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Hugh Tovar, CIA Operative at the Center of Cold War Intrigues, Dies at 92

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Indonesian soldiers take members of the youth wing of the country’s Communist Party to prison in Jakarta on October 30, 1965. They were rounded up by the army following a crackdown on Communists after an abortive coup against President Sukarno’s government earlier in the month. CIA officer Hugh Tovar was a high-ranking official stationed in Jakarta at the time. AP 

Hugh Tovar, who was at the center of two of the CIA’s most controversial covert action operations during the Cold War, died of natural causes just after midnight June 27. He was 92.

Tovar was the CIA station chief in Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1960s and then Laos and Thailand in the 1970s, while the U.S. and Soviet Union were locked in proxy wars around the world, most directly in Southeast Asia. For a time he was also chief of the CIA’s covert action and counterintelligence sections at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

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Tovar’s assignments put him on the cutting edge of CIA operations at the time, much like the today’s counterterrorism specialists, said Colin Thompson, a former CIA officer who served under Tovar in Thailand and later in the CIA’s counterintelligence branch.

“Hugh was one of a small group of senior East Asia officers…who were to the CIA in the ’60s and ’70s what the [agency’s] leaders in Middle East operations are today,” said Thompson, who also worked in Laos, where Tovar was station chief from 1970 to 1973, at the height of the CIA’s so-called “secret war” there.

The assignment to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, was a homecoming of sorts for Tovar, who had previously been sent there by the CIA’s World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, after his ROTC class at Harvard was called to duty by the U.S. Army in 1943.

Born in Colombia as Bernardo Hugh Tovar—he rarely used his first name—he was raised in Chicago but attended Portsmouth Priory (now Portsmouth Abbey), a private school in Rhode Island run by Benedictine monks.

The CIA’s later covert campaign in Laos was the biggest and longest paramilitary operation in the agency’s history. It lasted from 1961 to 1975 and employed hundreds of CIA operatives and pilots and thousands of local Hmong tribesmen in a failed effort to block Communist North Vietnam from using Laos as a supply route and staging ground for attacks in South Vietnam.

But it was Tovar’s tenure in Indonesia in 1965 that has drawn the most scrutiny. At the time, the country’s president, Sukarno, was leading a global “anti-imperialist” movement with the support of the Soviet Union and Communist China.

Tovar, who had earlier worked against Communist guerrillas in the Philippines, was the CIA’s Jakarta station chief. In September 1965, a coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, failed, and the military unleashed a genocidal campaign against the PKI’s mostly ethnic Chinese followers.

With the rebellion crushed and the military-backed Suharto regime now fully in power, the U.S. and other Western powers hailed the outcome as “the West’s best news for years in Asia,” as Time magazine put it.

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“Hugh made his mark in Indonesia in the mid-’60s where he was COS [chief of station] during the very bloody anti-Chinese riots that led to the overthrow of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto,” Thompson told Newsweek. “I understand he and the station performed very well.”

Too well, according to a sensational 1990 account by States News Service journalist Kathy Kadane. She reported that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta provided the Indonesian military with the names of suspected Communists, who were then hunted down and murdered.

“Over the next months, tens of thousands died—estimates range from the Suharto government report of 78,002 to an Amnesty International estimate of more than 1 million deaths,” intelligence historian John Prados wrote in his 2003 biography of William Colby, a colleague of Tovar’s who later became CIA director. An internal CIA report on the events in Indonesia, Prados wrote, called it “one of the worst episodes of mass murder of the 20th century.”

Responding to Kadane’s charges in The New York Times, Tovar denied he was involved in providing “any classified information” to an embassy political officer who in turn gave it to the Indonesians.

In a 2001 interview with the Indonesian magazine Tempo, he also denied CIA complicity in the resulting carnage. “The U.S. did not in any way help the Army suppress the Communists,” he said.

Tovar retired in 1978 but followed his second wife, Pamela Kay Balow, “on her assignments with the CIA to Rome, Singapore and Australia,” according to theannouncement of his death by the Galone-Caruso Funeral Home in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. He died “peacefully” at St. Anne Home, an assisted-living center in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the announcement said.

In his retirement, Tovar became a measured critic of U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments. In a 1982 book of essays on covert action, he was quoted as saying the CIA’s ill-fated 1961 invasion of Cuba was based on the mistaken notion that Fidel Castro’s support was “so shallowly rooted…that he could be shaken by psychological pressures, as [President Jacobo] Arbenz had been in Guatemala [in 1954], and then ousted by a comparative handful of troops.”

“Was it an intelligence failure?” Tovar said. “Undoubtedly, and in the grandest sense of the term.”

Likewise, in Vietnam in 1963, a U.S.-backed coup backfired by weakening the Saigon government, Tovar wrote in another essay. “The overthrow of President [Ngo Dinh] Diem constituted the opening of the floodgates of American involvement in Indochina,” he wrote.

“By intruding as it did—crassly and blind to the consequences—the burden of responsibility for winning or losing was removed once and for all from South Vietnamese shoulders, and placed upon America’s own.”

Tovar also cautioned CIA leaders about discussing covert action options with their underlings, “whose instincts and training guarantee an immediate can-do response.”

“Momentum develops rapidly,” he said in the collection of essays, titled Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s: Covert Action. “Conceptualizing is superseded by planning. Policy emerges in high secrecy and, before anyone realizes it, the project is a living, pulsating, snorting entity with a dynamic all its own.”

Newsweek national security correspondent Jeff Stein served as a military intelligence case officer in South Vietnam during 1968-69.

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Jakarta police accidentally get their neighbourhood high with marijuana bonfire

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Indonesian police sparked up a three-tonne pile of marijuana – and accidentally got the residents of West Jakarta high in the process.

According to the Jakarta Post, Palmerha police set fire to a 3.3-tonne heap of cannabis right outside their office, creating a giant cloud of smoke which then dispersed around the local area.

After being engulfed by the fumes, residents reportedly had headaches and felt “dizzy”.

The police had anticipated the powerful plumes and protected themselves with gas masks before setting fire to the pile of drugs,  but did not think to warn people that the potent smoke was about to descend on them.

“I got a headache because I wasn’t wearing a mask,” one resident said.

Other passers-by said that the smell of marijuana in the area was “too strong” and overwhelmingly “tangy”.

Several high level officials from the West Jakarta municipality were present when the pile was set on fire.

The weed haul was destroyed along with 1.8 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and 2,538 ecstasy pills, which the police decided to blend.

AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Indonesia to Singapore missing

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An AirAsia airliner flying from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board has lost contact with air traffic control.

Flight QZ8501, an Airbus plane, went missing at 07:24 (23:24 GMT), Malaysia-based AirAsia tweeted.

Indonesian military planes are searching an area of the Java Sea.

AirAsia, a budget airline, has never lost a plane, but Malaysia’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has suffered two this year – flights MH370 and MH17.

A holding area in Singapore for family and friends of those on board flight QZ8501

The AirAsia plane disappeared about two hours into a three-hour flight.

It left the Indonesian city of Surabaya in eastern Java at 05:20 local time (21:20 GMT) and was due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30 (00:30 GMT).

The missing jet had requested a “deviation” from the flight path due to bad weather, the company said.

Indonesia’s transport ministry said the pilot had asked permission to climb to 38,000 ft (11,000m) to avoid thick cloud. No distress call is reported to have been issued by the crew.

The flight arrivals board at Changi Airport in Singapore, where the AirAsia flight was due

The flight arrivals board at Changi Airport in Singapore, where the AirAsia flight was due

There were 155 passengers on board, the company said in a statement:
  • 138 adults, 16 children and one infant
  • Two pilots and five cabin crew were also on board
  • Most on board were Indonesian
  • Six were from other countries: three South Koreans and one French, Malaysian and Singaporean.

AirAsia has set up an emergency line for family or friends of those who may be on board. The number is +622 129 850 801.

A map showing flight QZ8501's flight path

An official with the transport ministry, Hadi Mustofa, told local media the plane lost contact over the Java Sea, between the islands of Kalimantan and Java.

The company’s chief executive, Tony Fernandes, tweeted: “Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We must stay strong.”

AirAsia Indonesia is an affiliate of the Malaysian company AirAsia, operating domestic flights round the Indonesian archipelago as well as international services to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Thailand.

AirAsia Indonesia was banned from flying to the European Union in 2007 due to safety concerns but this was lifted in July 2010.

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The latest incident caps a tragic year for Malaysian aviation with the disappearance of one Malaysia Airlines plane and the apparent shooting down of another.

Flight MH370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 passengers and crew. The wreckage, thought to be in southern Indian Ocean, has still not been located.

MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.

Isis Threat to Ancient Buddhist Temple Puts Indonesia Police on Alert

Central Java Police are on alert after the Islamic State threatened to bomb the ninth-century Borobudur Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Central Java Police are on alert after Isis threatened to bomb the ninth-century Borobudur Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site.(Dwi Oblo/Reuters)

Central Java Police are investigating a threat by Isis to bomb the Borobudur Temple Unesco World Heritage Site

Indonesian police are on terrorist alert following threats made by extremist Islamist group Isis (now known as ‘Islamic State’) to attack the Borobudur Temple cultural heritage site.

Security has been tightened around the Unesco World Heritage Site in Magelang, Central Java, after the Islamic State posted a threat on Facebook last Friday.

“God willing, (Borobudur) will be demolished by Islamic caliphate mujahidin,” the statement read.

The statement also quoted an article from a radical website in which cleric Hartono Ahmad Jaiz condemned several statue construction projects around Indonesia as un-Islamic.

Central Java Police are scouring internet data for possible clues about the potential terrorist attack.

National police spokesman Ronny F Sompie told The Jakarta Post: “The Central Java police chief has ordered an investigation into the threat, and we expect cooperation from the temple’s security personnel and the Indonesian Military, to safeguard the temple from any possible damage.”

Borobudur temple in Magelang (AFP Photo / Adek Berry)
Borobudur temple in Magelang (AFP Photo / Adek Berry)

Temple security increased

Major-General Sunindyo, the commander of the Diponegoro Military Command, added that he was on standby to bolster security around the temple.

Marsis Sutopo, head of the Borobudur Conservation Agency, said the body has increased the number of security personnel in and around the temple.

“We’ve increased the number of security officers and have coordinated with PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur (which manages tourism activities at the temple) and the local police,” he said.

The Borobudur Temple was built in the ninth century and is regarded as one of the world’s largest and greatest Buddhist monuments.

In 1985, the relic was targeted by extremists, who detonated bombs at the site, damaging nine stupas: commemorative monuments which house scared relics associated with Buddha or other religious figures.

Last August, officials tightened security around the Borobudur Temple after the Buddhist temple Ekayana Graha Vihara was bombed in Jakarta.

7 Of The Most Romantic Places In The World

Romantic getaways often mean candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and pampering accommodations.

But some destinations boast their own romantic je ne sais quoi; in places like Paris, Bali, and San Sebastian, there’s just something in the air. From the cherry blossom-lined streets of Kyoto to sensual tango dancing in Buenos Aires, these are our picks for the world’s most romantic getaways.

1. Bali, Indonesia

Bali Indonesia

Bali is not just a pretty face: While the island’s picturesque scenery attracts visitors from around the world, its unique culture and tradition keeps them coming back for more.

Watch the sunset over clear blue water in Sanur, a popular beach destination. An iconic attraction, Tanah Lot, is a 15th-century temple that juts out of the ocean on a small rock formation. Don’t miss the five waterfalls between Bedugul and Singaraja: Gitgit is the farthest down the mountain, and visitors can climb 150 steps to take in stunning cascading falls.

Insider Tip: To escape the crowds at Bali’s southern beaches, visit Echo Beach in Seminyak. The secluded stretch of sand is located below a series of outcrops, and often features a hazy, dream-like mist.

2. Brugge, BelgiumBrugge Belgium

Fairytale Brugge will enchant visitors. The city’s open squares, quaint houses, and cobblestone streets create a romantic atmosphere, and couples can take boat rides through picturesque canals.

Climb the Belfort’s 366 winding steps for bird’s-eye views of the city. Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage ride to Beguinage, a sprawling monastery with bridges and swan-filled ponds.

For canal-side accommodations and upscale amenities, book a room at the Fodor’s Choice hotel De Tuileriëen. The property features charming guest rooms and parlors, and turn down service includes complimentary Belgian chocolates.

Insider Tip: Splurge on a meal at De Karmeliet. Located in an 18th-century house, the formal restaurant features a topiary-filled garden for al fresco dining.

3. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires

It’s easy to get swept away by Buenos Aires’ colorful nightlife and diverse culture. Sit back in Teatro Colón’s red velvet seats and take in an opera or ballet.

The Palermo neighborhood boasts some of the city’s finest restaurants and boutiques, and it offers acres of parks perfect for picnicking or long walks. Dance the night away at Rojo Tango, a popular club that features five-star food, cabaret performances, and glamorous velvet-lined interiors.

Insider Tip: Seasons in Buenos Aires are opposite from the US: An Argentinian winter is a North American summer. Visit during spring (September to December) for blooming flowers, mild temperatures, and fewer crowds.

4. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston south carolina

Charleston’s pristine gardens, historic ambiance, and laid-back Southern charm make it an ideal romantic getaway. Stroll through magnolia-lined streets in the city’s South of Broad neighborhood, which features sprawling mansions and verdant parks.

The Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park offers picture-perfect scenery, complete with waterfalls and views of the Charleston Harbor. Take a drive to Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, and explore the property’s heirloom rose garden and butterfly pavilion.

Insider Tip: Located in the French quarter, the Fodor’s Choice restaurant Tristan boasts fresh-caught seafood, artisanal pasta dishes, and sleek, contemporary decor.

5. Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera

Italian Riviera

The rocky shores of the Italian Riviera belong in the pages of a romance novel. Visitors can explore quaint harbor villages, hike up stunning trails, or stroll through beachfront promenades.

Climb the Cinque Terre trails to explore vineyards and villages, and lookout over the sea. The world-famous Giardini Botanici Hanbury features one of the largest gardens in Italy and offers panoramic views of the water. Spend the day touring Portofino, a lush seaside village with cliff side gardens and plenty of people watching.

Insider Tip: The Italian Riviera is divided into two regions: the more rustic Riviera di Levante to the east, and the resort-oriented Riviera di Ponente to the west. Riviera di Ponente is your best bet for nightlife and beaches. But for breathtaking views of the Ligurgian and a more secluded ambiance, nothing beats the Riviera di Levante.

6. Fez, Morocco

Fez Morocco

Stepping through the gates into Fez feels like entering a time machine: The city’s medieval streets, covered markets, and historic sites will heighten your senses, and take you back to a different era.

Visit Heri el Souani to tour granaries designed by an ancient king. Pass through Medina Square in nearby Meknès to view Bab Mansour, an elaborate marble gate with engraved tiled panels. House of Venus in Volubilis houses the city’s finest set of mosaics, and provides easy access to the site of the Temple of Saturn.

Insider Tip: Although Fez is best known for its ancient architecture and historical sites, the surrounding region is also home to ski slopes. Book a room at the Michlifen Ifrane Suites and Spa for luxurious amenities and picturesque mountain views.

7. Greek Isles in the Cyclades

Mykonos Cyclades

It doesn’t get much better than The Cyclades, or Greek Isles, a destination on the 2014 Go List. The islands’ shimmering turquoise-blue waters are an attraction in their own right, and rustic mountains, bright sun, and delicious food attract honeymooners and seasoned travelers alike.

The most famous of the islands, Santorini, boasts breathtaking sunsets and dramatic white stone cliffs. Naxos, the largest of the isles, features long, sandy beaches, and stunning green valleys and ravines. Hike to Panayia Pouláti, a whitewashed, blue-domed structure and bell tower set atop a sparkling bay.

Insider Tip: If you’re planning on visiting the Isles, consider booking a room in the spring or fall. Summer months mean more tourists and overcrowded beaches, while winter brings shuttered businesses and stormy weather.

Joko Widodo set to be declared next Indonesian president

Joko Widodo and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, shakes hand with his probable successor Joko Widodo. Photograph: Beawiharta/Reuters
Rival candidate withdraws from electoral process hours before official announcement that Jokowi won race with 53% of vote

After the protracted political wrangling and unease that followed Indonesia‘s disputed presidential election, Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – is on the verge of being named as Indonesia’s next head of state.

The election commission is expected to announce the result at 8pm local time after completing the final count of more than 130m votes. A final tally of the vote shows that Jokowi and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, won the race by a margin of more than six percentage points, garnering 53.17% of the votes.

Jokowi and his opponent, the former army general Prabowo Subianto, both claimed victory on election day on 9 July, citing unofficial quick counts. Hours before Tuesday’s official announcement, Prabowo declared his withdrawal from the electoral process, describing the vote as undemocratic, unfair and systematically rigged.

At a press conference in east Jakarta, Prabowo said his team would use their “constitutional rights to reject the implementation of the presidential election, which is legally flawed”. His supporters walked out of the election commission building shortly afterwards while the count continued.

At the weekend the election commission rejected Prabowo’s request for the official announcement to be postponed so that alleged widespread fraud could be investigated.

