Monday, November 07, 2011

Airport screening process may be revamped, TSA chief pedophile says


These pedophile criminals need to be disbanded, prosecuted, period

LA Times
By Hugo Martin
11/06/2011

In appearances before Congress, Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole has strongly defended the airport screening process that treats everyone the same, including infants and the elderly.

     But in his latest testimony before a congressional panel, Pistole changed his tune and began talking about overhauling the system to focus on intelligence gathering and targeting those travelers the TSA knows the least about.

Chief pedo demonstrates anus digital penetration
"Since I became TSA administrator, I have listened to ideas from people all over this country," he told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. As a result, he said, the agency is moving in the new direction by expanding several pilot security programs and changing the way children are searched at airport security checkpoints.

But don't expect the changes to cut down on the long lines at checkpoints during this holiday travel season. TSA's revised security procedures probably won't be expanded nationwide for several months, an agency spokesman said.

     A test program that began last month at four airports — Miami, Dallas, Detroit and Atlanta — lets passengers who volunteer personal information zip through a special screening lane without having to remove their shoes or jackets. Pistole told lawmakers that it has worked so well that he wants to expand it to more airports. There is no word yet on when the program might be tested at a Southern California airport.

     "We are working closely with other airlines and airports to determine when they may be operationally ready to join," he said.

TSA pedoThomas Gordon had over 100 photos of kids
In another program that was tested at Boston's Logan International Airport, special behavior detection officers chat with passengers in the terminal to detect suspicious behavior. Pistole said the program was recently expanded to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to collect more data on its effectiveness.

Pistole said the agency also has changed its policy for searching children younger than 12. TSA agents now have the discretion to pat down youngsters or require them to remove their shoes.

   "By streamlining procedures for these lower-risk passengers through programs like these, TSA is better able to focus its finite resources on those who pose higher risks to transportation," he said.

Two airlines may be fined for stranding passengers

       JetBlue Airways Corp. and the parent company for American Airlines could face stiff fines for stranding hundreds of passengers in planes on an airport tarmac for seven hours during a snowstorm last month, but a lawyer who specializes in business litigation says passengers probably can't sue over the ordeal.

    JetBlue has apologized and offered to refund the airfares and pay for round-trip tickets for future travel for passengers on six JetBlue flights that were stranded on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn., during a heavy storm that disrupted thousands of flights.

Another pedo, Branson could care less about his passengers
Under U.S. Transportation Department rules, airlines that keep passengers in a grounded plane for three hours or more for domestic flights or four hours or more for international flights, can be fined up to $27,000 per passenger.

The agency is investigating both airlines, but a spokesman said the rules exempt airlines that keep passengers on the tarmac because trying to return them to the terminal disrupts airport operations or creates a safety or security problem.

      Since the rule that took effect in April 2010, the agency has yet to fine any airline.

     It's possible that the once-stranded passengers will get nothing more from the airline than the apology, the refunds and the extra airline tickets, said Hugh Totten, a Chicago attorney who has represented airlines in business litigation.

     "While the new federal regulation limits tarmac delays to three hours, there are several exceptions to the rule," he said. "Exceptions such as 'disruption to airport operations' or 'passenger safety' have been put in place, leaving passengers with no leverage for filing suit."

hugo.martin@latimes.com


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OPINION: Americans follow Mengele at home


In one of the more heinous (if that's possible) chapters of American history, post WWII U.S. government assists Nazi killers in escaping justice to gain information; some data obtained now being used against American population; Sixty years ago, US medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with syphilis.

OPINION

Al Jazeera
By Donna Dickenson
11/06/2011

It's 1946. On one side of the Atlantic, American lawyers are prosecuting Nazi doctors at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity - so-called "research" carried out on concentration camp prisoners. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Guatemala, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) is deliberately infecting prisoners and mental patients with syphilis in another "experiment" aimed at replacing the ineffective drugs used by soldiers during the war that had just ended.

    It sounds too perverse to be true. Yet a special commission appointed by President Barack Obama has just confirmed that the Guatemalan experiments really did take place. Obama has also issued an apology to the people of Guatemala. But why did it take so long to get to this point?

