Posts Tagged ‘cia’

Brandon Raub, the 26-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran who is currently being indefinitely detained because of inflammatory posts made on his Facebook page, faces yet another hurdle following a psychiatric “evaluation” on Monday.

Raub is being held against his will and without charges at John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Virginia, following an arrest (though some have challenged the technical accuracy of this word) by numerous FBI agents and the Chesterfield County Police Department on the 16th of August.

He was lead away in handcuffs without being read his rights, and it was only following his detainment that his mother received a call from FBI Agent Sherry Grainger, who informed her of the following:

“We have taken your son. He has been arrested by the Chesterfield County Police Dept because he assaulted an officer and resisted arrest. He has been arrested and taken to the Chesterfield Police Department.”

As was reported previously, the CCPD initially told  a different story, claiming that the arrest was spearheaded by the FBI, with Chesterfield officers only assisting the agents involved. Additionally, CCPD claims that Raub has not been charged with either resisting arrest or assaulting an officer, directly contradicting the claims of Agent Grainger.

Some have observed that one of the more disturbing aspects of this case is that neither the FBI, nor the CCPD, nor the Secret Service which assisted with Raub’s initial interview after he was taken into custody, seem to want to take responsibility for his detention. The Richmond spokesperson for the FBI stated unequivically:

“When we left we had not arrested him, we had not placed our hands on him, we did not detain him and we did not charge him.”

Brian Leary, Secret Service representative, released the following statement:

“The Secret Service assisted the FBI with the interview. He was not arrested by the Secret Service. The Secret Service will continue to monitor the situation. We have no further comment at this time.”

And the CCPD also effectively washed their hands of the matter, writing that:

“Raub was evaluated by a Chesterfield mental health official, who determined that he should be held under a temporary [detention] order and transported to John Randolph Medical Center for additional evaluation.

Raub was not arrested and he faces no criminal charges in Chesterfield.”

On Monday, Raub was forced to undergo a psychological “evaluation” at the psychiatric hospital where he is currently being held. According to his mother, the evaluation “was 15 minutes long, and basically the evaluator said that he was not ready to go back into society and he needed additional psychiatric treatment.” The evaluation resulted in Raub being sentenced to a minimum of 30 days in the mental hospital, despite the fact that no charges have been brought against him.

According to Russia Today, the government is utilizing state legislation (Virginia State Code §37.2-808) which states that authorities may indefinitely detain a person without charges in a mental institution upon obtaining a recommendation from a medic.

The Rutherford Insitute, a civil rights watchdog group, has begun to assemble a defense on behalf of Raub. A statement posted on their website from the executive director of the Institute, John Whitehead, reads as follows:

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights [to freedom of speech], but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon.”

Rutherford Institute lawyers decried the government’s decision to hold Raub without charges for the next month, saying that “government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration.”

Raub himself, during a telephone interview with the Times-Dispatch, had the following to say:

“I really love America, and I think that idea that you can be detained and sent somewhere without due process and a lawyer … is crazy.”

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by Ian Driscoll

Bolivia has made incredible strides under President Evo Morales, successfully combating illiteracy, child mortality rates, unemployment and poverty. But in the United States, Morales is continually portrayed as a dangerous dictator, bent on subverting the interests of the United States in the region. This article asks two questions: What are the reasons behind this negative portrayal, and what may lie ahead for the South American democracy?

Evo Morales

Evo Morales, the first Aymara President of Bolivia, was elected to office in 2006. He handily defeated a 2008 referendum recall with two thirds of the vote, and in 2009 won reelection to the Presidency with 64% of the popular vote, representing a strong mandate from the people.

Born into an impoverished household in 1959, he and his family were subsistence farmers, scratching out a living on a small piece of land and residing in an adobe home with dirt floors and a straw roof. He was one of seven siblings, though only he and two others would survive childhood.

His first taste of political activism came in the early 80s, after joining the coca grower’s union (not to be confused with cocaine, a very different, chemically constituted refinement of specific varieties of the coca plant). He rose through the ranks, and was eventually elected to the position of General Secretary in the early 90s.

