2011-01-08 Peter King: Zeal of Hypocrites

A month ago, on the 7th of December, a week after Peter King made his controversial Wikileaks Is Terrorism" comments, I posted this rather lengthy article to my blog, and linked to it from WL Central, documenting both King's hypocrisy and the possible motives he might have for taking such a radical line against Wikileaks in particular. Lately, the same story has been getting more coverage. emptywheel posted a story of much the same content on Sunday 2nd of January, and a post on Salon outlined the background to King's past with the IRA. We thought it would be timely to republish the story in full on WL Central, since it brings certain aspects of the story into focus that still have not received an airing.

Cablegate: Zeal of Hypocrites


Extremist opposition to Wikileaks by American career politicians may not be entirely out of a stated concern for American national security. A credible argument can be made that, instead, some political self-interest might be involved

[R]ead George Bush's favorite philosopher: there's a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite, and the hypocrite is a person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applies to others. By that standard the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called 'war on terror' is pure hypocrisy, and virtually without exception... It's ugly, but it's standard.
-Noam Chomsky

The last week has seen hysterical rhetoric out of U.S. media personalities and politicians, as a reaction to Cablegate. The worst excesses have seen calls for extra judicial killings of Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange ostensibly for reasons of national security, reasons that don't carry much weight given high profile convictions that Cablegate poses no clear threat.

Congressmen Joseph Lieberman (Senate) and Peter King (House of Representatives) did not go this far, but both have suggested rather radical action on the part of the U.S. government. Both politicians have held positions as Chairmen for their respective houses of Congress' Homeland Security Committees. Lieberman's hostility to a free internet is long running and well documented, and it will not have come as a surprise that he takes a hard line.

King's comments however, during a radio interview on WCBS 880 on Sunday 28th Nov, 2010, were more surprising. In the past 10 years, King has become one of the more outspoken anti-terror activists in the US legislature, but the connection between this and a whistleblower organization might have been difficult to see. King eagerly made the connection for us.

I am calling on the Attorney General, and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute Wikileaks' founder, for violating the Espionage Act, and I'm also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Wikileaks a foreign terrorist organization. By doing that we will be able to seize their funds, and go after anyone who provides them with any help or contributions or assistance whatsoever. To me they are a clear and present enemy of the United States of America.

King was not content merely equating the publication of already-leaked US government documents with violent politically motivated atrocities responsible for the deaths of countless innocents. He went on to claim that Wikileaks was engaged in activity that was more serious than, presumably, the activity of Al Qaeda and other violent terrorist organizations.

This is worse even then a physical attack on Americans. It's worse than a military attack, because what it has done is, it gives our enemies, and even some of our allies, insight into what our thinking is, what our plans are, meetings we've held. It undermines our strategy. Now, this is absolutely devastating to American diplomacy, and by doing that it puts American lives at risk all over the world.

It may seem alarming that a United States legislator might have so little respect for the victims of genuine terrorist atrocities that he would abuse the word in this manner. Peter King, however, is quite used to demonstrating with his actions a cavalier attitude towards the loss of innocent life at the hands of terrorists. He has historically made a habit of it. Last week, he did this by misapplying the word "terrorism." In the past, however, he did it by refusing to apply the word with any conviction.

Peter King's history of open support for the Provisional IRA (PIRA) is well documented. In a period from the late 1970s until the turn of the century, Peter King famously offered moral support through the means of the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID) to Republican terrorist operations in the North of Ireland, and was a vocal advocate of the campaign of political violence pursued by the PIRA during its 25 year terror campaign. NORAID itself is documented as having been a front group for directing financial support to the IRA. A New York Sun article by Ed Moloney covers the details:

It was in the late 1970s that Mr. King first got involved in the Irish issue, but it struck some as an unlikely choice. His family hailed from Limerick and Galway, but apart from a great-uncle who was in the IRA in the 1920s, the Sunnyside native had no roots in revolutionary politics...

In 1980, Mr. D'Amato, then the senator-elect, fulfilled a campaign pledge and went to Belfast on a fact-finding trip, taking Messrs. King and Dillon with him. It was the start of Mr. King's long entanglement with the IRA, and he took to it with the zeal of a convert.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group's publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches...

