Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
THE RANK OF LOVE IS THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, THE CROWN OF CREATION.
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

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The Guardian: Chavez tackles homelessness by encouraging squatting

 Venezuelans left homeless after December’s torrential rains gather in the wealthy Caracas neighbourhood of La Castellana. Hugo Chávez has sent out troops to take over farms and urged the poor to occupy “unused” land in wealthy areas of Caracas, prompting a wave of squats that is rattling Venezuela‘s middle class.

The move by Venezuela’s president to step up the campaign to “recover” land and other property follows a housing crisis that has left millions of people in shabby conditions and affected his popularity in the run-up to next year’s election. Squatters wearing red T-shirts from Chávez’s socialist party seized 20 spaces in a co-ordinated strike in the well-off Caracas municipality of Chacao last weekend, a move which shocked even some government supporters. Additional groups have targeted other cities.

Chávez has also announced a series of laws and deals with China, Russia, Belarus, Iran and Turkey, among others, in a breakneck effort to build 350,000 housing units in Venezuela in the next two years. “The fundamental goal of socialism is to satisfy human needs … the needs of all, equally, without privilege,” Chávez said in a television broadcast yesterday.

Opponents claim the government has failed to build enough houses over the past decade and has been offering “empty promises”. Previous house-building deals with foreign allies reportedly produced just 10% of the promised number.  Emilio Grateron, mayor of Chacao, described Chávez’s exhortation to seize supposedly unoccupied land as demagogic, and a move that would kill what little private investment remained. “There is irresponsible rhetoric without heed of the consequences. This is a very dangerous game.”

The government has stepped up rural expropriations by deploying 1,600 troops at 47 farms in the western states of Merida and Zulia, claiming the farms were unproductive. The state has taken control of 2.5m hectares since Chávez gained power in 1999. The government is now looking at cities in response to the housing crisis and to its fading support in the slums, once Chávista heartlands, which have voted for opposition mayors and governors.

Floods last year ruined hillside slums and displaced thousands of families, highlighting the shortage of 2m or so housing units. Residents have had to erect shacks on top of shacks on precarious slopes. Under Chávez the government has built fewer than 40,000 units a year – some say only 24,000 – in contrast to previous governments, which averaged 70,000. The president admits to problems but rejects accusations of incompetence and corruption. He has said that the rich keep all the best land, especially in the capital, but often leave it idle. The government has closed six golf courses and recently had its eye on the Caracas Country Club, saying thousands of poor families could be settled on its greens.

Such a move would take several years, however, and the presidential election calendar requires speedier results. This month Chávez said the government would take over unoccupied spaces and any incomplete structures. Last weekend he urged the poor to join in, and hours later, at 4am, militant supporters laid claim to 20 areas of Chacao. Police expelled them but the “invasions” caused uproar, with even pro-government newspapers such as Ultimas Noticias voicing concern.

Chávez decided the squatters had gone too far, saying “the middle-class cannot be an enemy of this democratic revolution”. However, the government made clear the squatting would continue, saying the correct term was “occupation”. Even hotels have become skittish since being asked to host those displaced by the floods. They have obliged, but some proprietors now worry they will be the next industry to be nationalised.

Chacao’s five-star Marriott hotel is hosting about 60 displaced families on its third and fourth floors. It has replaced doors with curtains and removed TVs, lamps and other fittings, but Maria Patino, 52, and her sister Blanca, 55, had no complaints. “We’re supposed to use the service entrance and not go near the lobby, but we get treated well. Three meals a day, everything free,” said Maria. “It [was] like being in the desert, and then you get to an oasis.”

The Atlantic- Rise of the New Global Elite

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.

If you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set of Meet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become “very distorted.” 

In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a “significant recovery”; the rest of the economy, by contrast—including small businesses and “a very significant amount of the labor force”—was stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.

This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare on the left. (The idea of “two Americas” was a central theme of John Edwards’s 2004 and 2008 presidential runs.) What made the argument striking in this instance was that it was being offered by none other than the former five-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: iconic libertarian, preeminent defender of the free market, and (at least until recently) the nation’s foremost devotee of Ayn Rand. When the high priest of capitalism himself is declaring the growth in economic inequality a national crisis, something has gone very, very wrong.

This widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:

In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.

But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

Through my work as a business journalist, I’ve spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan. Some of what I’ve learned is entirely predictable: the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted, different from you and me.

What is more relevant to our times, though, is that the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.

Read on at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/1/

BBC: Ancient Humans Interbred with Us

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species. The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found. There is also evidence that this group was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species – perhaps around 50,000 years ago. An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone.

Sensational’ find

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) first left their African homeland.  Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed The Hobbit. To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

The implications of the finding have been described by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London as “nothing short of sensational”. Scientists were able to analyse DNA from a tooth and from a finger bone excavated in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The individuals belonged to a genetically distinct group of humans that were distantly related to Neanderthals but even more distantly related to us.

The finding adds weight to the theory that a different kind of human could have existed in Eurasia at the same time as our species.

Researchers have had enigmatic fossil evidence to support this view but now they have some firm evidence from the genetic study carried out by Professor Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. “A species of early human living in Europe evolved,” according to Professor Paabo. “There was a western form that was the Neanderthal and an eastern form, the Denisovans.”

The study shows that Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of the present day people of the Melanesian region north and north-east of Australia. Melanesian DNA comprises between 4% and 6% Denisovan DNA. David Reich from the Harvard Medical School, who worked with Svante Paabo on the study, says that the fact that Denisovan genes ended up so far south suggests they were widespread across Eurasia: “These populations must have been spread across thousands and thousands of miles,” he told BBC News.

Professor Stringer believes it is because there may have been only a fleeting encounter as modern humans migrated through South-East Asia and then on to Melanesia. The remains were excavated at a cave site in southern Siberia.  “It could be just 50 Denisovans interbreeding with a thousand modern humans. That would be enough to produce this 5% of those archaic genes being transferred,” he said. “So the impact is there but the number of interbreeding events might have been quite small and quite rare.”

No one knows when or how these humans disappeared but, according to Professor Paabo, it is very likely something to do with modern people because all the “archaic” humans, like Denisovans and Neanderthals disappeared sometime after Homo sapiens sapiens appeared on the scene. “It is fascinating to see direct evidence that these archaic species did exist (alongside us) and it’s only for the last few tens of thousands of years that is unique in our history that we are alone on this planet and we have no close relatives with us anymore,” he said.

The study follows a paper published earlier this year by Professor Paabo and colleagues that showed there was interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals as they emerged from Africa 60,000 years ago.

Have A Beautiful Morning, Sovereigns!

Luisa Maita, Brazilian songstress, with the title track from her new American album release entitled “Lero Lero”

Translation:
Look who’s coming now,

Just, “Hey, What’s up?” and a glance eye to eye
He’s on our side
No hurry, no delay
Everything’s all right

He’s of the same blood
Our flow is telepathic
Beyond words

And when life gets tough
It’s just, “Hey, What’s up?” And a glance eye to eye
And I’m back to all right

This is for you, my brother
This is for you, my brother
Everything’s all right

Foreign Policy: Robert Baer (Ex-CIA) Spy v. Spy


I first heard the name Philip Agee, the legendary, rogue Central Intelligence Agency operative one cloudless, blue morning in San Francisco. It was my first interview with the CIA.

The CIA recruiter and I met in his junior suite at the Hilton Hotel. He was an affable man in his 50s, thick in the middle with slicked-back hair, a tweed sports coat, and a club tie. He sat in an armchair, I on the edge of the sofa. He listened patiently as I tried to convince him I was qualified to be hired as an analyst. I was enrolled in an intensive Mandarin course at the University of California, Berkeley, at the time and had hopes of being a China scholar. If the CIA wanted to pay me a salary to become one, I figured, all the better.