He joined the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement for Socialism) political party in the late 90s, continuing as an advocate for the rights of coca growers and indigenous campesinos. He was elected to Congress in 1997, but kicked out by the majority for supporting armed opposition to the “innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations” committed by government troops under a recently passed coca eradication plan. The plan, widely viewed as initiated by the United States (which, since the early 90s, has funded Bolivian eradication measures to the tune of roughly 150M per year), was intensely unpopular among the farmers which Evo represented. Morales responded to his expulsion by submitting an official complaint to the Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal, and declared:

“I was the congressman with the highest proportion of votes for his area and ‘obeying an order from the US’ they voted to expel me from Congress. It is only recently that the constitutional court finally declared the whole farce illegal, and now they are having to pay compensation for what they did.”

In 2005, Morales was elected to the Presidency with 54% of the popular vote, taking office in 2006. And in 2008 he fared even better, receiving a record majority of 64% of the vote, while his main opponent received an underwhelming 27%.

As a man favored by the people, who has made incredible headway in confronting some of Bolivia’s most systemic problems, and clearly commands the respect of the vast majority of the Bolivian population, why is Morales demonized in the American media?

Some have suggested that it’s his success.

Economic and Social Achievements

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of people living in “moderate poverty” declined by almost 12%, decreasing from 60% to 49.6%. The percentage of Bolivians living in extreme poverty also declined, from 38% to 25%. Unemployment fell from 8.4% to 4%, as well, and it’s economy has increased at an average rate of 4.5% every year since Morales took office.

Additionally, internal consumption of “electricity, purified water and domestic gas” has increased by 7% thanks to income redistribution, expanding access to basic services.

Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy under Morales as well. UNESCO standards dictate that a county is free of illiteracy if 96% of its population over the age of 15 can read and write. After taking office in 2006, Morales launched an ambitious, 30 month literacy program that was designed by Cuba (designated illiteracy free in 1961, two years after Castro took office), and paid for by Venezuela (free of illiteracy in 2005, under Hugo Chavez). The United States, on the other hand, may have much lower literacy rates than previously believed. A study released in 2003 entitled the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, suggests that literacy rates in the U.S. range anywhere from 65-85%.

According the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), Bolivia has also used the highest percentage of its GNP of all countries in Latin America for the advancement of the poor, “transferring resources to its most vulnerable population”.

And all of this has been achieved while the western world has suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

So why would any of this make Morales unpopular in North America? Well, the results aren’t the problem, really. It’s the method that worries Uncle Sam.

Bolivia has achieved all of the success noted above by ignoring what’s known as the Washington Consensus, an unwritten list of economic commandments that America has imposed upon its neighbors since the Regan administration. This is known, in other parts of the world, as neoliberalism.

Without embarking on a thorough study of the Washington Consensus (or, neoliberalism), the main tenets of the economic dogma are as follows:

  • The rule of the market — freedom for capital, goods and services, where the market is self-regulating allowing the “trickle down” notion of wealth distribution. It also includes the deunionizing of labor forces and removals of any impediments to capital mobility, such as regulations. The freedom is from the state, or government.
  • Reducing public expenditure for social services, such as health and education, by the government
  • Deregulation, to allow market forces to act as a self-regulating mechanism
  • Privatization of public enterprise (things from water to even the internet)
  • Changing perceptions of public and community good to individualism and individual responsibility.

Deregulation, the breakdown of labor laws, the focus on the individual rather than the community, all these things are familiar to the American reader, and at least some have argued that they were directly responsible for the world economic collapse which began in late 2007.

For years, Bolivia was pressured by international monetary organizations like the World Bank and the IMF to privatize its natural resources. This culminated in the 2001 sale of the Cochabamba region’s water supply to a private, U.S. corporation called Bechtel, which promptly declared it illegal for the Bolivian poor to collect rain water in buckets on their roofs, claiming ownership of even the water which fell from the sky. Riots ensued, and Bechtel was eventually forced out.

Bolivia under Morales, on the other hand, embarked on a program diametrically opposed to the basic beliefs embodied in the Washington Consensus:

Evo Morales’s government did the opposite of what the Washington Consensus recommends: it nationalised hydrocarbons, electricity, telecommunications and mining; renegotiated the presence of direct foreign investment in the country; implemented an expansive fiscal policy and closed borders to the free importation of economically strategic products. The state took 34% of the economy under its control.