If Peter King helped give the IRA a respectable face in America, in Ireland and Britain the IRA's reputation as a ruthless and skilled terrorist group was solidifying. The product of street disorders in 1969 in the wake of a civil rights campaign on behalf of Northern Ireland's minority Catholic population, the IRA's violent effort to end British rule against the wishes of the majority Protestant population lasted 25 years. Despite killings by state forces and Protestant terrorist groups who favored retaining Northern Ireland's British links, the IRA emerged as the single most violent group. More than 3,600 civilians, soldiers, and policemen died in the conflict between 1969 and 1994 - the per-capita equivalent death toll in America would be nearly 700,000 - and the IRA was responsible for around half of those killings.

Ireland was no stranger to episodic political violence, but the strife in Northern Ireland was the most intense and prolonged of all. At one stage, Britain had 30,000 troops stationed there to quell the violence. Meanwhile, the IRA took its campaign to Britain - where London's financial district was twice devastated by bombs - and to mainland Europe, where British NATO bases were frequently targeted. The IRA nearly killed Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet with a bomb in 1984, and it assassinated prominent British politicians and members of the royal family. The IRA's primary contribution to international terrorist know-how, the car and truck bombs now commonplace in Iraq, were devised and first deployed by the IRA in Belfast in 1972. The organization also developed homemade explosives, like the fertilizer-based device that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995.

Much of the conventional weaponry and a great deal of the money necessary for IRA violence came from Irish-American sympathizers. Mr. King's advocacy of the IRA's cause encouraged that flow and earned him the deep-seated hostility of the British and Irish governments. In America, official animosity was no less intense. The GOP in Nassau tried, unsuccessfully, to muzzle him, and he complained that the FBI was opening mail sent from Ireland, including letters from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. In 1984, the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that Peter King is accustomed to the idea of there being human collateral in the realization of political goals. The callous disregard for the loss of human life that enables someone to actively support a terrorist organization as it murders innocents and destablizes national governments is equally well applied when trivializing the deaths of thousands of Americans by applying the word 'terrorist,' in all seriousness, to a foreign publisher of US government secrets.

King's contacts in Ireland eventually yielded him some political capital, in that he came to fill an advisory role to President Bill Clinton during the 1990s, when peace negotiations in Northern Ireland involved the U.S. presidency. To be fair, this affords King some role in those negotiations, albeit a small one. The role of Irish American support networks in the Irish peace process is however somewhat equivocal. Close associates of King through Noraid, such as Peter Galvin, opposed the Good Friday agreement, and urged the continuance of political violence, leading to criticism from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Aherne, who was a broker in the agreement.

Mr Ahern also rounded on US-backed newspaper adverts taken out last week which called for the settlement talks to be scrapped. The adverts could influence republican voters in both parts of Ireland as fringe groups on both sides of the divide seek to scupper the peace blueprint.

The Taoiseach said the groups which had paid for the adverts may as well have signed them off with: "Therefore we want to see a continuation of violence." He said: "If you want to spend large amounts of money and let on that there's easy solutions, then you're a hypocrite. If you want to say you don't want to see any change, then you should say really what that view stands for, that you believe in the continuation of violence. If people want the continuation of violence they can go for it towards the end of May in the referendum. I don't."

He added: "The people here will be voting for the agreement. This is the new way forward. This is going to be a serious vote about a serious issue. I would have confidence that the Irish people will come out and vote for democratic politics."

Opposition to the agreement, at home and among groups like NORAID (but not by Peter King in particular) was responsible for the fracture of the IRA into a number of dissident republican groups, one of which, the Real IRA (RIRA) carried out the Omagh Bombing. This presaged a gradual cooling of American diasporic relations with sectarian activists in Ireland.

King distanced himself from the pro-IRA Irish American community after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. In 2003 King voiced support for republican compliance with the Good Friday Agreement and expressed disapproval of dissident republican activity in the face of the settlement. Pursuing the cause of U.S. security against Islamic terrorism with distinctive zeal, he found himself the Chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee in 2005 and 2006. As late as 2008 however, King was willing to vouch for the reliability in bail of arrested PIRA member Pól Brennan.

