Saturday, May 15, 2004

Berg: Let's be careful...

I'm not comfortable with conspiracy theories, and I don't relish the prospect of being categorized alongside the paranoia junkies. Some of the people attracted to the Berg mystery are the same folks who annoyed us with that "missile-hit-the-Pentagon" nonsense. When you see folks like that in the room, you may be in the wrong room.

For example, Xymphora is an often insightful blogger, despite -- or because of? -- his frequent sidetrips into conspiracy-land. (Alas, he had an embarrassing fondness for that missile-hit-the-Pentagon theory.) In today's post, he asks these questions (among others):

Berg may have been recruited when he was interviewed by the FBI about the password. Why did the FBI visit him three times while he was in custody?

Why would an increasingly observant Jew be carrying around anti-Semitic literature, possibly written in Arabic, a language he couldn't read? Analogous to what we have seen in Israel, with the Holocaust misused to inspire a Holocaust against the Palestinians, it may be that Berg was using the tangible evidence of the hatred that some have against the Jewish people to justify to himself whatever it was he was doing.

Going to Iraq without a job or any prospect of work makes absolutely no sense.

The orange prison jumpsuit is probably not a clue. If the Americans were behind his death, they would be unlikely to be so stupid to have him killed in a jumpsuit which seems to be evidence of American involvement. The only way I can see such a mistake being made is if the video were a production of the same doofus guards in Abu Ghraib prison who were involved in the torture. If Berg was being held there, and 'accidentally' died, someone might have decided to kill two birds with one stone and make a video to take the pressure off the American torturers.

It isn't hard to come up with answers for most of these questions.

I have already noted that Berg was precisely the sort of individual any intelligence agency would want to recruit -- young, conservative, brave, technically savvy, gifted at languages, adventurous. By no means would I discount the possibility that the FBI (or CIA, or Mossad) saw his potential. But the three FBI visits while in custody may have concerned the alleged connection between Michael Berg and A.N.S.W.E.R. It is not unreasonable to believe that someone in the national security complex took the Freeper "hit list" seriously.

[UPDATE: As my later post hints, I'm now wondering if the FBI made its strange inquiries for reasons that go beyond the Freeper smear.]

The claim that Berg carried anti-Semitic material comes from only one news account (unless the situation has changed -- if so, a link or two would have been appreciated). The reports have become so contradictory, I think we should wait for confirmation of this "anti-Semitic" business before going any further with it.

[UPDATE: The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Berg carried a copy of the Koran and a book titled "The Jewish Problem" or something similar. I'll take this as sufficient confirmation of the report in The Scotsman.]

Berg maintained communications towers. That was his stated reason for going to Iraq in December and in March. He may (or may not) have had other reasons, but I see no justification for the "without a job" remark.

The orange prison jumpsuit remains one of the best clues that something odd is afoot. Books on espionage reveal many instances of covert operations which succeeded on the strength of sheer audacity, even after foolish mistakes began to pile up.

Xymphora goes on to say: "Official American denial that he was in American custody, when we have clear proof that he was, is evidence of official American guilt about something." Here we concur!

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