Edward Snowden, Booz Allen Hamilton, “NATO 3”: Connecting the Dots

Today’s breaking news is that Edward Snowden – a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who released internal NSA documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post – has fled to Latin America.


He’s been joined by Wikileaks employee Sarah Harrison. Missed in much of the hoopla surrounding Snowden’s “OJ Simpson in his White Bronco Take Two“: Booz Allen’s central role in Chicago’s “NATO 3” domestic terrorism case.

NATO 3” is shorthand for Jared Chase (29), Brent Betterly (25) and Brian Church (21), three Occupy activists who drove up to Chicago in late-April of 2012 before the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit. Weeks later, they saw themselves faced with several domestic terrorism charges and many more serious felony charges.


Currently sitting in Cook County Jail – the most heavily populated prison in the U.S. and cited in a 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Justice for inhumane conditions – they face 85 years behind bars.

It’s the first time Illinois’ state terrorism statute has ever been utilized, with an official trial starting date set for Sept. 16, 2013 at Cook County Courthouse. That’s one day before the two year anniversary of the launch of Occupy Wall Street.

The Booz Allen Connection

Two undercover Chicago Police Department officers going by the names Mo and Nadia were instrumental to the eventual arrest and charging of the “NATO 3.” They were on a temporary 90-day assignment before the NATO Summit beginning in Feb. 2012 as part of Field Intelligence Team 7150 to keep an eye 0n any “criminal activities” of anarchists or Occupy Chicago.

A stack of  court records have come out during the pre-trial phase.

Some of those records show that members of the FBI’s Chicago Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL) may be called to testify if the case goes to trial. A domain name search for Chicago RCFL’s web site shows that it was registered by Booz Allen.

Booz Allen Hamilton is referred to by its proponents as a “Digital Blackwater,” a reference to what Jeremy Scahill referred to as the “world’s most powerful mercenary army,” now going by the name “Academi.”

“[BAH] is one of the NSA’s most important and trusted contractors. It’s involved in virtually every aspect of intelligence and surveillance,” wrote investigative journalist Tim Shorrock in a recent article. “Among other secret projects, Booz was deeply involved in ‘Total Information Awareness,’ the controversial data-mining project run for the Bush administration.”

Booz’s Connection to the Pentagon’s Human Terrain System

As I wrote in my article on TruthOut, Booz Allen is also deeply involved in the Pentagon’s Human Terrain System and its Human Terrain Teams, which “map the human terrain” of communities abroad for the military and CIA as part of counterinsurgency warfare campaigns.

Booz Allen provides IT and logistical support for the HTS/HTTs. 


My piece further explained:

A career New York cop, Chicago Police Department (CPD) superintendent Garry McCarthy is no stranger to the Human Terrain System.

It wasn’t long he after formally assumed the mantle of CPD superintendent in 2011 that McCarthy drew fire for having allowed a spy ring tasked to “map the human terrain” of Newark, N.J.,’s Islamic community to operate there, where he served as police chief before taking the position as CPD’s top dog.

McCarthy also served as an NYPD commander when the police set up spy rings before the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City and during “CIA on the Hudson,” the joint NYPD/CIA project that was set up and run by former CIA Deputy Director for Operations David Cohen to “map the human terrain” of New York City’s Islamic community.

“Architecture of Oppression”

Snowden referred to the Frankenstein the NSA and its private contractors have created as an “architecture of oppression” in his exclusive interview with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in The Guardian.

“Digital Blackwater,” as AlterNet‘s Tom Hintze pointed out, is but a tiny piece of the “architecture of oppression.” The architecture also includes the use of undercover officers, agent provocateurs, and paramilitary-style policing of protests, to name a few.

Snowden’s comments to Greenwald speak well to the “NATO 3” case, which revolves predominantly on things they said to Mo and Nadia and things they said to one another on Facebook before heading to Chicago. It’s what Roger Shuy referred to as “language crimes.”

“[E]ven if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call,” Snowden told Greenwald. “And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”

After 20 Years, Still Hiding the Truth About US Collusion in Salvadoran Atrocities

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported on a renewed legal case against Inocente Orlando Montano, “a former Salvadoran government minister accused of colluding in the infamous killing of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador two decades ago,” who has apparently been living a quiet life in Everett, Massachusetts.

The international indictments issued in May seek justice for the clergymen, five of them Spaniards; their housekeeper; and her 16-year-old daughter, who were roused at night from their beds on the campus of Central American University in San Salvador and executed by an elite unit of the Salvadoran military.

Most of those accused of the notorious war crime have never faced justice.

The article goes through Montano’s charges thoroughly, top to bottom. It details the Jesuit massacre he was allegedly involved in, plots to assassinate other members of the church that the Salvadoran government and military junta suspected of “supporting leftist rebels,” even the Salvadoran civil war which was “riddled with atrocities” and resulted in the deaths of “about 75,000 people.” It even quotes Massachusetts Representative James McGovern as saying “I find it unbelievable and unconscionable that somebody involved in this crime is in the United States.’’

One important element, though, completely left out of the Globe article is that these crimes were committed with the support and direct involvement of the United States. McGovern finds it unbelievable that Montano was even in the country, never mind his side having been allied with Washington at the time of these atrocities. Going back to the Carter administration, the U.S. had been actively supporting, equipping, and training the brutal Salvadoran government and military. In 1980, the Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, sent a letter to Carter pleading with him to not “send military aid to the junta,” saying it would be used to “sharpen injustice and repression against the people’s organizations” which were struggling “for respect for their most basic human rights.” A few weeks later, Romero was murdered. Then the war escalated. As did support for atrocities from Washington. A more honest history lesson can be found here:

The Jesuits were murdered by the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite unit created, trained and equipped by the United States. It was formed in March 1981, when fifteen specialists in counterinsurgency were sent to El Salvador from the US Army School of Special Forces. From the start, the Battalion was engaged in mass murder. A US trainer described its soldiers as “particularly ferocious….We’ve always had a hard time getting them to take prisoners instead of ears.”

In December 1981, the Battalion took part in an operation in which over a thousand civilians were killed in an orgy of murder, rape and burning. Later it was involved in the bombing of villages and murder of hundreds of civilians by shooting, drowning and other methods. The vast majority of victims were women, children and the elderly.

[…] In another case, an admitted member of a Salvadoran death squad associated with the Atlacatl Battalion, Cesar Vielman Joya Martinez, detailed the involvement of US advisers and the Salvadoran government in death-squad activity. The Bush administration has made every effort to silence him and ship him back to probable death in El Salvador, despite the pleas of human rights organizations and requests from Congress that his testimony be heard. (The treatment of the main witness to the assassination of the Jesuits was similar.)

The results of Salvadoran military training are graphically described in the Jesuit journal America by Daniel Santiago, a Catholic priest working in El Salvador. He tells of a peasant woman who returned home one day to find her three children, her mother and her sister sitting around a table, each with its own decapitated head placed carefully on the table in front of the body, the hands arranged on top “as if each body was stroking its own head.”

The assassins, from the Salvadoran National Guard, had found it hard to keep the head of an 18-month-old baby in place, so they nailed the hands onto it. A large plastic bowl filled with blood was tastefully displayed in the center of the table.

Present-day reports on such events around the world obviously leave it out when the U.S. is responsible, or involved in any way. They wouldn’t dare expose incumbents like that. But why, after more than 20 years, can’t the mainstream press report the truth about these atrocities in El Salvador?

Pushing the Military in Latin America

The Posse Comitatus Act is one of the most important measures in this country imposing restrictions on the federal government and Executive power. It essentially prohibits the federal government from using the military for law enforcement, which, despite the problems with law enforcement, has helped solidify a separation of the army and police. This is why the Bush administration’s post 9/11 attempts to cripple that law were so disgusting and dangerous. It is a vital safeguard against outright militaristic rule here at home.

But, as this report from the Washington Office on Latin America details, the U.S. encourages very different practices in its drug war throughout Latin America. It “lays out the United States’ persistent, century-long tendency to help the region’s militaries take on internal security roles” and that this tendency “continues with today’s ‘wars’ on drugs, terrorism, and organized crime.”

Despite the occasional examples of disputes and over- reaching discussed in Section I, the Posse Comitatus model has served the United States well. U.S. military and police institutions alike have benefited from the clear separation between their roles and missions.

It is unfortunate and alarming, then, that Washing- ton has supported almost the exact opposite course in Latin America and the Caribbean. For the past century, and continuing today, U.S. assistance has encouraged the Western Hemisphere’s militaries to assume internal roles that would be inappropriate, or even illegal, at home.

[…] The U.S. government is by far the largest provider of military and police aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. Arms and equipment transfers, training, exercises, presence at bases, and military-to- military engagement programs send strong messages about military and police roles. So do diplomatic inter- actions with the region.

