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The Dark Side of Saudi Petro-dollars

Did you know that the Syrian government has agreed to send peace envoys to Geneva?  According to Robert Parry at Consortium News, the problem is that the rebels have refused to negotiate. Some rebel groups are insisting on a long list of unacceptable preconditions. On the surface, according to Parry, ” The real problem seems to be how divided the Syrian opposition is, with schisms from pro-democracy moderates to violent jihadists including some who film themselves eating the internal organs of dead Syrian soldiers and executing defenseless captives. ” But the underlying problem is actually, “… the obstruction from al-Qaeda-connected jihadists who are beholden for their military and financial support to Saudi Arabia and other oil sheikdoms operating under Saudi Arabia’s political/diplomatic wing.” Consortiumnew –  http://j.mp/1gWqrfv

SaudiPetro

Photo: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2010/01/13/76933/foreign-oil-tea/

The scope and depravity of Saudi sponsored violence in the world is enormous and yet hard to spot. It surfaced on July 31st in Moscow when Prince Bandar in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, offered to protect next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi from terrorist attack if Russia agreed to end support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The offer by Bandar came with inducements as well. What amounted to a diplomatic shake down angered Putin, who believes that Saudi oil money is already helping to finance Chechnyan terrorist that target innocent Russian civilians. http://j.mp/14DEu7w

Saudi oil money seems to turn up in many places where terrorist violence stains the ground with blood from innocent civilians. In a recent piece in the Vancouver Sun, Jonathan Manthrope wrote:   “The ultimate responsibility for recent atrocities like the Boston Marathon bombing and the butchering last week of an off-duty British soldier is very clear. It belongs to Saudi Arabia. Over more than two decades, Saudi Arabia has lavished around $100 billion or more on the worldwide promotion of the violent, intolerant and crudely puritanical Wahhabist sect of Islam that the ruling royal family espouses. http://j.mp/1b26280

Saudi Arabian petro dollars are bankrolling global terrorism, but the actual funding transactions within the country are complex, filled with shadowy connections and courtyard intrigue. The following diplomatic cable obtained and released by Wikileaks provide a glimpse of the inside game:

:… one leaked cable sent by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2009 noted that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” It adds: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide” — running into millions of dollars. “Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the UN 1267-listed Taliban and LeT-groups that are also aligned with al-Qaeda,” the cable from Clinton says.”  CNN – http://j.mp/1fy6RIP

The record of Saudi funded global terrorism is clear even if it isn’t well publicized in the press. The strategic importance of Saudi Arabia for US interests in the region is hard to overstate. And then there are the political connections between Prince Bantar and moneyed interests here and abroad, including a long friendship with the Bush family. The Syrian sponsored news organizations portray the Bush family connection in an extreme and self-serving conspiratorial way. http://j.mp/14DHhgM

It doesn’t require a conspiratorial mentality to see that Saudi Arabia is complicit in supporting global terrorism.  They are dealing from both sides of the deck. Even so the Saudi’s receive special treatment from the US and our allies. It is time for a clear-eyed reassessment of our relationships. If we want the global bloodshed to end and diplomacy to succeed in the world, the Saudi regime must terminate it’s financial support for global terror.

HOUSTON, TAKE DOWN THIS THREATENING MESSAGE

An Orwellian chill ran through my veins as I sat waiting for my connection at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  It was the early hours of the morning and the Eastern sky was just starting to brighten.  Travelers milled about the vast terminal or sat in various stages of slumber at the terminal gates as a female voice echoed over the public address system.  It was that familiar security announcement about keeping track of your luggage and such.  No one seemed to notice when this particular message went on to say:

 “You are also reminded that any inappropriate comments or jokes concerning security  may result in your arrest.  We appreciate your cooperation while these measures are in effect.”

Arrest?  “While these measures are in effect”?

I looked around.  No one else seemed to notice they had just been threatened with arrest for cracking jokes or making comments that some security agent might not like.  I suddenly felt less free and less safe from the mercurial powers of the state.

Once we discovered that jetliners can become weapons, tightened security was inevitable, but infringing on our First Amendment rights was not part of the bargain.  It’s one thing to take off your shoes and empty your pockets,  it’s quite another to face arrest for “inappropriate” speech.

Free speech has boundaries, of course.  Everyone knows you can’t yell “fire” in a crowed theater or threaten someone with bodily harm, but when was the last time you were reminded about this in a public announcement at your local cinema?  Houston’s airport message was obviously not referring to the normal boundaries of free speech.

From where does this authority to arrest come and how broadly is it being interpreted?  What law enforcement authority approved this chilling message?  And why is this additional “measure” in effect in Houston but not in most other airports, such as in Newark’s Liberty or New York’s Kennedy Airport?

It seems unlikely that the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would be behind this announcement.  The TSA has very limited law enforcement authority.  Unless you are committing a felony under US law in their presence, TSA agents have no routine power to arrest you (49 USC 44903(d)(2)).  And as far as I know,  joking about airport security isn’t a felony.  The authority of the TSA extends mostly to allowing passengers to fly or not fly.  They can detain you for the purpose of screening or inspecting your personal property, but can’t arrest you if they find, say, a pen knife in your bags.  If you refuse to be searched, they can deny you access to the plane.   Having said that, the practical reach of the TSA is still an open question and there are examples of apparent abuses of their power.  (For an interesting post on TSA authority see: http://www.papersplease.org/wp/2009/04/20/tsa-claims-new-powers-of-detention-search-and-interrogation/).

Most large airports are owned by state or local governments in the US.  They operate under state or local authorities, sometimes through an airport authority administration or private management company.  Airport security, other than passenger screening, is usually provided by state or local law enforcement agencies.

The George Bush Intercontinental Airport is owned and operated by the City of Huston.  It is likely that the Houston Police Department is in charge of airport security.  In fact, on the Houston Police Website, M. A. Eisenman is the Assistant Police Chief in charge of the Homeland Security Command and C. W. Driskel is Captain of the Airport Division.  If there is a law or temporary measure to limit free speech, the city of Houston and not the TSA would be responsible.

There is internet evidence that this same message has been playing in Houston since at least 2007.  In the years since this security message first played, the Iraq war ended, Osama Bin Laden was killed by our special forces, his terrorist network has been decimated, the war in Afghanistan has nearly drawn to a close and there has been no  significant attacks in the United States.  The “war on terror” is settling into a more or less routine program of security vigilance and covert actions.  The flying public accepts today’s airport security arrangements.  If there was ever a need to threaten citizens with arrest for inappropriate speech, that heightened need has surely passed.  It is time for the City of Huston to stop threatening citizens with arrest for making bad jokes and restore respect for our First Amendment liberties.  Houston, take down this threatening message!