Monday, September 12, 2011

Economic Roadkill

Why the Fed's Consumer Credit Report is Rotten to the Core

By Mike Whitney

If you really want to know what’s going on with the economy,  you should take a look at the Fed’s Consumer Credit Report that was released on Thursday. Yes, it’s a real snoozer, but it does reveal the truth behind all the “recovery” hype. So, let’s cut to the chase: When unemployment is high and wages are stagnant, the only way the economy can grow is through credit expansion. That’s why economists pay so much attention to the credit report, because it lets them see if we’re making progress or not. Right now, we’re not making any headway at all. Of course, the cheerleading media see things differently. Here’s a clip from an article in Bloomberg that puts a positive spin on a truly dismal report:
“Credit increased $12 billion after a revised $11.3 billion rise in June, the Federal Reserve said today in Washington. Economists projected a $6 billion gain, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. The rise in non-revolving loans was the most since November 2001.” (“U.S. Consumer Borrowing Rose by $12 Billion in July, Twice Amount Forecast”, Bloomberg).
    Hooray!  The US consumer is off the canvas and borrowing again. Let the celebration begin!

Murdered by Sub-Prime Truck Loan
Not so fast. The uptick in credit spending is entirely attributable to subprime auto loans and government-backed student loans, both of which are the extension of the same Ponzi-finance scam that put the global economy into cardiac arrest. Every area of credit expansion is on-the-ropes. Commercial banks, finance companies, credit unions, savings institutions, nonfinancial businesses, and pools of securitized assets are all flatlining. No progress. In other words, the only way to induce tightfisted consumers to spend money they don’t have is by either seducing them with “No-down, easy-pay, 60-month-no-interest” financing or by hoodwinking them about the 6-figure income they’ll net after they finish their college education at Lunkhead U.

    Case in point; check out this article on subprime auto loans in Reuters:

“Lenders are making more subprime auto loans again, reversing the cautious approach they adopted after the credit crisis, an industry research firm said on Tuesday. The portion of car loans made to subprime borrowers rose to 40.8 percent in the second quarter from 37.2 percent a year earlier, according to Experian Automotive, a unit of credit bureau and research firm Experian Plc. The data shows how keen lenders are to boost their loan books amid a sluggish economy….
Average credit scores for borrowers declined and the average term for their loans extended by one month to 63 months on new cars and 59 months on used cars, according to Experian.
“We are continuing to see growth in subprime, both new and used, and loans are becoming looser,” Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian, said in an interview.
Executives at Ally Financial said in May that subprime car lending had become “very attractive” because profit margins on the loans more than cover the cost of expected losses from borrowers who fail to repay what they owe. Making the loans is part of Ally’s strategy to grow by lending on more used cars….
Industry veterans have said that while the loans have been attractive recently, more lenders are entering the market and competing for business by lowering prices, a trend that could lead to higher losses in the future.” (“Lenders making more subprime car loans: report”, Reuters).
    Bigger profits off lower credit scores. Now where have we heard that load of malarkey before?

   Can you believe it? I mean, we haven’t even paid for the last subprime meltdown, and we’re on to the next?

   Do you think a little regulation might be a good idea here, like maybe some standardized loans so the banksters running these loan-laundering operations don’t blow up the system again and come around begging for more bailouts?

    Oh no, of course not. That would be an intrusion on the divine workings of the free market.

    Bottom line: Yes, it is possible to boost credit if one is willing to lend gobs of money to anyone who can fog a mirror, but is that really an indication of “economic recovery” or just more proof that the system is staggeringly out-of-whack?