Morales has made clear that he’s interested in creating a new economic system, one based upon community and mutual respect, not just for one’s fellow human beings, but for the planet upon which we all live. Morales has stated:

“We don’t believe in the linear, cumulative conception of progress and of an unlimited development at the cost of other people and of nature. To live well is to think not only in terms of per capita income, but of cultural identity, community, harmony among ourselves and with Mother Earth.”

To that end, he went so far as to pass the world’s first piece of legislation granting nature rights equal to those of human beings. The Law of Mother Earth, as it is called, granted to nature 11 hard and fast rights, including: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” The U.N. General Assembly named Morales “World Hero of Mother Earth” in recognition of the historic law, but the United States and its corporate interests aren’t happy:

…there is a great deal of opposition from powerful sectors, particularly mining and agro-industrial enterprises, to any ecological laws that would threaten profits. The main organization of soya producers, which claimed that the law “will make the productive sector inviable,” is one of many powerful groups who have already come out against the law.

And the threat to profits isn’t all that the U.S. is upset about. The defiance of the Washington Consensus clearly indicates a radical shift away from America dominated domestic policy.

And this isn’t an isolated case. In recent years, there has arisen a wave of leftist leaders openly hostile to the economic demands of Washington D.C. and its international banking arms. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the Kirchners of Argentina, Lula in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, and of course the omnipresent Fidel Castro who is widely recognized as the grandfather of the entire movement. These leaders represent a united front against what they perceive as a kind of economic colonialism advanced by the United States of America for the last 70 years.

But Washington isn’t sitting on its hands. In the last decade, there have been numerous coup and assassination attempts directed at several of the leaders listed above, many of which are directly linked to CIA activity and corporate interests in the region.

Assassination Attempts

The most recent and widely publicized attempt at assassinating Evo Morales came in 2009, when three men were shot dead by Bolivian police at a hotel in Santa Cruz.

Morales, who had gone to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez, had ordered their arrest prior to departing. The police had entered the hotel at which the men were staying at around 4 in the morning. A firefight ensued, and along with the bodies of the three men in question, a large cache of weapons and high explosive devices were recovered.

President Morales publicly speculated as to whether or not the U.S. Embassy in La Paz may have been behind the assassination plot, calling on President Obama to repudiate the actions of the would-be assassins. Obama, for his part, said that he was “unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales that his administration was not involved.”

However, facts that emerged in the years following the attempted assassination seem to indicate that the CIA, at the very least, had direct and detailed knowledge of the plot to kill Morales, and may have even been actively working with the plotters.

The three men who were killed during the firefight in April of 2009 were all foreigners, one of them an Irishman named Michael Dwyer with a background in private security, who had traveled to Bolivia under the pretense of a “security training program”.

The other two men were named as Eduardo Rosza Flores (Hungarian-Bolivian head of a paramilitary organization and ringleader of the plot), as well as Magyarosi Arpak (Romanian).

Dwyer worked at a Shell Oil compound in County Mayo, Ireland, and Rosza and Dwyer had a mutual friend (commander of a Romanian paramilitary group, the Szekler Legion) who was still employed by Shell’s security services at the time of the 2009 shooting. Both worked specifically for the IRMS (Integrated Risk Management Service), the internal security component of Shell Oil Company, known for employing violent thugs and criminals to protect Shell’s global interests. IRMS was created by the “US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to protect Queen Beatrix’s holdings in Iraq after her company was given the rights to Iraq’s vast oil and gas fields in what is described as a ‘no bid contract’ by the Bush Administration.”