Criminal, disgusting, over 80 died in experiments
Sixty-three years after the Guatemalan experiments, an American historian, Susan Reverby, was rummaging through archived medical papers from the 1940s. Reverby was completing a final task in her two decades of studying the PHS's detestable Tuskegee experiments, in which hundreds of African-American men with late-stage syphilis were observed but not treated, even after penicillin was developed. She was examining the papers of Thomas Parran, US surgeon-general from 1936-1948, when the Tuskegee research was already in full swing. So, too, she found, was the previously unknown Guatemalan experiment.

    For years, Tuskegee has been a byword for ethical abuses in scientific research - to the extent that President Bill Clinton apologised to its surviving "subjects". Hard as it may be to believe, as Reverby was to discover, the abuse in Guatemala was even more egregious.

Medical negligence

    As Reverby put it, "I'd spent nearly two decades explaining that there had been no inoculation at Tuskegee, that while the PHS had used deplorable ethics, they had never infected anyone with syphilis." That was not true in Guatemala. There, "the US government's health service had deliberately infected 427 Guatemalan men and women, prisoners and mental patients, with syphilis".

U.S. medical experiments vimtim:  this one killed by "doctors"
The US prosecutors at Nuremberg didn't know about the Guatemala experiments, so there's no allegation of deliberate hypocrisy. But the case is no less troubling for that. How could the public-health authorities override medicine's basic ethical rule - "First do no harm"? Why was informed consent from the research "subjects" considered unnecessary? Could such a thing happen again?

    Most experts believe that the answer to the last question is no - at least not in the same form. In fact, one should view the Guatemalan study, with its incontrovertible horrors, as an extreme example of the biggest ethical problems in research today. Now, as then, richer developed countries are able to put pressure on weaker, poorer ones.

    A report in 2010 revealed that foreign citizens made up more than three-quarters of all the subjects in clinical trials conducted by US firms and researchers. The US Food and Drug Administration inspected only 45 of these sites, about 0.7 per cent. There is no suggestion that Third World patients are deliberately being made ill when research is outsourced - unlike in the Guatemalan case - but that does not attenuate the inherent vulnerability of populations lacking basic medical care or experiencing epidemics.

Killer Drug

    During a major meningitis epidemic in northern Nigeria in 1996, the drug company Pfizer supplied doctors with the oral antibiotic Trovan, which the firm wanted to test against the most effective known drug, Ceftriaxone, as a "control". This procedure is consistent with the general consensus in research ethics that the control group must receive the best-known treatment for comparison.

Pfizer Trovan victims; many died
The Trovan trial nonetheless caused a storm of controversy, for two reasons. First, even if the trials proved favourable, Trovan was never intended for sale in Africa, but rather for the US and European markets. Second, the sparsely staffed clinical teams were already facing measles and cholera epidemics as well.

    As Jean Hervé Bradol, who was president of Médecins sans Frontières at the time and led its African teams, put it: "It was not a time for a drug trial at all. They were panicking in the hospital, overrun by cases on the verge of dying. The team were shocked that Pfizer continued the so-called scientific work in the middle of hell."

    Nowadays, another major controversy has erupted in several Indian states, owing to a research project to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer - an issue that has now entered the US presidential campaign, because Texas' governor, Rick Perry, now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, backed a similar mandatory programme. While preventing cervical cancer might seem a genuine benefit, critics charge that the programme seems to be mainly about meeting targets, rather than serving the healthcare needs of disadvantaged groups.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Forced minor girls to take Guardisil
Apart from one recommendation - to create a government compensation programme for Third World nationals harmed by trials intended to benefit First World subjects - US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, chaired by Dr Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, did not get much beyond vague notions of community engagement and transparency. But, with 70 per cent of all drug trials now conducted by private companies, such concepts won't go very far towards tougher regulation.

    And why should government pay the costs anyway? Because private companies reap the benefits of the trials that do succeed, they should also shoulder the risks.

Donna Dickenson, Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of London, was the 2006 winner of the International Spinoza Lens Award for contributions to public debate on ethics. Her latest book is Body Shopping: The Economy Fuelled by Flesh and Blood.