    And then there’s the student loan biz, as big a fleecing operation as ever existed. This is where the real pros hang-out now, luring their prey with promises of hefty salaries after they graduate and then loading them up with enough debt to make their eyes pop out.   But, hey, let’s not forget the upside of all this chicanery; all that fleecing beefs up the Fed’s Credit Report and makes it look like the economy is bouncing back. That’s got to be worth something, right? And, besides, everyone is “doing it”; fleecing college kids, that is. Here’s an excerpt from an article in The Atlantic:
“How do colleges manage it? Kenyon has erected a $70 million sports palace featuring a 20-lane olympic pool. Stanford’s professors now get paid sabbaticals every fourth year, handing them $115,000 for not teaching. Vanderbilt pays its president $2.4 million. Alumni gifts and endowment earnings help with the costs. But a major source is tuition payments, which at private schools are breaking the $40,000 barrier, more than many families earn. Sadly, there’s more to the story. Most students have to take out loans to remit what colleges demand. At colleges lacking rich endowments, budgeting is based on turning a generation of young people into debtors.
As this semester begins, college loans are nearing the $1 trillion mark, more than what all households owe on their credit cards. Fully two-thirds of our undergraduates have gone into debt, many from middle class families, who in the past paid for much of college from savings. The College Board likes to say that the average debt is “only” $27,650. What the Board doesn’t say is that when personal circumstances go wrong, as can happen in a recession, interest, late payment penalties, and other charges can bring the tab up to $100,000. Those going on to graduate school, as upwards of half will, can end up facing twice that.”  (“The Debt Crisis at American Colleges,” The Atlantic).
    Do you think these pillars of rectitude would ever dream of warning our kids that they might they might be getting in-over-their-heads, that they might want to reconsider what they’re doing so they don’t spend the rest of their lives trying to get out of the red?

Stanford University
Nah. It’s not my problem, they figure. Besides why rock the boat. If these kids ever figure out that they just flushed $100,000 down the latrine for a mid-level management job at Herfy’s that pays $22K per year with no-time-off, they might just go ape and torch our lovely new sports pavilion. We can’t have that, now can we?
    Here’s more from another article in The Atlantic:
“Student loan debt has grown by 511% over this period. In the first quarter of 1999, just $90 billion in student loans were outstanding. As of the second quarter of 2011, that balance had ballooned to $550 billion.
How does the housing bubble debt compare? If you add together mortgages and revolving home equity, then from the first quarter of 1999 to when housing-related debt peaked in the third quarter of 2008, the sum increased from $3.28 trillion to $9.98 trillion. Over this period, housing-related debt had increased threefold. Meanwhile, over the entire period shown on the chart, the balance of student loans grew by more than 6x. The growth of student loans has been twice as steep — and it’s showing no signs of slowing.
Obviously the number of students didn’t grow by 511%. So why are education loans growing so rapidly? One reason could be availability. The government’s backing lets credit to students flow very freely. And as the article from yesterday noted, universities are raising tuition aggressively since students are willing to pay more through those loans.
All this college debt could put the U.S. on a slower growth path in the years to come. As Americans grapple with high student loan payments for the first few decades of their adult lives, they’ll have less money to spend and invest. All that money flowing into colleges and universities is being funneled away from other industries where it would have been spent in future years. Of course, this would be a rather unfortunate irony: higher education is supposed to enhance a nation’s growth, but with such an enormous debt burden, graduates might not be able to spend and invest enough to allow that growth to occur.” (“Chart of the Day: Student Loans Have Grown 511% Since 1999″, The Atlantic).
    Anyway, you get the picture. Young people are just the latest subset of victims in Big Capital’s endless search for roadkill. No sense getting all huffy about it. But it does help to shed a little light on underlying condition of the economy vis a vis the Fed’s Credit Report.

    Indeed, credit is expanding, but only in the areas where the sinister lifting of consumer protections (deregulation) has allowed finance vultures to do their dirtywork. As for the economy, it still stinks. But, then, you already knew that.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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Post 9/11 America has become the land of the fearful

The Lasting Damage of the Terrorist Attacks has Been to the Mindset of the Americans and Their Economy

The Telegraph
By Neil Tweede

There is something sinister in the term Homeland Security. Homeland sounds a little too like Fatherland for comfort, a place demanding unthinking loyalty. Very un-American, one might imagine, but then Americans are not as free-wheeling as they like to think they are. Most of them like rules, enforced with a brand of passive aggression all the more unsettling for being delivered with a smile as bright as it is indifferent.

     They don’t even manage the smile at JFK when you hand over your passport. Well, some do. Things have lightened a little since the early post 9/11 era when any foreigner was an object of suspicion. The Orwellian technology remains, however: the fingerprint scanner and camera, adding you to some vast, churning database, and increasingly for those boarding flights in the United States, the hugely intrusive whole-body scanner. Land of the Free-ish.

