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Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

James Lunn, Desert Faux

It had all the elements of a true life thriller: a retired US military officer caught in the dangerous North Sinai desert with advanced electronic gear.

In the context of Navy SEALs and CIA agents roaming the globe hunting for al-Qaeda terrorists and their allies, it seemed entirely plausible that an American spy would be caught at some point in that extremely volatile, dangerous region.

Adding to the mystery, the US Embassy in Cairo declined to say anything about James Henry Lunn other than that he had been found dead Sunday in his jail cell in Ismailya, Egypt. Local authorities called his death a suicide, saying that Lunn had hung himself in his cell with a shoe laces. They also called him a “retired military officer,” but the embassy denied that, too.

As it turns out, however, the fevered speculation about what the 66-year-old American was doing in the northern Sinai turned out to be almost entirely fantastical.

Friday, February 1, 2013

CIA Station Chief Convicted in Italy Rendition Plot

Jeffrey Castelli, the CIA’s former Rome station chief, was sentenced in Italy Friday to seven years in jail for his part in the abduction of an al Qaeda suspect off a Milan street in 2003.

The sentence will have no effect unless Castelli enters Italian or other territories that have extradition treaties with Rome, thus subjecting himself to arrest.

Two other CIA operatives, Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando, were also both sentenced to six years in jail for their parts in the caper.

Update: Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro told SpyTalk the verdicts gave him no joy.

“It’s difficult for a prosecutor to rejoice at the sentence of some people," Spataro said by e-mail from Milan.

"But it’s important for the defense of human rights what the Milan Appeal Court said with the verdict: There are no reasons to justify  kidnappings and torture of the people. Not even if the democracies want to protect themselves from the terrorism.”

Thursday, January 31, 2013

AQ 2.0: The Limits of Intervention

Bad choices in 2013.

David Ignatius has an interesting piece today on the perilous options for the West in countering the “cancerous” spread of al-Qaeda in places like Mali.

“Striking at these local nodes — as the French are doing now in Mali — can disrupt the new terrorist cells," he writes. "But analysts stress that there will be consequences: The cells may metastasize further, drawing new jihadists into the fight and potentially threatening targets in Europe and the United States.”

Indeed, they’re everywhere, and nowhere, an annoyance that has become a public menace, like small time hoods hoping to become "made men.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Romney's 3 am Phone Call

Arguably the most memorable political ad during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the White House was the “3 AM phone call.” 

“It’s 3 am and your children are safe and asleep.  But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders. Knows the military. Someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world ... Who do you want answering the phone?”

If the last 36 hours are any guide, you don’t want Mitt Romney answering that phone. In fact, you don’t want him anywhere near the White House situation room, ever.

You do want Barack Obama picking up that phone. For if Obama’s surprising performance over the past three-plus years as commander in chief is any guide, he’s calm, cool, collected--and effective--in a crisis, no matter what you think of his domestic policies or drone strikes.

Romney, in contrast, is an excitable lad. He’s exactly what you don’t want in a commander-in-chief, which is to say, he’s impetuous, not to mention shallow.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The CIA's Man in Cairo Emerges in Egypt Elections

Back in late January, 2011, with the long reign of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak tottering in the wind, the most electrifying prospect to succeed him was Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei--at least in the eyes of many an outside observer.

Wrong, I wrote after surveying experts on Egypt's partnership with the Clinton and Bush administration's CIA renditions programs: It would be Gen. Omar Suleiman, the chief of Egyptian intelligence -- the CIA's man in Cairo. 

But Suleiman stayed largely in the wings through the downfall of Mubarak, the euphoria of the Arab Spring, and even the evolution of "temporary" military caretakers to a seemingly permanent ruling junta.

Mubarak might've even thought Suleiman could save his reign, by appointing the spy chief vice president as crowds swelled in Tahir Square.

It was not to be. Mubarak was soon gone.

After the euphoria faded, the Muslim Brotherhood emerged as an ominous slate to take over Egypt.

This, for sure, was an unacceptable prospect for the West, and particularly Washington.

Suddenly, on Friday, the former spy chief stepped from the shadows to throw his fez into the race for president.