In an election that has been marked by unprecedented transparency, the Prabowo camp has not presented any evidence of what it claims to be systematic fraud. Initial reports suggest Prabowo will not pursue legal action at the constitutional court, as previously intimated.

For many voters in the world’s third largest democracy, 53-year-old Jokowi represented their first chance to elect a leader unencumbered by ties to an authoritarian past. The dictator Suharto was ousted from power in 1998, but in the past 16 years there have been few fresh faces in the Indonesian parliament.

Jokowi, who was elected governor of Jakarta in September 2012 – ironically with the help of Prabowo, who was grooming him as a potential running mate – quickly won approval for his proactive and hands-on approach to leadership.

After an intensely polarising election, Jokowi supporters have been urged to avoid celebrating on the streets, and there have been calls for the country to reunite amid fears of unrest. Thousands of police and military officers were deployed to maintain order on Tuesday.

After a decade under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was ineligible to run for a third term, this year’s election has been the tightest in Indonesia’s short democratic history.

In a thinly veiled message to Prabowo on Monday, Yudhoyono called for the election’s loser to accept his defeat graciously. “Admitting defeat is noble. Congratulating the winner is beautiful,” he said.

Telecommute: Frenchman runs business from deserted remote island

Last year a French businessman, Gauthier Toulemonde, had a crazy idea. He wanted to try and run his company from a remote island, thousands of miles away from France and he just got back home.
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Toulemonde, 54, is a publisher and journalist hailing from Lille in northern France. He has just returned home after an interesting experiment.  Following his bright idea last year, Toulemonde set off in the middle of October for a 40 day telecommute on a remote, deserted island in Indonesia.  He called his project “WebRobinson” (after the Robinson Crusoe story) and apparently he came up with the idea to not only “fulfill a boyhood dream,” but also to test whether it is possible to work remotely and still run his business successfully.
When the media asked him why he would do such a thing, Toulemonde said that it was the daily commute that finally got to be too much for him. “I found myself in Gare Saint Lazare [in Paris] last December, watching the continuous flood of people going by,” he told Paris Match live from the island. “They had this sad look on them, even though they were carrying Christmas presents. My idea had been growing for a while, but I decided on that day to leave.”

Toulemonde said that it took him around six months to locate the ideal island, suitable for a six-week stay, and he did have problems with the Indonesian government on several occasions. In fact, the government has told him that by law, he must not reveal the exact location of the 700-by-500-meter island, one of 17,000 in the Indonesian archipelago.  Planning his supplies was the next difficulty, but he started the trip with just a tent, four solar panels, a phone, most importantly his laptop and some rice and pasta. He allowed himself a budget of €10,000 for the whole adventure, and €20 a day to keep his essential Internet connection going.

His tent was reportedly strong enough to keep out the torrential rain which came down for several days during his stay, and he had to just do his best to keep the snakes, rats and lizards out of his temporary home.

Toulemonde put in six average weeks of work. During his stay his company, Timbopresse, managed to publish two editions of Stamps Magazine all by the normal deadlines. At first he used the phone to make a few calls, but found this was too expensive and stopped, sending emails back and forth with his 10 employees on a regular basis. As to his daily schedule, he awoke at 5 a.m. each day and usually hit the sack at around midnight. Having only rice and pasta, Toulemonde had to scavenge for his food supplies, finding vegetables on the island and fishing in the sea.

Despite being productive and getting the work done, the media asked him what it was like spending six weeks without seeing or speaking to another human being. “Those 40 days, for me it was like being in quarantine,” Toulemonde told Le Figaro (in French). “I used the time as a detox from modern life.” He told Paris Match, “What gave me most joy was living – stripped bare – in the closest possible contact with nature. Every day was magical.”

French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian isla...

French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian island.
My TF1 News reported (French language) that when he was asked what the worst thing was about the whole experience he said, while not really liking all the rats and snakes on the island, his worst fear was to lose his Internet connection. He did miss seeing other people though, and he missed his normal food.

Toulemonde did, however, say that the experiment was a success and that telecommuting does in fact work — it was just the lack of human contact that spoiled it a little. “Telecommuting really works but doing everything virtually has its limits,” he said. “Working from distance might be doable, but nothing can replace human contact.” It has to be said that Toulemonde’s office during his stay on the island was pretty remarkable and he couldn’t complain about the commute to work!

French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian isla...

French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian island.
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