CAQ: Fall '96 Covert Briefs

The Anarchives (
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 20:16:50 +0000 (GMT)

/** covertaction: 50.0 **/
** Topic: Fall '96 Covert Briefs **
** Written 6:10 PM Sep 21, 1996 by caq in cdp:covertaction **
by Terry Allen

Since the Gulf War, thousands of vets have experienced
debilitating and sometimes deadly illnesses; 60,000 have
requested special screening to check for Gulf War syndrome.
But the vets had a credibility problem: The Pentagon denied
the existence of the syndrome and told them it was all in
their heads.

In the winter 1992-93 issue of CAQ, Tod Ensign explored
possible causes of the syndrome, detailed the extent of troop
illness, and reported that international monitors had found
traces of chemical weapons. Then, in an award-winning
summer 1995 CAQ article, Dennis Bernstein detailed the
exposure of US troops to chemical weapons when they
exploded Iraqi ordnance and how the Pentagon and White
House lied to cover up the incidents.

But CAQ also had a credibility problem: The military denied
everything. On April 26, 1995, Assistant Secretary of
Defense John Deutch testified at confirmation hearings for
his appointment as CIA director. Repeatedly asked if there
was no evidence of chemical weapons Deutch replied
unequivocally: "That's correct."

Then, lo and behold, this spring, Pentagon officials admitted
that US troops had been exposed to sarin (the same deadly
nerve agent used in the Tokyo subway attacks), and to
mustard gas (a blistering agent that can burn flesh and
lungs). And, it turns out, top government officials had known
it all along: A Nov. 12, 1991 military action report, not
released to the public but obtained by Bernstein, confirmed
that when US troops exploded Iraqi bunkers in Kamisiyah,
chemical weapons agents were released. The priority
document had been prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and
sent to the DIA, CIA, White House situation room, and the
Secretary of State.

Finally, this August, the Pentagon volunteered that there
had been no fewer than seven such incidents. Not to worry,
they reassured,there is no proven link between exposure to
toxic chemicals and ill-effects suffered or imagined by

Suddenly five years after civilians and troops began
falling ill, and only the Pentagon issued confirmation the
mainstream press is onto the story. In the New York Times,
Philip Shenon noted that news of the exposures, "raised
concerns about the credibility of the Department of Defense."

A roof over your head? Health care? Enough to eat? A burial
plot? Just what is it poor people want anyway? The
conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute thinks it
knows.Fed up with "defenders of the welfare state" who
whine that 14.5 percent of Americans live in poverty, CEI
has decided that poverty is relative. "[F]ew consider," notes
its in-house organ CEI Update, "that the poor in America are
substantially better off than the `middle class' in many other
countries.For example ... [the] poor in the US are far more
likely to own dishwashers and microwaves than people in
most European countries."

Announcing the winner of the "Tom Lehrer
Nothing-Left-to-Satirize Award." This prize is named after
the satirical songwriter's explanation of why he was retiring:
because he couldn't top the Nobel Peace Prize committee's
decision to give its award to Henry Kissinger. CAQ's winner
this year is a famous war criminal and relentless defender of
the human right to murder, rape, and pillage in the name of
democracy. Now regularly featured at gatherings of the
Christian right where he is one of their token Jews, he
gained his glory in the Iran-Contra scandal when he was an
assistant secretary of state for the Reagan administration.
A staunch friend of the Contras and bedfellow of the
murderous Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squad
regimes, he was convicted of withholding information from
Congress and pardoned by Bush. Which is like being slapped
with a traffic ticket because you parked illegally while
spraying a schoolyard with automatic weapons fire and
then getting the ticket fixed.

But that's all over now and he has acknowledged that the
whole thing was "an error in judgment." Our winner of the
"Nothing-Left-to-Satirize Award" was recently named
president of the Ethics in Public Policy Center.
Congratulations to Elliott Abrams.

Soon you won't be able to blame the FBI every time
overzealous investigators compile dossiers on political
suspects, snoop on opposition party rivals, pore through
medical records, or leak information on hapless subjects. The
bureau has quietly "outsourced" its background checks of
presidential appointees and other employment matters.

