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Saturday, April 04, 2009
It was 41 years ago today....

Today, April 4, marks a grim anniversary; the day Martin Luther King Jr. was slain on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

Life Magazine commemorates the day with a host of newly released photos from that day.

Thom Hartmann talked on Friday about the book he co-authored with a guy called Lamar Waldron, linking the murders of Dr. King, JFK and Robert Kennedy, via the Dallas-New Orleans Mafia, and a cadre of white supremacists:
The links all connect with the main contention in “Legacy of Secrecy” that the assassination was engineered by Carlos Marcello, longtime Mafia boss in New Orleans. That theory is far from new. There's evidence that Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president's brother, believed it. Authors Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann broaden the theme.

Marcello had a special grudge against the Kennedys because Robert, who fought organized crime, once had him deported to an uncomfortable exile in Central America. Born in Tunisia, Marcello carried false papers that gave Guatemala as his country of origin. He soon found his way back to the United States.

... White supremacist Joseph A. Milteer had aroused suspicion when police recorded him predicting, less than two weeks before the assassination, that Kennedy would be killed by a high powered rifle with a telescopic sight, fired from an upper-floor window. That's the official version of what actually happened in Dallas. The new book says a proper investigation of the prediction could have led to Marcello through Milteer's contacts with Mafia figures, and might have frustrated the assassination.

Four years later, the book says, Marcello brokered a deal in which Milteer paid James Earl Ray to kill Martin Luther King Jr. It also finds that Marcello's biographer, John H. Davis, and journalist David E. Scheim made "compelling cases" for Marcello's involvement in the killing of Robert Kennedy.

Buy the book here. The assertions about Milteer paying James Earl Ray to kill Dr. King are apparently supported by newly released FBI files, which help explain how a hayseed like Ray was able to globetrot after the killing:

The recently-uncovered 1968 FBI files support new evidence showing that the late Joseph Milteer was one of four Georgia white supremacists who funded the assassination of Dr. King. Rep. Stokes's committee had actually investigated Milteer for the murder of President John F. Kennedy, because of a Miami Police undercover recording of Milteer made two weeks before Kennedy's death. On that November 9, 1963 tape, Milteer discussed a plan to "assassinate the President with a high-powered rifle from a tall building." On the same tape, Milteer also discussed an unsuccessful attempt to kill Dr. King. The FBI did not provide any information to Stokes's committee indicating they had looked at Milteer for the assassination of Dr. King. As a result, the Congressional committee didn't investigate Milteer for King's murder.

FBI files, along with other new information, indicate that Milteer and his white supremacist associates in Atlanta turned to the Mafia to "broker" the contract to kill Dr. King. The mobster involved was Louisiana/Texas godfather Carlos Marcello, who died in 1993. Congressional investigators uncovered statements and evidence indicating that in the months prior to Dr. King's murder, James Earl Ray was a low-level heroin runner for Marcello's drug network.

James Earl Ray's backing by Milteer and several associates in Atlanta explains for the first time why Ray--after shooting Dr. King in Memphis and fleeing to Canada--first made a 450-mile detour south to Atlanta, where Ray abandoned his getaway car only blocks from Dr. King's office and church. Ray then called one of Milteer's associates, and Milteer himself admitted in a letter that he was in the area when Ray abandoned his car. Authorities have long known that after killing King in Memphis, Ray was somehow able to flee to Canada, then to England, to Portugal, and back to England, where Ray was finally apprehended.

What's truly sad, is that Ray was able to convince members of the King family that he was innocent of the killing, and that King's widow went to her grave probably believing him.

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posted by JReid @ 11:07 AM  
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Scotland Yard to assist in Bhutto death probe
Musharraf bows to international pressure to let outside investigators into Pakistan.

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posted by JReid @ 10:16 PM  
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
A case of missing evidence
Benazir Bhutto emerges from the sunroof of her SUV just 
seconds before she is shot and killed by an unknown assassin.

