Archive for June, 2012

Yawning of the Age

June 28, 2012

In the past two days, news media in the Northeast region have been taking a break from their usual impending-heat-wave stories to keep viewers/readers up-to-date with a dramatic and compelling life-and-death/race-against-time narrative. All the better if it’s a theme that pushes some major ideological/cultural hot buttons in an election year:  illegal immigration.  This story has nothing to do with Arizona or the Supreme Court, however.

  • A Coast Guard inspection team boarded the 850-foot container ship Ville D’Aquarius outside New York Harbor early Wednesday as the ship prepared to dock, spokesman Charles Rowe said. The officers were knocking on a bulkhead of the ship as a routine security check and heard knocks back, but couldn’t pinpoint the source of the sound. The return knocks –which ended after about two hours– suggested that stowaways might be inside one of the shipping containers.  The team followed protocol and didn’t open containers at sea in order to control the situation, Rowe said.
  • The ship docked in Newark at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and [longshoremen] crews began the long process of offloading stacks of containers to reach the section from where the knocking emanated.  By late Wednesday, officers and agents had searched 150 containers [of 2,000 containers aboard ship].

 

  • Twelve ambulance crews were standing by while federal and state authorities searched the ship.  Agencies on scene included the US Coast Guard, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Port Authority police and State Police.

Most knee-jerk online reaction to this story was pretty predictable:  the usual Bunkeresque anti-immigrant rhetoric dashed off by paid trolls and unemployed mortgage brokers.  That’s because most of these dupes took the story at face value, as if those phantom stowaways actually existed.  Sorry,boys and girls –it looks as though you don’t recognize a [flimsy] cover story when you see one.

Why invite the Marines and Army to a stowaway party?

  • The ship began its voyage May 30 in the United Arab Emirates, then made one stop in Pakistan and two stops in India. Its last port before Newark was in Egypt on June 15.

As far as Lunghu is concerned, the principal unanswered question in all this affair is whether faulty MASINT or HUMINT (and inadequate evaluation of same) are at the bottom of this expensive ‘homeland security’ exercise.  Did an offshore radiation scan of the ship come up a little bit too hot?  Was the review of freight consignors listed on the cargo manifest somewhat shoddy and overly hasty? Or did a bogus report from an imaginative intell source receive more credence than its R&V warranted?  Disinformation from Chapo Guzman or Comrade Bear?  At this stage, dozens of fingers are aimed at all points of the compass, and the search for fallguys and scapegoats is undoubtedly well underway.

Just the way Sun-Tzu would want it.

 

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Yo Little Town

June 27, 2012

When Comrade Bear began his current tour of the Middle East, he thought he was just checking in with a few allies, planting his red-white-and-blue banner in the Holy Land, and (re-)asserting Russia’s standing as a global power.   His noble gesture did not go unnoticed or unrewarded:

Mahmoud Abbas told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that the mayor of Bethlehem had decided to name a street in the city after Putin because it would show how much Palestinians value Putin and the Russian people.

Putin [later noted] that the names of politicians should be given to streets by a future generation in honor of those who have passed away, adding that he “would like to live a bit longer.”

“It was absolutely unexpected. To be honest, I am at a bit of loss but there’s nothing you could do,” [Putin] said, indicating he did not want to protest so as not to offend his host.

But don’t think for a moment that all the official adulation went to Comrade Bear’s head –he took care to demonstrate his keen awareness of a higher power.

Putin visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem upon arrival in the Palestine National Authority on Tuesday.  Just like any other believer the president entered the church through the Gate of Humility, which is a very low door.  At the entrance to the church His Eminence Archbishop of Jordan of the Jerusalem Patriarchate Theophylactos and other clerics welcomed Putin in English, presenting to him a Star of Bethlehem sign made by Palestinian masters on behalf of the Palestinian people [as a gift] to the president and a pilgrim.
Putin bowed to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, saw the manger of Christ the Savior, and also visited a Franciscan monastery, which is situated in the same building with the Church of the Nativity.

Next stop: Israel, where official business matters occupied the day and obligatory ecumenical matters consumed a portion of  the evening hours.   Comrade Bear toured the Wailing Wall under the guidance of  Berl Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia.

Then, on to Jordan for a chat with King Abdullah II, where refreshingly frank conversation can be expected.  

There is rest for the weary … on the other side of Jordan.  O, there iiiiis rest.

Repent at Leisure

June 23, 2012

Viktor Bout update

A recent check of the US Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator web service indicates that Comrade Bout currently resides at USP Marion in Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois.

USP Marion — new prison camp facility

The United States Penitentiary (USP) in Marion, Illinois, is a medium security facility housing male inmates and should be considered an FCI Medium. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp that houses minimum security male offenders.  Although designed as a USP and the facility’s official name continues to refer to it as such, this [facility] underwent institution population changes to accommodate [BOP]’s bed space capacity, security level, and population management needs. This institution houses medium security inmates and operates accordingly.

What the Bureau of Prisons is attempting to convey –in its somewhat stilted official language– is that USP Marion is no longer a hardcore, 24/7-lockdown, supermax prison.  From its inauguration in 1963 until 2006, Marion was the highest-security prison facility in the BOP system.  Nowadays, solitary confinement is uncommon there, but …

USP Marion is home to one of two known “Communication Management Units” (CMU) in the federal prison system. The [BOP] created Communication Management Units in response to criticism that it had not been adequately monitoring the communications of prisoners. CMU units severely restrict visitation rights for inmates and monitor all telephone calls and mail.  “Concentrating resources in this fashion will greatly enhance the agency’s capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing,” according to the Bureau’s summary of the CMU.

Apparently, the BOP believes that this is the place to stash convicted spies; Christopher Boyce, John Anthony Walker, and Jonathan Pollard all served time at Marion.  They’re gone now, so Inmate Bout will have a chance to improve his Arabic language skills instead: many of Marion’s current inmates are “Arab Muslims convicted of terrorism crimes.”

 

Transit of Viktor

June 9, 2012

For just about everybody except a handful of Russians and the US Bureau of Prisons, Viktor Bout has been out of sight and out of mind for a few months.  Even Lunghu –one of Viktor’s most avid fans– forgot to check up on his whereabouts.  Well, wonder no more:  last week Lunghu took a peek at the BOP’s Inmate Locator website and learned that Comrade Bout is temporarily housed at FTC (Federal Transit Center) Oklahoma City, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, etc.

Unless the BOP is just having a little fun by bouncing Inmate #91641-054 around the vast Continental United States from region to region, this suggests that Viktor may be destined for a long-term residence somewhere in the BOP’s South Correctional Region.  The map above shows that there are quite a few locations for BOP to choose from –most of them warm and sunny (or hot and sweltering, if you prefer).  Although Lunghu is somewhat disappointed that FCI Fairton thus appears to be out of the picture, he’s gonna cast an alternate vote for FCI La Tuna.  This facility is located near El Paso, Texas and thus has the advantage of being close to the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center and not too far from the US Army’s Fort Huachuca intelligence complex.  The possibilities are legion.

Of course, there’s still much to be done while Inmate Bout is temporarily in Oklahoma City.  Given the ongoing (entirely unofficial) Viktor Bout ransom negotiations, Lunghu considers Bout’s presence in OKC to be a broad-and-none-too-veiled hint to Comrade Bear that Gazprom is expected to pony up some sort of energy-sector assistance for its beleaguered colleagues Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy.  Perhaps we can anticipate announcement of a joint venture exploration/development deal somewhere on the vast Eurasian continent.

 

All reasonable offers will be considered.  Remember:  seldom is heard a discouraging word/and the skies are not cloudy all day, etc.