When I finished, he looked at me for a beat, not saying a word. When he spoke he didn’t even bother to sugarcoat his verdict: “Without an MA or Ph.D., we can’t hire you.” Before I could even register disappointment, however, the recruiter leaned forward. He dropped his voice as if the room might be bugged: “Did you ever think about operations?”

I stared back at him blankly. He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a new paperback — Agee’s memoir, Inside the Company: CIA Diary. “Read this and tell me whether you might be interested in operations.”

Back at my Berkeley apartment I read Agee’s book late into the night — my door closed so my two roommates couldn’t see me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Inside the Company, published in 1975, portrayed the CIA as an evil, secret society that pulled strings around the world, corrupting otherwise honest officials and overthrowing democratically elected governments. Agee described in detail how the CIA propped up Latin American juntas and corrupt regimes around the world.

And worse, Agee named names — confidential sources and the names of operatives — people who are supposed to work outside the public spotlight their entire lives. I considered whether my affable recruiter had actually read Agee’s book before handing it to me.

But as I delved deeper into Agee’s book, rather than becoming repulsed, I became more and more fascinated by the idea that there really might be such a thing as a secret society, one that channeled the currents of history. I didn’t like the idea of changing popular regimes — my background and education was decidedly liberal — but I started to picture myself as some modern Knight Templar, a tempting release from the dreariness of academia.

 After I was hired by the CIA, no one ever told me why or when recruiters started handing out Agee’s book, but I soon understood from the agency’s culture that it counted on reactions like mine; the book’s appeal was that it opened people’s eyes to a concealed, powerful world. Like it or hate it — and many people did — it was seductive. Later, I came to understand that the CIA prided itself on having an open-minded view of the world. It wanted its new hires to make up their own minds after they were inside. The irony, of course, was that Agee never expected his book would become a recruiting tool. He intended it to be a stake through the CIA’s heart.

On Nov. 9, New York University’s Tamiment Library released Agee’s personal papers, including his correspondence with left-wing figures throughout Latin America and documents related to his subsequent life in exile in Cuba and Europe, a step that will no doubt case many to revisit his legacy. I don’t know what’s in these papers, but I can tell you this: I won’t be reading a word of it.

The simple truth is that Agee was a fraud. No, let me be exact: He was a paid traitor. As the U.S. government would come to learn, Cuban intelligence was behind Agee’s campaign against the CIA — and it paid him well for his work. Agee’s claims of being driven by conviction and ideology were lies. Why believe any of whatever is buried in the NYU papers?

In the late 1980s, U.S. intelligence would learn from an unimpeachable source that Cuban intelligence had recruited Agee as a spy — a “controlled asset” as the CIA called him. Agee took Cuban money and followed Cuban orders to the letter. The editor of Inside the Company, which was originally published in Britain, was even a Cuban spy. It’s simply not possible that Agee — though he claimed to be operating out of a compulsion of conscience — could not have known this.

In Agee’s version of the story, his conversion came in 1968 after the Mexican government’s massacre of student protesters. Agee claimed he finally understood the implications of his work for the CIA, which supported the Mexican government at the time, and left disaffected. But what really happened was more complicated. Immediately before he resigned, he wrote a letter to the CIA saying he’d always been proud of his work. But then, after leaving the agency, his life started to fall apart — a bad marriage, money problems, and an aimless drift through leftist circles in Latin America contributed to his radicalization. When Cuban intelligence finally threw him a lifeline, he grabbed it out of desperation.

In return, Agee spilled every secret he knew. When he ran out of secrets, he dutifully agreed to a Cuban plan to wage a propaganda campaign against the CIA that involved exposing the names of U.S. operatives across the globe. The United States believes that Agee’s disclosures resulted in the murder of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief gunned down in Athens in 1975.

The Cubans eventually mentioned Agee to the Soviet KGB, which ended up funding Covert Action, a publication that, in its own words, aimed to launch a “worldwide campaign to destabilize the CIA through exposure of its operations and personnel.” Agee proceeded to release information through Covert Action, despite knowing full well that the KGB meant to use it as a bludgeon in its intelligence war against the CIA. The days of Agee pretending to be an ideological convert to the left were over.

