A public indictment could shed light on CIA’s secret program

Human rights researchers years ago identified a man who may have been held secretly by the CIA, and whose whereabouts were unknown. It appears that man is now in custody in New York

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn unsealed an indictment Wednesday charging Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun with six terrorism-related counts.

The announcement that Harun is in U.S. custody in New York may also shed light on a small part one of the most secretive aspects of U.S. counterterrorism operations during the Bush administration: What became of terror suspects held by the CIA in its network of “black-site” prisons around the world? Or disappeared into foreign cells in extraordinary renditions?

With their indictment of Harun, prosecutors offered a basic account of how the 43-year-old Nigerian – described as “a prototype Al Qaeda Operative” – spent the last decade. He fought U.S. forces in Afghanistan, prosecutors said, before leaving for Africa, where he allegedly conspired to bomb U.S. diplomatic facilities. Harun, also known by his alias Spin Ghul, eventually wound up in Libyan prison for six years before he was released amid the turmoil of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Did the U.S. know that he was in Libya, and did they play a role in his detention? Did the CIA work with the Libyans to then obtain information from him?

Testimony from an alleged former CIA detainee, a leaked document from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and evidence from cases of others rendered to Libya suggest that might be so.

A spokesman for the CIA said that the agency “does not, as a rule, comment on matters before the courts.” The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York declined to provide information beyond what was announced with the indictment. A lawyer for Harun, David Stern, also declined to comment.

The CIA has steadfastly refused to comment on the fates of most former detainees, publicly accounting for only 16 people of the roughly 100 the agency has said it once held. The U.S. has successfully dismissed lawsuits over rendition and asserted that much about the CIA program is still classified.

President Obama, for his part, ordered the CIA black-site prisons closed when he took office. (He allowed renditions to continue, with pledges of greater oversight of the countries where suspects were sent.) But still, little about the program has been officially disclosed.

Human Rights Watch and other organizations, as a consequence, have been trying to piece together the details of the CIA’s detention and rendition programs for years. In 2009, ProPublica published a list of more than thirty people believed to have been held by the CIA whose whereabouts were still unknown—including a Spin Ghul.

Now and then, the fates of these detainees have emerged in the press or through rights groups, particularly since the upheaval caused by the Arab Spring.

Joanne Mariner, a senior researcher with Amnesty International who worked on identifying former detainees for Human Rights Watch, said that the information in the indictment of Harun lines up with what she knew about Spin Ghul. Operating in an arena of such secrecy, “when all this was going on, we'd get these little clues and bits of information. It's really quite interesting to see confirmation that these people did exist,” she said.

Marwan Jabour, who alleges he was held in Afghanistan by the CIA (“Ghost Prisoner,”) told Human Rights Watch that he was shown photos of Harun (whom he called Ghul) during interrogations, and was led to believe he was in U.S. custody. Jabour had met Harun in Pakistan in 2003, and described him as an African who spoke Arabic. Jabour was held from 2004 to 2006, during which time, according to this week’s indictment, Harun was arrested in Libya.

A 2007 document from Guantanamo, released by Wikileaks, cites detailed information provided by Harun. For example: “Ghul also noted that Saudi authorities had detained Saudi Al Qaeda members…Ghul remarked that these two individuals were Al Qaeda members since approximately 1995.” In the document he is identified as both Harun and Ghul, and described as a “Nigerian [sic] national and Al Qaeda operative.” The citations refer to CIA intelligence reports, but don’t specify where Harun was or when he provided the information.

Since Qaddafi’s fall, evidence has emerged of close communication between the CIA and Libyan officials during the Bush administration, despite the Qaddafi regime’s reputation for torture and brutal prison conditions. Documents found in the abandoned office of Libya’s former top intelligence official refer to the rendition of several people to Libya and the sharing of information. Other “missing prisoners” believed to have been held by the CIA turned up in Libyan prisons. Some of them have given detailed accounts of detention in U.S. custody before being sent there.

“The U.S. delegated a lot of its detention capacity to abusive governments like Libya— they were perfectly happy to have Libya holding these people,” says Mariner.

If the U.S. did know he was in Libya, it took authorities some time to catch up with him after he gained his freedom in June 2011.

After his release, Harun told prosecutors, he was placed on a ship full of Libyan refugees bound for Italy, where he was arrested for assaulting officials onboard. Italian authorities agreed to extradite him to the U.S. last fall.

Harun is the latest in a recent string of terror suspects brought to federal court from overseas by the Obama administration – including Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law Abu Gaith, who pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan to conspiring to kill Americans earlier this month.

Some Congressional Republicans have insisted that such cases are better prosecuted in military commissions like the one at Guantanamo. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said of Harun: “the administration has once again decided to forgo an extensive intelligence interrogation and instead bring an enemy combatant immediately into the federal court system.”