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Bedbugs give Falmouth housing officials the willies


These little bastards are viscous and persistent, best remedy is prevention and if all else fails burn down house

Cape Cod Times
By Sean Teehan
11/06/2011

FALMOUTH — 

They hide during the day, only to emerge when you fall asleep, so they can suck your blood under the cover of darkness.

    "There's sort of a boogeyman effect to them, because they come and feed on you while you're sleeping," said Thomas Lacey, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority, about bedbugs, which were found at the Harborview Apartments on Scranton Avenue about three weeks ago.

Yow... incredible.  The bites that is....
The housing authority immediately took corrective measures after residents and building staff discovered the parasites in the laundry room and at least two units in the building that's home to elderly and disabled residents, Lacey said.

Last week, one of the two units was successfully treated, and dogs trained to track bedbugs found none outside the other affected unit, which is also scheduled for treatment, he added.

    As the resurgence of bedbugs continues to leave a trail of itchy bites across the country, the scourge is beginning to affect public housing on Cape Cod.

   While few infestations have been reported, officials across the region are preparing for what some see as inevitable: the need to rid their buildings of the bugs.

   "It's like a bad horror flick," said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University's School of Public Health.

    Some of the former remedies for bedbugs were nightmarish. The early 1950s, for instance, brought forth an era where strong insecticides, such as DDT, were widely sold at low prices and used in households on a regular basis, Pollack said.

Infestations becoming more common now with more poverty
"We know now that ... wasn't such a good idea," Pollack said, referring to the practice's tendency to leave lingering, dangerous chemicals for people to inhale.

In the past three years or so, the prevalence of these pests has grown from barely noticeable to full-blown, especially in multi-family homes and hotel rooms.

    "It's just everywhere; the Cape is no exception," said Barbara Thurston, Bourne Housing Authority executive director.

    Thurston experienced the problem firsthand in early spring when four units at the Continental Apartments, public housing for elderly residents in Buzzards Bay, became infested. The housing authority shelled out $250 per hour for a dog to find the bugs and then $1,000 per unit to eradicate them, Thurston said.

    The pricey extermination method used at the Continental Apartments is a non-toxic one that heats affected rooms to about 140 degrees, said Sandy Rubenstein, who owns Pure Heat, a company that provides this service. The heat kills all bedbugs and eggs without using chemicals, Rubenstein said. Chemical treatments also remain a popular method for eradicating the bugs.

Bedbugs can really screw up your sex life
Bedbugs typically use humans as vehicles to travel, and they reproduce wherever they land, said Pollack. 

They can crawl into clothing or suitcases left unattended in an infested room and find a new home in a mattress, couch or other places where they might find something on which to feed. Their methods of spreading makes places like hotels and apartment buildings especially vulnerable to the species' proliferation.

    "We are preparing in case it does happen," said Sandee Perry, executive director of the Barnstable Housing Authority.

    "(Bedbugs) are around when you have a lot of people," Perry said. "Unfortunately, it's inevitable."

Bites look bad, but usually not serious
Staying in front of the problem, Perry is in contact with other housing authority directors who have dealt with infestations and sends her employees to training sessions that teach them how to identify the pesky insects, find where the bugs came from, and educate residents on how to keep them from spreading.

While the small, flat, reddish-brown creatures are more prevalent than in past years, Pollack said hysteria over bedbugs has caused many people who seek out his pest-identifying business, IdentifyUs LLC, to show him samples of things like table lint, convinced they are bedbugs.

    "It's something (on which) we just need to educate ourselves to deal with in a rational way," Pollack said. 

   "In many cases, they've already spent $5,000 or more to treat their home" before discovering it isn't infested.

    Pollack also stressed that, contrary to some social stigmas that only dirty or dilapidated homes become infested, bedbugs don't discriminate between victims.

    "Bedbugs don't care how thick your wallet is ... how clean your house is, or how much you shower," he said.


