Oversight

I’ve posted on Congressional oversight previously, including remarks about what I think it would take to enable objective investigations of crimes or malfeasance involving agencies or government employees – the current approaches just don’t work, for a great many reasons.  So I’m not going to bore with that again.  However David’s comment about oversight and transparency led me to think of some of the things I’m writing about in my next work, tentatively named “Surprise Attack”.

At present both the military and all major federal agencies do have a variety of internal oversight tools.  One level are the organization’s Inspectors General; they are chartered to look at practices and evaluate major performance problems and operational failures.  At another level  you have the GAO, which is more of an efficiency and spending tracking effort.  In spite of what is often said about government, both groups do some outstanding work.  As an example, the CIA’s Inspector General report on the Bay of Pigs was both cutting and highly accurate. Yet even though the report went on the record, the head of the clandestine directorate was allowed to oppose it and the CIA’ s Director essentially shoved it aside and let a counter report go into the record.  As a result, officers which had proved to be largely incompetent in both security and military practices were not disciplined and allowed to pursue similar operations in the future. The fact that the Agency in general refused to recognize its incompetence in large scale military operations led to officers being sent from JMWAVE to Laos and organizing military operations which were equally outrageous.  We go into that in Shadow Warfare.

But stepping forward in time, following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA’s Inspector General, the TSA/FFA’s Inspector General both performed solid studies, reported out points deserving of further investigation and probable disciplinary action – and the heads of both Agencies simply shoved it under the rug, refusing to pursue the IG reports.   Actually a number of GAO studies of the FBI both before and following 9/11 pointed out problems as well and the FBI stonewalled the GAO report.  It would be great to see a real history graduate student study the extent to which IG and GAO reports are ever really acted on.   Unfortunately in regard to 9/11, both NORAD and the FBI should also have had internal investigations but that’s another story entirely – and I do write about that.

Along those same lines, the GAO did excellent work in pointing out a large amount of malfeasance in Iraq and Afghanistan contracting and as far as I can tell nobody ever got prosecuted.  The Iraq scandals appear to have been far and above anything we saw in Vietnam yet the amount of investigate reporting to date has been pitiful  – is it me or does this just seem to happen whenever the Texans get into Washington?  Probably just me, it happens in a lot of administrations but the the scale seems to be different….

Back to my point, which is that actually some very good oversight is done inside government, but it has no teeth since the upper echelon can ignore it.   I would propose something equivalent to in independent Federal Attorney General’s office the IG and GAO reports and evaluates them for charges – it can’t be done in DOJ because Attorney’s General and their staffs clearly suck up (sorry) way to much to the President’s who appoint them.  I’ve noticed it was not always that day, as recently as the Eisenhower administration the AG would give president’s opinions which opposed their pending policies and just flat tell them it was illegal and it stopped there…..that just doesn’t happen much these days.

…….I ran across the following article today and felt that this post had to be updated to include it.  The article discusses the systems in place and some of the horrible failures in oversight related to military contracting and procurement.   In examining agency oversight is has to be acknowledged that human greed is an endemic factor that is sometimes hard to comprehend and often single individuals manage to compromise even well designed systems.  Its pretty depressing but if you have a strong stomach – read on:

View story at Medium.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killing MLK

Determined to Seek Justice in the MLK Murder, A History Teacher Crowdfunds A Documentary

The United States Justice Department has spent 6 years reinvestigating over 100 unsolved, civil rights cold cases. But in its inquiries Justice has totally avoided the most controversial murder of the era:  the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Hoping to bring public attention to this major oversight, history teacher Stuart Wexler is turning decade’s worth of groundbreaking research – first presented in the The Awful Grace of God (co-authored with Larry Hancock), into a video documentary titled Killing King. He is asking the public’s help in crowd-funding the documentary.

Wexler and Hancock’s research has been featured in USA Today, in The Boston Globe, in Newsweek/Daily Beast, and on a host of radio programs, including on The Thom Hartmann Program, on “Make It Plain with Mark Thompson”, on The Peter B. Collins Show, and on the Nick Taliaferro Show on WURD-Philadelphia. It has been praised by G. Robert Blakey, the man who led Congress’s re-investigation of the MLK murder in the late 1970s, and by scholar Peter Dale Scott, who called The Awful Grace of God: “the best book to date on the MLK assassination.”

In their book, using thousands of newly released government files, Hancock and Wexler connected a series of major plots on King’s life to a network of domestic terrorists who hoped to foment a holy race war. They featured, for the first time in any book or investigation, a witness, Donald Nissen, who was offered a role in a plot to kill Dr. King plot; Nissen delivered money to be used to pay for King’s murder. Since the book’s release, even more explosive information has come to light, that will form the basis of the documentary, and hopefully, a new government investigation. This new material includes:

•  A taped interview with a convicted, militant radical who admits buying a  weapon to murder MLK just days before the killing.

•  Actual crime scene fingerprints that could be matched to new suspects  and conspirators.

• New details on the Atlanta-based felon who helped provide money for the plot.

• New connections between the King murder and some of the most well-known acts of racial terrorism in American history.

• The connections between the MLK case, the NSA surveillance operations, and the Whitey Bulger FBI  scandal—and how it points to a government cover-up that ruined the original King  investigation.

Through recordings, documents, and the ¬¬first-ever live interview with Nissen, Wexler weaves together the kind of narrative that could form the basis of a grand jury investigation.   With time running out–  with potential suspects aging and dying–  Wexler needs your help to make this documentary areality, in hopes of forcing a new investigation. Please contribute to his Indiego campaign at:

igg.me/at/killingking

The trailer for Killing King is available here: https://vimeo.com/102229019

 

Howard Burris

Per request, here is something of what I know about Howard Burris and a bit of speculation beyond that.  The facts are well documented, most are from FOIA requests I did years.

Burris attended San Antonio College and went on to West Point, he graduated and was commissioned as a Second Lt in 1942. He went on to command bomber units in England and France, serving two combat tours and ending the war as a Major. In 1946 he married the daughter of soon to be Texas governor Jester. Post War he served as headquarters commandant of the Continental Air Command – which was largely a paper unit with no significant assets until 1948.  In 1948 he served on a UN mission to Mexico.

….its easy to speculate that Burris had a number of political connections, through his wife’s family  and very likely via LBJ who always looked for Texans to create his own social/intelligence network in Washington.  Lyndon helped place promising Texas in a variety of Federal Agencies as well as in the military.

In 1949 Burris was appointed Congressional Liaison to the Secretary of the Air Force. By 1950 he was at the Pentagon working as and aide to Secretary of the Air Force Katzenberg.  By 1953 he was Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Air Force.  In 1954 he serves as military attache to the US Embassy in Switzerland and then takes a three year assignment in special missions to Hungary, Poland, and the Soviet Union.

…..given those assignments it is almost certain he was requested to provide reports and observations to the CIA, no doubt he knew senior Agency officers

Upon his return he was selected by LBJ as his military aide and adviser on international affairs.  There are numerous memos from Burris to Johnson on those subjects and its fair to consider that Burris networked himself within the Pentagon and inside Washington to provide Johnson with information.  Burris seems to have provided Johnson some key information in regard to Johnson’s trip to Vietnam, used by Johnson in a manner contrary to his directions on the visit from JFK.

……Burris was known to make reference to the “boys in the woodwork”, no doubt contacts with the CIA and perhaps as importantly military detainees working for the CIA in SE Asia

While serving as aide to Johnson he came into turf battles with Walter Jenkins and Jenkins appears to have pushed him off a bit, having Burris move out of an office in the White House to the Pentagon.  During that period Burris was dual hatted to serve on planning at the Pentagon and appears to have worked on the TFX project as well as Dyna Soar and the SST.  There is little doubt he would have served as eyes and ears for Johnson on such projects. He does a great deal of domestic and international travel in 1963 and also in 1964

……Burris made a somewhat mysterious last minute trip to the Johnson Ranch the day before the assassination, ostensibly he carried briefing documents so Johnson could have a knock down fight with JFK on international affairs.  That appears unlikely during a political trip – any further detail is lacking.

