1964: Stuart Christie’s account of his actions in a Franco assassination attempt

Mugshot (front and side) of Stuart Christie
Stuart Christie’s mugshot, taken after his arrest in Spain for a failed attempt to assassinate dictator Francisco Franco with an improvised explosive device.

[…] By August 6 1964, everything was ready for my mission. My ticket had been booked on the night train from Paris to Toulouse. I met Bernardo and Salvador, my Spanish anarchist contacts from London, at the place d’Italie, and from there we walked down the rue Bobilot and into a narrow and neglected side street with grubby grey tenements.

Checking to ensure we had not been followed, Salva gave a prearranged knock on the curtained street-floor window and, when the door opened, we filed quickly through the dark and narrow hallway and into the front room. This was the quartermaster’s stores, where the weapons, explosives and forged documents could be kept with some degree of safety.

Three people were already in the room. Two were seated, one of whom I recognised as Octavio Alberola, the charismatic coordinator of the underground anarchist group Defensa Interior, and the man on whose shoulders lay the responsibility for killing Franco.The third man, referred to as “the chemist”, was standing by the sink wearing rubber gloves, measuring and pouring chemicals.

Being thirsty, I went to the sink for water, and was about to put a glass to my lips when the chemist turned round and saw what I was doing. He shouted at me to stop and rushed across, removing the glass carefully from my hands, explaining that it had just been used for measuring pure sulphuric acid.

Shaken, I stood back to lean on the sideboard and went to light a cigarette. This triggered another equally volcanic reaction from the chemist as he explained that the sideboard drawer was full of detonators. I retreated to the table, and was very cautious after that.

The chemist placed on the table five slabs of what looked like king-size bars of my granny’s home-made tablet (a crumbly Scottish toffee similar to butter fudge), each containing 200 grams of plastic explosive, along with detonators.

Alberola went through the details of the operation while Salva translated. My job was to deliver the explosives to the contact, together with a letter, addressed to me, which I was to collect from the American Express offices in Madrid. Then, at a rendezvous in the plaza de Moncloa, the contact would identify me by a handkerchief wrapped around one of my hands. He would approach me and say, “Qué tal?” (“How are you?”), to which I was to reply, “Me duele la mano” (“I’ve a sore hand”).

I spoke no Spanish, so to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting my lines and unloading a kilo of high explosives on the first friendly Spaniard I met, Octavio wrote the words down for me, along with all the instructions. (This was, with hindsight, extremely foolish.) Once the contact had identified himself, I was to hand over the parcel, together with the letter, and leave immediately.

My train pulled into Toulouse station shortly before dawn on Friday August 7 after a clammy and uncomfortable night. After a hurried coffee and croissant I caught a train to Perpignan. Here, I prepared myself for crossing the border; I would hitchhike the rest of the way to Madrid.

The best way to take the explosives in, I thought, was on my body, not in my rucksack in case it was searched by a punctilious customs officer. In Perpignan, I found the public baths and paid for a cubicle. After a hot soak, and still naked, I unpacked the slabs of plastique, and taped them to my chest and stomach with Elastoplasts and adhesive tape. The detonators I wrapped in cotton wool and hid inside the lining of my jacket.

With the plastic explosive strapped to me, my body was improbably misshapen. The only way to disguise myself was with the baggy woollen jumper my granny had knitted to protect me from the biting Clydeside winds. At the risk of understatement, I looked out of place on the Mediterranean coast in August.

I walked through the outskirts of Perpignan until I came to a junction with a road sign pointing to Spain. After what seemed like hours, a car pulled over. It was driven by a middle-aged English commercial traveller from Dagenham. He was going to Barcelona.

It soon became apparent that his charity was driven to a large extent by enlightened self-interest. Every few kilometres the old banger would chug to a standstill and I would have to get out in the full blast of the August Mediterranean sun and push the bloody car up the foothills until we got it bump-started. Between pushing a car uphill and granny’s jumper, the sweat began rolling off me. Waterproof tape was yet to have been invented, and the cellophane-wrapped packets of plastique began slipping from my body. I had to keep nudging them up with my forearms.