According to court documents, Harun was interviewed by U.S. officials last September in Italy, with his Italian counsel present. He waived his Miranda Rights before those sessions. The indictment against him remained sealed because the government believed “he may be in a position to provide information…relevant to the national security of the United States.”

Harun is scheduled to appear in court in Brooklyn this afternoon, and could face life in prison. Whether or not his trial reveals more about the CIA’s role, at the very least, Harun can be crossed off the list of the missing.



A wake up call from Cyprus for “debt-ridden” states like Kerala

The Cyprus shock gives us an opportunity to trim our ambitions and tailor our projects and programmes in such a way as to harmonise them with resource availability. Taking a lesson, Kerala should also review its half-baked investment ideas that are being pushed through by the neo-rich and non-resident Keralites and stop taking guidance from arm-hair economists

Cyprus is a small country with a population less than 10 lakh and geographical area less than one-fourth of Kerala. The country with almost 100% literacy, life expectancy at 79 years and a per capita income of over $28,000 in 2012 (today’s position will be assessed by analysts in due course!) must be having a comfortable position in various human development indicators. Despite all this, Cyprus has recently attracted media attention for failure of its financial sector needing a ‘bailout’ involving $13 billion jointly supported by the European Union, the European Central bank and the International Monetary Fund. The pre-bailout days saw the failure of Cypriot financial sector sending shock waves to global markets and even Indian stocks sliding in a sympathetic vibration mode.


The cause of the failure of the Cypriot economy is attributed to unbridled functioning of banks in the country, not following prudential norms, offering interest rates on deposits (mainly accepted from Russian depositors) which were unrelated to return on investments and heavy dependence on external assistance for survival in times of crisis. The conditions of present bailout package announced on 25 March 2013 include:

•  Splitting the Popular Bank of Cyprus (also known as Laiki) into a good bank and a bad bank. The bad bank will be closed in due course.

•  The good bank will be merged with Bank of Cyprus (BoC).

•  BoC will be recapitalized through a deposit/equity conversion of uninsured deposits with full contribution of equity shareholders and bond holders. Simply put, major portion of large-size deposits which are not covered by insurance will become “non-refundable” in nature.

•  The conversion will aim at a capital ratio of 9% after implementation of the programme. The programme (bailout) money will not be used to recapitalize Laiki and BoC.


The Cyprus shock gives us an opportunity to trim our ambitions and tailor our projects and programmes in such a way as to harmonise them with resource availability. Cyprus suffered from an over-sized banking sector some eight times the size the country needed.


Taking a lesson from the failure of this country despite several positive factors in its favour, Kerala should review its ambitious projects involving massive investments dependent on borrowing and investments from outside.


 “God’s own country” (That is how the state’s tourism department is marketing Kerala in the international tourism market!) is going through a crisis, on almost all fronts. No. I am not referring to the sex scandals rocking the state assembly or the nasty outbursts by the leaders of various political parties or the weekly hartals and bandhs, which routinely affect the normal life in the state. People of Kerala take all these in their stride and have by now, learnt to live with them. After assumption of office nearly two years back, chief minister Oomen Chandy did not go to bed even on a single day with an undisturbed mind. This is on the assumption that his mind gets disturbed for things normally bothering ordinary human beings.


The last straw is the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) report on the state finances for the year ended 31 March 2012, presented to the state assembly on 18 February 2013. The increasing revenue and fiscal deficits and resultant growing fiscal imbalance were highlighted in the CAG report on the state finances for the year ended March 2012. Adverse features in the report included, among others:

  • Increase in the ratio of revenue deficit to fiscal deficit indicating the use of borrowed funds, largely for meeting current expenditure.
  • Disturbing maturity profile of debt. The state will have to repay 49.6% of debt during the next one to seven years.
  • Dwindling net availability of funds from borrowing, since a large chunk goes to debt servicing. During 2011-12, out of Rs8, 880 crore borrowed from the market, only Rs4, 426 crore was left after servicing debt. Even out of this a sizeable portion went for non-developmental purposes.
  • The average annual return on state’s investments aggregating Rs 4,206.43 crore in statutory corporations, own companies and cooperatives was 1.3% during the last five years.
  • Revenue expenditure which recorded a steep growth of 32.83% during 2011-12, accounted for 90.47% of the total estimated expenditure of Rs50, 896 crore. 70% of revenue expenditure was accounted by salaries, wages, pension, interest and subsidies.
  • Capital expenditure in absolute terms was a meagre Rs3,853 crore accounting for 8% of the total expenditure of the state. 