In 1964 Burris retired, with rank as a Colonel, he remained in contact with the White House and went to work as a lobbyist for McDonald Douglas

Burris was also associated with Bobby Baker and used facilities in Baker’s office.  Reportedly he made a lot of key overseas contacts, leveraging oil connections in Dallas with overseas oil exploitation, especially in Iran. One of his sons married into the Shah’s family.

…….there are numbers of nice mysterious leads and connections to Burris but generally speaking his career is pretty self evident, he became a political military officer, a DC insider and with connections both through Johnson and to people in DC, Texas and very possibly folks in the CIA he leveraged it all to became highly successful in investments and became extremely wealthy.   I’ve talked to someone who knew him socially and on the subject of JFK, Burris apparently knew – as many DC insiders did – that there had been conspiracy and coverup in the assassination but of course he, like they, would never have gone the record with that.  Such knowledge was simply “in the wind” in the correct circles, with little detail and much speculation. But then we know it was something Johnson himself gossiped about over the years, privately talked about several different types of conspiracies…and nicely muddying the waters.

 

 

Risky Russians

Its rather impressive how consistent the Russian leadership is – in whatever political form it assumes,  Czarist, Communist, Putin era Oligarchism etc.  They may not be entirely predictable – other than in Eastern Europe where they constantly return to the same tactics fielded post WWII – but in terms of covert action, they have always followed a higher risk path than that of the United States.

One example of their risk tolerance  is their pattern of equipping their surrogates with more advanced weaponry.  Putting tactical nuclear missile launchers into Cuba, along with extremely advanced air defense systems tends to get less attention than the IRBM’s shipped there during the Cuban missile crisis. However it was the advanced anti aircraft missiles shoot down of an American U-2 which came just short of triggering the American air strikes that could have kicked off a far larger combat.  And the shoot down was actually offered by Soviet military officers in the field.

A few years later the Soviets were fully prepared to ship nuclear weapons to Egypt, which might well have resulted in the first actual nuclear exchange – between Egypt and Israel.

Never bashful to ship advanced weaponry, the Russians sent advanced missile artillery to Angola  and its surrogates used it to smash the American sponsored forces there.  The US had nothing comparable and held back from supplying equivalent weapons due to concerns of showing its hand in the conflict.  That has never been a problem for the Russians.  With all parties feigning neutrality in Laos, the Soviets shipped in tanks, heavy artillery and ran a large scale airlift operation. The United States responded with lesser weapons and more air strikes, by American pilots.  Great efforts were made to capture Soviet and Chinese advisers…as well as North Vietnamese fighting in Laos.  However when equipment or personnel was taken, the Soviets simply stonewalled – saying nothing.

The Soviet Union deployed all its weapons to Afghanistan, indeed there is good evidence that their combined field units took mobile atomic missile launchers along with them – which is their standard practice actually

Its the same thing we see today in the Ukraine,  Putin has no qualms about sending in advanced weapons and barely disguised Russian military – but when caught red handed, he just shuts up.  It really is impossible to embarrass the Russians into cooperation.  They practice deniablity with no guilt whatsoever.  Which is actually far less expensive and far more effective than the United States has done in the past, but a bit more like we are doing it in Yemen and elsewhere in current insurgency activities.  Still, on the occasion when we get caught, we do tend to at least apologize – not something you are going to see from Putin unless he really breaks pattern.

Taking Requests

As I mentioned in my last post I’ve completed the basic draft of the manuscript for my next book and will turn to the standard continuity rework of the whole thing …..chapter by chapter.  But after spending some intense time on both 9/11 and Benghazi I need a bit of a break before starting again all the way back at Pearl Harbor.  Its work that needs to be done before it goes to the first editor but I’d like to easy back into it. I’d still love to see some questions or comments about Shadow Warfare, we know its selling and given its somewhat controversial content I’m surprised to have received no comments here.

I have recently taken a few JFK related questions elsewhere and one of the things that keeps coming up is that people ask me why I didn’t cover certain topics or more particularly certain people in the SWHT or NEXUS.  In some cases such as the Chicago incident with Thomas Vallee, that was covered in detail in November Patriots, my first book – which is now out of print.   In other instances such as Thomas Beckham, Fred Crisman, and a slew of others – well I didn’t miss them and in some cases spent months or years researching them only to find them or their stories not solid enough to go in my books.