Additionally, in 2011, a cable made public in a Wikileaks dump and written by John S. Creamer, Charge D’ Affaires at the US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia revealed that Marcelo Soza, the Bolivian prosecutor in charge of investigating the plot to assassinate Morales, had found evidence of email correspondence between Rosza and a CIA operative who had since died. The body of the cable reads as follows:

Marcelo Soza, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the April 2009 Rozsa case, announced February 5 that a review of Rozsa’s computer hard drive had uncovered evidence of email communication between Rozsa and an alleged ex-CIA employee (a U.S. citizen named Belovays). According to Soza, Belovays had been active in the Balkans wars, where he supposedly met Rozsa and became his mentor. An internet search on Belovays suggested that he has since died, Soza reported (Rozsa and two others were killed in a police raid; another two suspects are in custody). Soza claimed that Rozsa’s computer files show that Rozsa was in constant contact with Belovays — who, Soza said, is assumed to have been in Bolivia at some point — and kept him informed of his group’s activities and plans.

It’s worth noting that in 2008, Morales had expelled the U.S. Ambassador, Philip Goldberg, from Bolivia, accusing him of “conspiring against democracy” and encouraging civil unrest.

Morales had also, upon being inaugurated in 2006, declared that his government would nationalize the oil companies in his country, including Royal Dutch Shell:

Morales ordered the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industry in a surprise decree on May 1, 2006. After six months of tense negotiations, the foreign companies were allowed to remain in the country but agreed to sell a controlling interest in their Bolivian operations to the state.

The forced government buyout of Shell Oil has led many to speculate that perhaps the IRMS was actively involved in the assassination attempt of 2009, and some have even gone so far as to suggest that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was aware of the plot.

Regardless of specifics, the involvement of Shell Oil in some capacity, as well as the CIA, seems beyond doubt. And the use and control  of Bolivia’s national resources is sure to take center stage in the years to come.

The Coming War

President Obama just recently filed a trade complaint with the WTO regarding China’s restrictions on exportation of their rare earth minerals. Rare earth minerals (chief amongst which is lithium) are so named because they’re rarely found in pure form within the earth. They’re used to manufacture most of the technological devices we’ve become so reliant upon: “cell phones, solar cells, tablet computers, TVs, hybrid cars and wind turbines”.

China is currently producing about 95% of the world’s rare minerals, though they own only an estimated 30% of the world’s reserves:

China has only about 30 percent of the world’s known rare-earths deposits. But other countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, stopped mining more than a decade ago, because the price of the Chinese-produced rare earths was cheaper.

This is because the extraction process entails incredibly costly and toxic procedures, which the United States and other western countries prefer to leave to China. However, as China tightens its grip on the market, the western world will be forced to resume mining, preferably externalizing the more detrimental aspects of extraction.

Recently, it was discovered that Afghanistan (which we’re already conveniently occupying), possesses some of the largest rare earth reserves in existence, totaling one million tons of rare earth minerals.

Some have speculated that it may be for this reason rather than any other that we’ve continued to occupy Afghanistan after leaving Iraq, despite the disproportionately small number of al-Qaeda fighters estimated to still exist in the country (about 100 at last estimate). And Christopher Ecclestone, mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company, has stated:

“I think there is a school of thought that if the US can find enough stuff in Afghanistan that we should stay. And frankly there are plenty of rare earths around in the world.”

Enter Bolivia. It is slowly coming to the world’s attention that Bolivia, the small, impoverished country in the middle of South America, possesses over half the world’s lithium reserves in its vast salt flats.

Lithium, one of the most sought after rare earth minerals, is used to power laptop computers, mobile phones, and increasingly, the electric car:

Mitsubishi, which plans to release its own electric car soon, estimates that the demand for lithium will outstrip supply in less than 10 years unless new sources are found.

And they have ended up in Bolivia.

“The demand for lithium won’t double but increase by five times,” according to Eichi Maeyama Mitsubishi’s general manager in La Paz.

“We will need more lithium sources – and 50% of the world’s reserves of lithium exist in Bolivia, in the Salar de Uyuni,” he adds, pointing out that without new production, the price of lithium will rise prohibitively.

Corporations fear that Bolivia will use their highly prized lithium reserves to their own advantage, and under Morales the chances of the country ceding control to U.S. (or any foreign) companies are slim.

Couple that with the fact that Bolivian oil reserves are the second largest on the continent (after Venezuela, proven oil reserves of which are the largest in the world), and there’s more than enough reason for western intervention in Bolivia.

In fact, under President Obama, the Special Operations budget (money funding clandestine military activities the world over) has increased by roughly 4.5B dollars:

Obama just requested an increase of 5.7% for the budget of Special Operations 2011. He asked for $ 6.3 billion, plus U.S. $ 3.5 billion extra for the contingency clandestine operations. For 2011, the total defense budget reaches U.S. $ 872 billion, U.S. with $75 billion to the intelligence community. There is money to spare.

And it’s recently emerged that Obama has deployed Special Forces troops to numerous regions around the world, focusing intently on South America:

The Venezuelan-American journalist, Eva Golinger, points out in a recent article, that the researcher Jeremy Scahill discovered that the administration of Barack Obama has sent teams of elite special forces under the Joint Special Operations Command, to Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, and also to Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru…The U.S. plans to destabilize governments that exist in several places. They are already prepared. Washington only waits for the moment to activate them. Golinger’s article refers to a top Pentagon military man who said that Obama is allowing many of the actions, strategies and operations that were not permitted during George W. Bush.

The U.S. history of military intervention in South America has generally favored covert operations to direct war, so it’s disconcerting to note that under the Obama administration, “irregular warfare” has been greatly expanded:

One senior military official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration has given the green light for “things that the previous administration did not.” Special operations commanders, the paper reports, have more direct access to the White House than they did under Bush. “We have a lot more access,” a military official told the paper. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

And further:

“…we reserve the right to unilaterally act against al Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world that they operate,” said one special forces source. The current mindset in the White House, he said, is that “the Pentagon is already empowered to do these things, so let JSOC off the leash. And that’s what this White House has done.” He added: “JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history. No question…The world is the battlefield, we’ve returned to that,” he adds, referring to the Obama administration’s strategy. “We were moving away from it for a little bit, but…[i]t’s embraced by this administration.”

If the United States is successful in its bid for control of oil within the Middle East, one can be certain that the next region of the world scheduled for “clean up” is South America. Venezuela and Bolivia under Chavez and Morales are already being maligned as havens for terrorist groups, presumably as an excuse for military intervention to feed to the American people.

Should the global balance of power not shift prior to end of the inevitable war between Iran and the United States, should the prevailing paradigm remain one of “might means right”, then South America, and Bolivia specifically, will violently collide with American imperialism once again, as it did throughout the 20th century.

by Ian Driscoll

Google’s roots in the American intelligence community run deep.

On Tuesday, March 13th, Regina Dugan, who spent the last two and a half years as the first female director of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), took a position as a senior executive at Google, the world’s foremost search engine.

For those who are unaware, DARPA is responsible for some of the most advanced, invasive, and often downright frightening military technologies the world has ever known. Here’s a short list:

As the article in the Los Angeles Times points out, Dugan is not the first DARPA/Google crossover employee. Vinton Cerf, who worked as a program director for DARPA in the early 80s, has been employed at Google with the job title of “Chief Internet Evangelist” since September of 2005.

But Dugan and Cerf only represent the tip of iceberg when it comes to Google’s connection to U.S. intelligence agencies.

In January 2010, Google was the victim of a highly sophisticated cyber attack, resulting in Google turning to the NSA (National Security Agency) for technical assistance. Thus began a working relationship between the world’s largest search engine and the world’s largest surveillance organization.

Marc Rotenburg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) remarked at the time that “Google and N.S.A. are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world.”

EPIC has since filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, asking for the release of communications between the two entities. The NSA has refused to comply, citing national security concerns and stating that the “NSA is not able to comment on specific relationships we may or may not have with U.S. companies.”

Google was also contracted to provide the search technology and servers which makes up “Intellipedia”, a massive, incredibly secure database through which over 100,000 United States spies and intelligence professionals from 16 government agencies share information. And the NSA has purchased numerous servers from Google, utilizing their search technology to analyze and organize massive amounts of secure data all over the world.

Then there’s Google Earth, which was originally developed by a company called Keyhole Incorporated, acquired by Google in 2004. Keyhole was in turn funded by In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA, charged with “building a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.” According to CIA Director George Tenet: “The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology, a frontier we never should have retreated from in the first place.”