These observations, howsoever well-founded they might be, will be brushed aside by the combination of varying selfish-interests, which are these days coming together with the single agenda of staying in power and ‘sharing’ the benefits of power, as views of an auditor who should be checking the accuracy in figures rather than bothering about or suggesting how a government should manage the country’s/ state’s resources. The limited purpose of quoting CAG’s observations at the outset is to draw attention to the state of the state’s finances, which is relevant in the context of the discussion that follows.


Kerala, though the state came into being only in 1957, had the benefit of tasting the benefits of being governed by governments representing different permutations and combinations of different political and economic interests and periodic change in the ruling front, which has been a much later development at the Centre and in many other states. Thus, at least till the emergence of LPG (Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation) politics. I differ with the economists who say that this LPG had more to do with economic development rather than politics—circa 1991—and usurping of power at the Centre by BPL (Businessmen-Politicians-Lawyers) combine—circa 2001. Kerala enjoyed the best of both the worlds namely a sprinkling of socialist ideology in policy formulation and capitalist practices in governance.


Kerala’s Sastra Sahitya Parishad, around 2002-04, did make some in-depth study on ‘How Kerala lives?’ and ‘How Kerala thinks?’ (Kerala padhanam—2006) and come out with some interesting revelations. By the time the Parishad team carried out the field study, the “Kerala Model” which had been by then received world acclaim had started showing signs of disintegration and was fading. At this stage, it would be worthwhile to recount the positives of “Kerala Model” briefly:

  • The underlying merit of the model was the fact that despite the relatively low income levels which did not show signs of rapid growth, there was perceivable improvement in human development indicators, especially when the comparison is with people in other geographical regions of India.
  • The focus and emphasis on equity and social justice acted as a catalyst for the state’s development experience.
  • The social leadership provided by leaders like Srinarayana Guru whose approach was humane, made the follow-up work easy for the Communist Party which gave economic and political dimensions to the thought process which was already embedded in the minds of the majority.
  • The revolutionary changes in land reforms and education initiated by the first Communist Ministry in Kerala was the continuation of a process, seeds of which had already been sown by an enlightened religious and social leadership. The leftist influence continued to dominate the state’s development process during the first four decades of the state’s existence.
  • Some of the longstanding results of these policies included lowering birth rate, reducing infant mortality, improving nutrition-availability for children, achieving almost 100% literacy level. An unwritten wage policy that ensured a much higher wage level for skilled and unskilled workers and  visible improvement in some of the crucial human development indicators in the state. Sometime last year, the RBI governor who visited Kochi, during his morning walk found daily wage workers from Andhra Pradesh on the street, who told him that they were paid about Rs600 per day and were able to save and send home ‘something’.


These commendable achievements are shadowed by near anarchy on the labour front, which has affected industrial progress and political instability. This resulted in assortments of political parties, with not much in common in terms of ideology except the greed to hang on to power, coming together to form alternating LDF (Left Democratic Front) and UDF (United Democratic Front) combinations governments after each election in the state.  This situation has resulted in governance being hijacked by vested interests within the state and outside, many a time, through inefficient and lazy leaderships of small political parties gaining more than their reasonable share of ‘responsibilities’(say, based on votes polled or number of legislators in the state assembly ) in the government of the day. When survival of the government is dependent on a couple of MLAs “not crossing the floor”, the ruling front compromises several democratic principles of governance. Much on the same way as Dr Manmohan Singh is carrying on at the Centre.


Historians will not pardon the political leadership of Kerala for messing up and destroying the gains and advances made during the closing years of the decade 1950s (Kerala came into being on 1 November 1957) by the governments which ruled the state from the formation of the state and successive couple of governments that followed. The choice of ministers by EMS Namboodiripad who was the first chief minister needs special mention. Ministers in the first cabinet like C Achutha Menon, VR Krishna Iyer and Joseph Mundassery brought glory to the first ministry by initiating far-reaching reforms in their respective areas of responsibility.


Last two years have seen policy prescriptions from several pressure groups influencing the approach of the Oomen Chandy government in several areas of the state’s economic development. Half-baked ideas for investment in industry, infrastructure and other development areas are pushed through by the neo-rich within the state, investing NRKs (Non-Resident Keralites) and arm-chair economists now guiding the state government. ‘Festivals’ like Emerging Kerala, conferences of NRKs and interactions with NRKs by state leaders when they visit countries like the UAE give an impression that the state is ripe to be transformed into another Dubai. When majority of the schools, hospitals, poverty alleviation programs, drought relief, unmanned level crossings on rail tracks, under-developed roads linking interiors of the state with towns, bridges, agriculture and so on wait for small allocations for years, the state government commits huge funds which involves long-term external borrowings for projects like Kochi Metro (Rs4,500 crore, with state and central participation), Trivandrum Metro (projected cost Rs5,100 crore), Calicut Metro (Rs4,500 crore) and several new airports. PPP (public-Private-Partnership) or attracting private investment from external sources have the inherent danger of leading the state into a debt trap which has been avoided because of the foresight shown by planners till the late 1990s.