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Mo. residents upset by order to move lake homes


Missouri feds mimic Alaska's DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) in attempting to condemn, then seize million dollar properties they covet; these properties usually wind up in hands of regime favorites

Associated Press
By Chris Blank

CAMDENTON, Mo. (AP) — 

Nearly every year, Patsy Riley has gotten unsolicited offers for her house on Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks with its spectacular views of tree-lined bluffs and its ample shoreline, but she never wanted to leave. Now, she and hundreds of her neighbors wonder what will become of their homes after a federal agency declared that many structures built close to the lake may have to go.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, citing restrictions on private developments around dams, says thousands of residences, decks, patios and boathouses appear to encroach on land belonging to the hydroelectric project in violation of federal regulations.

Aerial of Bagnell Dam
The announcement has triggered panic in the area's lakefront communities and led to a growing battle among regulators, a utility company, land attorneys and the state's congressional delegation. Officials say they are searching for a way to settle the issue without mass evictions.

    "We are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," said Riley, who has lived at the lake for more than 30 years and estimates about half of her neighborhood is threatened.

    The dispute pits the government's rules for hydroelectric projects against the potential vagaries of land records and private transactions that go back more than 80 years. Riley and other property owners say they have legal deeds to their land that permitted construction. The agency says it has regulations protecting the lake's recreation, scenery and environment against development.

Bagnell Dam
The winding, 93-mile-long Lake of the Ozarks was created in 1931 by the Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project, and has become a playground for water sports enthusiasts and vacationers. The thickly wooded shores and hills are dotted with houses, resorts and weekend cottages.

    The problem with the lakefront property arose when Ameren Missouri, the power company that owns the project, applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a new 40-year license to operate the dam. A required shoreline plan noted that some structures had been built over time on some of the utility's property for the dam, in many cases when Union Electric Co., an earlier form of Ameren, was the owner. 

    How the property was sold was not clear. But the utility had no problem with many of the structures.

Osage Indians were the first occupiers of the land
FERC objected, however. "In the majority of cases, the existing non-conforming structures  should be removed in a timely manner and the site restored to its pre-existing conditions," the agency's ruling last summer said. For hardship cases, regulators said Ameren could propose allowing some homes to remain temporarily or could seek an adjustment in the property's boundaries.
 
      Homeowners say the ruling leaves their property worthless.
 
    Riley, a retired special education teacher, said the ranch-style house she bought 32 years ago was valued at about $350,000 but now would be impossible to sell. No matter what happens, Riley said, she is not leaving.

     Other residents were so alarmed that, rather than watch a critical sixth game of the World Series featuring their beloved St. Louis Cardinals, hundreds turned out for a community meeting that lasted for hours.

    The utility has proposed shifting the project's property boundaries to get many of the residences out of danger.

Lake and surroundings high-value properties ripe for theft
"It is difficult to understand how this collective drain on socioeconomics resources in this region — financial and otherwise — is justifiable, especially given current economic and housing market conditions," Ameren officials said in a brief filed recently with the federal agency.

    A FERC spokeswoman declined to comment to The Associated Press. Previously, the agency told The Kansas City Star in a written statement that "FERC's role is to ensure that the licensee is following the terms of the license, and approve shoreline management plans. It is the responsibility of the licensee to carry out the terms and conditions of the license, including shoreline management plan."

Federal theft of high-value properties nothing new
Missouri's members of Congress have insisted that the agency reverse itself.

"It's outrageous, it's infuriating and it has got to be stopped," said Rep. Vicky Hartzler, whose district includes part of the lake.

    Glenna Hulett, who has lived at the lake since 1958, said she loves her panoramic view but worries that her condo will be worthless unless FERC relents.

    "We're basically sitting on an investment that you can't sell. It doesn't have any value," Hulett said. "It's an awful lot of uncertainty."

 Images:  Google Images


    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.




CIA: End of the Innocents


How America's longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the CIA's progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency -- and was never seen again; CIA should have been destroyed back then


Foreign Policy
10/03/2011

By the time Jim Thompson reached his cramped corner of the temporary U.S. legation in Thailand each morning in 1946, a small crowd had already formed waiting to see him. In the soupy, humid air, they squatted on their haunches, chewing sour mango slices and dried pork skins, waiting for their savior, the best-connected intelligence man in Indochina, a man unaware that he would soon be among the last of a dying breed -- a lone idealist in an increasingly power-hungry, militarized CIA that would never be the same again.
 