So, for a limited time only – about two weeks – as I’m gathering my energy to plunge back into the book in writing, if you have a question about a JFK related person, post it here and I’ll give you a top of the head assessment.  About anything is fair game except questions of who shot from where since I don’t pretend to know that sort of detail.  I’ll either give you a reply here if the item is not in my books or tell you where to look if it is…

Limited time offer – questions on the JFK conspiracy (or RFK for that matter) – good to the end of July…. no refunds, no money back…     Larry

 

 

Task Force Update

Well if anyone reading this has actually made it to the end of Shadow Warfare, you know that one of the things we tried to do was to outline the emergence of the Joint Special Operations Task Forces, their roles in the  counter-terror effort following 9/11 and at least some insight into where they operate, and what they do.

One of the first groups to go into the field was the Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Philippines (JSOTF-P).   Most people are aware that the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were out of Saudi Arabia and had trained in Afghanistan. Fewer are aware that they were operationally directed by individuals who had been very involved in setting up al Qaeda initiatives in Yemen, Indonesia and the Philippines.  The Philippines task force has been one of the most successful counter insurgency operations on record – to a large extent because the Philippines government got behind the effort and took a number of significant steps to make itself more trusted and more of a resource in the areas where the insurgents were operating.  In fact the effort has been successful enough that the southern campaign has been declared a success and JSOTF  Philippines is now moving from an operational role to a strictly advisory function.  By 2015 the Task Force will be disbanded and the remaining American military personnel assigned to a military advisory role.

This is a pretty notable success because the Philippines insurgency had been growing and raising a good deal of money through kidnapping and hostage taking.  Unfortunately the other Task Forces  – Horn of Africa and Trans Sahara – are having much tougher going.  As it always is, if the government they are working with is not in touch with its people, has “abandoned” regions, is largely focused in the region of the capital and above all develops a reputation for skimming its countries money – counter insurgency just does not work until that government changes. Right now Yemen in Horn of Africa and both Mali and Nigeria in Trans Sahara are in just that situation.  Its always a real trap for the United States and we have lost way to many service people trying to hold up governments which didn’t deserve it.  The link to this article on the Nigerian Army shows the considerable challenge in trying to assist its army with any task:

View story at Medium.com

Currently Washington is acting more pragmatically – and a lot less knee jerk like – than it has in the past.  Either sending very limited numbers of personnel or literally laying the cards on the table for the regimes involved.  Its a level of pragmatism we haven’t seen since JFK started to lay down the law to the leadership in Saigon….only to be succeeded by that ultimate knee jerk politician – “if its good for the next election its good for me”  LBJ.   I suppose I shouldn’t say ultimate, he certainly has company in that class.

But speaking a bit more about Task Forces, I’ve just finished by Benghazi writing in my newest manuscript  –  which has received tentative acceptance for publication – which deals with surprise attacks on America.  Its amazing what is in the actual data on Benghazi that has not been discussed in the media,  and how much of what has been in the press has proved to be just flat wrong (or misunderstood if you wish to be charitable).  In any event, we have know for some time that there was evidence of heavy CIA operations in Libya. Interestingly I find that not only was the Annex admittedly a CIA operations base (not a CIA station mind you but a clandestine ops facility with a Chief of Base – think Laos, Pakse and David Morales).   But beyond that the reports indicate that DOD  but not AFRICOM  was aware of the CIA Annex. Even more interestingly, there were Task Force Trans-Sahara military personnel stationed in Tripoli.  Its beginning more and more clear what the unarmed Predators were doing flying over far eastern Libya at the time of the attack, long after the NATO military operations were long over.  Think weapons convoys.

