When Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for Veterans Today, was detained for five hours last Friday the Georgian authorities could not find his name in their high tech database. This surprised them, as he has gained a degree of notoriety in recent years for his investigative reports which have helped to shut down some US funded operations that have proved a geopolitical embarrassment, not only for Georgia but the United States
The reason they could not find his name is that the last time Silverman entered the country, in 2004; back then it was under the Georgianised version of his name given in an old Georgian passport dating back to 1993. This has now expired, but the Georgian government has refused to give him a new one, claiming that he is an American citizen and cannot hold two citizenships.
However Silverman had his nationality revoked by the US government back in 2004, after it had asked the Government of Azerbaijan to track him down. He has a document from the U.S. declaring him an alien. The Georgian authorities know that, but do not act upon it. Nor will the Red Cross give him the documents of a stateless person, because he used to have a Georgian passport and the Georgian authorities will not explain why he is no longer entitled to a new one.
It would appear that several governments and agencies, acting in concert, are determined to make life difficult for Silverman. He can’t leave Georgia and he can’t get the documents he needs to stay legally. He has also been arrested several times, tortured, assaulted, threatened, and under the previous regime placed on a death list and seen associates of his subjected to the same treatment.
So what exactly are the Georgian authorities, the U.S. and Georgian authorities so afraid of? Why does Silverman have to be watched and harassed by governments which claim to support free speech and democratic values, and lecture the rest of the world about what these are?
Hero with feet of truth
Jeffrey Silverman is a former Calvary Scout, 19D, a forward observer who trained and did his service at Fort Knox in Kentucky, OSUT. He is therefore one of the Veterans who the U.S. makes a great point of honouring, as a means of demonstrating its civilized values. But instead he is vilified and abused by his own government, and those of client states like Georgia, because he has long been investigating weapons trafficking and the covert support given to Chechen terrorists by U.S. funded non government organisations, NGOs, in places such as the Pankisi Gorge, which he has published numerous articles about, having taken a service oath on the Constitution to defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
He has also collected operational intelligence concerning to how and when the 2008 war would start in Georgia, two months before, and maintains that this conflict was instigated by the previous Georgian government in cooperation with the Republican presidential candidate of the time, Senator John McCain, as a ploy to boost his ratings. He has also written about this, and shared his information with the Georgian Human Rights Centre.
Silverman has carefully linked a number of US-funded NGOs with weapons procurement and terrorist operations in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan. He has shown how the funds used to do this came from Food for Peace proceeds, which derived from the sale of excess USDA agricultural commodities. He has been openly shared all the documentation concerning this, including the fake end user certificates used, the plan of how logistical support is actually provided, the names of those who provide it and the mechanisms they use to do so.
He was also behind Russian lines during the 2008 Georgian-Russian war, collecting intelligence about the illegal use by Georgia of Israeli made M-85 cluster bombs and the alleged war crimes committed by both sides, Georgian and Russian. At that time he was working for Georgian State TV, public broadcasting and the Georgian Human Rights Centre. Therefore he was technically working for the same country which may now want to deport him for doing exactly this, having been declared an alien by his country of birth for doing the same things.
Loitering with intent to go home
Silverman’s latest arrest was for standing in a public place. He was seen near a check point on the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. This is the much-touted 1,768 kilometre (1,099 mi) crude oil pipeline which connects Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, with Ceyhan, a port on the south-east Mediterranean coast of Turkey, via Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
BTC is an important strategic facility for Georgia and the West, and journalists are usually encouraged to write about it and see it. It is also the pipeline that illegally transports trucked Iranian and stolen Iraqi oil, but that is another story.
It is not illegal to stand near an oil pipeline armed with nothing more than a notebook. Nor was Silverman in a restricted area, or committing any other sort of crime. In fact he wasn’t even interested in the pipeline. He was researching a different story entirely, exploring the mountain roads which he believes are being used to convey weapons and logistics to the Islamic State, ISIL, with the help of Bechtel National and some “rogue elements” in the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Silverman was investigating the freight cars which are sent to Borjomi, where the famous Borjomi Mineral Water comes from. The wagons that arrive to take the mineral water to market are not always empty on arrival, and they are alleged to serve dual purposes.
