What is ISIS, Where did it Come From, and When Did the US Know it was There?

by Shoshana Bryen and Michael Johnson
Jewish Policy Center
August 20, 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), currently controls about one-third of Iraq. It is a combination of:

  • A non-al-Qaeda revival of the al-Qaeda-sponsored Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) organization that tried to take over western Iraq 2003—2006, and
  • Sunni Syrian rebel groups including the Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra), which also has ties to al Qaeda.

Turkey, Qatar, and – indirectly – the United States supported the Nusra Front early in its existence in the Syrian civil war, although it is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. In 2011/12, the U.S. was supplying arms from Libya to Turkey for distribution to Syrian rebels, and both Turkey and Qatar provided them to their preferred radical jihadist groups, not the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels at least politically favored by the U.S. The Nusra Front was a recipient of both arms and money. The CIA was working in the area at the time, ostensibly helping the Turks “vet” the opposition groups and providing them “non-lethal” aid.

Current ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (as the self-styled Caliph of the Islamic State, he is now known as Amir al-Mu’minin Caliph Ibrahim) was an early follower of Abu Musab al Zarkawi, a Bin Laden loyalist. In 2003, al Zarkawi’s “Group for Monotheism and Holy War “(JTJ) bombed the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, killing 34 people. In 2006, after al Zarkawi was killed, the group became the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) under the control of Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian. The American “surge” in Iraq pushed ISI across the border to Syria in 2006/7.

After both al-Masri and al-Baghdadi were killed in 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assumed leadership of ISIS.

IS gunman in Syria.

IS gunman in Syria.

ISIS has enormous financial reserves. When Iraqi forced killed the ISIS commander of Mosul in June 2014, they retrieved 160 computer flash drives – which the CIA, among others, has been combing for information. According to The Guardian newspaper, the drives contained “noms de guerre of all foreign fighters, senior leaders and their code words, initials of sources inside ministries and full accounts of the group’s finances.” A British official told the newspaper, “Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875 million. Afterwards, with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5 billion to that.”In April 2013, ISIS announced that the Nusra Front in Syria was affiliated with al Qaeda and the two would work together in Syria and Iraq. There were reports that ISIS had waned in influence early in 2014 and in February, al Qaeda separated itself from ISIS. This may have accounted President Obama’s comment that the group was “the jayvee team” – a reference to the apparent rise of the still AQ-affiliated Nusra Front at the expense of ISIS. But in June 2014, the Nusra Front was reported to have merged into ISIS, providing it with an additional 15,000 soldiers for its latest push across western Iraq.

ISIS, then, was not unknown to American, British, Iraqi or other intelligence services before it began its streak across the Syrian-Iraqi border and the acquisition of territory in which it has declared its caliphate.

Background & Resource Material

The group has changed from an insurgency in Iraq to a jihadist group primarily in Syria, to an army largely in Iraq. Following the past of least resistance, the group moved from Iraq to Syria, then Iraq again and today is in control of parts of both countries.

  • Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in April 2004 and swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. [i]
  • The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) fought multiple battles with U.S. and kidnapped American soldiers.[ii] It also carried out IED and suicide attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces.
  • Following the 2006-07 surge, many of the group’s members, including al-Zarqawi, were killed by Iraqi or U.S. forces; some remained in hiding. As of 2010, the U.S. considered the group to be dislodged from central AQ leadership. [iii]
  • Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi – ISI leaders – were killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi mission in April 2010, leaving the leadership of ISI to Abu Bakr.[iv]
  • In 2011, all U.S. combat troops had left Iraq, but ISI predominated on the Syria-Iraq border. Had Syria not collapsed, ISI would have had a harder time gaining territory and funds.
  • By late 2012, much of the group’s reformed leadership was already targeted by the U.S. treasury. [v]
  • The Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), another name for the same group, started operations in Northern Syria following large demonstrations against Assad.[vi]
  • ISIL officially declared its governance over the Levant in April 2013
  • In August 2013, U.S. officials said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was operating from Syria, but directing suicide attacks in central Iraq[vii]
  • The group refocused efforts on Iraq-Syria border after fighting began with other rebel groups and Assad in late 2013 early 2014 [viii]
  • AQ Central and ISIS split due to differences over methodology and fighting in early 2014 [ix]
  • ISIS pushed deeper into Iraq, capturing Fallujah in Jan 2014[x] and Mosul in June.

