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Monday, November 18, 2013

You've never read an NSA story like this one

Daniel Hopsicker has published his most intriguing piece in quite a while. I can't claim to have double-checked all of his claims, but I think his report deserves further investigation.

In short and in sum: Hopsicker says that the NSA -- or at least a former head of that service -- can be linked to a drug ring in Florida.

The link is indirect, running through a company called Verint, which was founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer named Jacob “Kobi” Alexander. He's now in Namibia, having scurried off to that place after running into a spot of trouble with the law in America. Allow me to quote this bit from his Wikipedia bio:
On July 31, 2006, Alexander, who holds Israeli citizenship, was charged by United States Department of Justice authorities with multiple charges of conspiracy to commit various types of fraud (including securities fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud), as well as with related offences, all relating to the timing of Comverse's stock option grants.

After Alexander left the United States on June 21, 2006 on a pre-planned annual vacation in Israel,[3] his lawyers arranged with American authorities that he would return to face indictment on July 30, 2006; however, he instead traveled to Germany. On July 31 he was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List...
Kenneth A. Minihan -- who, during the Clinton years, served as the director of the NSA and (before that) the Defense Intelligence Agency -- is one of the directors of Verint.  In other words, he's an Alexander partner.

There isn't much on the net about Verint -- but we do have this piece (pdf) and this article. The latter piece pictures Verint as a private arm of the NSA and Israel's Unit 8200:
What is less well-known is that AT and T and Verizon handed “the bugging of their entire networks — carrying billions of American communications every day” to two companies founded in Israel. Verint and Narus, as they are called, are “superintrusive — conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7,” and sifting traffic at “key Internet gateways” around the US.

Virtually all US voice and data communications and much from the rest of the world can be remotely accessed by these companies in Israel, which Bamford describes as “the eavesdropping capital of the world.” Although there is no way to prove cooperation, Bamford writes that “the greatest potential beneficiaries of this marriage between the Israeli eavesdroppers and America’s increasingly centralized telecom grid are Israel’s intelligence agencies.”
You probably already know who James Bamford is. Many consider him the expert on the NSA.

What does Verint have to do with drugs? Well, to answer that question, we must revisit the Skyway scandal. This humble blog covered that story to some degree between 2006 and 2009. Hopsicker has always pursued the matter doggedly. It's a complex story, but if you're a newcomer to it, I'll try to make things very simple...

In 2006, Mexican cops busted a plane loaded with 5.5 tons (!!) of cocaine, headed for the U.S. The plane bore a strange logo which made it look like an aircraft belonging to the U.S. government. In fact, the plane was owned by Skyway, a company owned by one Brent Kovar, who had strong links to Republican congressman Tom Delay.

Long story short: Kovar was a con artist. He convinced investors that Skyway had developed a revolutionary new ground-to-aircraft communications system. It was all a scam. Lots of people lost a ton of money.

Now, the involvement of a conster with the coke trade may not be all that remarkable (although the size of the haul is certainly jaw-dropping.) But then we learned about Kovar's many links to right-wing bigwigs. And that's where things got mega-weird...
SkyWay’s genesis can be traced to In-Q-Tel Inc., a secretive, Arlington, Va., investment group owned, operated, and financed out of the black box budget of the Central Intelligence Agency.

· SkyWay was part of a network of companies, three of which—L-3 Communications, Net Command Tech Inc, and Triton Network Systems Inc.— were cited by Elliot Spitzer, then the Attorney General of New York State, for being used by Wall Street brokers in “pump and dump” schemes which cost unwary investors tens of millions of dollars.

· The suspicious involvement of L-3 Communications subsidiary Titan Corp of San Diego, the biggest donor to Southern California Congressmen convicted or being investigated by fired San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam.

· The Israeli connection to SkyWay, including the involvement of an Israeli tele-com firm, Tadiran, accused of being involved in worldwide espionage, and which owned the headquarters of SkyWay in Clearwater, Florida.

· The involvement of Gulf Arab financiers, including an overseas bank, Banque Francaise de l'Orient, long associated with the Saudi bin Laden family.

· Evidence of Republican party involvement in the network, which included the free use of one of the smuggling aircraft by the current head of fund-raising for the national Republican party, U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, who "traveled to nighttime rallies in luxury," the St. Petersburg Times reported, “on a DC-9 owned by Skyway Global, a Clearwater security company whose owners are Martinez supporters.”
(The Tadiran reference is a bit confused. Later in this post, we will go into the matter further.)