TIME reports that key forensic evidence was literally "washed away" before an investigation into Benazir Bhutto's assassination could begin.
Within hours of the attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi some 10 miles from the capital, authorities had already hosed down the streets. Pools of blood, along with possible evidence such as bullet casings, DNA samples from the bomber and tracks had been washed away. Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, the former director general of Pakistani Intelligence, said he was shocked to see people cleaning up the debris so soon after the assassination. "It's a crime scene, and they're washing away all the evidence! We need to be asking why the hell was this thing done." One of the few pieces of evidence from the crime scene that remains is amateur footage showing a clean-cut man in a black vest brandishing what appears to be a gun. Behind him stands another man, a white scarf wrapped around his head. It is thought that he might have been the suicide bomber.

The situation had already been muddied by contradictory versions of how Bhutto died. Initial health official reports stated that Bhutto had been shot twice before a suicide bomber detonated himself seconds later. But by Saturday, the government reversed track. Bhutto had been shot at, said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema, but the shooter missed. The force of the explosion knocked Bhutto, who had been waving at the crowds from her vehicle's sunroof, backwards. She hit her head on a protruding lever, and succumbed to the fractures to her skull. Cheema presented X rays to support his claim, but witnesses and close friends who rushed Bhutto to the hospital say that there was no doubt she had been shot.

Doctors who had attended Bhutto immediately after the attack initially said that she died of gunshot wounds, but over the weekend they released new findings in line with the Interior Ministry's claim that the official cause of death was head wounds sustained when Bhutto fell. The reversal has many people suspecting government interference. Says Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, an opposition member of the National Assembly and a former petroleum minister: "The government says it was the work of terrorists and they say someone has claimed responsibility. What I don't understand is why they keep changing the story of how Bhutto died? Why do that? These summersaults make everything look suspicious."

This as stills from the amateur videos of the shooting are making their way around the internet, including the one below, which appears to show the gunman, in dark glasses, and the bomber, in what may be a white burial shroud or scarf.



Photo 2, from the TIME story:


The TIME story raises the H-word: "Hariri"...
Bhutto's supporters have demanded an international, independent investigation into the events leading to her death. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that Washington needed to answer some "troubling questions" about Pakistan's investigation so far. At yesterday's press conference, Bhutto's husband Zadari demanded a United Nations investigation, saying "We want a [assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri commission-style investigation... we are writing to the United Nations for an international probe into her martyrdom." According to Dawn, a local newspaper Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said that he would "consider" outside help during a phone call with British PM Gordon Brown yesterday, which many are interpreting as a "thanks, but no thanks" dismissal.

Meanwhile, the Pakistiani dictator, Musharraf, is set to address his nation tomorrow, and the Times of London reports that elections could be delayed until March, something that won't please the U.S.

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posted by JReid @ 4:57 PM  
Pakistan elections delayed ... or not ...
From CNN:


ISLAMABAD (CNN) -- Elections in Pakistan have been postponed for at least four weeks, sources at the country's Election Commission told CNN Tuesday.

The elections had been scheduled for January 8. They have been postponed until sometime in February in the wake of political unrest following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the sources said.

The Central Election Commission of Pakistan had said a decision on whether to delay parliamentary elections would be made on Wednesday following consultation with political parties.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, commission Secretary General Kanwar Dilshad said various provincial government representatives had suggested that the elections be held after the Muslim month of Muharram, which follows a lunar calendar and this year begins on or about January 9 and continues until February 6.

The commission said it would looking at reports from provincial governments across Pakistan about the law and order situation in making its decision, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Election offices in 13 districts of Sindh province have been destroyed, Dilshad said. Sindh is Bhutto's home province and was the main base of her support.

"The elections aren't postponed," Dilshad said on Tuesday, but also didn't rule out a delay.

"We will tell them (the political parties) about the 13 offices that burned down. We will tell them about the ground realities. And then after the discussions, we will announce," he said.

The meetings with the various political parties are expected to be completed by Tuesday evening, and an announcement made about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (6:30 a.m. Wednesday GMT).

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posted by JReid @ 4:11 PM  
Monday, December 31, 2007
Bhutto's letter to CNN
CNN released a letter this past week sent to on-air neocon ... I mean reporter ... Wolf Blitzer by slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. According to reports:
Blitzer received the e-mail on Oct. 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and longtime Washington spokesman for Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped another attempt at her life.

Bhutto wrote to Blitzer that "I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf's) minions," that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the Pakistani leader was responsible.