Instead of exporting the principle to which the United States adheres, though, these efforts often do just the opposite: encourage Latin American govern- ments to use their militaries against their own people. This is a longstanding tendency in U.S. policy toward Latin America, though it rarely gets framed in terms of the United States’ much different domestic model.

Take the Merida Initiative in Mexico as an example:

Following his election in 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calde- rón sent tens of thousands of soldiers into the streets in zones under the dominion of hyper-violent drug drug-trafficking organizations. Especially in cities near the U.S. border, Mexico’s Army now works hand-in-hand with police forces, and at times supplants them completely. The Bush administration rushed to endorse this model with a multi-year aid package, now totaling over $1.4 billion and mostly made up of military and police assistance. The largest items in the aid package – helicopters and surveillance aircraft – are for Mexico’s Army and Navy.

Mike Riggs, at Reason, blogged about recent updates of the Merida Initiative, explaining that it is expanding, continuing at least beyond 2012. Part of the expansion is a plan to have “local U.S. cops to train local Mexican police,” although there aren’t signs this will shift the anti-Posse Comitatus style status quo:

The Webb County Sheriff’s Department has never been bombed, its officers do not face daily the likelihood of execution, and they have never felt the urge to quit their jobs en masse for fear of execution. If the State Department believes local U.S. cops can help the situation in Mexico, they should explain how, especially since the U.S. military has been training Mexican cops and military members for years, with more mass graves and cartel in-fighting as the only measurable result. […] Thirty thousand people have died “in recent years” due to the increased pressure the U.S. has applied to Mexico’s cartels. If that’s winning, then yes, the U.S. is winning.

Another interesting example which clearly reveals Washington’s preferences for internal military control throughout Latin America isthe case of Honduras. The illegal military coup in June of 2009 was supported by the Obama administration despite having recognized it as unconstitutional and illegitimate, according to WikiLeaks diplomatic cables. The military basically kidnapped the President and forcibly removed him from power probably in the interest of a few rich thugs. What followed were a whole host of human rights violations – including 3,000 people killed in Honduras including journalists, lawyers, and leaders of popular organizations – most of which were never investigated. Nevertheless, Obama administration had “representatives from the U.S. Department of State [meet] with de facto president Porfirio Lobo Sosa to convene a working group in charge of the implementation of the Merida Initiative/CARSI.” A nice little anecdote to illustrate who Washington wants to reign over “the backyard” and why.

Latin America Beware: The Imperial Pretext Is Changing

During the Cold War, the pretext for reigning terror down upon the masses in Central and South America through U.S. imperialism was the creeping communist threat. This was used as a justification for our 1954 overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz, implementing a systematic campaign of political assassinations, arming murderous right-wing militias there for decades, etc. Of course, the same commie justification held for the CIA-orchestrated coup to oust the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile and installing the repressive dictatorship of General Pinochet. The elusive Soviet threat was also the pretext for Reagan’s terror war in Nicaragua and El Salvador. You get the picture.

After the wall fell, the pretext became the drug war and terrorism. Bush I invaded Panama with the justification of capturing a minor thug Manuel Noriega (previously on CIA payroll), violent militias were continually funded to fight the drug war (like now), Clinton and Plan Colombia which continues to now, Bush II attempted a coup against Hugo Chavez because apparently he was ‘against us’ as opposed to ‘with us,’ etc.

Apparently the pretext for U.S. domination of Latin America is set to change yet again. Amy Myers Jaffe’s piece in Foreign Policy doesn’t mention anything about U.S. intervention, but she intelligently predicts that the energy “center of the world” so to speak will shift to the Americas, instead of staying in the Middle East.

For half a century, the global energy supply’s center of gravity has been the Middle East. This fact has had self-evidently enormous implications for the world we live in — and it’s about to change.

By the 2020s, the capital of energy will likely have shifted back to the Western Hemisphere, where it was prior to the ascendancy of Middle Eastern megasuppliers such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the 1960s.

She writes the “reasons for this shift are partly technological and partly political,” but oil and natural gas are likely to frame the geopolitical understanding of the Americas in the coming years. That will attract the attention of the U.S. who has been trying to exploit and command the whole region since 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine. If she’s right, and if Latin America’s recent moves towards strong independence movements doesn’t continue to resist the weight of U.S. pressure, we may be looking at a whole new pretext for a whole new set of ugly wars and interventions south of the border.