Okay (I hear you asking) -- but what does all of this have to do with Verint? Here's what Hopsicker's latest story tells us:
Skyway Global LLC, the St. Petersburg, FL company that owned the DC-9 airline busted in Mexico carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine, made its headquarters in a 79,000 sq ft building owned by Verint Systems (NASDAQ: VRNT), a foreign tele-communications company with a contract to wiretap the U.S. for the NSA through the communication lines of Verizon, which handles almost half of all landline and cell phone calls in the U.S.
How did Hopsicker find out about the ties between Verint and Skyway? It seems that some very revelatory documents came to light after a rotter named Douglas McClain Jr. was convicted.

McClain is a con artist. So is his dad. I've written about him at length in this post, which contains a fair amount of original research.

The McClains have attracted a fair amount of attention over the years. Their "fans" have even created a blog devoted to tracking their antics. The elder McClain seems to enjoy scamming churches. The younger McClain claimed to have whipped up an alleged miracle cure for MS called Immunosyn, and he got none other than Alan Osmond (of that family) to help him push the stuff.

As the old Cher song once put it: "Preach a little gospel...sell a couple bottles of Dr. Good."

(By the way, the main ingredient of Immunosyn was goat's blood. I love that detail!)

What did the younger McClain have to do with Skyway? Well, his "medical" company was called Argyll. He also ran an equity firm, which was also called Argyll. Allow me to quote my earlier story, which quotes from an earlier Hopsicker story:
Argyll Equities' only funded three deals. Their third plunge into the world of investment banking -- after SkyWay Aircraft and Louis Paulino -- was arranging a $17 million loan for a Mexican businessman, who then provided "significant capital," according to Chilean news accounts, to “Chilean narcotics trafficker Manuel Vicente Losada."

This news came out after Losada was arrested in the Chilean capital of Santiago. He had been “linked to a shipment of five tons of cocaine which U.S. drug enforcement officials in Miami intercepted over six years ago on the MV Harbour as it headed toward Guantanamo Bay.”

(The italics are ours. We were stunned.)

Why were Caribbean dopers steering a course for a highly-secure U.S. military facility?
(Good old Louis is an interesting guy -- he used to make Mace -- but he doesn't really fit in with the tale told here, so let's ignore him right now. )

The important point is that McClain's phoney-baloney investment firm (or whatever you want to call it) was able to channel a lot of money to Skyway. I'm not sure how he did this, since I haven't seen any evidence that the McClains had access to that kind of money. The elder McClain always seems to have grifted on a much lower-class level.

And that brings us to the question of the day: Don't you think it's weird that a company linked to the NSA and Israel's Unit 8200 would involve itself in the sordid doings of scammers like Kovar and McClain?

Hopsicker reveals that yet another con artist was involved...
Jonathon Curshen, who got twenty years for fraud and money laundering. Curshen, an American con man from Sarasota Florida, controlled a company in Costa Rica called Red Sea Management, which (at least on paper) generously provided— in return for 28,000,000 shares of common stock in SkyWay—the 1966 McDonald Douglas DC9 aircraft that shortly thereafter began carrying cargo which came to include 5.6 tons of cocaine worth several hundred million dollars.

SkyWay put out a press release announcing the deal: "The DuPont Investment Fund 57289, Inc. Satisfies $7 Million Funding Agreement with SkyWay Communications Holding Corp."

“They wrote it up in a press release, touting how they’d just received a big investment from the DuPont Foundation," explained a former SkyWay executive. "It turned out to be bogus. It was just some guy (Curshen) at a desk in Costa Rica.”
Back in the 1950s, psy-war expert Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith) used to hold seminars for spooks in his home, on which occasions he would tell his students to study the methods employed by grifters. Perhaps the spooks and the grifters have now become so thoroughly intertwined as to be indistinguishable.

Here's another poser for you to ponder: Skyway was a fake firm with only about a dozen employees (or co-conspirators?), yet it moved into a massive 79,000 square foot facility owned by Verint. Why? What were they doing with all of that space?

Skyway's over-sized home was in Clearwater, Florida. Hopsicker doesn't mention that Clearwater is home to (and, some would say, run by) Scientology. I mention that fact in passing; I know of no evidence linking Scientology to Skyway or the drug trade.

Before Skyway moved into the place, that same facility was home to a rather notorious Israeli firm called Tadiran Telecom, which was very spooked up:
In Guatemala, the company became infamous for having installed two intelligence computers which were reportedly used to select death squad victims, as well as pinpoint urban guerrilla safe houses....
There's much more to be said about all of this, but I've probably given you enough to chew on for one day.

Again, the big question is this: Why the hell would a former head of the NSA have links to con artists and drug smugglers? Why would he team up with an Israeli spook who made the FBI's Most Wanted list? Minihan is a 69 year old officer who has had a remarkable and distinguished career. He certainly doesn't need to cozy up to thugs at this stage of his life.

So what's going on here?

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