Tribute Light
 Yet, this stuff, billions of dollars worth of it, doesn’t work. On Thursday night, the minute after President Barack Obama finished his speech to Congress on how he proposed to get 14 million unemployed Americans back to work, ABC News cut into the broadcast to report that a team of al-Qaeda operatives was loose in the United States. Citing intelligence sources, it claimed that three people, one an American, had entered the country in August with the aim of conducting attacks, possibly using truck bombs

     Paranoia was always going to be part of the tenth anniversary of September 11, a partner to grief. Security in New York has been ramped up in advance of tomorrow’s commemoration at Ground Zero, to be attended by Obama and George W Bush, and people are a little more jumpy. There is something else, though, articulated rarely on grounds of taste: 9/11 fatigue. A lot of people are getting out of New York this weekend to breathe fresher air.

     Tim Kelleher, who works for T3 Live, an online financial information service, is one of those going in search of a less oppressive atmosphere. The exodus from the area around Wall Street, he says, began on Thursday. ''Down in Front Street, bars like Nelson Blue or Stella Maris are usually packed with bond traders, and it was a ghost town,” he says. “They’ve left town already; and for the week, too. 

     “I was telling a friend this at another place I go to and some drunken guy misunderstood and started telling me I lacked respect. Don’t tell me how to respect people – that’s why I want to leave town.” 

    The events of 9/11 adhere to New York, even as the years pass. The wicked ingenuity of the assault devised by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden’s principal planner, lay not only in economy of force – just 19 men and a budget of $500,000 – but in its changing of the city’s motif, its skyline. One can date television programmes from their cutaway shots of Manhattan: Twin Towers or no Twin Towers. New Yorkers, believers in reinvention, are saddled with a constant reminder, constructed of thin air. 

     There is another reminder, too. Two square holes in the ground, the footprints of two giants where once some 50,000 people worked, 2,606 of them for the last time on September 11 2001. Ground Zero, as Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, prefers it not to be known, must in future function as a place of work, a shrine and a final resting place, the repository for remains identified and unidentified. The holes have been turned into monuments to the dead, their sides imprinted with their names, arranged by association, by friendship, rather than by alphabet. Water flows through them, disappearing as if into the centre of the earth.

     This being America, money is an issue. The tower that will replace the doomed twins, One World Trade Centre, known as the Freedom Tower in the early days of its protracted gestation, will cost the American taxpayer $3.3 billion, double the cost of a normal skyscraper its size. Over-engineered to ensure maximum survivability, it is the centrepiece of a construction project that has produced cost over-runs of $2.2 billion. 

    The construction industry is not the only beneficiary. Charities have sprung up around 9/11, some of dubious utility but almost all of them good payers to the executives who run them. And then there is the biggest beneficiary of all: the security state. 

     The September 11 attacks were most damaging to the long-term security of the United States not in the destruction they wrought but in the response they provoked. The War on Terror can be seen as one long lost opportunity, a decade-long struggle that, while drawing most of the teeth from hydra-headed al-Qaeda, has distracted America from much greater challenges, not least competition from new economic rivals.

     Joseph Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel prize for economics, estimates that the wars fought by America in Iraq and Afghanistan and their consequences have cost between $3 trillion and $5 trillion, contributing to a crippling national debt of $14.7 trillion. Twenty-two years after the Soviet Union called time on the Cold War, the US feels it necessary to command a defence budget representing half the global total. Annual spending is $700 billion, a 70 per cent increase on 2001. Other costs range from rises in the price of oil to losses sustained by airlines, but one figure stands out: homeland security. The bloated department that carries that name is now second only in size to the Pentagon. Together with other federal departments interested in security it has consumed $360 billion during the past decade, while domestic intelligence gathering has cost another $110 billion. The treasure expended, or rather borrowed from China, is out of all proportion to the threat, according to John Mueller, an American academic and expert on the security industry. He says that America would have to endure almost 1,700 successful or abortive bomb attacks every year to justify the scores of billions lavished on domestic security annually. 

     “There has been a massive increase in surveillance to deal with a limited problem – I wouldn’t even call it a threat,” he says. “Fears of terrorism are exaggerated. If you say your chance of being killed by terrorism is one in 3.5 million per year if you are an American – which it is – the danger is that someone will say, 'How come we are giving you so much money?’ There is an incentive to inflate and play to fears. The thing is that terrorism sells, there is a responsive audience. Genetically modified food doesn’t sell as a fear; global warming is selling better now but it took a long time. There is a genuine fear of terrorism that what I call the terrorism industry can play on.” 