King's rather extreme comments on Sunday 28 November have a precursor. In 2006, during his tenure with the Homeland Security Committee, King made a similar appeal to the U.S. Attorney General to have the New York Times prosecuted under the Espionage Act, the law under which both he and Joseph Lieberman are now advocating prosecution of Wikileaks. NYT journalists, editors and publisher were to be brought on espionage charges before the courts for running a story exposing a secret Bush administration programme, carried out by the NSA and the CIA, to monitor international transactions with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in Belgium. The programme was ostensibly to monitor the possible use of SWIFT to fund international terrorist operations.

Wayne Madsen argues that there is a possible reason why this particular journalistic effort was close to Peter King's heart.

WMR has learned that the monitoring of SWIFT by the National Security Agency (NSA), via links with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), a Treasury Department financial monitoring activity located in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, and CIA financial monitoring systems connected to SWIFT mainframe gateways in La Hulpe, Belgium; Culpeper, Virginia; and Zouterwoude, Netherlands, is nothing new and predates 9-11 by almost two decades. The Bush administration has expanded the program to monitor transactions involving smaller monetary transfers.

In fact, during the 1980s and 90s, the NSA and CIA collected intelligence on financial transactions between the United States and Ireland and Northern Ireland involving Irish terrorist groups supported by Peter King. The group Irish Northern Aid (NORAID) funneled money to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that was used to buy weapons used to blow up civilians and members of the British government, military, and police.

King was an active supporter of NORAID, a tax-exempt front for the IRA. Martin Galvin, King's friend and former NORAID chief, rejected the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement and supports the agenda of the terrorist "Real IRA."

During the 1980s, NSA's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), intercepted a number of King's phone calls from the United States and from within Britain, in which his political and financial support for the IRA was discussed. GCHQ relied on Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to monitor King's domestic phone calls in New York and Long Island since U.S. law, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), prohibited the surveillance of King by NSA assets.

King's financial and political support for the IRA coincided with the terrorist group's alliances with Palestinian, Lebanese, Latin American, Basque, Corsican, German, and Breton terrorist groups and the Libyan government of Muammar el Qaddafi. NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts demonstrate that Libya and Lebanese terrorist groups targeted Americans in terrorist attacks during the 1980s, while King supported their Irish compatriots with money and weapons.

If Madsen's analysis is correct, it does suggest reasons for the extremity of King's accusations against the NYT. Given that he was at this point Chairman of Homeland Security in the House, King can't have been particularly worried about seeing criminal charges for his past involvement with a support group which bankrolled foreign terrorism. But the New York Times story threatened to bring to public attention his vocal solidarity with an organization within the terrorist networks implicated in atrocities like the 1983 U.S. embassy bombing in Beirut, in which over 60 Americans were killed. In a post-911 United States highly sensitive to the threat of terrorist organizations to United States citizens, this is the sort of public association a career politician might be best advised to avoid. If we are to trust Madsen, it would be understandable if this were the cause for King's immoderate stance with the NYT.

Which brings us to Cablegate. King's bellicose rhetoric last week is ostensibly motivated by concern for U.S. security and the wellbeing of U.S. citizens and foreign interests. It would be laudable if any of these were seriously threatened by Cablegate. But carrying on the logic from the Madsen article, there remains the possibility that Peter King has more personal interest in the Cablegate affair than at first appears. To my knowledge, this possibility has not been explored by any of the world media.

On August 24th, when the press was beginning to speculate about the possibility of American retaliation over the Afghanistan War Logs, Wikileaks tweeted that it would soon release a CIA paper. Unaffiliated Wikileaks coverage site, WL Central's Twitter archive reveals that the next day, that paper was released, and that it was verified by the CIA. A further tweet hinted that the CIA's confirmation might have been strategic. The next day, August 26, Wikileaks' site went down, and although much of the material was still accessible through a mirror site (now inactive), the original MediaWiki site was unavailable throughout September, October and even during November's Iraq War Logs release. In fact, the original site has never been restored, but was instead replaced last week with a new one. Since the CIA document was therefore available for a mere day on the Wikileaks site, it has not received a large amount of attention. It is, however, available via torrent, for anyone who wishes to access it.