Self-reliance is not a bad idea. Neither is borrowing for productive purposes. But, leaving everything to market forces or taking a short-term view of long-term liabilities may take the state into an irretrievably deep debt-trap. Sooner the state approaches planning with the seriousness the governments in the state perceived finances and economic development during the initial years of planning, the better for God’s Own Country!


Other stories by MG warrier


 (M G Warrier is a freelancer based in Thiruvananthapuram.)



Jagdish Balakrishnan

1 year ago

Very interesting article...

Thomas Kuruvilla

5 years ago

An interesting article. As a Malayalee I have always been concerned about the growth of Kerala economically, even though I have resided outside Kerala all my life. The lack of industrialisation has been an area of great concern. I'm not an economist & do not know how the state can come out of the stagnant growth which it is encountering. I have always felt that there is a limit beyond which labour laws should stop protecting unfruitful and/or disruptive labour. Industries cannot prosper in a climate where the laws are against investment & where laws protect labour unrest to any extent.

UN think tank opening office in Bahrain, with Bahraini government funding

The Gulf kingdom welcomes the International Peace Institute even as it bars some human rights advocates and journalists from the country

As Bahrain enters the third year of a crisis sparked by Arab Spring protests in 2011, the government continues to bar many human rights advocates and  journalists from entering the country.

But one non-profit group is not only being welcomed into the tiny Gulf kingdom, it’s opening an office there. And it’s doing so with funding from Bahrain’s ruling monarchy.

The International Peace Institute, a New York-based think tank closely associated with the United Nations (UN), announced  last month an agreement to open the office to “promote development, peace and international security.”

The announcement comes at a time when Bahrain’s image-conscious government is still under international scrutiny amid continued pro-democracy protests. Human rights groups have criticized the government’s at times violent crackdown on the protests and failure to follow through on promised reforms.

Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen, a veteran diplomat in the Mideast who is also a United Nations under-secretary-general, told ProPublica that the new office would be a positive force in Bahrain and the region.

He compared the think tank to United Nations programs that operate in or receive funding from countries that are in crisis or face criticism.

“Problems related to peace and security are in difficult countries,” Rød-Larsen said.

Bahrain appeals to the institute as a location for an office because “along many dimensions it’s an open society,” he said, citing the status of women and “freedom of religion.”

Rød-Larsen said that taking money from Bahrain’s government would not compromise the institute’s work. He declined to say how much money Bahrain is providing.

Rød-Larsen has been a frequent visitor to Bahrain in recent years, regularly meeting with government officials both in his capacity as the institute’s president and as a UN official.

With New York offices across from the United Nations, the institute counts many former U.N. officials among its staff and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is honorary chair of its board . Rød-Larsen has also traveled with a U.N. staffer on some of his trips to Bahrain, the U.N. news site Inner City Press has noted.

During his visits Rød-Larsen has repeatedly been cited in Bahrain’s state media praising the government, though he disputes the accounts .

“Larsen lauded [the] return of calm to Bahrain which indicates the kingdom’s success in overcoming the crisis,” the official Bahrain News Agency reported in April 2011, just two months after the protests began.

“The U.N. official lauded the climate of freedom, democracy and institutional development in Bahrain,” said another November 2011 report on a meeting between Rød-Larsen and the foreign minister.

Rød -Larsen said that media outlets often attribute inaccurate statements to him on his diplomatic travels.

“If I should dispute all stories like this, it would be full time work,” he said.

Rød-Larsen said that, in reality, he believes Bahrain’s government has made mistakes.

As for what the International Peace Institute’s new office in Bahrain will do when it opens, Rød-Larsen on a recent trip discussed “plans for a renewed national dialogue in Bahrain,” according to the institute.

Khalil Almarzooq, a spokesman for the main opposition group al-Wefaq, told ProPublica that the group had not heard from Rød-Larsen anytime recently. Almarzooq said whether the institute will be a positive force in Bahrain all depends on how it uses the money the government is providing.

Organized as a nonprofit charity in New York, the institute had a budget of nearly $11 million in 2011 and Rød-Larsen received about $495,000 in compensation.

According to the group’s 2011 annual report, its major donors that year included the United States, several governments in Europe, as well as Bahraini regional allies Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The institute’s international advisory council includes Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence. Saudi Arabia sent troops to help put down the protests in Bahrain in 2011.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.



We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Online Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine)