Thief of Baghdad: an investigative report

Nazarul Islam | Published: 00:00, Jan 19,2019 | Updated: 23:43, Jan 18,2019


THERE is an evil in the mist that has enveloped the air around Helsinki. Something ominous is going on, across our planet… from Baghdad to Helsinki, and beyond. All ripples lead to one epicentre… the United States. What are they up to?
Two successive articles have been published in Helsinki Times, warning readers, of something sinister that has already been ‘sensed’…. Do you, or anyone, have a clue?
Will Sillitoe, the Op-Ed columnist from Finland, has taken his readers into confidence. Perhaps, all this had something to do with the guarded warehouses, located near Helsinki’s city airport and the mysterious chain of overseas cargo, which had kept flowing into the premises, in the dark.
The big question we all seem to ask: why does the US embassy in Helsinki need a huge warehouse near Malmi Airport? And, what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo that were flown into Helsinki from Baghdad in specially marked containers?
A dilapidated warehouse located in Malmi district of Helsinki, allegedly, was being used by the United States for some unknown operations. A whistleblower, known as the Wikileaks’ releases, has finally taken the curtain away from the mystery location.
The anonymously looking building on Takoraudantie is perhaps just noticeable, if not useful for anything else — and only for its new 427-metre perimeter fence that (according to the Wikileaks’ database) was ordered by the US embassy in April 2018.
Situated across the street from the main entrance to Malmi Airport, this warehouse boasts of three-metre high security fence, surrounding the perimeter. It certainly appears an unlikely location, for official embassy business. Neighbouring companies have included a car yard and a tyre warehouse.
Helsinki Times reporters had visited the building perimeters in December. Security personnel, young Finns in uniforms with American flags on their arms, had appeared nervous and suspicious.
The Wikileaks’ database had also revealed that the controversial premises had kept receiving mysterious parcels, coupled with enigmatic packages, from the US embassy in Baghdad. A database displaying US embassy procurements around the world shows that tonnes of cargo had been distributed to Helsinki and other US embassies via regular airfreight cargo deliveries, directly flown in from Baghdad.
Twelve such consignments, each having logged at 5,000 kilograms, were recorded to have been sent to Helsinki and 23 other West European US embassies, thereby, statistically maintaining an average of 2,500 kilograms, per US embassy.
The reason for such a vast number of embassy deliveries from Baghdad is yet unknown, but latest disclosures have followed the Wikileaks news… and have categorically stated that the US consulate in Frankfurt was the ‘purchase and postal office’ for the distribution of spy equipment, reportedly to other US embassies worldwide. Concerns have now now been raised that the US embassy in Baghdad was also being allegedly used as a main distribution centre for clandestine operations.
In addition to Finland and Western Europe, the Wikileaks database had further divulged that the US embassy in Baghdad had disseminated hundreds of tonnes of cargo, worldwide, with more than 3,00,000 kilograms recorded, to have been delivered to this site alone.
Incoming diplomatic mail between embassies does not have to pass through customs clearance, because it is automatically classified as a US government shipment and classified as diplomatic cargo.
The 80-page order list allegedly circulated by the ‘leaks’ has further acknowledged in detail massive supplemental movements of road and air freight between the cities of Basra in the south of Iraq and Erbil in the north. No indication of the cargo contents was provided in the Cargo Manifest. However, the order sheets have reportedly revealed that convoys of trucks and vehicles were hired by Baghdad’s US embassy, for purposes of logistics transfer, of the mysterious shipment.
The warehouse is reportedly equipped with several big gates to facilitate the arrival and departure of lorries and their drivers. Containers and a forklift left in the open yard indicate a heavy-duty use of the premises. A special antenna is fixed on the roof. Spy gadgets and surveillance operations are exhibits that can be easily identified on the roof.
The disclosure of the building’s use by the US embassy in Finland had emerged in light of revelations about US embassy spying activities worldwide (as featured in the Wikileaks’ US embassy shopping list database). In a published list of more than 16,000 miscellaneous items, frequent requests also appeared for alleged recording devices, allegedly disguised as pens, lighters, glasses, watches and even spy shirt buttons.
Although US embassy procurements are public information, Wikileaks new database had allowed for country-specific searches, giving a very clear evidence of US embassy involvement in secret surveillance operations, in certain parts of the world. The timing of this latest Wikileaks’ releases came just hours after its Twitter accounts were cyber-attacked late on Friday, ahead of Christmas holidays!
According to the database, requests made by the US embassy in Finland have appeared to be for everyday items of common use. Procurements have included a tractor as well as services for snow removal, plumbing, gardening and cleaning. However, in light of ‘Tactical Spy Equipment’ purchased by US embassies elsewhere, the existence of the warehouse compound near Malmi Airport had raised alarms about potential secret operations, closer to home. US embassy official responsible for ordering the warehouse perimeter fence was unavailable for comment.
Worldwide, the Wikileaks’ online data have divulged that Latin America happens to be the main target for purchases of spying equipment. Camera hats and USB drives as well as night visors and binoculars were among items procured for the US embassy in Colombia. Topping the list, however, for requested surveillance items was the US embassy in El Salvador, where the purchase of ‘Tactical Spy Equipment’ totalled 94 items.
Two years ago in 2017, Wikileaks documents revealed that the American consulate in Frankfurt had served allegedly, as a covert base, to carry out digital spy operations. Using the US embassy shopping list database, Germany’s newspaper Der Spiegel has now identified this consulate to be the main buyer of spyware equipment, destined for diplomatic missions all across Europe.
These latest Wikileaks’ revelations further highlight the role of US embassies in espionage activities across the globe. Some reports have suggested that ore than 80 US embassies worldwide have concealed joint NSA-CIA radio and electronic surveillance equipment. Such concerns have add to the questions concerning activities at the Malmi warehouse and the shrouded secrecy, surrounding the building.
However, the database of US embassy shopping lists has reportedly come up with less than alarming items too… with one evoking the craziness of an Inspector Clouseau rather than a cold, calculating 007: a person to count fish and clean the pond was sought by the consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador, after officials had reportedly lost track of how many fish they had in their pond’s inventory.
The searchable Wikileaks database and the details about Finland related activities can all be found here!
It has been safely established that more than a million kilograms of cargo were shipped from Baghdad to different parts of the world. This fact has been concluded through research of US embassies manifest of procurement documents.
Though military freight might be expected to flow between the US and Iraq, records have shown that embassies across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa were all receiving deliveries from Baghdad as well.
According to Wikileaks’ database, orders to ship more than 540 tonnes of cargo to the US were made as recently as May 2018. The same document shows other main delivery destinations included 120 tonnes of freight to Europe, and 24 tonnes to South Africa, South America and Central Africa respectively. In comparison, only two and a half tonnes of freight had actually moved within Iraq… between Baghdad, Basra and Erbil international airports. So, the export of items from Iraq appeared to be the primary activity.
The content of the deliveries is as yet unclear although the order contract has suggested household items, rugs, electrical goods, linen, kitchenware, furniture, pianos, refrigerators, books, chinaware, clothing as well as mail to have been the merchandise among the items dispatched.
The lack of disclosed orders moving cargo and services into Iraq highlights the fact that the movement of diplomats and their families into such a dangerous region on a large scale is quite unlikely. Transfers of military personnel back and forth would normally go through the US airbases in Iraq and not via the embassy administration. So discounting the movement of more than a thousand staff members out of Iraq to countries around the world would obviously mean that the content and purpose of the shipments continue to remain a mystery.
This is a modern-day version of my grandmother’s story of ‘The Thief of Baghdad’.

Nazarul Islam is a former educator based in Chicago.

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