     The wars drag on and the casualties mount. More than 6,000 Americans have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention more than 130,000 civilians in those countries. The cost of tending to wounded and traumatised soldiers will cost US taxpayers more billions in the years to come. There is another, less tangible, cost, to America’s claim to the moral high ground. Rendition of terrorist suspects to repressive regimes, assassination by drone, and the use of waterboarding, a form of torture, have sullied the country’s reputation. 

     Ordinary Americans know little of this, concerned as they are with unemployment and the possible loss of their homes. Disillusionment is the order of the day – Obama’s approval rating is sub 50 per cent as he looks towards next year’s election campaign, and more than 70 per cent of Americans disapprove of the Republican Party’s stalling tactics in Congress over the setting of a new debt ceiling. America is turning inward, winding down its commitments in Iraq, which threatens to fall into the Iranian orbit, and Afghanistan, where chaos hovers. 

     Even the economy will take a temporary backseat tomorrow, though. A tenth anniversary cannot be ignored and, weary or not of remembering, America will remember. Relatives will gather not only at Ground Zero but at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the crash site of Flight 93, and in Washington in front of the Pentagon. One of those attending the ceremony at the Pentagon will be John Wesley, whose fiancée, Sarah Clark, died when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building. A writer and musician, he keeps Sarah’s half-melted driving licence, recovered from the debris. 

     I’ve been hearing since 2002 people who say, 'Why don’t you lay it rest? Nobody else is talking about it’. All of that is OK – this is America and everyone is a publisher now, saying what they want on the internet, so all that stuff is OK. But those of us who actually felt that pain, who had someone walk out the door that morning and not return, we will never feel like that. Maybe you have to be there.” 

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The CIA & 9/11: A Meeting in Malaysia

The Question of “Failures”- Deliberate or Incompetence And Do They Point To Complicity?

By Kevin Fenton

Although the story of the CIA’s actions in the run-up to 9/11 is complicated, at a fairly early point in any examination of them it becomes clear the agency committed multiple failures.  The key issue that remains in dispute ten years on is whether these “failures” were deliberate or simply the product of overwork and incompetence. Making an informed judgment means taking the time to look at all the failures, put them in order, and analyze what it all means.

    Perhaps the most comprehensible problem is the scope of the CIA’s failings. There was not one error by some lowly neophyte, but a massive string of failures. As Tom Wilshire (the CIA’s chief intelligence representative to ITOS Section Chief Michael Rolince), one of the key CIA officials involved in the withholding of the information commented to the Congressional Inquiry, "places that something could have gone wrong in this over a year and a half, it went wrong. All the processes that had been put in place, all the safeguards, they failed at every possible opportunity.  Nothing went right.”

Tom Wilshere, CIA ITOS
 In addition, some of the failures were extremely serious. For example, the alleged failure by Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, to inform CIA Director George Tenet that Flight 77 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdar was in the country in August 2001 is simply beyond comprehension. Added to this, the failures were committed by a small group of intelligence officers, centered on Wilshire and his boss Richard Blee, and focused on a few al-Qaeda operatives, in particular al-Mihdar and his partner Nawaf Alhazmi. Finally, one of the officers who withheld information has admitted this publicly, and a second reportedly in private, and some surviving documents contradict the “incompetence excuse.”
    The CIA tracked al-Mihdar from Yemen to a stopover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where a photocopy of his passport was made. US officials discovered he had a US visa, issued several months earlier and due to expire in April 2000. This information was reported to the various CIA stations involved in the tracking operation and to Alec Station at CIA headquarters on January 5, 2000.

    An FBI detailee named Doug Miller read the relevant cables from the field and drafted a message to the FBI to telling them al-Mihdar had a US visa. The FBI is a domestically focused organization, so without the US visa al-Mihdar was just a foreign terrorist abroad, and not of much concern to it. It was the US visa that would have made al-Mihdar significant to the Bureau. A female CIA officer who we will call “Michelle” then told Miller not to send the cable yet, saying Wilshire wanted to hold off on it—no one below Wilshire had authority to release such information to the FBI.

