Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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With spies like these
By Doug Thompson

OK. Now I understand why the National Security Agency wants to illegally monitor telephone conversations.
It helps the NSA track its most dangerous rival – the Central Intelligence Agency.


“Wired” magazine pulled a nice little tidbit out of the trial coverage of the CIAs kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan, Italy in 2003. Seems that the boys from the world’s greatest spy agency kept in touch throughout the kidnapping by cell phone. They even called northern Virginia – where CIA headquarters are located – logs kept for cell towers by telephone companies reveal.
Unfortunately for the agency, these logs show a blazing trail of phone records that Italian authorities could have followed in the dark.
I lack the nerve and imagination to make this up. I’m probably late in noticing it. Check out the short bit at http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/15-07/st_cia
Good grief. I assume the NSA or somebody could listen to any call I made if it wanted to. And our own spies can’t figure out that while committing a felony?
If I lived in the greater Washington, D.C. area, I’d have a bumper sticker made that reads, “Hang up and abduct.” I’d put it on my car and drive past the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia a few times.
The CIA station chief in Milan at the time of the abduction was called directly by one of the kidnappers. The record of this call, according to “Wired,” was the first undeniable link Italian investigators had to direct CIA involvement. The station chief had to leave Italy and now is one of 25 of the agencies’ crack team of preacher-nabbing specialists who face charges.
Oh, the kidnappers called the nearest U.S. Air Force base to arrange details of the get-away, too.
Think about this. These are not mistakes Tony Soprano would have made as a child.
Two years into the War on Terror, and this is what we had. I could have driven to Memphis and, with $10,000 cash and some advice from local police, have stood a good chance of finding freelancers with more discretion and professionalism than this. And this was Italy. Northern Italy, true, but people have disappeared from the streets of Milan before with much less fuss.
The cleric also said he was tortured. His attorney’s admit he shows no physical signs. However, that leaves open the possibility that our torturers have higher professional standards and more pride in their work than our kidnappers.
I’m not yet willing to believe that the CIA got 20 of its agents into felony charges that will prevent them from ever traveling abroad if they are convicted for nothing, all at considerable embarrassment. I am, therefore, left to conclude that this really was the astounding blunder this appears to be.
This Keystone Kidnappers incident looks minor, but it’s not.
Nonchalance in an intelligence agency gets people killed.
An intelligence agency this blundering and obvious during an illegal covert operation has severe problems that obviously haven’t been fixed yet. I don’t want to sound like my only regret about these boobs is that they got caught. I’m saying that the CIA – whose job is to sneak up on people – can’t even kidnap a preacher without causing a stink.
The German government recently issued an equally serious series of indictments on a case that proved a little more difficult to investigate. Berlin authorities issued arrest warrants for 10 Americans who were supposedly secret. Investigators found out who the subjects were by simple logic and the extensive Federal Aviation Administration database. A little cross-referencing and some logic and bingo, the indictments were issued.
Here’s a bulletin, folks: People close to terrorist groups don’t want to work with an agency that can’t protect the identities of their agents. That, as much as anything, is the reason we don’t have decent human intelligence on the people who are trying to kill us.
All the tough talk about how brutality is justified when you’re dealing with terrorists has been allowed to overshadow a simple, basic fact I’ve complained about for years: Our intelligence agencies are seriously dysfunctional.
Those agencies are kidnapping and beating people up out of frustration, not necessity.

DADDY WARBUCKS

Happy Birthday Bank of Fayetteville
Not many folks remember, but count Daddy Warbucks as one, who remembers when the two big banks in Fayetteville—First National Bank and McIlroy Bank—were the icons of the local banking industry. In a midnight deal to save face for some banking and finance deals gone awry down in Little Rock, the First National Bank was sold along with its Little Rock based parent and holding company. It was sold quickly to a consortium of Wal-Mart’s founder Sam Walton and trucking magnate J.B. Hunt, to name a few. This was before Arvest was a household name or a banking name known much outside of, well, anywhere. Hunt and others prepared to take over the bank (and only for a while) but that move disturbed the late John Lewis. He told Daddy W a tale about how he looked out the door of the  First National Bank and told the new owners that he was going to go across the Square and open a bank right over there – pointing to the Lewis family’s old corner Hardware Store. With a small, but faithful bunch of stockholders, Lewis’ dream of the Bank of Fayetteville became a reality and 20 years later is thriving in a market with newcomers building and flocking daily to the area. A tip of the hat to retiring board member Willard Gatewood, a believer in small, local banks and good, sound banking solutions. One thing that will always be riveted in Daddy W’s memory bank is John Lewis and his foresight to get a unique telephone number for the bank: 444-4444. If you hit the old cap keys on the keyboard, you’ll see that it’s actually $$$-$$$$.
Happy Birthday Bank of Fayetteville.

CHICKEN FAT
It’s a $75 million dollar deal and that ain’t drumsticks. Tyson Foods and
Synthetic Fuels of the Syntroleum Corp. have teamed up for a chicken grease gas-a-haul company called Dynamic Fuels. Daddy W will call it “chicken grease will make the car-go.” The firms plan to turn 550 million pounds of excess animal fat and grease into a usable fuel by 2008.

BYE-BYE SPORTS RAP

Daddy W wrote a fortnight ago, strangely on the eve of the announcement (that was the closest publication date available) that Chuck
Barrett would be the new “Voice” of Razorback football. The popular Sports Rap radio show, however, will be history. Just no way to do it, football and all the other duties at the same time.

HARD, NEW CHOICE
The new banking commissioner, Candace Franks, had a hard choice right off the stage after being sworn in. She had to backoff a plan to ask banks to pay 5 percent on state time deposits (CD’s and other financial instruments on deposit for the state). The new rate, loved by the bankers across the state is
4.66 percent. The banks get to make a little on the deal.

LUNCH CUT
Is an intensified lunch promotion a sign trouble? Maybe not, but Boi DeOuro – that meat palace near the NWA Mall – is offering a $9.95 all-you-can eat lunch. That’s quite a steep cut from the eatery’s initial high prices. With several restaurants closing in the mall area, maybe this is just a sign of self-preservation and promotion.

EATIN’ OUT IS LIGHT
The taxes brought in by restaurants were sagging a bit in April. Fayetteville’ big food sellers for the month: at number one, Olive Garden, followed by Golden Corral, Chic-Fil-A, Red Lobster, Chili’s, Logan’s Roadhouse, Noodles; TGI Friday’s; Penguin Ed’s and McDonald’s on 6th Street.

HINO NO MO HERE-O
The Hino Truck Company, was being courting in eastern Arkansas, but fled back to the D.C. and nearby West Virginia area. Sen. Robert Byrd, long a pork barrel project grabber for his home state, played a major role in snagging the $8.6 million truck parts plant for W.V.

AU NATURAL

Tyson Foods recently rolled out its antibiotic-free chicken products with much fanfare and got good consumer reaction. While a little pricey, the birds were flying off the shelves at area supermarkets. Labels like “Raised With Out Antibiotics” resulted in 91 percent of those polled saying this move is a winner.

3 Comments

Concealed Weapon July 5, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Recently moved to this area. I truly look forward to this column every week. It gives me a sense of historical perspective on the area. Great story about the bank.

Will truly miss Sport Rap. The other local shows on the ESPN network seem to be geared to about a 9th grade sports mentality.

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jones1 July 7, 2007 at 2:48 am

The reason the CIA made little effort to conceal their activities in Italy is that the Italian security services were complicit in those activities, despite their statements to the contrary.

Why make efforts to hide your activities from a government who gives you permission to perform them? The only reason this is coming out now is that the Italian government reversed itself and suddenly decided they didn’t want this done in Italy. The problem is that they waited until afterwards to change their mind.

Reply to this comment
Concealed Weapon July 8, 2007 at 7:23 am

This is a bit off topic but I’m angry and I’m mailing this story to anyone that may be interested.

My car is sitting in an impound lot this morning.

Last night I had dinner at a restaurant, went to another restaurant for drink, and then went to a venue for some live music. When I returned to the parking lot at University Baptist Curch, my car was gone.

Now, when I pulled into the lot from an alley, I was a little surprised because I had heard that some businesses had started to charge for parking in private lots. I expected to pay to park. But I saw no one taking money, nor did I see any signs.

When I returned several hours later, my car was gone. I felt badly but I had company because several others were looking for their cars as well. One unfortunate fellow finally informed us that this was now paid parking and some guy told him when he pulled in that he needed to pay $6 or his car would be towed and it would cost $180 to get it back. And then I found the sign. It was facing the wrong way and simply said “Paid Parking”. It was at ground level with a bunch of other signs that told us we should not park on the grass and suggesting we vacate the lot before church the next morning. Having not left the parking lot through that route, there was no way of knowing that we were to pay a fee to park.

I mention the “unfortunate fellow” above because his car was gone as well. He stood there, with parking voucher in hand, when the manager of the towing company showed up. The manager got out of his truck, got in the fellow’s face, and told him rudely that his car was at the impound lot and, no, they would not give him a ride there to pick it up. The manager repeatedly emphasized the fellow could have his car back when he paid the towing fee. He did not dispute that the car was towed in error. You see, this was the same man that took the fellow’s $6 parking fee earlier in the evening.

You can keep Fayetteville as funky as you want. But downtown Fayetteville has become expensive, difficult and unpleasant. I’ll be taking my restaurant and entertainment money elsewhere.

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