When I arrived in Washington to start my career with the CIA, I soon enough realized I wasn’t done with Agee. I looked up an old college roommate when I moved to the area, and the two of us agreed to rent an old farmhouse in Jefferson, Maryland. Although he didn’t know I worked for the CIA, I figured it didn’t matter. In fact, I thought it would be good practice for a career of lying. (Inside the CIA this is called “maintaining your cover.”)

Things went along well enough until my housemate brought in another tenant, an associate professor of political science who also happened to be a committed Marxist. This was bad enough, but a week after she moved in, she told me that she’d spent the summer in Amsterdam working with Agee at a leftist think tank.

Every night, I came home dreading that my new Marxist roommate would figure out I worked for the CIA and call Agee. I imagined I’d find my name in Agee’s next book or splashed across the pages of Covert Action. My career would be over before it even started. I wondered if Berkeley would have me back. 

I finally turned myself into the CIA’s counterintelligence staff, a group of professionally suspicious people charged with ferreting out moles in the agency. The woman who sat across the desk from me had a genuine look of horror on her face when I came to the part about Agee and Amsterdam. She ushered me into a room without windows, and for the next three hours I was grilled by three of her colleagues. One had Agee’s file on the table in front of him. This was all a long time ago, but I remember that it was about 10 very thick volumes.

I didn’t dare ask what was in Agee’s file, and to this day I still don’t know its contents. In the end, I convinced my interrogators that I wasn’t a radical leftist and had no intention of teaming up with Agee. The only consequence of my brush with Agee was that I had to move out of the house — but the gravity with which the CIA treated even this passing connection with him spoke volumes about how seriously they considered him a counterintelligence threat. It was clear he was not just a loud-mouthed critic.

Read on- http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/09/havana_s_man_in_havana?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

Gaurdian: Carlos the Jackal was my Friend

Few undercover reporters have been prepared to sacrifice as much as the Spaniard who goes by the pseudonym of Antonio Salas. Circumcision was just one hurdle in passing himself off as a radical Islamist and infiltrating the shadowy, interconnected world of international terrorism. “It was more painful than I expected. It is pretty delicate for the first few days,” Salas now admits, walking daintily around a room at his Madrid publisher’s offices. An invite to a hammam bathhouse during his five years undercover had, he said, persuaded him the operation was necessary.

Salas’s identity undercover was Mohammed Abdullah, a Spanish- Venezuelan with Palestinian grand-parents. He was convincing enough to be invited on terrorist training courses and to become personal webmaster to the most infamous of international terrorists, Carlos the Jackal. That meant regular telephone conversations with a man thought to be responsible for more than 80 deaths.

The Jackal would call from La Santé prison in Paris, where he is still serving a life sentence for murder. “He was very worried about my security,” says Salas. “It is a strange sensation when a self-confessed assassin like Carlos the Jackal does that, and offers their friendship.”

Salas decided to go undercover with his hidden cameras after the bombings that killed 191 people on Madrid commuter trains on 11 March 2004. He had been as stunned as other Spaniards by the blasts, despite the country’s experience of Basque terrorist group Eta. “I wanted to know what goes through the mind of a person who is capable of killing for an ideology.”

Salas’s previous undercover investigations – as a skinhead supporter of Real Madrid football club, and in the world of prostitute-trafficking – had taken him to the heart of some of the most violent groups in Spain. “My aim was to understand terrorism in the same way that I came to understand skinheads or prostitute-traffickers.”

He learned Arabic and invented an elaborate cover story involving a dead wife: 25-year-old Dalal Mujahad from Jenin, tragically killed by an Israeli bullet while pregnant with their child. The real Dalal, whose name he found in a newspaper archive, had died in 2004, when a bullet entered her house in a shoot-out. In case anyone decided to investigate, he added a Romeo and Juliet touch: the marriage had been kept secret because his (false) mother’s family, from the nearby village of Burkin, backed Al-Fatah, while Dalal’s family were part of Hamas. Her death, he would claim, had pushed him towards radical terror.

