May 26, 2010

War over war funding erupts in Senate

Even efforts to provide emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are sparking partisan rancor in the U. S. Senate.

The Senate's been debating for two days a $59 billion plan to provide funds for the wars, as well as money to help victims of Haiti hurricane and to help deal with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

But some Republicans want to pay for the funding--usually not done for emergencies--by cutting the budgets of members of Congress by $100 million, disposing of unused government property, which would save an estimated $15 billion, and rescinding unspent and uncommitted federal funds, a potential $45 billion saving.

Another plan includes freezing federal pay for a year, a $2.6 billion savings, eliminating non-essential government travel, cutting back on printing government documents, and other initiatives.

Chief sponsors are Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz. "Designating war spending as an unforeseen emergency year after year is a farce that is designed to help politicians avoid hard budget choices," Coburn said.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., reminded Republicans that during the Bush administration, war emergency funding was not paid for.

"Members who voted to send our troops into harm's way and never raised a fuss about paying for the war under President Bush are now trying to score political points," Reed said. "They aren't looking to make hard  choices, they are looking to make campaign commercials."

Fiinal votes are expected by the end of the week.

April 05, 2010

Baghdad: WikiLeaks provides video of Reuters employees' deaths

On July 12, 2007, U.S. helicopters opened fire on a group of men in the New Baghdad area of Baghdad. Two of the dead were employees of the Reuters news service. Since then, Reuters has been trying to obtain video of the attack from the United States, to no avail. Today, that video was released by WikiLeaks, a Web site that has made it's name in the past three years by leaking documents and video that governments and corporations have wanted to keep secret. Two examples: the operating procedures for the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which stated that the Red Cross wasn't to be told about some prisoners, and Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mails, leaked during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Unfortunately, much of WikiLeaks work since its December 2006 launch is currently unavailable. The site has been operating on a limited basis since December because it's run out of money. You can read their fundraising appeal here as well as see some of their most recent work, including the video of the Baghdad shootings.

That video, which I've embedded below, is worth the nearly 18 minutes it takes to watch all the way through. It's painful, especially knowing who some of the victims turned out to be. Interesting comment thread on the video at DemocraticUnderground.com.

WikiLeaks says its key supporters include: Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press, Gannett Co., the Hearst Corporation and the Society of Professional Journalists.

February 10, 2010

Here's what the U.S. wanted the British to keep secret

Back last year, as you may recall, there was a dustup between the British and the United States over the release of classified documents on the treatment of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, a 31-year-old Ethiopian, who grew up in Britain and ended up in Guantanamo.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, told Parliament at the time that the U.S. had threatened to break off intelligence sharing with Great Britain if the British revealed details about how Mohamed had been treated. The British promised to keep the secrets, in the face of court rulings that ordered their release.

That ended Wednesday, when, bowing to a ruling from Britain's Court of Appeal, he Foreign Office posted on its Web site the seven paragraphs on how Mohamed had been treated during his time in U.S. custody.

If you've followed the rulings of U.S. federal judges in the Guantanamo habeas cases, the description won't come as any surprise. There's a growing body of court rulings that pretty much find that U.S. authorities at Guantanamo and elsewhere brutalized more than just high value detainees. But the U.S., even under the Obama administration, would just as soon keep that quiet.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued this disapproving statement:

The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence cooperation among allies. The decision by a United Kingdom court to release classified information provided by the United States is not helpful, and we deeply regret it.

The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close cooperation that relies on mutual respect for the handling of classified information. This court decision creates additional challenges, but our two countries will remain united in our efforts to fight against violent extremist groups.

Here's what the British found about Mohamed:

[It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]"

An Associated Press version of the story can be found here.

The British Foreign Office statement can be found here.

January 20, 2010

More cluelessness in the Obama administration?

It wasn't just the future of health care that had the Obama administration flummoxed Wednesday. Also confusing was what the administration thought about its decision to try the Detroit underpants bomber in civilian court.

The Republicans, of course, have blasted this decision, conveniently forgetting that the Bush administration chose civilian court to charge (and convict) Richard Reid, the shoebomber whose effort to blow up a Miami-bound airliner in 2001 was eerily similar to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's try at blowing up the Detroit-bound flight.

The decision for a civilian trial seems easily defensible. Obama officials said as far back as July that the difference between a civilian trial and a military one has to do with where the crime/attack took place and what its target was. In the case of an attack on a U.S. military target overseas, such as the USS Cole, that means a military tribunal for Abd al Rashim al Nashiri, who's being held at Guantanamo in the November 2000 attack.