There’s been at least one significant In-Q-Tel/Google crossover as well. In 2004 (the same year Google bought Keyhole), Rob Painter became “Senior Federal Manager” at Google after several years of directly reporting to the CIA in his capacity as Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel.

And one former CIA agent and Marine Corps veteran, Robert Steele, is on the record stating that Google is “in bed with the CIA.”

Steele alleges that Google was actually started with seed money that the company received from the Central Intelligence Agency back in its fledgling days. Steele elaborates:

“I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn’t fund what I call the open source world. They’ve been together for quite awhile.”

Steele went on to condemn the relationship, and went so far as to name Google’s CIA contact within the Agency:

“I think that Google has made a very important strategic mistake in dealing with the secret elements of the U.S. government – that is a huge mistake and I’m hoping they’ll work their way out of it and basically cut that relationship off.”

“Let me say very explicitly – their contact at the CIA is named Dr. Rick Steinheiser, he’s in the Office of Research and Development.”

Meanwhile, their seems to be increasing interest in monitoring and controlling the free flow of information on the part of the world’s elite. At the 2011 Bilderberg conference (a well-protected gathering of some the world’s most influential people from the realm of politics, entertainment, banking and private business), the list of attendees included the “who’s who” of social media, e-commerce and technology. In attendance:

The co-founder of Facebook; the executive chairman of Google; the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn; the founder and CEO of Amazon.com; the commander of the American military’s “cyber command” (or USCYBERCOM); Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer; and others.

Kony 2012, the YouTube video that’s taken the world by storm, has generated a lot of support.

When the video was released on March 5th, it went viral almost immediately. To date, the video has garnered almost 75 million views, and countless well-meaning but ill-informed people from all over the western world have shared, tweeted, and discussed Joseph Kony and his victimization of children.

The film, which is about 30 mins long, boasts Hollywood production value, heart-wrenching moments with children who were kidnapped by Kony and forced to join his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as interviews with authorities on the subject (such as Luis Moreno Ocampo, a prosecutor for the ICC at the Hague).

There are numerous problems, however, with the video and its creator.

Finances

Invisible Children, the charity which produced the Kony 2012 YouTube video, has drawn fire from critics for the organization’s use of its massive 13M+ annual revenue.

The Better Business Bureau’s 2011 Wise Giving Report was unable to accurately review the charity, as Invisible Children refused to disclose the required information regarding their finances.

And despite the recent denial by representatives of the organization, it’s clear from its 2010 & 2011 financial statements (see page 7) that only 31.5% of its nearly 9 million dollars of total expenses go to direct services intended to benefit the African people. The rest is used on travel, entertainment (i.e. creating videos like the one so many are currently fawning over) and, yes, administrative compensation.

The man who made and provides the voice-over for Kony 2012 is named Jason Russell. He draws a hefty 90K dollar salary from the charity’s donation plate on a yearly basis. The CEO, Brian Keesey and Co-Founder, Lauren Poole take almost identical salaries. The total amount of administrative “compensation costs” amounts to almost 20% of annual company expenditures.

Alex Antonetz over at The Lantern comments:

This begs the question: Where is the money you’re giving them going? If you indeed paid $40 for the now-sold-out action kit and bracelet, and assuming the group’s spending habits hold true, fewer than $13 of your money will be going toward the campaign to stop Kony in Uganda.

Ties to Radical Groups

Invisible Children has long advocated military intervention in order to stop Kony, and has stated publicly that they believe the Ugandan army (UPDF) to be “more organized and better equipped” to do so than any other military organization in the region.

The Ugandan army, however, has for years been accused of atrocities as shocking and severe as anything in Kony 2012, including forcibly recruiting children to fight against the government’s enemies, including Kony himself! Alfred Nhema, in his book The Resolution of African Conflicts, writes:

The government has been accused by international human rights and humanitarian organizations of recruiting children into the UPDF ranks to fight the LRA, although the government denies this. Human Rights Watch has alleged that former LRA child soldiers are recruited into the Uganda army, often against their will. These allegations constitute a war crime within the meaning of the Rome Statute, but they are also a crime under other international legal instruments…[Additionally] the UPDF has perennially been accused of committing rapes and sexual attacks against the female population of northern Uganda. Human Rights Watch has documented and published torrid accounts of women who have suffered sexual assaults at the hands of the Ugandan army. Although these might not constitute a systematic attack, they are so widespread as to constitute a crime against humanity or a war crime under the auspices of the Rome Statute. The government has denied these allegations, just as it has denied allegations of recruiting children into its armed forces.

Journalist Emma Mutaizibwa from The Observer also comments that:

…UPDF soldiers bring alcohol from Uganda and sell it or give it to young women, including underage girls. Allegations of sexual exploitation of children by UPDF elements were reported by various sources. A representative of a UN organisation said there were reports of several girls, some as young as 12, involved in prostitution with Ugandan soldiers. An internal report for a UN organisation based on investigations from field staff states that it is not “unusual to see girls and women sneak into the UPDF base at night, or find UPDF personnel embroiled in brawls over girls or women”. The report cites at least one very serious case of sexual violence by a Uganda soldier against a 16-year-old girl. Abducted at 14 by the LRA near the town of Obo, the young girl returned home at the beginning of 2011 and, in unclear circumstances, was raped by a UPDF soldier at the Ugandan army base in Obo in May 2011. According to the girl, who became pregnant as a result of the rape, the perpetrator eventually left for Uganda, leaving her “in the custody” of another soldier who continued to abuse her at least until August 2011 when she spoke to a UN worker.

Indeed, the government of Uganda and the UPDF seem to pose more of a threat to the general health and well-being of Ugandans than Kony and his LRA ever did. It was reported last year that armed militia groups, protected by the Ugandan government and acting on behalf of the British-owned New Forests Company (financed by the World Bank), violently displaced upwards of 22,000 people in order to make way for its vast fields of monocultures.

An Oxfam report records the experiences of farmers and laborers who were forcibly evicted by government thugs. One survivor described the eviction:

“My land was taken by the New Forests Company. People from New Forests came with other security forces and started destroying crops and demolishing houses and they ordered us to leave. They beat people up, especially those who could not run. We ran in a group, my children, my grandchildren, my wife and me. It was such a painful time because the eviction was so forceful and violent.”

And a former farmer lamented at the time: “I no longer own any land. It’s impossible to feed my children – they have suffered so much. Some days all they eat is porridge from maize flour. When people can’t eat well their bodies become weak – there have been lots of cases of malaria and diarrhoea. Some days we don’t eat anything at all.”

If only he had 90K dollars to make a YouTube video.

The founders of Invisible Children have also posed for photographs with members of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), though they’ve recently attempted to explain away these pictures as a “joke”. The SPLA has also been accused of numerous crimes against humanity, including “rape, torture and killing of unarmed civilians.”

Distorting the Facts

Invisible Children has been accused of distorting the facts surrounding Kony and the LRA, as well as exaggerating the group’s influence in the region in order to obtain political support and increase donations.

It’s been well-established that Joseph Kony has not been active in Uganda for at least 6 years now, and in fact speculations are rampant that he may have died 5 years back.

But whether Kony himself is dead or alive is practically irrelevant at this point, as his army, the LRA is widely recognized as being largely defunct. Jeff Sparrow, of ABC Australia, writes that the Kony 2012 video “is seriously misleading, falsely implying there’s war raging in Northern Uganda when there’s not. In fact, Kony has not been in the country for six years; his group is a much-depleted rump, numbering a few hundred people at most.”

Even ForeignAffairs.com, an arm of the CFR, states unequivocally that organizations such as Invisible Children

have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil. They rarely refer to the Ugandan government atrocities or those of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict.

Meanwhile, critics have pointed out that while Kony’s group is practically non-existent, Malaria claimed the lives of 655,000 people in 2010, and of these, 87% were children. The cost for supplying potentially life-saving medication to all those who died would have been less than what Invisible Children spends on “entertainment” in one year. The roughly 2.2 million dollars (31.5% of expenditures in 2010-11) that Invisible Children actually spent on direct action in Africa could pay for medication to prevent all worldwide deaths from Malaria, 7 times over.