Blitzer agreed to the conditions before receiving the e-mail. He said Friday that he called Siegel shortly after seeing it to see if there was any way he could use it on CNN, but was told firmly it could only be used if she were killed. Siegel couldn't say why she had insisted on those conditions.

...Blitzer was the only journalist sent such a message, Siegel said. He also sent the e-mail to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.

Siegel said he did not believe Bhutto's opinions had changed since she wrote the e-mail. Her message specifically mentioned she had requested four police vehicles surrounding her vehicle when traveling; Siegel said it seemed evident from pictures taken at the assassination scene that the request was not fulfilled.

Bhutto did not necessarily believe that Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.

Her husband contacted Siegel on Thursday to remind him about the e-mail message and to make sure it got out, he said.

Says Blitzer of the email:
Blitzer said he had no regrets about the way he handled the story. To report about it while she was still alive would have meant going back on his word, he said.

"I don't think there is a clear black-and-white in this situation," he said. "I did what I think was right."

Bhutto also sent an email to the British foreign secretary, this time naming three prominent Pakistanis whom she suspected of wanting her killed, including a key intelligence official, according to the London Daily Mail (which declined to print the names):
Benazir Bhutto claimed three senior allies of Pakistan's president General Musharraf were out to kill her in a secret email to Foreign Secretary David Miliband written weeks before her death.
Astonishingly, one of them is a leading intelligence officer who was officially responsible for protecting Miss Bhutto from an assassination.

The second is a prominent Pakistani figure, one of whose family members was allegedly murdered by a militant group run by Miss Bhutto's brother. The third is a well-known chief minister in Pakistan who is a long-standing opponent of Miss Bhutto.

Miss Bhutto told Mr Miliband she was convinced that the three were determined to assassinate her on her return to the country and pleaded with him to put pressure on the Pakistan government to stop them.

...One is a senior intelligence officer and retired army officer who worked for Pakistan's sinister Inter Services Intelligence spy agency, which has close links to the Taliban and has been involved in drug smuggling and political assassinations. He allegedly directed two Islamic terrorist groups and reportedly once boasted that he could pay money to hired killers to assassinate anyone who posed a threat to Musharraf's regime.

He was given another senior intelligence post by Musharraf after his bid to become a senior overseas diplomat for Pakistan failed when the host country refused to let him in because of his past activities.

He was also linked to Omar Sheikh, the former British public schoolboy convicted of kidnapping US journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in 2002 by having his throat cut and being decapitated by Islamic terrorists.

The second individual named by Miss Bhutto is well known in Pakistani political circles and has been involved in a vicious family feud with her for decades.

One of his relatives was said to have been murdered by the militant Al Zulfiqar group run by Miss Bhutto's brother, Murtaza. The organisation was set up to avenge the execution of Miss Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Bhutto by ex-Pakistan dictator Zia ul Haq.

The third individual is a chief minister who has repeatedly denounced Miss Bhutto - and faced political annihilation if she won the elections scheduled for next week. He made an outspoken attack on her only hours before her death.

A senior source said: "She knew the risk she was taking when she decided to go back but also took the precaution of informing the British Government of the names of those she thought presented the biggest danger to her. ...

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posted by JReid @ 12:09 PM  
Saturday, December 29, 2007
If there's nothing to hide...
Pakistan's response to the world's offers of assistance in the wake of the Bhutto assassination looks curiously like Syria's response post-Hariri... from the AP:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan rejected foreign help in investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Saturday, despite controversy over the circumstances of her death and three days of paralyzing turmoil.

The Islamic militant group blamed by officials for the attack that killed Bhutto denied any links to the killing on Saturday, and Bhutto's aides accused the government of a cover-up.

President Pervez Musharraf ordered his security chiefs to quell rioting by Bhutto's grieving followers that has killed at least 44 people over three days and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

"Criminals should stop their despicable activities, otherwise they will have to face serious consequences," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.

Furthermore:
Questions about Bhutto's assassination have intensified since she died Thursday evening when a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she waved to supporters from the sunroof of her armored vehicle outside a campaign rally.

The disputes were sure to further enflame the violence and have led to calls for an international, independent investigation into the attack.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that an international probe was vital because there was "no reason to trust the Pakistani government," while others called for a U.N. investigation.

Cheema dismissed the suggestion.