Traffic was heavy when we reached Le Pérthus, the busiest of Spain’s frontier mountain passes. This was where we would have to clear a customs check. On the other side was fascist Spain.

After queuing for a bowel-churning eternity, I had to push the car on to the ramp while my companion steered. I pulled my jumper taut and waited with my heart in my mouth while two dour-faced Civil Guards with shiny patent-leather three-cornered hats and sub-machine guns at the ready looked me up and down. I handed my passport over to the border guard while the customs officers examined the boot and searched behind the seats of the car.

“Why have you come to Spain?”

“Turista!” I replied, hoping my accent didn’t make it sound like “terrorista”.

A pair of dark eyes looked at me suspiciously for a moment before the stamp finally descended on the passport.

The car made it as far as Gerona’s main square, where it broke down again, this time in the middle of the rush hour. Eventually we got going again and before I knew it we were driving through the dilapidated red-roofed outskirts of industrial Barcelona.

“I never thought we’d make it,” said my companion.

“Neither did I,” was my reply.

We said goodbye and went our separate ways.

The possible dates for my rendezvous in Madrid were from Tuesday 11 to Friday 14 August. I left Barcelona on Monday, this time keeping the explosives in my bag. I could have flown or taken the train, but I enjoyed hitch-hiking and it also meant I would have a bit more money in the event of any emergency.

My destination in the capital was the American Express office. Instead of going to the railway station for a left-luggage locker and leaving my rucksack there, which is what a more experienced anarchist would have done, I swung it on to my back and strolled down the carrera San Jerónimo to collect the letter for my contact.

It was siesta time and the streets were quiet. Turning the corner to enter the American Express office, I was immediately aware of three smartly dressed and tight-lipped men in heavy-rimmed sunglasses standing by the entrance muttering among themselves. I breathed deeply and tried to control my anxiety. Walking past this group, I went into the American Express office where I asked for the poste restante desk. A clerk pointed me in the direction of a desk at the far end of the room.

Handing my passport to the receptionist I asked whether any letters were waiting for me. At this same moment I noticed out of the corner of my eye two men and a woman sitting in an alcove to my right. Again, I knew immediately they were police. The blood and lymph drained from my face and heart. My stomach churned. Something had gone badly wrong.

The girl with my passport found my letter among the tightly packed trays behind her and pulled it out. As she did, I noticed it had been marked with a pink piece of paper the size of a bookie’s slip. The woman from the alcove, a supervisor, approached the girl, now bringing the letter to me, said a few words to her and removed the slip.

What was in the letter? How much did they know? Would I be arrested there or would they wait until I had met my contact? But if they knew about the Amex pick-up, they probably knew the details of my rendezvous as well.

The supervisor handed the slip to the girl, indicating she should take it across to the two men in the alcove. The supervisor then handed me the letter and my passport. I turned to see the two men from the alcove quickly walking out. I made a mental note to shaft American Express at every conceivable opportunity, if I were ever again offered an opportunity.

My diaphragm tightened even more and my heart thumped like a tight Lambeg drum. Yet I felt curiously detached as I took a deep breath and walked out of the office, trying to keep my face expressionless. Mustering all the confidence I could, I paused at the doorway to look at the group of five men now standing to one side of the entrance. Until I appeared at the doorway they had been deep in conversation. They stopped briefly, exchanging knowing looks with one another, and carried on.

Attempting the jaunty air of a well-heeled tourist who had just cashed his letters of credit, I walked back the way I had come, and as slowly as I could. I had only gone a few yards when the knot of men began to follow me up the street, still talking among themselves. My eyes darted everywhere, desperately searching for any opportunity to escape. I continued up the carrera San Jeronimo, stopping to peer in shop windows I passed, as though I was window shopping, but in fact to see how far they were behind. They had allowed me a 20 yards’ start before moving, and they kept to that distance.