In 1995, private contractors hired under Background
Investigation Contract Services [BICS] conducted over 5,000
probes.Clinton's 1997 budget requests an additional 88
people and $4.1 million to help privatize the investigations.
A March FBI report states, "When fully established, [BICS]
will conduct all FBI background investigations throughout
the US and Puerto Rico."

According to Charles Finnie, writing in Legal Times, private
BICS contractors to the FBI will perform investigative
fieldwork "such as interviewing past employers and
roommates, delving into medical and financial records, and
combing arrest reports. The material they come up with is
then merged with other sources and lodged in the
background files" the same ones that are at the core of the
recent White House scandal.

The private background checkers, in addition to being
required to have a fax machine and a driver's license, will
have their own background check.(Perhaps cost cutting can
be further enhanced if they simply investigate themselves.)
Meanwhile, for the last five years, the DEA has been farming
out background checks through Varicon, a Virginia security

Although the potential for abuse is glaring, attacks on the
FBI scheme almost make you want to stand up and defend
the privatization. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) warned that without
the bureau in charge, "you lose ... accountability. ... What if
somebody makes up stories? You can't fire them." Henry
Hyde (R-Ill.), also distressed, imaginatively declared, "The
FBI has a certain credibility." Said ex-Attorney General
William Barr, "An impressionable person might put a flimsy
rumor in their report, but FBI agents are trained to put
everything in context." Bureau spokesperson Michael Korten
reassured critics: If BICS contractors "don't consistently
meet [the same standards as bureau agents], they are let go."
Now don't you feel better?

As bloody revolution spread through their country, 100,000
loyal citizens, fearing for life, limb, and liberty, refused to
betray their government and fled to safety in the giant
nation to the north. Despite the defeat of their cause, these
plucky refugees never abandoned hope of regaining
confiscated land and property.

Cubans hunkered down in Miami? Nope, it's those fiendish
Canadians who have lulled us all these years with their
deceitful image of bland friendliness. Now the mask is off.

"We had to leave," said Liberal Canadian parliamentarian
John Godfrey."Like all the Cuban-Americans, we had to get
out. We are the Contras of our time." In legislation that
parallels Helms-Burton, Godfrey is seeking restitution of
property stolen during the American Revolution. His law
would also impose penalties on US holdings of businesses
that once belonged to Loyalists and would revoke Canadian
visas for Americans connected with those businesses. In
addition to the return of his ancestral land in Virginia,
Godfrey expects a big chunk of the eastern seaboard to revert
to the Loyalists.

"[W]e're talking billions of dollars in places like Manhattan
and Philadelphia."

Those US critics charging that the Canadian bill is ludicrous
were hard pressed to distinguish it from Helms-Burton,
which Clinton groveling shamelessly for South Florida
votes and campaign contributions recently signed. After
its passage, the State Department banned nine Canadian
executives from entering the US. Their Canadian companies
had invested in Cuban property supposedly confiscated from
Americans after Castro came to power.

Clearly, it's time the US started worrying more about its
other border the longest unprotected boundary in the
world. One vigilant Republican legislator from Miami has
proposed striking back by kidnapping Canadian executives
who "collaborated with Castro" and putting them on trial.

"Castro's days ... are numbered," said Lincoln Diaz-Balart in
July. Agents of"a free Cuba" (presumably himself and his
gusano buddies),"will enforce the laws of Cuba even
extra-territorially grabbing a few investors to bring to
trial la Eichmann." Diaz-Balart was referring to the Nazi
war criminal Adolf Eichmann who was kidnapped by Israeli
agents, tried and hanged in 1962. According to an
aide,though, Diaz-Balart did not mean to equate Canadian
CEOs with Nazi killers.

Jesse Helms, co-author of the US model for the Canadian bill
also favored Nazi analogies. He likened Ottawa's stance
toward Cuba to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien responded that
Canada had entered the war against Hitler in 1939, two
years before the United States.

Helms, undeterred by fact or sanity, continued: "It's painful
to note," he said, "the hypocrisy of these countries. After all,
the United States has rescued every one of them from
tyranny at one time or another. And this is the thanks we

The senator was perhaps referring to the role the US is
playing through the Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA in
freeing Canadians from the oppressive yoke of universal
health care, affordable higher education, and a functioning
social safety net.

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