Forward Leaning

It’s really going to be a challenge to come up with the right phrases to describe the military confrontations that characterize the first half of the 21st Century.  The 20th Century was simple, you had World Wars, theaters of operation, etc.  You had the Cold War, which was a lot hotter than most folks realized at the time – that’s in my next book – and you had the undeclared warfare described in Shadow Warfare. But what do we call what’s happening now?   We have Putin reasserting a nationalist confrontation with the West, and even scarier some far right Russian types who appear to be pure racist Russo-Fascist and who want to see America destroyed to protest Russia (they also want Russian ethnic cleansing,  it all sounds revoltingly familiar).   You have Access Denial issues in the Pacific and the seemingly irrational North Korean leadership. Many of the old school military elements of the Cold War are resurfacing,  but with new missions.  Its striking to see a Cold War era B-52 in a maritime interdiction role in the western pacific, flying escort for a Navy carrier group.

And what are we going to do about al Qaeda, and ISIS which this week is now just IS and is building a new denied area all to itself.  In Shadow Warfare we predicted that one wave of the future was going to be the growth of military assistance missions, not large scale but relatively small scale missions to help any government in Asia or Africa threatened by Jihad insurgency.  That’s one prediction that seems to be pretty much right on and this week we see military missions returning to Baghdad – and soon to Kurdistan.  It all has the look and feel of the 20th Century American response to what was perceived as the global Communist conspiracy.  Perhaps it should, and in fact there may be a lot more reality to the national security threat of the radical jihadi ideology/religion than there ever truly was from a global communist movement – much of which was actually nationalism in action rather than true revolutionary Marxism.

I still don’t know what to call any of these various confrontations and conflicts but they are out there and very real.  If  you want to see the most current military assistance groups now forming, check out the following link, at least the geography will be familiar.

View story at Medium.com

 

 

Other Boots on the Ground Ch 25

If you don’t yet have “Shadow Warfare” and want to get a bit more of a feel for it, the editorial staff at Russ Baker’s news outlet have written about it a bit and with permission have posted all of Chapter 25. Thad chapter addresses what happens when you start to “prioritize” covert warfare. And as you will see if we ever get my next book out,  when you take professional military folks out of military actions – like say the defense of the country in 2001 – and hand it over to private companies, or agencies like the FAA or the State Department and their “managers”, well it can have a real downside.

If you would like to read the full chapter its online at the following link:

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/06/22/from-soldier-of-fortune-to-contractor-the-american-shadow-warriors-evolution/

 

 

 

 

Where the Benghazi hearings won’t go

Russ Baker was good enough to use a short essay I provided  on the new Benghazi hearings in his news columns and I thought blog readers might find it interesting.  You can find it at the link below:

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/06/11/where-congress-wont-tread-in-benghazi-hearings/

Those of you who may be reading Shadow Warfare will find the Benghazi hearings all too familiar by this point, if you are not reading it and are old enough – recall the Congressional response to the exposure of massive military operations in Laos and Cambodia, shock and outrage…..except of course it was all for show.

– Larry

 

Boots on the Ground in Africa

First, my apologies for not posting here much recently.  I’d deep into the final sections of my next book, at the moment dealing with both the failures in interdiction and failures in response during the attacks on America in 2001. As you can understand, its a big subject, there are tons of sources – some more than a little contradictory – and its taking a good bit of time to wrap my head around how to properly explore the subject in the broader historical context of surprise attacks.  I think it will be worth it though, lots of lessons to be learned, but it takes a lot of my limited concentration.

I’d hope to get some discussion going here on Shadow Warfare but either nobody has actually read it – or finished it – or they are in information overload.  I know its sold a few thousand copies and its made it into about 250 libraries, including some important military schools, in the first three months so perhaps some comment will show up soon.

In the interim, I thought I would bring your attention to some current shadow warfare events in Africa, many of which are a projection of the trends we identified in Shadow Warfare. Africa is definitely going to be the next arena of counter-insurgency, just as Syria will be for clandestine operations and the Western Pacific will be for access denial.  African counter-insurgency poses the same risk for getting into deep with sustaining essentially insupportable regimes – corrupt and dictatorial – that the United States fell into in Latin America in the 70/80’s.  The interesting thing is, this time its not just the United States that is exposed to that risk, its France, and China.  Yes, China.  China’s low profile involvement in Africa has escaped a lot of discussion but its there and growing.  For those interested in the developing story of new boots on the ground in Africa, I would recommend the following:

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com