An empty taxi pulled in to the pavement beside me. But when the driver appeared to invite me to get in, I knew it was an undercover police car. I was being hemmed in.

By this time I had reached the corner of the busy calle Cedaceros. As I steeled myself to make a dash through the crowds I was suddenly grabbed by both arms from behind, my face pushed to the wall and a gun barrel thrust into the small of my back. I tried to turn my head but I was handcuffed before I fully realised what had happened. It was all over in a matter of moments. […] ‘

From: https://libcom.org/library/franco-assassination-attempt-stuart-christie

Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for Counterinsurgency

(by Renata Bessi & Santiago Navarro F. via El Enemigo Comun)

Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

“In 2006, a team of geographers from the University of Kansas carried out a series of mapping projects of communal lands in southern Mexico’s Northern Sierra Mountains. Coordinated by Peter Herlihy and Geoffrey B. Demarest, a US lieutenant colonel, the objective was to achieve strategic military and geopolitical goals of particular interest for the United States. The objective was to incorporate indigenous territories into the transnational corporate model of private property, either by force or through agreements. Demarest’s essential argument is that peace cannot exist without private property.

“The Bowman Expeditions are taking places with the counterinsurgency logic of the United States, and we reported them in 2009. These expeditions were part of research regarding the geographic information that indigenous communities in the Sierra Juarez possess. The researchers hid the fact that they were being financed by the Pentagon. And we believe that this research was a type of pilot project to practice how they would undertake research in other parts of the world in relation to indigenous towns and their communal lands,” said Aldo Gonzales Rojas in an interview with Truthout. A director for the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in the state of Oaxaca, Rojas ensures that indigenous laws are being instituted and applied correctly in the state.

According to researcher and anthropologist Gilberto López y Rivas, “The agents on the expeditions consider the types of communal property in these lands, both collective and autonomous, to be an obstacle for the development plans currently being very aggressively executed, where there is capital from mining companies, pharmaceuticals, energy companies, among others,” he told Truthout. This is despite the fact that these communal lands in Mexico, for example, were recognized after the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and are lands that indigenous communities have possessed since time immemorial.

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Geographer and University of Colorado professor Joe Bryan, affirmed in an interview with Truthout, that, as a point of reference in this offensive against communal lands, the Southern Command of the United States military, one of the 10 command units belonging to the US military that are deployed across the world, covers the area from South America, Central America, to the Caribbean. “They have turned their gaze to see that there is no state presence and an absence of private property. They are looking for communal areas and present these areas as belonging to drug trafficking and organized crime groups. In this way the Southern Command is looking to become a partner with the governments and nonprofit organizations in Latin America, and with this in mind, for example, that operation called Continuous Mission – that promotes health services to communities – [is] another way of occupying territories and of counterinsurgency.”

As the ideologue of these expeditions, Demarest considers collective land ownership to be the birthplace of delinquency and insurgency, and thus believes that collective property must be destroyed. He graduated from the School of the Americas, which is under the administration of the US Army and was founded in 1946 in Panama, with the objective of training Latin American soldiers in war and counterinsurgency tactics. In recent years, graduates from the School of the Americas have participated in assassinations in Colombia, formed part of the drug trafficking organization The Zetas, in Mexico, and were involved in the coup in Honduras in 2009, as was demonstrated by activists through a School of the Americas Watch lawsuit against the Department of Defense in February 2013. “Demarest is one of the coordinators of these expeditions. He was trained in the School of the Americas, later served as military attaché for the United States Embassy in Guatemala in 1988 and 1991, where a counterinsurgency project was implemented that caused terrible massacres of indigenous populations,” says López. […]

In Oaxaca, a police officer takes pictures, attempting to document the presence of activists in Oaxaca’s Triqui indigenous region. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
In Oaxaca, a police officer takes pictures, attempting to document the presence of activists in Oaxaca’s Triqui indigenous region. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

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Read the full article “Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for Counterinsurgency” at El Enemigo Comun

“The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

On this day in history, December 4, 1969, Chicago police raided Fred Hampton’s apartment and shot and killed him in his bed. He was just twenty-one years old. Black Panther leader Mark Clark was also killed in the raid. While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police who were there to serve a search warrant for weapons, evidence later emerged that told a very different story: that the FBI, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate Fred Hampton.

Via Huffington Post:

‘On December 4th it will be 44 years since a select unit of 14 Chicago Police officers, on special assignment to Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, executed a pre-dawn raid on a west side apartment that left Illinois Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead, several other young Panthers wounded, and the seven raid survivors arrested on bogus attempted murder charges. The physical evidence soon exposed the claims of a “shootout” that were made by Hanrahan and his men to be blatant lies, and that the murderous reality was that the police fired nearly 100 shots while the Panthers fired but one.

But those lies were only the first layer of a massive cover-up that was dismantled and exposed over the next eight years — a cover-up designed to suppress the central role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its COINTELPRO program in the assassination.

In the wake of the raid, the Minister of Defense for the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Rush, stood on the steps of the bullet riddled BPP apartment and declared that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were responsible for the raid, but at that time there was no hard proof and it was dismissed by the media as mere rhetoric.

The first documentation that supported Rush’s insightful allegation surfaced in March of 1971 when the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into a small FBI office in Media Pennsylvania and expropriated over 1000 FBI documents. These documents exposed the FBI’s super-secret and profoundly illegal COINTELPRO program and its focus in the 1960s on the black liberation movement and its leaders. Citing the assassinated Malcolm X as an example, Hoover directed all of the Bureau’s Offices to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize” African American organizations and leaders including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Nation of Islam, Martin Luther King, Stokley Carmichael, and H. Rap Brown.

In Chicago, the first major breakthrough came in 1973 when U.S. Attorney James Thompson revealed that Chicago Black Panther Party Chief of Security William O’Neal was a paid informant for the FBI. At that time I was a young lawyer working with my colleagues at the People’s Law Office on a civil rights lawsuit that we had filed on behalf of the Hampton and Clark families and the survivors of the December 4th raid. We quickly subpoenaed the Chicago FBI’s Black Panther Party files and a grand total of 33 documents were produced. However, an honest Assistant U.S. Attorney included in those documents an FBI memorandum that incorporated a detailed floor plan of the interior of the BPP apartment which specifically identified the bed on which Hampton slept. The face of the memo also revealed that the floor plan, together with other important information designed to be utilized in a police raid, was based on information communicated by O’Neal to his FBI control agent who later supplied it to State’s Attorney Hanrahan before the raid.

We then focused on unearthing more details about the FBI’s involvement in the conspiracy, identified the FBI conspirators, joined them as defendants in the lawsuit and sought the Chicago office’s COINTELPRO file in order to establish a direct link between the FBI’s illegal program and the raid. When the Government refused to produce the file and the Judge refused to compel them to do so, we turned to Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations. The Committee, which was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was investigating rampant abuses by all U.S. Intelligence Agencies, including the FBI. In late 1975 a Church Committee staffer informed us that there were several Chicago documents which definitively established the link. Armed with the content of the still secret documents, we were able to embarrass the Judge, who had privately reviewed the documents and previously declared them irrelevant, into ordering the FBI to produce the file. Among the documents provided were several that revealed the FBI’s efforts to foment violence against Fred Hampton and the Chicago Panthers, and one dated December 3, 1969 that claimed the impending raid as part of the COINTELPRO program.

In January of 1976 we embarked on what would turn out to be the longest civil trial in federal court history. Two months into the trial, O’Neal’s FBI control agent blundered on the witness stand and inadvertently established that the FBI had not produced all of the Chicago Black Panther files, and the Judge, not knowing what was about to happen, ordered that they do so. The next day a shaken Justice Department supervisor wheeled into court shopping carts on which were stacked 200 volumes of FBI BPP files that had been suppressed by the Chicago office since we had first requested them three years before. The Judge commenced a hearing on the FBI’s misconduct and the Government produced several sanitized volumes of documents each day for a month. The produced files contained directives to destroy the Panther’s Breakfast for Children Program and disrupt the distribution of the BPP newspaper, evidence that the charismatic Hampton was a targeted BPP leader, and massive wiretap overhears, including conversations between BPP members and their attorneys.

At the very end of its month long document production, the Government produced O’Neal’s control file. In it was yet another smoking gun — memos to and from FBI headquarters and the Chicago office that requested and approved payment of a $300 bonus to reward O’Neal for the floor plan. According to the memos, O’Neal’s information was of “tremendous value” and, in the words of O’Neal’s COINTELPRO supervisor, made the raid a “success.”

That same month, on April 23, 1976, the Church Committee released its Final Staff Report on the FBI and CIA’s rampant domestic illegalities which included a chapter entitled “The FBI’s Covert Action Plan to Destroy the Black Panther Party.” The chapter concluded by highlighting the Hampton raid as a COINTELPRO operation and quoting from the bonus documents that we had obtained only weeks before.

The Judge, an ardent supporter of the FBI, exonerated the FBI and its Justice Department lawyers of any wrongdoing in suppressing the documents and later dismissed O’Neal and the other FBI defendants from the case. In April of 1979 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a landmark decision, overturned the trial judge, finding that the FBI defendants and their government lawyers “obstructed justice” by suppressing the BPP files. Most significantly, the Court of Appeals also concluded that there was “serious evidence” to support the conclusion that the FBI, Hanrahan, and his men, in planning and executing the raid, had participated in a “conspiracy designed to subvert and eliminate the Black Panther Party and its members,” thereby suppressing a “vital radical Black political organization.” The Court further found there to be substantial evidence that these defendants also participated in a post-raid conspiracy to “cover up evidence” regarding the raid, to “conceal the true character of their pre-raid and raid activities,” to “harass the survivors of the raid,” and to “frustrate any legal redress the survivors might seek.” This decision withstood a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, and stands today as judicial recognition of outrageous Federal and local conspiratorial criminality and cover-up.[…] ‘

Read full article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/g-flint-taylor/the-fbi-cointelpro-progra_b_4375527.html

“Inside America’s Dirty Wars” — Jeremy Scahill

From “Inside America’s Dirty Wars” by Jeremy Scahill (The Nation, May 13, 2013):

Three days after Obama’s news conference on bin Laden, the president’s counterterrorism team presented him with an urgent intelligence update on Awlaki. Along with signals intercepts by JSOC and the CIA and “vital details of Awlaki’s whereabouts” from Yemeni intelligence, the White House now had what it believed was its best shot to date at killing the radical cleric, whose fiery speeches denouncing the United States—and praising attacks on Americans—had placed him in the cross-hairs of the US counterterrorism apparatus. 

US military aircraft were at the ready. Obama gave the green light. JSOC would run the operation. A Special Ops Dragon Spear aircraft mounted with short-range Griffin missiles blasted into Yemeni airspace, backed by Marine Harrier jets and Predator drones, and headed toward Shabwah Province. A Global Hawk surveillance aircraft would hover above to relay a live feed back to the mission planners.

On the evening of May 5, Awlaki and some friends were driving through Jahwa, in rural southern Shabwah, when their pickup truck was rocked by a massive explosion nearby, shattering its windows. Awlaki saw a flash of light and believed that a rocket had been fired at their vehicle. “Speed up!” he yelled at the driver. Awlaki looked around the truck and took stock of the situation. No one was hurt. The back of the pickup was filled with canisters of gasoline, yet the vehicle had not exploded. Alhamdulillah, Awlaki thought, according to his detailed account of the incident that later appeared in Inspire, the English-language magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “Praise God.” He called for help.

While Awlaki and his colleagues scrambled to get away from what they thought was an ambush, JSOC planners watched via satellite as his truck emerged from the dust clouds that the Griffin missile had caused. They’d missed—there had been a malfunction in the targeting pod, and the missile’s guidance system was unable to keep a lock on Awlaki’s vehicle. It would now be up to the Harriers and the drones. Strike two: a massive fireball lit up the sky. Just as the celebrations at JSOC were about to begin, the mission’s planners watched in shock as the truck emerged once again from the smoke. Its back bumper had been damaged, but the truck was on the run. The Harriers were running low on fuel and had to abandon the mission. The third strike had to come from  one of the drones. Awlaki peered out the window, looking for the perpetrators of the ambush. It was then that he saw it: a drone hovering in the sky. As smoke and dust engulfed the area, Awlaki told the driver not to head toward any populated areas. They pulled into a small valley with some trees.

Two brothers, Abdullah and Musa’d Mubarak al Daghari, known among the members of AQAP as the al Harad brothers, were speeding to Awlaki’s rescue. As the drone hovered overhead, the US personnel running the op could not see what was happening below. A former JSOC planner, who read the after-action reports on the strike, told me that the mission had satellites that provided only “top-down imagery.” With such satellites, he said, “You’re looking down at ants moving. All they saw were vehicles, and the people in the vehicles were smart.” Dust, gravel, smoke and flames had shielded the High Value Target. The Harad brothers quickly marshaled Awlaki and his driver into their Suzuki Vitara SUV and took Awlaki’s vehicle. They gave Awlaki directions to a mountain area where he could take shelter. Awlaki hastily said goodbye and sped off in the Suzuki. The Harad brothers then headed in the opposite direction, driving in the truck the Americans had tried to blow up moments earlier.

As the two vehicles took off in opposite directions, the Americans running the operation had to decide which one to follow. They stuck with Awlaki’s truck. Awlaki looked up and saw the drones still hovering. He managed to make it to the mountains. From there, he watched as another round of missiles shot out of the sky and blew up the truck, killing the Harad brothers.

As JSOC celebrated what it thought was a successful hit, Awlaki performed his evening prayers and reflected on the situation. That night, he later recalled, had “increased my certainty that no human being will die until they complete their livelihood and [reach their] appointed time.” He fell asleep in the mountains.

As news spread of the attack, anonymous US officials confirmed that the strike had been aimed at Awlaki. And for a time, they thought they had accomplished the mission. The US drone operators “did not know that vehicles were exchanged and resulted in the wrong people dying and [that] Awlaki [was] still alive,” a Yemeni security official told CNN.

[…]

By early September, however, US surveillance aircraft had pinpointed Anwar al-Awlaki’s location far from Shabwah—at a small house in Khashef, a village in Jawf about ninety miles northeast of Sana’a. Villagers began seeing drones hovering in the skies above. Washington’s drone war had kicked into full gear in Yemen, so the presence of the aircraft was not particularly out of the ordinary. But what the villagers did not know was that the White House’s counterterrorism teams were watching one specific house—watching and waiting. Once they got a lock on Awlaki’s coordinates, the CIA deployed several armed Predator drones from its new base in Saudi Arabia and took operational control of some JSOC drones launched from Djibouti as well. The plan to assassinate Awlaki was code-named Operation Troy. The name implied that the United States had a mole leading its forces to Awlaki.

As the Americans surveilled the house where Anwar was staying in Jawf, Abdulrahman arrived in Ataq, Shabwah. He was picked up at the bus station by his relatives, who told him that they did not know where his father was. The boy decided to wait in the hope that his father would come to meet him. His grandmother called the family he was with in Shabwah, but Abdulrahman refused to speak with her. “They said, ‘He’s OK, he’s here,’ but I didn’t talk to him,” Saleha recalled. “He tried to avoid talking to us, because he knows we will tell him to come back. And he wanted to see his father.” Abdulrahman traveled with some of his cousins to the town of Azzan, where he planned to await word from his dad.

At the White House, President Obama was faced with a decision—not of morality or legality, but of timing. He had already sentenced Anwar al-Awlaki to death without trial. A secret legal authorization had been prepared and internal administration critics sidelined or brought on board. All that remained to be sorted out was the day Awlaki would die. Obama, one of his advisers recalled, had “no qualms” about this kill. When the president was briefed on Awlaki’s location in Jawf and also told that children were in the house, he was explicit that he did not want to rule any options out. Awlaki was not to escape again. “Bring it to me and let me decide in the reality of the moment rather than in the abstract,” Obama told his advisers, according to author Daniel Klaidman. Although scores of US drone strikes had killed civilians in various countries around the globe, it was official policy to avoid such deaths if at all possible. “In this one instance,” an Obama confidant told Klaidman, “the president considered relaxing some of his collateral requirements.”

* * *

Awlaki had evaded US drones and cruise missiles for at least two years. He rarely stayed in one place more than a night or two. This time was different. For some reason, he had stayed in the same house in Khashef much longer, all the while being monitored by the United States. Now the Americans had him clean in their sights. “They were living in this house for at least two weeks. Small mud house,” Nasser said he was later told by the locals. “I think they wanted to make some videotape. Samir Khan was with him.” 

On the morning of September 30, 2011, Awlaki and Khan, a young Pakistani-American from North Carolina who is believed to have been the editor of Inspire, finished their breakfast inside the house. US spy cameras and satellites broadcast images back to Washington and Virginia of the two men and a handful of their cohorts piling into vehicles and driving away. They were headed toward the province of Marib. As the vehicles made their way over the dusty, unpaved roads, US drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, were dispatched to hunt them down. The drones were technically under the command of the CIA, though JSOC aircraft and ground forces were poised to assist. A team of commandos stood at the ready to board V-22 helicopters. As an added measure, Marine Harrier jets scrambled in a backup maneuver.

Six months earlier, Awlaki had narrowly avoided death by US missiles. “This time eleven missiles missed [their] target but the next time, the first rocket may hit it,” he had said. As the cars sped down the road, Awlaki’s prophecy came true. Two of the Predator drones locked onto the car carrying him, while other aircraft hovered as backup. A Hellfire missile fired by a drone slammed into his car, transforming it into a fireball. A second missile hit moments later, ensuring that the men inside would never escape if they had managed to survive. 

The Yemeni government sent out a text message to journalists. “The terrorist Anwar Awlaki has been killed along with some of his companions,” it read. It was 9:55 am local time. When villagers in the area arrived at the scene of the missile strike, they reported that the bodies inside the car had been burned beyond recognition. There were no survivors. Amid the wreckage, they found a symbol more reliable than a fingerprint in Yemeni culture: the charred rhinoceros-horn handle of a jambiya dagger. There was no doubt that it belonged to Anwar al-Awlaki.

Read the rest of the article here.

Whistleblower in Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal Found Dead

On Monday, Sean Hoare, a former reporter who helped blow the whistle on the Murdoch-owned News of the World, was found dead in his home. Hoare had been the source for a New York Times story tying phone hacking to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who would later become director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson was arrested as the scandal broke open earlier this month. Police say Hoare appears to have died of natural causes, but the determination had not lessened suspicion of foul play. Hoare not only talked about phone hacking, but phone tracking as well, or as he said they called in the newsroom “pinging,” where he said News of the World would pay police, he believed, to track individuals’ locations.

[…]

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Read full transcript at: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/7/19/whistleblower_in_murdoch_phone_hacking_scandal