"This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it," he said. An independent judicial investigation should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge, he said.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Pakistan had not asked the United States for help.

"It's a responsibility of the government of Pakistan to ensure that the investigation is thorough. If Pakistani authorities ask for assistance we would review the request," he said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband offered his country's assistance. "Obviously it's very important that a full investigation does take place, and has the confidence of all concerned," he said.

The government blamed the attack on Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, a newly formed coalition of Islamic militants along the Afghan border believed to be linked to al-Qaida and committed to waging holy war against the government.

But a spokesman for Mehsud, Maulana Mohammed Umer, dismissed the allegations as "government propaganda."

"We strongly deny it. Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Benazir Bhutto," he said in a telephone call he made to The Associated Press from the tribal region of South Waziristan. "The fact is that we are only against America, and we don't consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy."

Bhutto's aides said they, too, doubted Mehsud was involved and accused the government of a cover-up.
Wait a minute ... I thought the Pakistani government was blaming the assassination on al-Qaida itself...

And the story's even got an "official version of events" -- and another version:
"The story that al-Qaida or Baitullah Mehsud did it appears to us to be a planted story, an incorrect story, because they want to divert the attention," said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto's party.

After an October suicide attack targeted her in the city of Karachi, Bhutto accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her. The government denied the claims, and Babar said Bhutto's allegations were never investigated.

Authorities initially said Bhutto died from bullet wounds. A surgeon who treated her later said the impact from shrapnel on her skull killed her.

But Cheema said Friday that Bhutto was killed when the shockwaves from the bomb smashed her head into the sunroof as she tried to duck back inside the vehicle.

Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was in the vehicle that rushed her boss to the hospital, disputed that.

"She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck," she said. "What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying."

Cheema stood by the government's version of events, and said Bhutto's party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy.

The man being blamed, Baitullah Mehsud, is profiled by the BBC here.

And the controversy over just what killed Mrs. Bhutto lingers in smoldering Pakistan.

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posted by JReid @ 2:37 PM  
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Benazir Bhutto assassinated

Stunning developments this morning as the former prime minister of Pakistan, and daughter of its "founding father," is shot by an assassin who then blew himself up.

Bhutto was killed inside a vehicle she had entered only moments before, which would appear to make it an inside job.  From CNN:
Former Pakistan government spokesman Tariq Azim Khan said while it appeared Bhutto was shot, it was unclear if the bullet wounds to her head and neck were caused by a shooting or if it was shrapnel from the bomb. Watch Benazir Bhutto obituary. »

The bomber detonated as he tried to enter the rally where thousands of people gathered to hear Bhutto speak, police said.

The number of wounded was not immediately known. However, video of the scene showed ambulances lined up to take many to hospitals.

The attack came just hours after four supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif died when members of another political party opened fire on them at a rally near the Islamabad airport Thursday, Pakistan police said.

Several other members of Sharif's party were wounded, police said.

Bhutto, who led Paksitan from 1988 to 1990 and was the first female prime minister of any Islamic nation, was participating in the parliamentary election set for January 8, hoping for a third term.

And from the BBC:
The explosion occurred close to an entrance gate of the park in Rawalpindi where Ms Bhutto had been speaking.

Wasif Ali Khan, a member of the PPP who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital, said she died at 1816 (1316 GMT).

... Supporters at the hospital began chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog", referring to President Pervez Musharraf, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Some broke the glass door at the main entrance to the emergency unit as others wept.

A man with a PPP flag tied around his head could be seen beating his chest, the agency adds.

An interior ministry spokesman, Javed Cheema, was quoted as saying by AFP that she may have been killed by pellets packed into the suicide bomber's vest.

However, AP quoted a PPP security adviser as saying she was shot in the neck and chest as she got into her vehicle, before the gunman blew himself up.

On CNN, the question was asked: who benefits?

Two words: Pervez Musharraf.

Ms. Bhutto had been the target of assassination attempts before, and she went back to Pakistan anyway. She was a brave woman, and the U.S. should have strongly backed her, rather than hanging on to the dictator in training, Musharraf.

Read an obituary of Ms. Bhutto here.

And a brief history of Pakistan here.

Developing...

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posted by JReid @ 9:30 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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