Early Funding

Early funding of ISI (later ISIS) included many rich and religiously connected Gulf donors. One of the most notable is Nayef al-Ajmi, Kuwait’s former Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and Endowments. The U.S. Government later sanctioned al-Ajmi for sending money to Syrian Jihadists. [xi] The whole al-Ajmi family appears to have been involved in financing jihadists. Sheikh Hajjaj al-Ajmi used his 250,000 Twitter followers and some of his own wealth to fund various radical Sunni groups in Syria, sending over $1 million. Syrian rebels even sent him “thank you” videos on Youtube.[xii]

The former Head of British MI6 says the Saudi government probably not sending money, but overlooking when citizens do [xiii] Qatar appears to be the only country openly funding jihadist groups in Syria, but the money tail appears to include a number of rich families in the Gulf.

Ad hoc funding included bank robberies and the looting of antiquities. [xiv]

Later Funding

  • Raiding oil fields and processing facilities in Iraq. Oil cannot be shipped out of the country – ISIS doesn’t have the transportation capacity and no one on the outside will buy it, but there are ways to make it profitable internally.

– Traders sell both refined and crude oil to nearby groups including Kurdish smugglers.[xv]

– Iraq’s Anbar Province, the ISIS stronghold, doesn’t have much oil, but Northern Nineveh and areas around Kirkuk do.[xvi]

– ISIS has taken control of Baiji, the site of a large refinery that supplies oil to much of Iraq

  • In June, ISIS looted the central bank in Mosul, taking away an estimated $429 million

– With that, it is estimated that “ISIS could pay 60,000 fighters $600 a month for a whole year.”

  • Money is also made from business and personal “protection” taxes extorted from residents of areas captured by ISIS.

Footnotes:

CIA Director Brennan Should Resign

612197811By Fred Fleitz:

CIA director John Brennan did the right thing Thursday in apologizing to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) for CIA monitoring of computers being used by the committee’s staff for an investigation of the Bush-era enhanced-interrogation program. Nevertheless, heads must roll at the CIA over this scandal, including Brennan’s.

While what the CIA did was not illegal, its actions were the result of reckless decisions by agency officials in response to misconduct by SSCI staff members. The CIA should have handled this matter by raising it quietly with SSCI chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. The agency didn’t need another scandal at a time when all U.S. intelligence agencies were under fire in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks.

Brennan’s apology has been seized upon by members of Congress to make hysterical claims that the CIA spied on U.S. senators and is out of control. News reports of this controversy have been wildly inaccurate and have accused the CIA of spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee because the agency was opposed to the SSCI’s enhanced-interrogation investigation.

Unfortunately, this scandal is distracting attention from a more serious issue: how the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2014 was still working on a partisan $50 million probe of the Bush administration. The news media and Congress should be focused on the fact that this is a pointless and wasteful investigation and not on a scandal that the CIA inflicted on itself.

Contrary to media reports that Brennan apologized for CIA spying on “the Hill” or U.S. senators, this controversy concerns CIA personnel monitoring CIA computers in a CIA building that were being used by Senate staff members. The CIA did not spy on Senate-owned computers, Senate offices, or members of the Senate. The computers were made available by the CIA for the SSCI staff to review millions of classified documents related to the enhanced-interrogation program.

CIA officials decided to audit the computers being used by the SSCI staff after the agency determined that staff members violated an agreement on access to the computers by obtaining documents they were not supposed to have and removing them from a CIA facility without authorization. The CIA also made a referral to the Justice Department over the staff’s actions.

The CIA’s relations with Congress sank to their lowest level in many years after this story broke. Feinstein said in a speech on the Senate floor that the agency’s actions may have violated the separation-of-powers clause of the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment. Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said after the incident: “I think I perceive fear of an intelligence community drunk with power, unrepentant and uninclined to relinquish power.” Representative Darryl Issa (R., Calif.) accused the CIA of possible treason.

Read more at Center for Security Policy

The Iraq Crisis Is Not a US Intelligence Failure

377919105CSP, By Fred Fleitz:

Stories are being circulated by Obama officials and some former intelligence officers that the Obama administration was caught off guard by the recent offensive in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist group because of a failure by U.S. intelligence agencies to provide warning about the ISIS threat.
Some former intelligence officers are blaming this failure on a lack of human intelligence sources in Iraq and an over-reliance on technical intelligence collection.
Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, disagrees. He says the Iraq crisis is a policy and not an intelligence failure.
Rogers says the signs were there about the ISIS threat and the deteriorating situation in Iraq but Obama officials ignored them. He contends that “It was very clear to me years ago that ISIS was pooling up in a dangerous way — building training camps, drawing in jihadists from around the world. We saw all of that happening.”
I agree with Chairman Rogers. There was a wealth of information in the news media over the last year that a sectarian war was brewing in Iraq and ISIS was gaining strength in both Iraq and Syria. I am certain U.S. intelligence agencies provided similar assessments to U.S. officials based on classified information.
The event that should have caused Obama officials to shift their approach to Iraq occurred last December when ISIS seized control of Fallujah and parts of the city of Ramadi. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn issued a public warning about the significance of this development in February when he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that ISIS “will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014, as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah, and the group’s ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”
That sounds to me like a top U.S. intelligence official was doing his job by warning U.S. officials about major global security threats.
Some have claimed U.S. intelligence analysis about ISIS could have been better and that we lack enough human intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed “nobody expected” ISIS to advance so rapidly against Iraqi forces” because “we don’t have people embedded in those units.” Kerry presumably meant CIA did not have sources within ISIS.
Intelligence in areas like Iraq is always going to be limited, especially in a country where there is no U.S. troop presence and high levels of anti-Americanism. Penetrating close-knit Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS is extremely difficult for CIA, especially when they operate in dangerous areas like Iraq and Syria.
Blaming intelligence agencies for not providing a precise warning about the ISIS assault on Mosul last month distorts the capabilities of intelligence analysts. While intelligence assessments often contain remarkable foresight, intelligence agencies don’t possess crystal balls and cannot predict future actions by human actors with 100 percent accuracy.
I believe the crisis in Iraq is a major U.S. policy failure due to the Obama administration’s failure to leave a small troop presence behind after the 2011 troop withdrawal and the repeated tendency by Obama officials to discount and downplay the continuing threat from radical Islamist groups. We saw this in September 2012 when Obama officials claimed the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was the result of an anti-Muslim video and not an attack by radical Islamists.
The intelligence oversight committees should review classified analysis on Iraq, Syria, and ISIS produced over the last year to determine whether intelligence agencies failed to provide adequate warning of the ISIS threat. I believe such an inquiry will find that U.S. intelligence analysts provided the Obama administration with excellent analysis about ISIS and the deteriorating situation in Iraq but Obama officials ignored it.

Exposure of CIA Station Chief Spotlights Administration’s Immaturity

obama-hagel-apPJ Media; by Andrew C. McCarthy:

Anybody can make a mistake, and that certainly appears to be what led to the Obama White House’s exposure of the top CIA official in Afghanistan this weekend. Unfortunately, as Roger Kimball details, this is not an isolated incident. In year six of the Obama administration, it speaks volumes about not just incompetence but immaturity and the skewed priorities that come with it.

Exactly because anyone can make a mistake, large organizations — presidential administrations included — build layers of vetting into the disclosure of information to the public. In this instance, because the commander-in-chief made a surprise visit to Afghanistan over Memorial Day weekend, the White House put out a list of government officials the president met with. Somehow, that list included the intelligence official’s name with the designation “chief of station.”

This error is so basic that it grabbed the attention of Scott Wilson of the Washington Post, the “pool reporter” who received the list. Regrettably, he’d already sent out the pool report by the time he noticed the station chief designation and thought to ask whether the White House press office had really intended to put out that information.

That’s how the administration learned about what it had done — from a reporter. Think about that. In the composition and disclosure of this list, many people on both the military end and White House end have to have known that such information should never be circulated. That’s not only true as a matter of principle and common sense; it’s empirically true: Fox News reports that this administration has already had to remove a CIA station chief in Pakistan (in 2010) because of an exposure incident. It is astonishing that such an obvious error was not caught.

It is, moreover, tough to be sympathetic because Democrats never are when the shoe is on the other foot. When Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative — apparently inadvertently, by senior State Department official Richard Armitage — Democrats turned the error into a major controversy that damaged the Bush administration. Ms. Plame had a desk job at Langley and there are no indications that her exposure caused much harm. (There were reports at the time suggesting that she had been exposed long before through a bureaucratic screw-up.) By contrast, the official just exposed by the White House is the current top CIA official in a war zone that presents tremendous challenges to the United States, one where intelligence gathering is at a premium. The gravity of this error thus appears far more serious than the one over which Democrats spent years demanding a Bush administration scalp.

Finally, to take a longer view, consider (a) the way the Obama administration elevated politics over national security in leaking classified information after the bin Laden raid; (b) the administration’s failure to provide adequate security for American personnel in Benghazi, four of whom were eventually killed; and (c) the irresponsible rules of engagement imposed on our troops in Afghanistan — hampering their ability to conduct operations and defend themselves while under attack. A pattern emerges. This administration is cavalier when it comes to the security of people who put their lives on the line in order to serve our country. It is also cavalier when it comes to intelligence, which is exposed when politically expedient — whether to depict the president as a brilliant commander-in-chief, to satisfy the demands of Obama’s base, or to address other transient needs. Indeed, while I would not criticize a commander-in-chief for spending time with American troops overseas, it is impossible not to notice that this trip to Afghanistan was undertaken while the president is dogged by the VA scandal.