The document is a special memorandum from the CIA Red Cell, a division of the Directorate of Intelligence charged with "taking a pronounced "out-of-the-box" approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues." It is entitled ”What If Foreigners See the United States as an ’Exporter of Terrorism’”, classified SECRET//NOFORN, and dated 5 February 2010. The purpose of the document is summarized:

What If Foreigners See the United States as an “Exporter of Terrorism”? (S//NF)
Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons. This report examines the implications of what it would mean for the US to be seen increasingly as an incubator and “exporter of terrorism.

The document contains an unequivocal confirmation that there is a history of exportation of terrorism from the United States.

Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.

It enumerates several varieties of terrorism exportation, concluding with the Irish American example, and confirming a direct relation between NORAID and PIRA arms purchases.

Some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland. In the 1880s, Irish-American members of Clan na Gael dynamited Britain’s Scotland Yard, Parliament, and the Tower of London, and detonated bombs at several stations in the London underground.In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases. Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)

Finally, the document lists the consequences in terms of diplomatic and foreign relations capital of the perception that the United States is an exporter of terrorism, particularly .

Impact on Foreign Relations if US Seen as “Exporter of Terrorism” (S//NF)
If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries. As a recent victim of high-profile terrorism originating from abroad, the US Government has had significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil. However, if the US were seen as an “exporter of terrorism,” foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty.

  • Foreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.
  • In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil. Foreign intelligence operations on US soil to neutralize or even assassinate individuals in the US deemed to be a threat are not without precedent. Before the US entered World War II, British intelligence carried out information operations against prominent US citizens deemed to be isolationists or sympathetic to the Nazis. Some historians who have examined relevant archives even suspect that British intelligence officers assassinated Nazi agents on US soil. (S//NF)

Foreign perception of the US as an “exporter of terrorism” also raises difficult legal issues for the US, its foreign allies, and international institutions. To date, the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and instead, has pursued Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) with other countries to ensure immunity for US nationals from ICC prosecution. The US has threatened to terminate economic aid and withdraw military assistance with countries that do not accede to BIAs.

  • If foreign regimes believe the US position on rendition is too one-sided, favoring the US, but not them, they could obstruct US efforts to detain terrorism suspects. For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for US agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt. The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts.
  • If foreign leaders see the US refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the US. In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify. More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects. (S//NF)

The document therefore reveals the rather casual role extra judicial rendition plays in relations with the U.S. government, and straightforwardly refers to the aggressive use of U.S. economic and miltary influence to force other countries to accede to bilateral immunity agreements, thereby avoiding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. These are the most significant details about the document.

But the indication that domestic involvement with foreign terrorism is a potential diplomatic liability should not be overlooked. No indication is given of any actual diplomatic fallout caused by terrorist exportation. It does not say that these issues have already been broached in diplomatic contexts, or that the activity of American citizens like Rep. Peter King has been a matter of some forward-looking concern for U.S. diplomats. But the document confirms that this sort of issue would constitute a significant problem for the U.S. war on terrorism. Even without any information which would directly cast him in a bad light, coverage of this document would, by mere association, run the risk of provoking very negative press for someone in Peter King's position.

Wikileaks has at the time of press released less than 1,000 of the 250,000 diplomatic cables. Approximately 249,000 remain to come to light. A single Red Cell document released by Wikileaks in August encourages scrutiny of a topic that brings Peter King's history of support for and links with the Provisional Irish Republican Army into painful focus. For someone with a history like King's, and a career that relies on public image and electoral support, the airing of the content of a quarter of a million diplomatic communications, during a period of enhanced U.S. pursuit of international terrorism, might indeed present a worrying prospect. No mention of King would even need to be made - and this article is not suggesting that any such information will appear. The risk is that broader discussion of domestic support for foreign terrorism would lead to greater media attention for his history with the IRA support network. King claims that truth is terrorism: worse, even, than the killing of innocent American citizens. One has to wonder who here is the terrified party, and why.

This is worse even then a physical attack on Americans. It's worse than a military attack, because what it has done is, it gives our enemies, and even some of our allies, insight into what our thinking is, what our plans are, meetings we've held. It undermines our strategy. Now, this is absolutely devastating to American diplomacy, and by doing that it puts American lives at risk all over the world.


UPDATE: Some of the cables are already revealing details of cash flows funding terrorism. There is yet nothing on the material speculated about in the Red Cell document. But as outlined earlier, that is not even the worry. The worry is that there would be American media attention for the topic of domestic support for foreign terrorism.

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