Angelo Izama, an Ugandan journalist, had this to say about Kony 2012:

At the end of the day the Kony2012 campaign will not make Joseph Kony more famous but it will make Invisible Children famous. It will also make many, including P.Diddy, feel like they have contributed some good to his capture – assuming Kony is even alive. For many in the conflict prevention community including those who worry about the militarization of it in Central Africa this campaign is just another nightmare that will end soon. Hopefully.

The Oil Connection

Joseph Kony has been around (as the video states) for almost 30 years. So why are we hearing about this now?

Well, back in October of 2011, Barack Obama quietly ordered 100 combat-equipped troops into central Africa, supposedly to assist the Ugandan government in capturing or killing Joseph Kony. Observors commented upon the oddity of President Obama committing American soldiers to a fight that, even at that time, seemed all but finished. ForeignAffairs.com remarked:

Obama claimed that he decided to act because it “furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy.” Yet it is not entirely clear how that could be true, since Kony and the LRA have not targeted Americans or American interests and are not capable of overthrowing an allied government.

Others leveled a more specific criticism of the President’s newfound interest in a missing, African warlord. Numerous critics, including Steve Horn at AlterNet.org, accused the Obama administration of starting another war for oil under the pretense of concern for the people of Africa.

Oh yeah, did I not mention? In 2009, Uganda found oil. Lots of it. Estimates range from 700M to 1.5B barrels of commercially viable oil lying underneath those African sands.

The administration denied their interest in the newly discovered Ugandan oil fields, of course. Despite our complete and total inaction and disinterest during the preceding 30 years, when Kony and the LRA were at their peak, and despite the fact that Kony’s group had all but disappeared from Uganda and central Africa by 2011, President Obama and the U.S. government only had the African people in mind.

So what might be the connection between an American oil grab and Invisible Children? Well, since at least 2009, USAID (a government agency, supposed to be devoted to humanitarian and charitable goals) has assisted Invisible Children in its mission in Uganda on and off, informally. This may appear to be above board, but countries that have first-hand experience of USAID, its true aims and purposes, have very few positive things to say about them. For instance, Ajit Randeniya at Infolanka.asia, warns of USAID operations in the region, stating that they’ve long been recognized as a CIA front:

USAID has long been a conduit for CIA funding to subversive activities overseas and a front for CIA intelligence gathering. USAID is the collaborator and executor of CIA plots, and secret plans of the State Department. Its role is to act as an instrument of CIA penetration into civil society by enabling the “legitimate” funding aimed at promoting U.S. foreign policy abroad and influencing internal politics of foreign nations. The US Embassy’s propaganda line that USAID is the ‘development agency’ of the U.S. Government should not be believed…USAID is one of the empire’s principal weapons in maintaining its dominion over the developing world. The history proves it.

The American author and historian William Blum agrees, stating that USAID has, throughout its history, maintained “a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover.”

That said, Scott Creighton over at American Everyman reports that Invisible Children received an enormous increase in their funding between 2010 and 2011: “Invisible Children NGO recently had a huge increase in funding from somewhere (according to their numbers they increased their operating budget from 2010 to 2011 by a multiplier of 6, roughly a million per year to 6 million).”

As Invisible Children refuses to disclose where their money comes from, it’s impossible to know whether or not the Kony 2012 campaign may have been inspired by a particularly large government donation. But, since Invisible Children has openly called for military intervention to rid the world of a criminal (who may already be dead), what better charity to utilize if you wanted to get boots on the ground?

It may be of interest to note here that all official reference to USAID has been scrubbed from the Invisible Children tumblr site.

Is the Obama administration using a private charity to drum up support for yet another grab at natural resources under the guise of a humanitarian mission? Or is Invisible Children simply inventing a scandal to enrich its administrators? Either one is possible.

What’s clear is that there’s much more to Kony 2012 than meets the eye. And the American people need to do their homework.

UPDATE 3.13.12: “KONY” RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN THE HOUSE TO EXPAND US TROOPS IN THE REGION

The resolution, introduced by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) “calls for, among other things, expanding the number of regional forces in Africa to protect civilians and placing restrictions on individuals or governments found to be supporting Kony.” – CBSNews.com