    A few hours after she blocked Miller’s cable to the FBI, Michelle sent out a cable stating that the FBI had been informed of al-Mihdar visa information. This was not true, and Michelle must have known this at the time.

Khalid al-Mihdar
 You will not find this episode in the main text of the 9/11 Commission report. Despite its obvious importance, the commission relegated it to a small-type endnote, number 44 to chapter 6.

 Miller turned to a fellow FBI detailee, Mark Rossini, who went to Michelle to ask what was happening. According to Rossini, Michelle said that the FBI was not going to get the information until the CIA wanted it to and that the next al-Qaeda attack was going to be in Southeast Asia.

    In addition, according to several CIA officers interviewed by the Agency’s inspector general, it was standard practice to confirm the Bureau had received such information. This was not done.

    Around a week later, Miller sent an e-mail to Wilshire asking whether he could send the message to the FBI now. He received no reply.

    After 9/11, investigators were unable to find Miller’s draft cable for nearly two and a half years and the people involved allegedly forgot all about it. It was discovered in early 2004, necessitating they relevant officials be interviewed again. However, they still claimed to have no recollection.

    Rossini began to talk more freely about what happened to Lawrence Wright for his 2006 book The Looming Tower, which has an unnamed CIA official tell Miller “This is not a matter for the FBI.” However, Rossini then left the Bureau in disgrace and gave a full account of what happened to author James Bamford and journalist Jeff Stein in 2008. According to Rossini, there was nothing wrong with his memory when interviewed by investigators; he simply chose to lie under pressure from the CIA. Rossini also says there was a minder in the room during the interview, a depressingly typical occurrence for the post-9/11 investigations.

On the same day Miller’s cable was blocked, a CIA officer on loan to the FBI who we will call “Robert” briefed two FBI colleagues on what the CIA knew about the Malaysia meeting. Robert told the two FBI agents pretty much what the CIA knew except the one key thing the Bureau needed to make it sit up and take notice—that al-Mihdar had a US visa. Robert then told another CIA officer on loan to the Bureau there was no need to brief the FBI about Malaysia because he had already done so, ensuring this officer would not let slip the al-Mihdar visa information.

    Meanwhile in Malaysia, the CIA and a local Malaysian intelligence service were following their contacts around. Numerous photos were taken, the attendees at the meeting were videoed on the first day, the operatives went out to use computers at an internet cafe, and intelligence officials then examined the computers. However, an attempt to bug the meeting allegedly failed.

    The full list of the attendees is not known. However, we do know that two leading radicals, bin Attash and Hambali, a leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, were present, along with several other lower-level militants. According to counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna and a Pentagon document about Hambali, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohamed was also there. If true, this would make the CIA’s failure to exploit the meeting all the more bizarre—the Agency was actively looking to rendition him to New York for trial at this time due to his involvement in the 1995 Bojinka plot to blow up multiple airliners.

On January 8, the radicals left Kuala Lumpur for Bangkok, Thailand. The CIA claims it lost them at this point, failing to get men to the airport in time to follow them. This claim needs to be taken with a pinch of salt—bin Attash was monitored in Malaysia making a call to the Washington Hotel in Bangkok, where the three men ended up staying, so it would not be too hard to find them there.

Something strange happened at Alec Station on January 12 and 14. Four days after they had left Kuala Lumpur, Wilshire’s boss Blee briefed his superiors, presumably including Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black and CIA Director George Tenet, about what was happening. He falsely claimed the surveillance in Malaysia was ongoing. Two days later, he gave another false briefing, saying that the meeting had broken up and, again falsely, that the attendees were still being tracked.

    This is a puzzle. It is hard to believe that Blee, who managed only a couple of dozen officers, could be so ignorant of the various cables sent and received about the travel to Bangkok. So why did he misinform his superiors? Was he genuinely misleading them? Or had they told him they wanted no paper trail linking them to what was happening?

Cofer Black
On January 15, Alec Station dropped the matter entirely, even allegedly failing to write up a full report on the matter. However, in February a foreign intelligence service made an offer to help with , an offer mentioned in the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Report, but not the 9/11 Commission Report. The reply that came stated that no help was needed because the CIA was in the middle of an investigation “to determine what the subject is up to.” This is a key document, as it contradicts the claim Alec Station had forgotten all about the two men at the time.

    Also in February, a CIA station (almost certainly the one in Kuala Lumpur) prodded Bangkok station about al-Mihdar by cable. What had happened to him? Bangkok was silent for some time, then replied they did not know, and would have difficulty finding out. As Thailand had watchlisted al-Mihdar at the CIA’s request in mid-January, it almost certainly did know, or could get the information with a simple phone call.

    How the two main inquiries, by the two Congressional intelligence committees and the 9/11 Commission handled it is instructive. The 9/11 Commission report just glosses over it in a couple of lines. The Congressional Inquiry, however, realized just how important it was and zeroed in. Tenet was asked about this publicly under oath by Senator Carl Levin and Tenet… well, he was less than a hundred percent truthful. In response to the questioning he claimed, “I know that nobody read that cable,” and then repeated the assertion twice. In actual fact, as the public learned five years later, at least 50 people at the CIA had read the cable. It is hard to believe that Tenet, who must have prepared thoroughly for such an important appearance before Congress, thought what he was saying was accurate. So the simple question is: what was he trying to cover up?

Kevin Fenton is the author of Disconnecting the Dots:  How CIA and FBI Officials Helped Enable 9/11 and Evaded Government Investigations.

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Iran Breaches U.N. Ballistic Missile Limits: West

Saber Rattling Again:  West Accuses Iran of U.N. Security Council Breach

Global Security Newswire/AP

The United States and three other Western powers have formally charged Iran with breaching U.N. Security Council language barring the Middle Eastern nation from firing systems with ballistic missile components, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Iranian Safir rocket
France, Germany and the United Kingdom joined Washington in referring the purported infraction to the Security Council panel charged with overseeing the implementation of punitive measures against the Persian Gulf state, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said (Associated Press/Washington Post, Sept. 7).

"We were among those that reported to the committee our view that the ballistic missile launches that we have seen of late is a violation of paragraph nine" of Security Council Resolution 1929, Rice said.

The paragraph prohibits Iran from undertaking "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology" (Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire, Sept. 8).

    Iran breached the rule in June by deploying its Rasad 1 satellite, "which is dependent on ballistic missile technology," AP quoted British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant as saying. A Safir rocket lifted the craft into orbit, according to a previous report (see GSN, June 16).

Two Countries - One Vote.  Grant and Rice
The Iran sanctions panel is investigating claims by four U.N. member nations that Iran had breached ballistic missile limits, said Colombian Ambassador to the United Nations Néstor Osorio, who heads the oversight group (Associated Press).

The panel has also received data elaborating on a earlier assertion Iran had violated limits on transfers of weapons and associated equipment, a U.N. press release quoted Osorio said as saying (United Nations release, Sept. 7).

    Rice added: "There have been a variety of violations, but I think the good news is that they are being reported, tracked, and -- particularly with respect to the arms shipments -- very active efforts by the committee, the panel and indeed member states to address those violations" (Barnes, Global Security Newswire).

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U.S. Past Attacks Cast Doubt on Reported 9/11 Anniversary Plot

More Fear-Mongering From U.S. Government:  VBIED Or IED?  Unconfirmed But Credible?  Take Your Pick On 911 Anniversary

September 9, 2011 | 1709 GMT

U.S. government officials reportedly are investigating a possible plot to attack New York City or Washington, D.C., with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Based on details of the purported plot and a consideration of past VBIED attacks, a small improvised explosive device attack and/or armed assault on soft targets away from landmarks in New York or Washington is more likely.

                                                  SPENCER PLATT/Getty Images
U.S. officials told media Sept. 8 that they were investigating a possible al Qaeda plot to detonate a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in New York City or Washington, D.C., on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. According to ABC News, three people, one of whom may be a U.S. citizen, entered the United States from Pakistan in mid-August. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman characterized the threat as unconfirmed but credible, which likely means it came from a single intelligence source and could have been gathered through signals intelligence.

    Even if the details of the plot are accurate, history suggests the plotters likely would not be able to conduct a VBIED attack in such a short span of time. Instead, the more probable threat is from a small improvised explosive device (IED) attack, such as the July 2005 bombings in London, and/or an armed assault on a soft target — likely away from notable landmarks in New York City or Washington. (The purported presence of an American citizen among the suspects would greatly simplify the process of buying firearms.)