If these freight wagons are indeed carrying weapons for terrorists, illegal acts are being committed which the authorities have a right to know about and a duty to investigate. But when he was arrested no one wanted to hear what Silverman had to say, any more than they wanted to hear what he had uncovered about once-secret biological weapons labs in Georgia, the official cover-up of the murder of former PM Zurab Zhvania and the links between figures in Georgia and various intelligence agencies.
The saddest aspect of this is that such arrests were common under the previous Georgian government, but the present one was elected to put a stop to such things. Its election platform was simple: former president Saakashvili and his friends are criminals who have robbed the country and terrorised the population, and they must all be brought to justice.
Silverman’s work has always played a part in that “bringing to justice” process, even when the previous government was still in power and the work much more difficult. The present government should therefore be clamouring to hear him, not arresting him. But he still knows too much for too many people: and principally, as his arrest shows, he knows that this Georgian government is as much a U.S. pawn as the previous one, and will never be allowed to make good on its fine words as long as this is the case.
Aspiration and reality
Silverman was detained on the way to Tabatskuri. He says this village is being used as a rest station for various trucks and “fighters” moving across Georgian territory to Turkey. It is off the beaten track, which is why it is being used: such movements have been seen on the main roads in the past.
The existence of some ratline to Turkey, whether or not this village is part of it, is well documented. Turkey is actively involved in trying to topple the Syrian government and make money in the process. The author of this article is often in contact with Silverman, exchanging regional intelligence which has then appeared in print.
Silverman was not only detained by Ministry of Internal Affairs but by Bechtel Security. He was instructed to report to immigration on Monday August 31, as they know he does not have proper documents and know that the U.S. and Georgian authorities have made sure he doesn’t have them.
Silverman will not only be telling immigration why he has no documents, he will be saying that he saw trucks going through security without being checked and that the local shepherds were clearly Turkish rather than Georgian, and most likely working for Turkish intelligence. He is hoping that the Georgians are afraid of deporting a journalist, particularly one who is frequently on the front pages of the Georgian press. However he is also aware that Bechtel Security is patrolling the region to make it into a no-go area, just like the Pankisi Gorge, which was made into a U.S. and NATO sponsored terrorist training camp in the same way.
Roddy Scott got too close to that, and was murdered for his trouble. Silverman knew and worked with Roddy Scott, and the Georgian and U.S. authorities know that too. He was also on a death list during the Saakashvili government, as Dr. Vakhtang Maisaia, who was falsely imprisoned and tortured partly as a means of getting to Silverman, has stated publicly.
Lands of the free
One of Silverman’s recent hard hitting interviews in the Georgian press received 57,000 likes from Georgian residents, who number about four million and have limited internet access, especially in rural regions. A lot of people would notice if he was deported from Georgia, and if the U.S. whose conduct he has frequently attacked was allowed to do what it liked with him.
The last time Silverman appeared in the U.S. he was tossed into solidarity confinement for failing to appear for a domestic court case. Fortunately a judge then refused to bow to pressure exerted on him by the US State Department and FBI and declared his detention unconstitutional. Silverman was allowed to return to Georgia, but has no legal recourse in either Georgia or the U.S. as neither country accepts he is one of their citizens. His expired Georgian passport was initially a Soviet one, overstamped with “Republic of Georgia”, and “Georgian Citizen” and that circumstance can be interpreted however the authorities want, even though it was they who stamped it.
Veterans Today is now in the process contacting the Georgian authorities and the US Embassy in Georgia. It is hoping that the attention it brings to his case will make sure that his rights are not violated. That is, of course, assuming the Georgian government which was elected to stop all these abuses has the guts to admit he still has any.
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.