story: US agencies ended the investigation of the bin Laden-terrorist-Chechen-jihad connection out of fear of exposing uncomfortable facts. US intelligence had turned a blind eye to the Abdullah bin Laden organisation because our own government was more than happy that our Saudi allies were sending jihadis to Afghanistan, then, via WAMY, helping Muslims to fight in Bosnia then, later, giving the Russians grief in Chechnya. The problem is that terrorists are like homing pigeons – they come home to roost.
As Joe Trento of the National Security News Service, who helped me on the investigation, said, “It would be unseemly if [someone] were arrested by the FBI and word got back that he'd once been on the payroll of the CIA… What we're talking about is blow-back. What we're talking about is embarrassing, career-destroying blow-back for intelligence officials.”
It’s utterly unlikely the young Boston bombers were on the CIA payroll, but it’s more than likely the elder brother’s connections in Dagestan could be traced back to US-protected killers of years past.
I’m not suggesting that we increase the KGB-style spying programme on Americans, Muslims or anyone else. Nor do we need new restrictions on the internet, nor should we take off our shoes and throw away our Red Bulls at the airport check-in.
What we need is The Truth. If journalists had gotten their hands on those “SECRET” memos before September 11th, maybe we could have saved lives. Maybe we could have exposed the jihad factories preying on impressionable kids.
(And, by the way, it would be nice if US/UK media would explain that Chechens are not unreasonably upset. Between 1994 and 1996, Russian tanks and artillery slaughtered 200,000 Chechen men, women and lots of children. However, avenging Chechen deaths by murdering an eight-year-old and two students in Boston is wrong, it’s evil to the core, it’s haram.)
TRUTH VS. INFO-JIHAD
We can only get to The Truth if the US, UK and other governments end their own jihad against information and those who provide it.
The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the USA PATRIOT Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; the UK Official Secrets Act and libel laws, China’s law against Inciting Subversion of State Power; the Swiss secrecy laws that imprison anyone revealing evidence that banks help terrorists avoid taxes; the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights code used to muzzle whistleblowers who reveal corporate atrocities – and so many more laws spanning the globe designed to hunt down and destroy anyone with truths to tell.
It’s all for our own good, you know, to save us from terrorists and protect our property rights.
With all this protection, which terrorists have these laws captured?
Let’s count it up: In the USA, the PATRIOT ACT and its Orwellian kin nailed those frightening terrorists Pvt. Bradley Manning, Aaron Swartz (alev shalom) and Greg Palast. (I was sought for arrest for filming “critical infrastructure” – a filthy Exxon refinery. No kidding. I was accused of giving away its location – the one on Google Maps.)
Don’t you feel safer now that Manning is in prison, Swartz is dead and Palast has big legal bills?
Greg Palast investigated terror attacks on the US for BBC TV. VICE readers can download Bush Family Fortunes, Palast’s BBC documentary, without charge, at www.gregpalast.com/bffdownload/.
Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast
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