2005 London Bombings
The necessary steps on the path to conducting a terrorist attack, especially one utilizing a VBIED, are significant, time-consuming, and expose the suspects to detection by law enforcement. The perpetrators need to accrue the materials and chemicals to build their device. They have to conduct preoperational surveillance to determine where to place the VBIED and how to get it to its destination. And they need to actually construct and deliver the device — and the construction process is more difficult for a VBIED, which requires more space to build than a smaller IED. The vulnerabilities inherent in this process are amplified by the fact that the plotters of the alleged attack would be pressed for time. Rather than purchasing small quantities of bombmaking chemicals and materials over time, they would be forced to purchase large amounts in a matter of weeks.

    A consideration of past VBIED attacks illustrates the length of time needed to carry out a successful attack. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols began gathering ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitromethane and explosives for the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in the summer and fall of 1994, and McVeigh conducted his first preoperational surveillance of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in December 1994. Anders Breivik, the man behind the Norway attacks in July 2011, began buying components for his VBIED in December 2010. Even before that, he began purchasing ammonium nitrate in May 2010, and he established his cover farming company a year earlier in May 2009.

Norway Attacks 2011
    These challenges could be mitigated if the individuals linked up with a grassroots cell, as was the case with the culprits in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) and Ahmed Ajaj entered the United States in September 1992, less than six months before their attack, but a local grassroots cell that included Nidal Ayyad, the chemical engineer who ordered the requisite chemicals to fabricate the VBIED, assisted Basit’s efforts.

Unless the individuals in the rumored 9/11 anniversary plot receive significant help from a grassroots cell, it is much more likely that they intend to attempt an IED and/or armed attack rather than an attack with a VBIED. In any event, with security tight for the 9/11 anniversary commemoration, and now tightened further due to this purported threat, it will be very difficult for attackers to strike a symbolic target on the 9/11 anniversary. The public is already watchful for suspicious activity, and now that authorities publicized the threat, the plotters will be worried that law enforcement is tracking their activities. Any potential attack will likely be focused on a far softer target.

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The real truth on 9/11 slowly continues to bleed out

Technical experts are mounting major challenges to official U.S. government accounts of how three World Trade Center skyscrapers collapsed in near-freefall after the 9/11 attacks 15 years ago.

Many researchers are focusing especially on the little-known collapse of



The Geopolitics Of The United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire

The Empire and the inevitable fall of the Obama criminal regime

STRATFOR Editor’s Note: This installment on the United States, presented in two parts, is the 16th in a series of STRATFOR monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.

Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States.



Geopolitics Of The United States Part 2: American Identity And The Threats of Tomorrow

A look back at 2011 predictions for the future in order to put events of today into perspective

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We have already discussed in the first part of this analysis how the American geography dooms whoever controls the territory to being a global power, but there are a number of other outcomes that shape what that power will be like. The first and most critical is the impact of that geography on the American mindset.



By Robert S. Finnegan

This e-mail outlines and confirms the acts of espionage against Indonesia and Indonesians by Akiko Makino and the others involved both in Kobe University and in AI Lab at University of Airlangga, Surabaya; Bahasa Indonesia original follows English translation...



UPDATED 01/07/2015 : New Analysis Challenges Tamiflu Efficacy; Hong Kong Corona Virus Outbreak


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Obama criminals now resulting to biowarfare in quest to destroy Chinese and ASEAN economy; "novel virus substrain" points directly to a Kawaoka / Fouchier / Ernala-Ginting Kobe lab virus weaponized and genetically altered to specifically target and infect the Asian population: Ribavirin...



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The 5th Estate has just purchased a library on H5N1 "Novel" virus pandemics, there are dozens of PDF and Exel documents we feel will assist you in saving lives following intentional releases of the H5N1 and now MERS viruses; we will begin by printing those that appear to be extremely relevant here: H5N1 Kobe-Kawaoka-Ernala series continues soon with more "Smoking Gun" e-mails from Teridah Ernala to The 5th Estate . . .



By Robert S. Finnegan

On October 12, 2002 the Indonesian island of Bali experienced a terrorist attack that rocked the world. It was unquestionably well-coordinated and executed, the largest in the country's history.