The administration did not mean to expose the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, potentially endangering the officer, his colleagues, and others who cooperated with them. But these errors happen for a reason. Some administrations make it a major priority to protect American personnel and intelligence assets. In this administration, these matters are less of a priority, and we cannot be surprised when errors caused by inattention to detail happen.

Also see:

Valerie Plame and Obama’s Double Standard on Outing CIA Personnel

s-jarrett-largeFront Page, by :

Hoping to distract Americans from his death panels for veterans, Obama made a Bush style visit to Afghanistan and managed to cause even more harm to national security by outing the CIA Station Chief there.

The Democrats did their best to turn Valerie Plame into a martyr even though the only danger that the leftist faced was fewer invitations to cocktail parties. That didn’t stop Hollywood liberals from churning out a movie about her complete with action scenes.

Will the same standard hold for whoever outdated the CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan? Unlikely. The official narrative is that it was an accident. But if you believe that it’s an accident, then you also have to believe in the complete and total incompetence of Obama Inc. when it comes to security issues.

There’s a case to be made for that, but considering the deep-seated resentment of the country in the upper echelons of this administration, it was more likely deliberate.

Unlike Valerie Plame making her cocktail party tour, the CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan is at actual risk.

The newspaper said the official, identified as “Chief of Station” in Kabul, was named as being among those at a briefing with Obama during the president’s trip to Bagram Air Base near the Afghan capital.

The list of names was sent by email to reporters traveling with Obama on his surprise Afghanistan visit and included in a “pool report” shared with correspondents and others not on the trip.

The Post said the White House issued a revised list deleting the CIA official’s name after it recognized the mistake.

The newspaper said its White House bureau chief, Scott Wilson, who was on the trip, copied the original list from the email provided by White House press officials and included it in a report sent to a distribution list with over 6,000 recipients.

Is anyone going to be fired for it? Forget about it. There’s no accountability built into the system. They’ll just blame the military and hand over a scapegoat if the heat gets too hot.

A year prior, Obama was also part of a call for congressional investigations into the Bush administration’s biggest leak — the revealing of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.

Obama joined a 2005 letter with 24 Democrats led by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who had just been defeated in the 2004 presidential election, urging the Republican-led Congress to undertake its own investigation into the Plame scandal.

President Bush had appointed a special counsel in the Plame case in 2003, which ultimately resulted in the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby.

Obama obviously doesn’t do independent investigations. Too many of his people would end up in jail beginning with his own Atty General.

In the letter signed by Obama, it asked for, “The public revelation of Ms. Plame’s identity, whether it amounts to a crime or an irresponsible breach of security protocol that doesn’t meet the standard of criminal conduct, almost certainly compromised her intelligence networks and may have compromised the safety and welfare of anyone who had worked with her overseas.  As a group of respected former intelligence officials wrote in 2004: “Any breach of the code of confidentiality and cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence workers and their sources.”

Valerie Plame, more of a socialite than an agent, was never in danger, despite Obama’s posturing. But his visit, itself a pathetic attempt at distracting the country from his administration’s death panels for veterans, did out a major CIA figure who is in danger.

Is Obama going to accept an investigation? He never does.

Morell Hurt CIA’s Reputation in Benghazi Hearing

John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly AyotteBy Fred Fleitz:

Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte put it best yesterday in a joint statement they issued in response to former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell’s testimony yesterday to the House Intelligence Committee:

“This looks an awful lot like misleading the Congress.”

It’s hard to come to any other conclusion after watching Morell squirm for three hours as he explained CIA’s drafting of talking points a week after the attacks on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi.  The final version of these talking points were used by Ambassador Susan Rice on September 16, 2012 to deny that the attacks were related to terrorism and to instead claim they were the result of a spontaneous demonstration in response to an anti-Muslim video.

This explanation was politically convenient six weeks ahead of the 2012 presidential election and helped President Obama defend his dubious campaign theme that because of his leadership, Osama bin Laden was dead and al Qaeda was on the run.

During the hearing, Morell denied altering the talking points for political reasons.  He said he sided with CIA analysts who believed the attacks were in response to a demonstration and the anti-Muslim video even though the CIA Libya station chief told him there was no demonstration and that he believed the attacks were an act of terrorism.

Morell tried to convey that relying on career CIA analysts – even though they were thousands of miles away from the Benghazi attack – was a responsible decision that had nothing to do with politics.

This is nonsense.  Having worked as a CIA analyst for 19 years, I can attest that the lower levels of the CIA analysis bureaucracy know exactly what their managers want.  They know the line they need to take to get promoted and to earn bonuses.  Moreover, the analysis side of the house is well known for its liberal political bias and for being gun-shy in drawing politically controversial conclusions since the 9/11 and Iraq WMD intelligence failures.

Maybe Morell didn’t alter the talking points for the White House because he didn’t have to – his analysts and managers knew what he and the White House expected.  Regardless of who was responsible for drafting and altering the talking points, we now know Morell approved them even though he knew the senior CIA officer in Libya had a very different view.  He also knew the memo he approved said exactly what the White House wanted to hear.

Morell made many other head-spinning statements, such as his claim that we can’t know the motivations of the attackers since we haven’t caught them yet.  He said the events on September 11, 2012 were both a terrorist attack and a protest.

Morell also said he took out the word “Islamic” in a sentence that described the attackers as “Islamic extremists” because he did not want to fuel anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.  This was a policy call and was politically convenient for the White House which has been extremely reluctant to use the terms “Islamic” or Islamist” in describing terrorists or terrorist attacks.

This was a bad day for the CIA since Morell’s testimony will further undermine the Agency’s reputation as a non-political and objective source of information on national security matters.  Morell was right when he said the CIA probably should not have been involved in drafting unclassified talking points.  If there was a compelling reason for the CIA to engage in such a task, CIA managers had a responsibility to be politically neutral and not ignore inconvenient facts like reports by the Libya Chief of Station.

Also see:

Chief of CIA division for spying on Iran is suspended over internal mutiny

CIA Headquarters at Langley, Va.

CIA Headquarters at Langley, Va.

DEBKAfile:

The CIA’s chief of Iran operations, Jonathan Bank, 46 a veteran of the service, was sent home on paid leave over disarray in his department, US, Russian and Iranian media reported Tuesday, March 18. The department was notified of this step last week at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. after its members rose up in “open rebellion” against Banks, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Given the high importance and sensitivity of this department, it was most likely Intelligence Director John Brennan in person who delivered the notice.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that internal crises in US clandestine agencies are normally kept under tight wraps and rarely see the light of day. But with major crises hitting the roof for Washington with the threatened meltdown of relations with Moscow over Ukraine and Crimea, unresolved Mid East issues and the missing Malaysian airliner, John Brennan would have been obliged to step in expeditiously to contain the breakdown of a complete CIA division in “open revolt” against its chief.

Three former officials said the Iran operations division was in “open rebellion” to Bank’s management style and several key employees demanded transfers. Their ultimatum was clear: It’s him or us.

An internal investigation ordered by Brennan found that Jonathan Bank “had created an abusive and hostile work environment that put a crucial division in disarray.”

Therefore, in mid-course of high-powered US-led international nuclear negotiations with Iran, the very department supposed to be feeding President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with daily briefings, updated to the last minute, on Iran’s nuclear program and its political and military leaderships, was in no state to perform its duties.

“Iran is one of most important targets, and the place was not functioning,” one of the former officials said.

This disclosure hangs a big question mark over the assurances Obama and Kerry gave Israel and the Arabian Gulf leaders. They said repeatedly that there was nothing to fear from the US-Iranian rapprochement, because Washington was fully abreast with every move in Iran’s nuclear program and would know in good time if supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the final step for building a nuclear weapon.

In recent months, Israeli and other Middle East intelligence sources have warned that Iran already possesses all the components, materials and technology for manufacturing a nuclear bomb – and stands ready to go on the order from the ayatollah..
The dysfunctional condition of the CIA Iran division, now disclosed, reduces President Obama’s chances of success in his forthcoming fence-mending visit to Saudi Arabia later this month and hopes of fruitful cooperation between US and Saudi intelligence on Iran and Syria.

Jonathan Bank’s cover was first broken in 2010 when, as CIA station chief in Islamabad, his name was published and he was pulled out after receiving death threats. US officials suspected Pakistan’s intelligence service of leaking his name in protest over CIA drone attacks on Islamist terrorist targets in the country’s lawless tribal region.

John Brennan: From Mecca to Washington

Graphic by Bosch Fawstin http://fawstin.blogspot.com/

Graphic by Bosch Fawstin
http://fawstin.blogspot.com/

Front Page, February 18, 2013, by Daniel Greenfield:

In 1853, the British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton visited Mecca. Since Mecca was and is off limits to non-Muslims on pain of death, Burton passed himself off as a Muslim by undergoing circumcision and disguising himself as a Pashtun. “Nothing could save a European detected by the populace, or one who after pilgrimage declared himself an unbeliever,” Burton wrote.

Three hundred and fifty years earlier, the Italian adventurer Ludovico di Varthema became the first non-Muslim to enter Mecca since the Muslim conquest. Ludovico had enlisted as a mercenary and succeeded in passing as a Mamluk, one of the white slave soldiers of the Sultanate, who had been converted to Islam.  Ludovico was eventually caught out as a Christian, but escaped after a love affair with one of the Sultan’s wives.

Other Christians had visited Mecca, but always disguised as Muslims. The British cabin boy Joseph Pitts, captured by Muslim slavers and forcibly converted to Islam, visited Mecca, before managing to return home and return to his religion. Similar accounts were told by other European Christian slaves.

In 1979, hundreds of Islamists using weapons smuggled in a coffin seized the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The Saudi military, commanded by the sons of important men, rather than by competent men, proved absolutely hopeless in fighting them. So instead they turned to the French.

The French commandos of GIGN were expert at dealing with terrorist crises, but they were not Muslim and so could not be allowed into Mecca. The solution was simple. The Frenchmen underwent a rapid conversion to Islam and the siege of the Great Mosque commenced. The conversion did not take hold, but the principle remained. An infidel could not enter Mecca, even to save the House of Saud.

During his time as the CIA Station Chief in Saudi Arabia, John Brennan spoke of marveling “at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims by making that pilgrimage.”  If Brennan did indeed visit Mecca during the Hajj, then he could have only done it by converting to Islam, like John Pitts, or pretending to have done so, like the GIGN commandos.

John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and Islam expert, has alleged that the conversion took place during Brennan’s time in Saudi Arabia. And he also alleges that this conversion has been confirmed by other American officials who were in Saudi Arabia at the time. These allegations are especially explosive as Brennan has moved up through the ranks to become Obama’s nominee to head the CIA.

Guandolo’s allegation goes beyond the question of religion. Rather he alleges that the conversion was part of an espionage recruitment process.  In an interview with Tom Trento of The United West, he said, “Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served in a senior official capacity in Saudi Arabia. His conversion to Islam was the culmination of a counter-intelligence operation against him to recruit him.”

The Soviet Union recruited spies by convincing them of the virtues of Communism. Saudi Arabia might well recruit its infidel agents by convincing them of the worth of Islam. There is of course no way to know what is in Brennan’s heart. But while we may not know what Brennan believes, as John Guandolo has pointed out, we do know what he has done.

Brennan’s supposed conversion to Islam was only the third of two other points that the former FBI agent argued make him unfit for duty. The first is that Brennan has developed links with the Muslim Brotherhood and that he has brought “known leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood into the government in positions to advise the US Government on counterterrorism strategy as well as the overall quote unquote War on Terror.” And the second is that Brennan reduces the War on Terror to Al Qaeda.

While Brennan did not innovate either of these two approaches, if he was indeed recruited by the Saudis, then they may be more than mere cluelessness. It’s not unusual for military and intelligence officials to visit Saudi Arabia and then leave it repeating the classic Saudi talking points about Islam as a stabilizing influence on the region and Israel as a destabilizing influence.

There are countless generals and diplomats who robotically insist that Bin Laden must not be referred to as a Muslim to diminish his influence and that the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamists are the only hope for countering the violent Islamism of Al Qaeda. The fundamental question is whether such disinformation is spread out of ignorance, or out of knowledge.

That is the final question that Guandolo raises about John Brennan. “The fact that foreign intelligence service operatives recruited Mr. Brennan when he was in a very sensitive and senior US Government position in a foreign country means that he is either a traitor, which I’m not saying, but that’s one of the options, and he did this all unwillingly and unknowingly ,or he did this unwittingly, which means that he is naive and does not have the ability to discern, to understand how to walk in those environments, which makes him completely unfit to be the Director of Central Intelligence.”

What is problematic in a general or a senator is even more troubling in the Director of the CIA. Military men are expected to be somewhat direct and take things as they are. But the director of an intelligence agency is expected to see threats where no one else does, to test the waters and look past the obvious. And if he cannot do that, then he is simply not qualified. And that is the larger point that John Guandolo makes.

Whether or not Brennan had a moment of submission on the road to Mecca or whether he is simply acting as a useful idiot for the people who perpetrated the attacks of September 11, he is not qualified to be the point man in the War on Terror. As the military side of the war draws to a close with a defeat in Afghanistan, the Central Intelligence Agency will take on a greater degree of importance in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

During the Cold War, the CIA was often infiltrated by the KGB, nullifying America’s intelligence capabilities in the Cold War. It would be a terrible shame if history repeated itself with Islam in the War on Terror.

Much more on John Brennan in CJR archives

Lebanese Media Report Shift In U.S. Attitudes Towards Hizbullah, Despite Its Being A Designated Terrorist Organization

MEMRI:

Introduction

In February 2013, Hizbullah deputy secretary-general Sheikh Na’im Qassem said that the Americans had “contacted us in various ways and via mediators and asked to sit down with us. We answered via the mediators that the images [of such a meeting] would do no good, and that the only thing that would help is a change in your [i.e. the Americans'] mentality and your recognition of the legitimate rights of peoples.”[1]

This statement, if authentic, could attest to a change of strategy vis-à-vis Hizbullah on the part of the U.S., which declared Hizbullah a terrorist organization in 1990. According to Lebanese media reports, the U.S. administration has been conducting contacts with it since April-May 2012; these contacts, mostly indirect and through intermediaries, have more recently become direct as well. The reports state that at first, the U.S. administration and Hizbullah exchanged intelligence information, but later expanded the contacts into a diplomatic and political relationship, and even into dealings concerning domestic Lebanese politics.

The media reports focus on the relationship between the U.S. and the director of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, ‘Abbas Ibrahim; although it is an official Lebanese body, this directorate, and Ibrahim himself, are close to Hizbullah. Before heading General Security, from 2005 to 2008, Ibrahim headed military intelligence in South Lebanon – and, according to many Lebanese Sunnis, this apparatus and those in charge of it in South Lebanon are pro-Hizbullah. At Qatar’s request, Ibrahim also mediated between this country and Hizbullah in November 2013.[2]

This paper will review the reports on the contacts and the relationship between the U.S. and Hizbullah, on the development of these contacts and this relationship, on their possible reasons and purposes, and on their possible connection with the shift in U.S. foreign policy towards Iran and towards the entire region.

 

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale (left) and Lebanese General Security Directorate head ‘Abbas Ibrahim

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale (left) and Lebanese General Security Directorate head ‘Abbas Ibrahim

Direct And Indirect CIA-Hizbullah Security Cooperation

According to Lebanese media reports, indirect CIA-Hizbullah contacts were apparently initiated by the U.S., and have been underway since at least April 2012, conducted by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and Hizbullah through Ibrahim. These contacts culminated in cooperation fighting Al-Qaeda and its offshoots and other extremist Sunni organizations.[3] It should be noted that since Hizbullah’s announcement of its military involvement in Syria, it has been targeted by Sunni terrorist organizations operating in Syria and Lebanon, which have attacked Hizbullah itself as well as Shi’ite population centers in Lebanon considered to be Hizbullah strongholds.

Read more at MEMRI

Herridge: Fmr. CIA Director Morell May Have Altered Benghazi Talking Points to Benefit Obama Admin.

morrelBY: Washington Free Beacon Staff
February 3, 2014 

Former CIA Director Mike Morell may have altered the Benghazi talking points to benefit the Obama administration during the 2012 election, Catherine Herridge of Fox News reports.

On September 15 one day before Susan Rice made her infamous appearances on various Sunday shows, according to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report Morell received an email from the CIA station chief in Libya indicating the Benghazi attacks were “not/not an escalation of protests.” The report does not indicate when Morell read the email, but that same day Morell cut the word “Islamic” from the talking points and left the word “demonstration.”

On September 16, Morell emailed embassy staff in Tripoli asking for more information. The FBI and CIA reviewed the closed circuit footage on September 18 showing there were no protests. Yet, President Obama still employed the “demonstration” verbiage just days later.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said Morell accompanied Susan Rice in a closed November meeting to discuss the attack. According to Graham, Morell defended Rice and tried to emphasize there was confusion about what happened in Benghazi. Moreover, Graham alleged Morell did not accept responsibility for altering the talking points, instead blaming the FBI. ”I called the FBI. They went ballistic. Within 24 hours, his statement was changed where he admitted the CIA had done it,” Graham said.

Adding another layer of complexity to the Morell’s backstory, Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) told Fox News many of Morell’s recent statements on the war on terror run contrary to what he told Senate committees over the previous decade as a CIA employee.

Herridge goes on to report some speculate Morell may have higher political ambitions considering his employment at Beacon Global Strategies, a government relations firm founded by close Hillary Clinton confidante Philippe I. Reines.

Morell declined to comment on the story but said the Senate Intelligence Committee report supports the contention that the Benghazi talking points were not politically altered in a written statement.

Major Escalation of the US Role in Syria with CIA Delivery of Weapons to Rebels

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra sit on a truck full of ammunition at Taftanaz air base, that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria. Credit: AP

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra sit on a truck full of ammunition at Taftanaz air base, that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria. Credit: AP

By :

Rebel forces in Syria are now officially receiving CIA-delivered weapons from the United States government, the Washington Post reports, citing U.S. officials and Syrian figures.

Following months of delay, the lethal aid promised to the Syrian rebels by President Barack Obama began trickling into the war-torn country over the past two weeks. The opposition forces have also reportedly received vehicles and other gear from the State Department, marking a “major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war,” the Washington Post observes.

The Associated Press adds that delivery of bigger weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades has also been arranged through a third party country.

According to the Post’s sources, arms shipments of light weapons and other munitions are being delivered to the rebels as well as nonlethal gear like sophisticated communications equipment, advanced combat medical kits and vehicles — all funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

“U.S. officials hope that, taken together, the weapons and gear will boost the profile and prowess of rebel fighters in a conflict that started about 2 1/2 years ago,” the report adds.

The revelation comes as some in the United States have wondered if the 9/11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year was tied to possible weapons running to Syria. It also comes on the heels of one Benghazi whistleblower’s attorney saying 400 surface-to-air-missiles were stolen from the country and “it is clear that the [CIA] annex [also attacked] was somehow involved in the process of the distribution of those missiles.”

Read more at The Blaze

One Year Later: Why We Were in Benghazi

benghazi_dead_afpby JOHN SEXTON:

It has been nearly a year since the attack which killed four Americans in Benghazi. During that time various minute-by-minute accounts of the attack have been published. In addition, the administration’s decisions to refuse additional security requests and to revise its talking points after the attack have been examined in detail.

But Benghazi may be a case where most observers have missed the forest for the trees. This is not an attempt to add new information so much as it is to collate the information that already exists from the most reputable journalistic sources.

To begin with, Benghazi was a CIA operation involving weapons, one which had no cover beyond a small mission that provided a diplomatic fig leaf for the effort. Officially the CIA was there to track and collect dangerous weapons left over from the war that ousted Qaddafi. But the evidence suggests the CIA was also either tacitly or actively involved in a multi-national effort to ship those weapons to Syrian rebels. Our covert effort in Benghazi, Libya was connected to our escalating involvement in Syria.

The general outlines of this CIA effort have been reported. One fact which has not been highlighted is that the UN arms embargo of Libya, which the United States helped pass in 2011, makes shipping weapons in or out of the country a violation of international law. Indeed, the way the UN resolution is written even knowingly allowing such shipments to take place may be a violation of the agreement.

Arming Syrian Rebels

In 2012 the Obama administration publicly claimed it was working on diplomatic and humanitarian responses to the situation in Syria. But behind the scenes the United States was aware that a network of arms shipments was being created to support the rebels. This network involved shipping weapons from Qatar and later Libya to Turkey where they could be taken across the border and distributed to militias in Syria.

In June of 2012 the NY Times reported that a contingent of CIA agents were “operating secretly” in Turkey to help vet which groups would receive these weapons. But later reporting by the Times would indicate the CIA was doing more than vetting.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

So the CIA was acting as a kind of personal shopping assistant. But according to an unnamed former official the network itself was the result of prodding by CIA director David Petraeus who encouraged various nations to work together toward the goal of arming the Syrian rebels. The flow of arms increased substantially throughout 2012 and really took off in the fall. But all of the shipments were still being transported and paid for by other nations.

That changed in June of this year the Obama administration convinced members of the intelligence committee to allow the CIA to begin contributing weapons directly to the existing arms pipeline. The decision was reported in the Guardian with Rep. Mike Rogers expressing doubt whether Obama’s policy would work. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff was also concerned saying “It’s too late to affect the outcome with a small amount of arms.”

The WSJ reported at the time “The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.”

To sum up, the CIA encouraged the creation of a multi-national arms pipeline, helped shop for weapons to fill it, vetted the groups who would receive those weapons in Syria and, since June of 2013, contributed U.S. weapons to the mix. With that backdrop in place we can now return our attention to Libya.

There is much more at Breitbart

Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack – frequent polygraphing in unprecedented attempt to keep them from talking

lie0By Jake Tapper:

CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what is allegedly happening at the CIA, in the wake of the deadly Benghazi terror attack.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya.

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

Read: Analysis: CIA role in Benghazi underreported

Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”

Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”

“Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that,” said former CIA operative and CNN analyst Robert Baer.

In other words, the rate of the kind of polygraphs alleged by sources is rare.

“If somebody is being polygraphed every month, or every two months it’s called an issue polygraph, and that means that the polygraph division suspects something, or they’re looking for something, or they’re on a fishing expedition. But it’s absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly, or bi-monthly,” said Baer.

Read more at CNN with video

Book Review: The Company of Shadows

by Steven Emerson:

Reviewed by IPT News
March 1, 2013