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Pope John Paul II visits his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison, in 1983.Pope John Paul II visits his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison, in 1983. [Source: CBS News]Columnist and Reagan foreign policy adviser Michael Ledeen, an American neoconservative with murky ties to both US and Italian intelligence (see October 1980), plays a key role in a disinformation campaign that attempts to blame Eastern European Communists for an attempt on Pope John Paul II’s life. A Turkish fascist, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot and nearly killed the Pope in May 1981. Shortly thereafter, Acga claimed to have taken his orders from the Soviet KGB through Bulgaria’s Secret Service. The story makes for fine Cold War propaganda, and Ledeen is one of its most relentless proponents, promoting it in news articles and television interviews around the world. But the story is most likely not true. “It just doesn’t pass the giggle test,” recalls Frank Brodhead, author of a book on the subject. Agca was a member of a far-right Turkish terrorist group called the Gray Wolves, Brodhead later says. “[I]t seemed illogical that a Turkish fascist would work with Bulgarian Communists.” Although Agca himself originated the claim, he is anything but reliable, widely considered a pathological liar by most involved in his case, and suffering from delusions of grandeur. (He often claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.) Eight men will be tried in Italian courts for their connections to the Bulgarian allegations, and all eight will be acquitted for lack of evidence. Agca will damage the case by constantly changing his story. At one point, Agca will say he made the Bulgarian accusation at the behest of Francesco Pazienza, a member of Propaganda Due (P-2), the shadowy right-wing organization. Agca says Pazienza offered him freedom in exchange for the claim. Agca will change that story as well. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who originally believes the Bulgarian story, will later come to believe that Agca’s tale “was invented by Agca with the hope of winning his release from prison… He was aided and abetted in this scheme by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and William Casey’s Central Intelligence Agency, which became a victim of its own disinformation campaign.” Pazienza will later claim that the entire idea of a “Bulgarian connection” originated with Ledeen, a charge that Ledeen will angrily deny. [Unger, 2007, pp. 388]

Entity Tags: Propaganda Due, KGB, William Casey, Gray Wolves, Frank Brodhead, Francesco Pazienza, Mehmet Ali Agca, Michael Ledeen, Michael Dobbs, Central Intelligence Agency, John Paul II

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

The NSA’s Echelon satellite surveillance system has eavesdropped on numerous public figures, human rights organizations, charities, and even the Vatican, former British intelligence officials admit (see February 27, 2000). The NSA, which shares information with Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, has eavesdropped on, among others, Princess Diana (see November 30, 1998), Mark Thatcher (the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher), the Pope, Mother Teresa, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, and others. It is unclear exactly when the NSA performed its surveillance operations, and what information it collected. The officials choose to speak out after the European Parliament announces it will open an inquiry into Echelon’s operations (see July 11, 2001). Former NSA official Wayne Madsen says, “Anybody who is politically active will eventually end up on the NSA’s radar screen.” The NSA routinely monitors charities and human rights organizations operating overseas because they often have access to information about regimes opposed to Western interests. Madsen believes the NSA spied on Diana because of her human rights work; he says that “undisclosed material held in US government files on Princess Diana was collected because of her work with the international campaign to ban landmines.” Mark Thatcher was monitored in the 1980s because of his work on the huge al-Yamamah arms contract being negotiated between Britain and Saudi Arabia. The NSA also monitored conversations by officials of the Panavia consortium, which builds the Tornado fighter plane. British Aerospace is a major partner in the consortium. “I just think of Echelon as a great vacuum cleaner in the sky which sucks everything up,” says former Canadian intelligence officer Mike Frost. “We just get to look at the goodies.” Former US computer software manager Margaret Newsham, who worked during the 1980s at the Menwith Hill listening station in Yorkshire, says, “I was aware that massive security violations were taking place. If these systems were for combating drugs or terrorism, that would be fine. But not for use in spying on individuals.” Newsham recalls being shocked when she overheard conversations by then-US senator Strom Thurmond (see April, 1988). “It was evident American constitutional laws had been broken,” she says. [London Times, 2/27/2000]

Entity Tags: Strom Thurmond, Wayne Madsen, Panavia, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Christian Aid, British Aerospace, Amnesty International, Echelon, European Parliament, Margaret Newsham, Margaret Thatcher, National Security Agency, Mark Thatcher, Mike Frost

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Protesters in Kabul burn Florida pastor Terry Jones in effigy during a protest against Jones’s announced plans to burn a Koran on September 11.Protesters in Kabul burn Florida pastor Terry Jones in effigy during a protest against Jones’s announced plans to burn a Koran on September 11. [Source: Musadeq Sadeq / Associated Press]Spokespersons for 11 nations with large Muslim populations speak out against Florida pastor Terry Jones’s announced plans to burn a Koran in commemoration of the 9/11 attacks (see July 12, 2010 and After and September 9, 2010). The Christian Science Monitor has reported: “Muslims see [the Koran] as the uninterrupted, unchangeable, and eternal word of God. Burning the Koran is akin to directly burning the word of God.” India’s Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, says: “We condemn the action of the pastor. It is totally unbecoming of anyone who claims to be a man of religion. We hope that the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed.… While we await the action of the US authorities, we would appeal to the media in India—both print and visual media—to refrain from telecasting visuals or publishing photographs of the deplorable act.” Fourteen percent of Indian citizens are Muslim. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appeals to US President Obama to stop the burning (see September 10, 2010). “Indonesia and the US are building or bridging relations between the Western world and Islam,” Yudhoyono writes in a letter to Obama. “If the Koran burning occurs, then those efforts will be useless.” Eighty-six percent of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, and it is the world’s most populous Islamic nation. Bahrain’s foreign minister issues a statement that calls the planned Koran-burning a “shameful act which is incompatible with the principles of tolerance and coexistence.” Bahrain is over 80 percent Muslim. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari calls the plan to burn the Koran “despicable,” saying in a statement that “anyone who even thought of such a despicable act must be suffering from a diseased mind and a sickly soul.… It will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and also to world peace.” Zardari calls “for doing all that it takes to stop such a senseless and outrageous act.” Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husein Haqqani, tells a reporter that “the United States should live up to its high ideals and all these people who are against religious extremism and intolerance in the Muslim world should also speak up against meaningless gestures such as burning the Koran.” He also calls on Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck to speak out against the burning: “I think it would help if Mr. Glenn Beck came out against it, and said that people of faith do not burn the books of people of other faith,” Haqqani says. Some 95 percent of Pakistanis are Muslims. (The Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn compares Jones to Osama bin Laden, calling both “extremists.”) British Prime Minister David Cameron says through a spokesman that “primarily this is an issue for the US, but clearly the government’s view is that we would not condone the burning of any book.… We would strongly oppose any attempt to offend any member of any religious or ethnic group. We are committed to religious tolerance.” Former Prime Minister Tony Blair also condemns the plan, saying: “I deplore the act of burning the Koran. It is disrespectful, wrong, and will be widely condemned by people of all faiths and none. You do not have to be a Muslim to share a sense of deep concern at such a disrespectful way to treat the Holy Book of Islam. Rather than burn the Koran, I would encourage people to read it.” Some 1.3 million British citizens are Muslims. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says: “I unequivocally condemn it. We all enjoy freedom of religion and that freedom of religion comes from a tolerant spirit.… I don’t speak very often about my own religion, but let me be very clear: My God and my Christ is a tolerant God, and that’s what we want to see in this world. I don’t think that’s the way you treat other faiths, as different as those faiths may be from your own.” Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay, echoing sentiments expressed by General David Petraeus (see September 6, 2010), says that the burning could endanger NATO troops overseas: “It will incite further violence and hatred and I’m concerned that this will put Canadians and other ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] soldiers in harm’s way.” Some 500,000 Canadians practice Islam. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman says: “That is the most heinous crime and action, it’s unthinkable. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is an attack on Muslims. It will not only anger the Muslims in Malaysia and throughout the world—Christians also don’t condone this kind of action.… I believe America will take appropriate action so this thing will not happen.” Malaysia has a Muslim majority of 15.5 million. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman says in a statement: “The president condemns the announcement of a religious group in the United States of its intention to openly burn copies of the Koran. It is a clear contradiction of the teachings of the three Abrahamic religions and of dialogue among the three faiths [Christianity, Islam and Judaism].” Lebanon is about 60 percent Muslim. Amr Moussa, the chief of the 22-nation Arab League, calls Jones a “fanatic” and calls on the US to oppose his “destructive approach.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, “If a fundamentalist, evangelical pastor in America wants to burn the Koran on September 11, then I find this simply disrespectful, even abhorrent and simply wrong.” Brigadier General Hans-Werner Fritz, commander of German troops in Afghanistan, adds, “I only wish this wouldn’t happen, because it would provide a trigger for violence towards all ISAF troops, including the Germans in northern Afghanistan.” Germany has over 3 million practicing Muslims. A Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry official says, “This bizarre plan… undermines our faith [and] is a flagrant insult to the feelings of Muslims worldwide and would ruin efforts to preach understanding amongst faiths.” The official says that Kuwait has asked its ambassador to the US to coordinate with other Arab and Muslim envoys to ensure that the “tolerant Islamic faith is respected.” The head of Kuwait’s Christian churches league, pastor Emmanuel Benjamen al-Ghareeb, also condemns the plan in a statement and stresses it does not represent Christ’s teachings of tolerance. Kuwait’s 2.7 million population is 85 percent Muslim. The Vatican issues a condemnation of the burning, saying through the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Affairs: “These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community.… Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.” The Vatican, technically the world’s smallest country with a population of 800, is, presumably, all Roman Catholic. The Vatican is joined by several US Christian organizations in condemning the proposed Koran-burning (see September 8-9, 2010). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/9/2010] Jones is burned in effigy in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, in one of a number of protests around the world against his plans to burn a Koran. [Gainesville Sun, 9/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, David Petraeus, Dawn (Pakistan), David Cameron, Christian Science Monitor, Barack Obama, Asif Ali Zardari, Amre Moussa, Angela Merkel, Anifah Aman, Emmanuel Benjamen al-Ghareeb, Stephen Harper, Glenn Beck, Husein Haqqani, Vatican, Tony Blair, Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Affairs, Hans-Werner Fritz, Terry Jones (pastor), P. Chidambaram, Michel Suleiman, Peter Mackay

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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