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U.S. plan for covert ops causes jitters

Yemen holds security-risk Australian woman
Canberra, Australia (UPI) Jun 4, 2010 - A political storm is brewing in Australia over whether the government declaring an Australian woman a national security risk led to her arrest in Yemen. Shyloh Jayne Giddins, a Muslim convert who has lived with her daughter Ameena, 5, and son Omar, 7, in Yemen since 2006, was interviewed May 14 by Yemen's National Security Bureau in Sanaa. Two days later she was arrested along with two Bangladeshi women, one of whom has since been deported. Giddins's children are under house arrest in the family's Sanaa apartment. Yemeni authorities haven't said what charges Giddins may face or how long she will be detained. But she is suspected of having links to al-Qaida.

An Australian Embassy official in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, traveled to Sanaa to visit Giddins in jail. During Australian senate committee hearings this week it was learned that the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, David Irvine, had Giddins's passport canceled April 10 for what were called "national security reasons." But a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith refused to say what those reasons were or whether his department provided information to Yemeni authorities prior to her arrest. "It seems highly suspicious that the Australian government some eight weeks ago canceled Giddins's passport and then three weeks after that Yemeni security have decided to arrest and detain her," Giddins's Australian lawyer, Stephen Hooper, said.

Abdul Rahman Barman, Giddins's lawyer in Yemen and a member of the human rights group Hood, said too often poor intelligence information is to blame for the wrong people getting arrested in Yemen. "In light of wrong U.S. intelligence information, people get arrested without any legal justification. Dozens of innocent people are being arrested and accused of working for, or belonging to, al-Qaida," he said. Hood has demanded that Yemeni authorities immediately release Giddins, who is in Yemen legally. Police have promised to allow a German friend of the mother to take the children into her home, Barman said. Hood is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization set up in 1998 by lawyers, people working in the media and some government members of the Yemeni parliament. Giddins's parents said they were concerned for their daughter and grandchildren. They have been in touch with consular officials, who are lobbying for the return of the children's passports and their return to Australia. Giddins was born in a small town in New South Wales and moved to Sydney 10 years ago to work as a nanny. She met a man called Mohamed Touma and they married after she converted to Islam. But she separated from Touma and moved to Yemen with her children and has been teaching English at a Sanaa university.
by Staff Writers
Beirut, Lebanon (UPI) Jun 3, 2010
The recent disclosure that the U.S. military is expanding its covert operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa is widely seen as a dangerous precedent, with Iran as one of the main targets.

The Americans and their allies have long been waging a war of the shadows against the Islamic Republic, with Tehran often giving as good as it gets.

On May 24, Abdolhamid Rigi, a senior commander of the largest insurgent group in Iran, Jundallah, was hanged for masterminding bombings and the murder of government officials.

His group, Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, operates in southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Tehran claims it is armed and funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Israel's Mossad intelligence service and Britain's Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6.

Jundallah has twice tried to assassinate hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is one of several rebel groups along Iran's periphery that are fighting the Tehran regime seeking independence or autonomy from the Shiite-dominated state.

In February, Iranian intelligence agents captured Rigi brother, Abdulmalik, Jundallah's supreme leader and the group's founder.

That was a major blow to the organization and it is likely that the Americans will seek to rebuild the group as U.S. clandestine operations are stepped up.

Four Kurdish rebels were executed in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison May 9 for attacks against the state. All belonged to a separatist group called the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan based in the Kurdish provinces of Western Iran along the border with Iraq.

The Americans and Israel are reported to be active with the Kurds.

Expanding the U.S. military's undercover operations in regions where al-Qaida and its allies are most active means that Special Forces troops will be conducting missions that have long been the preserve of the CIA and other civilian organizations.

The Department of Defense has wider latitude than the CIA when it comes to such activity, and the shift toward covert military operations is likely to intensify the rivalry between Langley and the Pentagon.

Unlike the CIA, military operations of this nature do not require presidential approval or regular reports to Congress.

The secret directive came to light with a May 24 New York Times report that said the order was signed Sept. 30, 2009, by Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command.

Officials stressed that the directive, the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, permits operations that could pave the way toward possible military attacks against Iran if the confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program worsens.

To what extent the military will employ private security companies, largely staffed with ex-military men and ex-CIA operatives, in these missions is not clear.

But U.S. officials say military commanders continue to maintain a secret network of private spies deep inside Pakistan and Afghanistan despite widespread concerns about what is seen by many as a rogue operation that could backfire with potentially dangerous consequences.

The New York Times has reported that the exhaustive reports these agents have provided on al-Qaida and the Taliban "have become an important source of intelligence" for U.S. commanders.

On May 3, Raja News, a conservative Iranian media outlet, reported that U.S security company Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, which became notorious for its actions in Iraq, is working with Iranian dissidents of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or People's Holy Warriors, for intelligence-gathering and sabotage operations inside Iran.

Given the murky nature of intelligence work, that is not beyond the bounds of possibility, even though Washington lists the group as a terrorist organization.

The MeK was for years the only rebel group fighting the Tehran regime. Its military wing was based in Iraq from the mid-1980s until the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in March 2003.

It was widely believed the CIA employed a significant number of MeK operatives for intelligence missions inside Iran.

U.S.-based global intelligence consultancy Stratfor has dismissed the Raja News report as "likely an exaggeration, if not an outright fabrication, crafted to serve domestic Iranian political interests."

It concluded that naming the MeK, which is widely hated inside Iran, and Xe, reviled for reckless operations that killed Iraqi civilians, was intended "to shape perceptions among Iranian policymakers" who may be inclined toward a rapprochement with the United States.

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San Jose, Calif. (UPI) Jun 1, 2010
A suspected terrorist raid on an Indian train that killed 76 people points to a trend that can confront governments worldwide with a security risk of major proportions, anti-terrorist expert Brian Michael Jenkins said. Jenkins' comments followed security experts' reports that security of hundreds of miles of rail, if threatened, would be one of the hardest operations to contain and cont ... read more

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