Those same parameters were behind the decision to try accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York -- a civilian target, in the United States, in which the victims were civilians.

That decision upset Republicans, too. But Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama both have been uncompromising in its defense.

Which makes Wednesday's testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee all the more astounding. Of the three Obama officials there — Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Counterterrorism Center chief Michael Leiter — none defended the decision. Blair even said it was a mistake that Abdulmutallab had been questioned by the FBI instead of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, an entity announced over the summer to deal with terrorist suspects outside the usual Miranda rights questioning. Here's AP's account.

At least FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the FBI's role before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It gets worse, as Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent points out here. Not only did Blair, Napolitano and Leiter go AWOL on civilian prosecution, they turn out apparently to be under-informed about the status of the HIG. It's not yet operational and couldn't have been called in, even if that had been a good idea. Blair issued a restraction.

Maybe it's no wonder that Abdulmutallab got on board the plane.

January 03, 2010

Brennan: No regrets on Yemeni transfers from Gitmo

John Brennan,Obama's counterterrorism adviser,defended the administration's most recent returns to Yemen of Guantanamo detainees on CNN today and said the administration wasn't rethinking it's general strategy of closing Guantanamo, where nearly half of the remaining prisoners come from Yemen.

Brennan said the most recent transfer of six Yemenis to their homeland came only after the U.S. had assessed and been satisfied with the Yemeni government's release of a lone Yemeni, who Brennan said had been transferred to Yemen eight weeks earlier. That is almost certainly a reference to Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, 26, whose return to Yemen the Justice Department announced on Sept. 26. A federal judge had ordered his release in May, saying the Pentagon had no grounds to hold him. You can read Judge Gladys Kessler's declassified ruling here. No word on how the Yemeni government handled Ahmed's return, but it's likely he was detained for at least a month after his arrival.

As for future returns to Yemen, Brennan wasn't specific, though Gloria Borger tried to pin him down. Republicans have asked that no more Yemenis be sent back to their homeland from Guantanamo, given the rise of the local al Qaida affiliate. Brennan would say only that the administration would move at the appropriate time.

Brennan also wouldn't be pinned down on whether Major Nidal Hasan's shooting spree at Fort Hood was an act of terror. With the president declaring the near-miss Christmas Day bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab a terrorist attack, why not Hasan's Nov. 5 attack, which killed 13 and wounded as many as 40? Brennan stumbled, and Borger didn't probe enough to get a real answer. How about this speculation: Unlike the Christmas Day case, the U.S. still hasn't determined whether Hasan was directed to open fire or acted on his own, whereas Abdulmutallab's links to al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula seem clear.

December 18, 2009

How the U.S. used the DEA to grab some al Qaida members

The Justice Department today charged three alleged members of al Qaida with agreeing to help Colombia's FARC guerrillas transport cocaine through Africa, leaving the impression in the headline of its press release that al Qaida and the FARC are cooperating. But before you get overly excited about an al Qaida/FARC connection, you need to read the complaint. It would appear that no one from the FARC was ever involved in the scheme.

Instead, the charges are the result of a sting operation by a couple of DEA confidential informants who've succeeded in finding a way to get three Africa-based al Qaida operatives off the battlefield and into an American court -- and not just sent off to Guantanamo to never stand trial on criminal charges.

According to the government's complaint, here's how the sting went down:

--Confidential Source 1, posing as "a radical Lebanese committed to opposing the interests of the United States, Israel and, more broadly, the West and its ideals," contacts, at the DEA's instruction, Oumar Issa, one of the alleged al Qaida members, and arranges a meeting in Ghana. CS-1 has been a paid DEA informant since July.

--At the meeting on Sept. 14, CS-1 explains that the FARC would like to smuggle some cocaine to Spain. Issa says his network has a way to get past custom's inspection in Mali and that armed al Qaida members would guard the shipment. After a few more phone meetings, the DEA wires Issa $300 in Togo so he can travel to Mali.

--On Oct. 6, CS-1 meets with Issa and another alleged al Qaida member, Marouna Toure, who's flown to Ghana from Mali for the meeting. DEA also paid for his airline ticket. At the meeting, Toure said he and his al Qaida associates would be responsible for getting the cocaine through Morocco.

--On Nov. 17 and 18, CS-1, with another paid DEA informant posing as a FARC representative, met with Toure and a third al Qaida operative, Idriss Abelrahman, who says he's the "general" of an 11-man armed group. The DEA informants and the two alleged al Qaida men agree on a price, and the DEA informants hand over $25,000 so the al Qaida members can buy trucks to transport the cocaine. Left unsaid is whether the DEA also paid Abelrahman's travel expenses.

--In the ensuing month, there were many "consensually recorded phone calls" between the DEA informants and Issa and Abelrahman, including quite a bit of haggling over how big a down payment the DEA/FARC needed to make (it went from 10 percent to 50 percent). Then on Dec. 14, this past Monday, the DEA informants and Issa and Abelrahman set Tuesday for the final payment on the truck and the transfer of the cocaine. Instead, the three alleged al Qaida members were arrested. On Thursday, they were flown to the United States.

The Justice Department's news release quotes DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart as calling the case "further proof of the direct link between dangerous terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, and international drug trafficking that fuels their violent activities."

Well, at best, maybe. But what it really shows is that there are ways of getting alleged al Qaida operatives off the streets and into the U.S. court system under civilian laws. So much for Guantanamo.

The three alleged al Qaida members are charged, says the news release, "with one count of narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison."

Nevermind, that one of the terrorist organizations they conspired to support had nothing to do with the sting.

Interestingly, this is the second DEA-al Qaida link to surface this week. Turns out, David Headley, the American who allegedly helped plot last year's Mumbai attack, was also once a DEA informant. Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer's story on that.

December 16, 2009

The Pentagon won a Gitmo habeas case -- or did it?

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that the Pentagon had acted legally when it took custody of Musaab al Madhwani from Pakistani authorities and sent him to Guantanamo in 2002. It was a rare victory for the U.S. government, which has won only nine of the 41 Guantanamo habeas cases that have been decided.

But then you read the transcript of Hogan's remarks, obtained by Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, (see her work here), and you have to wonder -- did the Pentagon really win?

Yes, Hogan concludes, Madhwani was without doubt a member of al Qaida. By his own testimony, Hogan said, Madhwani acknowledged that he trained and lived with al Qaida for a year. So since the government was authorized by Congress to seize al Qaida prisoners and hold them until the conflict was over, then Madhwani's detention was legal. But is it just? Hogan doesn't think so. "I do not accept the rationale that find(ing) the government had shown a basis for (Madhwani's) detention (that) that means he should not be released," Hogan said.

Hogan ruled that there was no evidence that Madhwani ever took part in an al Qaida operation, ever plotted to launch an attack, or ever fought with al Qaida or the Taliban. "I see nothing in the record that (Madhwani) poses any greater threat than the dozens of detainees similarly situated who have been transferred or cleared for transfer," Hogan said.

And there's much in the government's handling of the case Hogan didn't like. The government produced documents in the case just days before the trial. "If that had happened in any other kind of case, they would have automatically been disallowed. You cannot have discovery where the principal litigant's own words are hidden from him until shortly before trial," he said.

He didn't think much of the government's evidence, either. He said he rejected 23 documents the government submitted as admissible "because the interrogations occurred 6 months after petitioner alleged he was tortured . . . I find those claims to be without merit."

As for Madhwani's treatment while being held by U.S. forces, Hogan also had nothing good to say. Madhwani was hung from his cell's ceiling by his left arm, so he could neither sit nor stand for "many, many days." He was blasted with deafening music 24 hours a day. "His sole respite from the deafening noise," Hogan said, "was the screams from the other prisoners when it was quiet." There was no evidence from the government, Hogan said, that Madhwani's "description of what he experienced in his confinement is inaccurate. To the contrary, his testiomny is corroborated."

He slammed the government's medical records, which found that the prisoner appeared well six days before his transfer to Guantanamo in October 2002, even though his weight was only 104 and his diastolic blood pressure was just 36, "a sign of severe dehydration which would require hospitalization normally in the United States".

Hogan also wasn't having any of the government's arguments that Madhwani's better treatment at Guantanamo made his statements there any more admissible. "Although the names in Afghanistan and Guantanamo changed, the use of threats, that is coercion, did not," Hogan said. Hogan noted that the government declined to put one of Madhwani's interrogators on the stand to refute allegations of abuse, even though the interrogator was in the Washington area and available. There's an inference the court can make from the refusal, and it's not in the government's favor, Hogan said.

In the end though, Hogan said he had no doubt Madhwani was an al Qaida member and therefore legally detained. He said Madhwani himself had said as much in testimony that was not influenced by interrogators. And based on that, he will remain at Guantanamo, "though," Hogan concluded, "I fail to see . . . that he poses any greater threat than most of the detainees who have already been released."

.

December 03, 2009

War tax appears dead

Forget the idea of a special tax to pay for the Afghanistan war troop buildup.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday all but killed the idea, which has been pushed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc.

"I am not in support of the proposal of Mr. Obey," she told her weekly news conference.

The plan has been seen as unlikely anyway, since senators were cool to the idea. But still to be determined is how the Obama administration plans to pay for the anticipated $40 billion cost of the escalation.

"When the President makes a request, we will make a judgment about what support it has, and some of that will relate to how it affects the deficit," Pelosi said.

"The Bush Administration has run up trillions of dollars in war costs.  Not many people ever ask how it is going to be paid for on the Republican side.  We want to be responsible about reducing the deficit, and so we will see all of the priorities that we have in perspective and with bringing our budget deficit under control." 

  

December 02, 2009

Surges, then and now

Amid all the hubbub about whether it's a good idea to set a date for when U.S. troops will begin leaving Afghanistan, it's probably useful to point out that the Bush surge in Iraq (also 30,000 troops) had an end point to it that everyone knew when it started -- and it was just 15 months.

The first "surge" troops of the Iraq era began arriving in February 2007, and continued arriving at the rate of one brigade a month for six months. The first "surge" troops to depart Iraq began leaving in April 2008 and were bascially out at an even faster pace. As Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno pointed out in this August 2007 briefing, "The surge, we all know, will end sometime in 2008, in the beginning of 2008. We know that the surge brigades will leave at 15 months, so that will be somewhere between April and August of '08 when those units will leave based on the 15-month rotation."

The same "they'll-just-wait-for-you-to-go" rhetoric was around then. But Iraq just marked its most peaceful month since the U.S. invasion -- with U.S. troops basically confined to their bases.

There's still a lot of debate about whether Iraq will hold together when American forces are finally gone in 2011. That's when we'll know if the surge really worked. And Afghanistan isn't Iraq. But right now experience doesn't suggest a deadline has made matters worse.

Blackwater, Erik Prince and CIA assassinations

Did the Bush administration plot the assassination of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist generally blamed for giving the keys to the nuclear club to North Korea, then get cold feet? That's among the allegations in an article in the new issue of Vanity Fair that focuses on the CIA connections of Erik Prince, whose security firm Blackwater became synonomous with reckless adventurism in Iraq.

Prince isn't the source of the A.Q. Khan story -- the article's author, Adam Ciralski, cites an unnamed source -- but in talking about his role with the CIA Prince apparently indicates that the CIA's assassination program had gone much further than the Obama administration let on when it canceled the program earlier this year (here's a Washington Post story and another from McClatchy). Prince indicates the program had one notable success: the death of an al Qaida middle man in Syria. Prince says his Blackwater team found the man, but left the finishing work to the U.S. military.

Prince apparently is talking because he feels burned by congressional leaks about his company's role in the now canceled program. The press release is below. You can read the story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: DECEMBER 2, 2009

VANITY FAIR BLACKWATER CHIEF ERIK PRINCE TELLS VANITY FAIR HE’S STEPPING DOWN, DISCUSSSES HIS ROLE IN THE C.I.A.’S TARGETED-ASSASSINATION PROGRAM

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Erik Prince, head of the military contractor Blackwater (renamed Xe in February) and recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, speaks to Vanity Fair writer Adam Ciralsky about his role in the program and his decision to leave the firm.

Prince, the wealthy, 40-year-old heir to an auto-parts fortune, reveals in the new issue of Vanity Fair that, after 12 years building Blackwater, he is resigning from the company and plans to turn it over to its employees and a board. “I’m through,” says Prince. “I’m going to teach high school. History and economics. I may even coach wrestling. Hey, Indiana Jones taught school, too.”

Prince, who says Blackwater now pays $2 million a month in legal bills to fight an array of investigations and charges ranging from bribing Iraqi officials to illegal arms shipments to murder (allegations which Prince and company spokesmen deny), expresses deep anger and resentment in the Vanity Fair story. “I put myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” Prince tells Ciralsky. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.”

Prince blames Congressional Democrats for revealing his role in the C.I.A. assassination plan. Ciralsky reports that two attendees at a confidential, closed-door Capitol Hill session last June with C.I.A. director Leon Panetta insist the director discussed Prince’s and Blackwater’s parts in the agency’s plan to lethally target al-Qaeda operatives and their allies. Soon thereafter, press accounts surfaced, disclosing Prince and his company’s involvement. (When asked to verify this account, C.I.A. spokesman Paul Gimigliano said, “Director Panetta treats as confidential discussions with Congress that take place behind closed doors.”)

“The left complained about how [C.I.A. operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons,” Prince tells Ciralsky. “A special prosecutor [was even] appointed. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.” Prince confesses that he felt betrayed. “I don’t understand how a program this sensitive leaks. And to ‘out’ me on top of it?”

Ciralsky reports that for the past six years, Prince has publicly served as Blackwater’s C.E.O. and chairman, while privately, and secretly, he has been doing the C.I.A.’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into “denied areas”—places U.S. intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies.

According to sources with knowledge of his activities, Prince has been working as a C.I.A. asset, or spy. While Blackwater earned over $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, Prince used his access to paramilitary forces, weapons, and aircraft, and his indefatigable ambition—the very attributes that have galvanized his critics—to become a “Mr. Fix-It” in the war on terror.

Ciralsky reports that Prince wasn’t merely a contractor; he was arguably a full-blown asset. Three sources with direct knowledge of the relationship say that the C.I.A.’s National Resources Division recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest. The C.I.A. won’t comment on this, but, Prince says, “I was looking at creating a small, focused capability, just like Donovan did years ago”—referencing William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who, in World War II, served as the head of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the modern C.I.A. (Prince’s youngest son, Charles Donovan, is named after Wild Bill.)

Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince’s handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a “201 file,” which would have put him on the agency’s books as a vetted asset. (Ironically enough, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. mainland on 9/11, Prince says, he felt the urge to join the C.I.A.—the very agency that would later woo him—and actually applied. “I was rejected. They said I didn’t have enough hard skills, enough time in the field.”)

According to two sources familiar with his work, Prince, after 9/11, began developing unconventional means of penetrating “hard target” countries—where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working, either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency’s designs.

The agency also turned to Prince when time came to train the members of their targeted-killing squad. The team practiced not at Blackwater’s North Carolina compound, but on a separate estate overseen by Prince, an hour outside Washington, D.C., reminiscent of the country estate where O.S.S. intelligence squads were trained during World War II. As Prince puts it, “We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability. If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the chief of station, the ambassador, or anyone to bail us out.”

Ciralsky reveals that the C.I.A. targeted-killing team, according to a source familiar with the program, went further than the agency has previously admitted. The source says they were dispatched to Hamburg, Germany, to surveil Mamoun Darkazanli—an al-Qaeda financier living in Hamburg—going in “dark,” meaning they did not notify their own station, much less the German government, of their presence; the team followed Darkanzali for weeks and worked through the logistics of how and where they would take him down. Another target, the source says, was A. Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist who shared nuclear know-how with Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The C.I.A. team supposedly tracked him in Dubai. In both cases, the source insists, the authorities in Washington chose not to pull the trigger.

Khan’s inclusion on the target list, however, would suggest that the assassination effort was broader than has previously been acknowledged. (Says agency spokesman Gimigliano, “[The] C.I.A. hasn’t discussed —despite some mischaracterizations that have appeared in the public domain—the substance of this effort or earlier ones.”) Of the public comments that current and former C.I.A. officials have made, the source familiar with the Darkazanli and Khan missions tells Ciralsky, “They say the program didn’t move forward because they didn’t have the right skill set or because of inadequate cover. That’s untrue. They operated for a very long time in some places without ever being discovered. This program died because of a lack of political will.”

Prince tells Ciralsky he and a covert team also helped find and fix a target in October 2008, then left the finishing to others: “In Syria, we did the signals intelligence to geo-locate the bad guys in a very denied area.” Subsequently, a U.S. Special Forces team launched a helicopter-borne assault to hunt down al-Qaeda middleman Abu Ghadiyah. Ghadiyah, whose real name is Badran Turki Hishan Al-Mazidih, was said to have been killed along with six others.

Finally, Vanity Fair reports that up until two months ago—when Prince says the Obama administration pulled the plug—Prince, according to insiders, was running intelligence-gathering operations from a secret location in the U.S., remotely coordinating the movements of spies working undercover in one of the so-called Axis of Evil countries; their mission: non-disclosable.

Adam Ciralsky, an award-winning television producer, has received many of broadcast journalism's highest honors, including three Emmys (two for “news & documentary” and one for “business & financial reporting”), the Polk Award, the Peabody Award, and the Loeb Award. A former C.I.A. lawyer, his contract was not renewed under contentious circumstances in the 1990s before becoming a reporter for CBS and NBC News.

The January issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on December 2 and nationally on December 8.

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