The Robert Levinson Case: The Cover-up Behind The Cover-up

Robert Levinson

The fate of missing former FBI agent and CIA contractor Robert Levinson is rooted in a secret history that is buried in distraction and misinformation. Levinson, who disappeared on the island of Kish off of Iran in March 2007, is like so many other failed CIA cases: rooted in a culture of secrecy and tinged with massive incompetence. Everyone who enters this “wilderness of mirrors” never seems to escape.

Levinson’s capture is a direct result of an amateur intelligence operation that no professional spy agency would ever authorize. But it is not a simple one-off mistake. It is a decades old tragedy that began in the 1950s with the CIA installing the shah of Iran on the Peacock Throne. The context of the Levinson case does not come into focus until the Carter administration. That is when two key events took place. First President Carter decided in October 1977 to “reform” the CIA by firing most of the Operations Directorate or the case officers who run the spies. Second, he did not directly intervene to keep the shah in power during the Iranian Revolution. As a result, the various intelligence services began operating in less clearly defined territory using whatever means necessary. It quickly became very messy. Continue reading The Robert Levinson Case: The Cover-up Behind The Cover-up

Ivy League University Votes To Dump Oil and Gas Investments

On Dec. 11, the Cornell University Faculty Senate adopted by a 43-13 vote a resolution calling for the school to divest by 2035 all its investments in the top 200 holding companies ranked by fossil fuel reserves. A similar resolution adopted by the Cornell Student Assembly in the spring had called for divestiture by 2020.

“These reserves already comprise three to five times more than the total amount of fossil fuels that can be burned before exceeding the 2°C rise in mean global temperature that scientists and governments have agreed is the threshold for dangerous climate change,” eight pro-divestment Cornell faculty members wrote in a letter to the student newspaper Dec. 4. “Nonetheless, these companies are financially committed to burning these reserves and continuing to explore for even more.” Continue reading Ivy League University Votes To Dump Oil and Gas Investments

Widened Panama Canal Threatens the Environment

North Atlantic Right Whale (NOAA)

The Obama administration’s push to modernize U.S. ports to accommodate huge new ships that can pass through the widened Panama Canal worries environmentalists who believe U.S. coastlines will be subjected to enormous damage and coastal residents will face increased health risks. For marine life already threatened by shipping traffic, like the majestic right whale, the odds are even tougher.

The North Atlantic right whale gets its name, legend has it, from the fishing industry’s belief that it was the “right” whale to hunt because of its docile nature, tendency to stay close to the coast and habit of swimming near the ocean surface to skim for food. One of the largest animals in the world at 59 feet and 70 tons, it’s also one of the most critically endangered. Continue reading Widened Panama Canal Threatens the Environment

Tainted Water Testing Lab Flourished Under Lax New York State Regulators

EPA Raid on Upstate, Sept. 2010

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Even after armed federal investigators raided its offices in 2010 and the New York Department of Health suspended its state certification in early 2012, Upstate Laboratories Inc. continued its lucrative business of testing water samples from landfills and wastewater treatment plants across the state.

Officially, state environmental regulators will not accept test results from labs the DOH has not certified. The rule is fundamental to the integrity of the program that was designed to protect the state’s waterways from industrial pollution. Yet the state Department of Environmental Conservation kept accepting Upstate’s test results for more than a year after DEC managers learned of the suspension and wrote emails saying the results should be rejected.

On the morning of February 27, 2012, the DOH notified the DEC that it had suspended Upstate Labs. A few hours later, Jason Fagel, an official at the DEC’s Division of Water, emailed other DEC managers: “For any regulatory entity that your division may oversee, like landfills, they should not be using Upstate to report monitoring results to DEC. If you notice this happening, DOH would like to know about it.” Continue reading Tainted Water Testing Lab Flourished Under Lax New York State Regulators