CIA base, Laos
Thompson pushed through the waiting crowd and grabbed his seat. There were Thais in the crowd, but mostly Laotians, Cambodians, and Vietnamese from resistance groups fighting the French colonists. Most afternoons, these nationalist fighters would come to see Thompson, but on weekends Thompson often tried to catch a flight to the Thai northeast, where tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians lived and where Ho Chi Minh's forces had built a sizable operation.

    Thompson made little effort to conceal his sympathies for these militants. He quietly met regularly with the prime minister of the Free Laos movement, who was living secretly in Bangkok; brought the leaders of the Free Cambodian groups to meet with other U.S. officials; and even got a clandestine rendezvous with Prince Souphanouvong, a leftist member of the Lao royal family who, during the Vietnam War, allied himself with the communists and would become known as the Red Prince.

    When Lao militants launched a brief border war with French forces in Laos, Thompson traveled to the Lao border to negotiate a truce. He had been winning their trust on foot, walking day after day through Vietnamese refugee camps, Lao villages, and Cambodian towns just inside Thailand's borders, where these refugees had set up replicas of home, complete with stalls serving steaming bowls of pho, sticky rice, and charred pieces of gamy grilled chicken. Arriving at the Thai border after reports that fighting was breaking out along the frontier and that men, women, and children were fleeing with their possessions into Thailand, Thompson was a calming presence. 

In Thailand's northeast, where Thompson traveled with Tiang Sirikhanth, a populist sympathetic to the anti-French insurgents, he assured the Indochinese insurgent leaders that they would eventually get their independence, with America's backing. "The sooner the European suckups of the State Department realize that the days of colonies are over, the better," he wrote in one letter back to the United States. "I see a great deal of the Laos, the Vietnamese, and the Indonesians here and they are a very intelligent bunch and not ones to be fooled."

    Working first in the Office of Strategic Services and then for the CIA, which at the time was trying to broker some kind of exit for France from Asia, Thompson had contacts among the Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese militants that no one else had. But despite his enormous knowledge of the Southeast Asians, Thompson seemed to understand little about his own agency; he knew the people he was working with needed help and assumed that the United States would come to their aid.

    The Laotians brought together all of Thompson's beliefs all at once: his idealistic anti-imperialism, his desire to help the most alienated and hopeless of people, his need to have a mission that was his alone. Because no one else in the U.S. mission focused on the Laotians -- even though, one day soon, Laos would become vital to American interests -- Thompson basically ran the operation himself.

Free Lao Forces
Thompson did not only have a unique affection for Laotians; he truly believed that, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt had promised during World War II, the United States would help free countries from colonial masters and set them on the road to democracy. Neighbors on all sides of Thailand -- Indochina, Burma, India, and Indonesia -- were deep in it. "Jim was an idealist, a romantic, an anti-imperialist, and there was no more idealistic time than just after the war," remembered Rolland Bushner, who served in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. "We had stood with the anti-colonialists, the democrats, in the war, and we expected that would continue." 

     Thompson was in many ways unique, but by the 1950s and early 1960s he would become part of a larger, growing, and much less idealistic machine, one that would expose his naivete -- and punish him for it. As the Cold War grew hot, the United States no longer would back any of these nationalist fighters; America would support France, and then local dictators, in an attempt to fend off communism, infuriating older liberals like Thompson. In Laos, the CIA would make the biggest bet in its history -- not to push democracy, as Thompson wanted, but itself. The agency's secret war in Laos would alter Asia forever, transforming the lives of American operatives and the local hill tribes they worked with. But it would also transform the CIA.

    Before the Laos secret war, the agency was a small player in the policymaking apparatus. But by using the war to demonstrate its new importance in policymaking circles, the CIA would make itself far more powerful -- a paramilitary organization rather than a spy agency. Today, the CIA has retained and expanded that paramilitary focus, often leading the war on terror in Afghanistan and other parts of the globe. "Laos made us," one CIA operative told me. "Everything about the power of the CIA, the CIA's global reach, the ability of the CIA [to make war today], not just the Army, to make war -- it came from Laos."

***

    From the Chom Si temple overlooking the town of Luang Prabang, the historic seat of Laos's royal family, the scene in early 1962 looked little different from what it might have decades earlier. On the narrow peninsula jutting out into the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, women in long wraparound phasin dresses sold fresh baguettes each morning. At dusk, makeshift stalls in the market offered spicy raw papaya salad and fried Mekong River catfish. In the royal palace, set back from the three-wheeled rickshaws and bicycles of Luang Prabang's main streets, the king of Laos, Savang Vatthana, still theoretically ruled the country as head of state.

Lao King Savang Vatthana
But by the early 1960s, this idyllic little kingdom had become one of the hottest firefights of the Cold War. Strange as it would seem to a visitor to the sleepy country today, for a period in the 1960s, Laos was where Washington would set the future of its foreign policy -- and cement the CIA as a paramilitary organization, a role it would never give up afterward. With communists gaining ground in Vietnam, Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration saw the tiny landlocked country as a bulwark against communism spreading farther west. At a National Security Council meeting, Eisenhower himself warned, "If Laos were lost, the rest of Southeast Asia would follow, and the gateway to India would be opened [to communists]."

    Under Eisenhower and then John F. Kennedy, the United States would decisively opt for a covert battle in Laos. The U.S. Embassy there began to expand into what would become, along with bases in northeastern and eastern Thailand, a vast complex of intelligence operations. The United States had sent some small amounts of aid to Laos in the 1950s, but in August 1962 Kennedy authorized a new, and vastly larger, secret U.S. military aid program. (When Kennedy did discuss the country, he deliberately mispronounced the country's name as "LAY-os," rather than the correct "louse" or "laaw," fearing that average Americans would not take seriously a country whose name sounded like a small bug.)

    And in Laos, the CIA found a different type of fighting partner, an archetype for the kind of proxy allies it would deploy around the globe in the 1970s, 1980s, and today. In the mountains of northern and central Laos, the Hmong hill tribe -- a rugged ethnic minority group -- hated central authority and had spent nearly 4,000 years fighting outside forces from the Chinese to the Vietnamese. They disdained the Lao communists, whom they feared would deprive them of their traditional way of life and farming. Most Hmong had little interaction with or knowledge of the technological and commercial revolutions changing Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok. Still, they had built a reputation as the most fearsome fighters in Asia. The Hmong, whose name means "free," fought like they had nothing to lose, a trait they seemed to prefer: In the 18th century, during a battle with China, many Hmong fighters first killed their wives and children, so that they could enter the fight against China with nothing holding them back. By the early 1960s, the CIA had begun to build modern airstrips in Laos, and the agency shipped the Hmong army assault rifles, rocket launchers, howitzers, and food. U.S. officials assured the Hmong that Washington would back them until the communists were defeated. After all, Laos was then of the highest priority, and surely nothing short of victory would be acceptable. No word of this emerging, massive war effort was released to Congress or the American press.
 
CIA airline Air America ran opium for themselves, Vang Pao
Jim Thompson had a certain view of Laos and all of Southeast Asia. Since he had arrived there in 1945, he had come to love the region. He had started collecting local art and antiquities, and he launched a silk business in part to help provide income for poor people from Laos and northeastern Thailand who worked for him as silk weavers. As the Indochina wars ramped up, he became convinced that by standing on the side of locals against, initially, the French colonialists and then, later, their own dictators, the United States would retain the prestige it had gained in World War II and ultimately make the world safer for itself as well. Thompson saw in Indochina a chance to bring real democracy to one of the remotest parts of the world -- or at least for people in Laos and other countries to live their lives without the rule of outsiders.

    But back at Langley, CIA leaders saw a different objective in the battleground country. Since it was formed out of the World War II­-era Office of Strategic Services, the CIA had gained a foothold in the territorial world of the U.S. foreign-policy community. CIA operatives had helped engineer coups in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. But even with the powerful Allen Dulles in charge, the agency remained a minor player in Washington compared with the U.S. military services or the enormous reach of the State Department. The CIA's personnel numbered in the hundreds, and its budget was a mere rounding error compared with the Pentagon's. 

Lao Warlord General Vang Pao
In Laos, however, the CIA had connections, dating to the early 1950s, that the Army lacked, and it had its own private, covert airline that had helped the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War and continued to aid them once they wound up in Taiwan. In Laos, Langley saw an opportunity to step up to equal status with the big boys at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. And because the United States had formally signed an agreement with the Soviet Union committing both powers not to interfere in supposedly neutral Laos, the CIA's ability to operate secretly, with proxy fighters, made it even more essential to the U.S. war effort.

    At CIA headquarters, only a few midlevel men saw, early on, the potential of the secret war to transform the CIA itself, but they proved critical. William Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Laos from 1964 to 1969, who worked closely with the agency, saw how the secret war could work for the United States. Quizzed by congressional investigators in the latter days of the secret war about whether the United States had any commitment to help the Hmong over the long run, Sullivan simply answered: "No."

    The CIA, the advocates of the secret war argued, could show that a proxy war, fought by local men with American bombers and operatives supporting them, could be as successful as a full-on U.S. military operation, with far fewer casualties -- and in near-total secrecy.

    This message eventually caught on, not only at Langley but also within the broader U.S. government. After all, Washington did not want to expose any more of its Southeast Asian operations to scrutiny than it had to, especially as American casualties mounted in Vietnam. From a handful of old planes purchased from an airline in 1950, Air America, the U.S. covert airline in Laos, had by the mid-1960s more than 300 pilots and co-pilots. It was dropping millions of pounds of food, ammunition, and weapons to the Hmong fighters each month. Ubon air base in northeast Thailand, one of the main bases for flights into Laos, employed more than 2,300 people. By the mid-1970s, Laos had become the most heavily bombed place on Earth: Unexploded ordnance dotted nearly every village road, and rural people struggling to survive built their stilt homes using bomb casings to hold up the dwellings. 

Hmong mistake Time reporter for CIA, fall to knees
Undersecretary of State U. Alexis Johnson told peers in 1971 that the Hmong operation was "very cost-effective." In other words, as one historian later wrote, Hmong lives were cheap: The United States did not have to spend money buying the Hmong rations of beef, eggs, and ice cream, as it did American troops, because the Hmong subsisted on rice and foraging; Hmong soldiers got about $3 per month in pay, compared with as much as $339 per month for U.S. Army privates serving in Vietnam. Hmong fighters were more than 10 times more likely to die as U.S. Army soldiers serving in Vietnam. Washington provided the Hmong with minimal medical assistance. Although precise figures are impossible to obtain, by the end of the secret war, the Hmong had lost nearly half their fighting-age men.

***

    The CIA's plan would work -- in a fashion -- laying the groundwork for Iran-Contra, the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, and other U.S. proxy armies up to the present day. By running the Laos secret war, the CIA made itself into a central foreign-policy actor for the first time, a centrality it would never give up, even when it faced reforms imposed by Congress in the 1970s, after the Church Committee report, such as the removal of CIA director William Colby and the creation of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The agency had developed a cadre of paramilitary experts and demonstrated its own kind of warfare, which held down Vietnamese forces in Laos for more than 10 years, at minimal cost to America, even though the United States ultimately pulled out of Indochina. By the late 1960s, Laos had put the CIA director at the policy table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior military leaders, and it had made, for the foreseeable future, a proxy war a viable alternative to an Army-led war. 

CIA staple, fundraiser even today:  Opium
Laos, longtime operatives said, showed that the CIA could run its own kind of war, and the graduates of that operation would go on to mastermind other proxy battles. Among the major operatives in Laos in the later years of the secret war were Richard Second, Thomas Clines, and Ted Shackley -- three men who would reunite in the early and mid-1980s to manage the Iran-Contra operation and work with and funnel weapons to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, a CIA proxy war not unlike the secret war in Laos.

    But for Thompson, as well as many Laotians, the war would not turn out so well. As the war in Indochina expanded, Thompson focused on his silk business, but he continued to provide advice and assistance to CIA men working in Southeast Asia. Increasingly, though, he was so embittered by America's Cold War policy in the region that the dinner and cocktail parties he often threw at his grand house along a Bangkok canal led to open questioning of what the CIA and the Army were doing.

    From receiving almost nothing in the mid-1950s, Laos had become the United States' largest recipient of aid per capita in the 1960s, but the money was flowing not only to the Hmong but also to other, more corrupt Laotians, who had no real interest in fighting. Meanwhile, as the war dragged on, the United States abandoned aid projects -- education, health care, and other efforts -- that had accompanied the secret war (as the country would in Nicaragua in the early and mid-1980s and as appears to be happening in Afghanistan today). Instead, money was increasingly spent on bombing runs over Laos, with the agency paying less and less attention to just who was on the receiving end. Bombing runs and tonnage of shells dropped could be easily counted, marked off on a piece of paper back at agency headquarters. 

Bombed back to the stone age:  Laos Plain of Jars
Meanwhile, the proxy fighters also took the kind of casualties U.S. troops and politicians would never have countenanced. In the early 1960s, there were roughly 400,000 Hmong living in Laos; by the end of the secret war, as many as 300,000 of them had been killed or forced to flee the country. Those who remained saw their lives changed dramatically: While once the Hmong farmed their land and hunted in their jungles, totally self-sufficient, the alliance with the United States had made this hardiest of people totally reliant on aid.

    Later, after the United States pulled out of Laos in 1975 (in a harbinger of how the agency would abandon allies in Afghanistan during the 1980s and later Iraq, where locals who had worked in conjunction with U.S. forces were left to fend for themselves or flee from death squads), the Hmong would have to flee to Thailand en masse, where they lived in squalid refugee camps until they were grudgingly admitted to the United States. They staggered, emaciated, into Thai refugee camps, where they were promptly robbed and raped by Thai soldiers. The world eventually forgot about the Hmong, though 35 years later, several Western journalists found a group of Hmong fighters still hidden deep in the Laos jungle, fighting against the communists who now controlled the country. Dressed in ragged uniforms given to them four decades ago, some believed that if they held out long enough, the United States would notice them once again and send in new bombers and helicopter gunships to help them finally win their war.

The changed focus on running the war from the United States attracted a new breed of military contractors, too, men who saw dollar signs in the secret war -- a young industry of contractors that would grow to be the CIA's essential paramilitary partners. Longtime operatives on the ground in Southeast Asia like Thompson were simply a thing of the past -- no one listened to them anymore. The secret war had grown so big no one at the CIA was going to let local operatives actually manage it. Langley had built up the Thai bases supporting the secret war into giant operations, complete with officers' clubs and movie theaters where only Americans were allowed in, with brothels right outside the bases where Thai cooks whipped up hamburgers alongside plates of wide noodles stir-fried with hot basil.

    By the mid-1960s, watching how Laos was turning into a massive war, with little control by Laotians themselves, Thompson became more and more dispirited. "Laos makes me feel sick," Thompson wrote to his sister in late 1960, as he convalesced in the hospital after coming down with pneumonia yet again -- illnesses, many friends believed, accentuated by seeing how his little slice of paradise was being destroyed. "I am afraid this is the beginning of a long struggle for that poor little country," he wrote.

    But rather than simply keeping his worry and anger to himself, Thompson took a very impolitic step. The best-known American in Asia, he began to openly criticize the United States, its war effort, and the CIA, as well as the Thai leaders who were working with the United States to foment the war in Laos -- a dangerous move when he was still, after all these years, a visitor living in Thailand.

    In the early 1960s, the CIA issued a "burn notice" on Thompson, warning all its operatives to avoid any contact with him. But still, Thompson persisted. In early 1967, he gave a much-viewed television interview in which he lashed into U.S. policy in Indochina, infuriating many agency men. "Jim basically cut any ties he still had with that," said his old friend and longtime agent Campbell James.

CIA "friends" burned, killed Thompson in Malaysia
Thompson's anger at U.S. policy carried over into his private life; he had grown so agitated that friends encouraged him to take a much-needed vacation. He traveled to Malaysia in the spring of 1967. On Easter Sunday, while taking a short hike on vacation in the highlands, Thompson suddenly vanished. When his relatives tried to find out where he might have disappeared to, the U.S. embassies in the region, and the CIA, stonewalled them. Despite a massive manhunt that was the largest in the region for its time, no trace of Jim Thompson was ever found.

Images:  Google Images


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