“I took photos of myself in Burkin and in Jenin. Then I asked Fatima, a girl I met when investigating prostitute-trafficking, to let me take photos with her as if she was my wife. We mocked up an apartment in Barcelona to look as though it was in Palestine and took photos.” Salas also wrote out the Qur’an by hand, and considers his conversion to Islam to be genuine. He treasures the small booklet in which he wrote Islam’s most sacred text: “It helped convince people,” he says. “Not many people carry their own, hand-copied version.”

The final part of his cover was to become a pro-jihad journalist, contributing to radical publications. He travelled around the Arab world, from Egypt to Jordan and the Lebanon, writing articles that would help to seal his militant credentials. “I even wrote a couple of books,” he says. It did not take long to gain a reputation. “I remember the first time I dropped off some newsletters at a mosque in Tenerife, the police arrived with flashing lights and sirens and they soon had me pinned against a wall.”

Salas picked the Venezuela of President Hugo Chávez as his base. “I had been told Venezuela was a mecca of international terrorism,” he says. “The Farc group from Colombia was there, as were people from Eta.” Numerous other small revolutionary groups had also set up under Chávez’s benevolent gaze. There, in what the New Yorker journalist Jon Lee Anderson calls “the parallel reality that is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela today”, Salas established himself as yet another niche radical – flying the flag for Palestine and running a local branch of Hezbollah. More importantly, he got close to the family of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez – Carlos the Jackal.

“I only really knew about Carlos because of the films about him,” admits Salas, who is in his mid-30s and too young to recall the The Jackal’s bloody kidnaps and assassinations in the 70s and 80s. “But here was an icon of international terrorism. He was Venezuelan, and a convert to Islam who had fought for Palestine. It was perfect for my profile.” He sought out The Jackal’s two younger brothers, Vladimir and Lenin – names given to them by their Leninist lawyer father. “Vladimir is the more active defender of his brother,” he says. “Lenin is a lot more discreet. Later I met his mother, his nephews and got in with the family.”

He first spoke with The Jackal by chance, when Carlos rang from prison while Salas was with the family. “We started out talking in Arabic and then in Spanish. I called him Ilich or ‘Comandante Salim’, which is his Arabic name. He speaks six or seven languages and is very intelligent. We would talk for up to an hour. He would not let me ask questions – they made him angry. So I just let him talk. He even confessed some of his killings, and I have that taped.”

Salas began to work on a website that, among other things, campaigned to have The Jackal repatriated to Venezuela. “To prove the website was close to Ilich, I was given access to a trunk that had been closed for 30 or 40 years – with his school reports and family photos. I spent a lot of time in Vladimir’s house, classifying the material.” Salas would post texts to La Santé; The Jackal sent them back with neat, handwritten corrections. He also sent prison photographs to put on the site.

By tracking the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera, Venezuelan TV and the internet for mentions of The Jackal, Salas discovered that Chávez himself was one of his biggest fans. “For him, Carlos is not a terrorist but a revolutionary – a model internationalist, like Che Guevara. Just as Che went to fight for other peoples, so Ilich went to fight for the Palestinians. Whenever Chávez mentioned The Jackal, I would record it and send it to him, which he loved.”

Not that Salas agrees with Chávez’s view of The Jackal. “He is considered responsible for 82 killings; I don’t call that being a revolutionary. I call him a terrorist.” – though he would probably not, he admits, use the term to his face. “It helps that he is in jail.”

Salas updated The Jackal’s website from cybercafes, using a different one every time. “I imagine Mossad, the CIA and MI6 being driven mad by the fact that The Jackal’s page was updated from Portugal one day, Syria another, and from other countries.”

Salas was even invited to visit La Santé, but he passed up the offer. As an independent journalist who pays his own way and has no back-up, he must use his real identity when going through frontiers or security controls. “I have never worked for any intelligence service, political party, or even for any one media outlet,” says Salas, who produces his own undercover films and publishes books on his investigations. “I only work for my readers. They are the ones who end up paying for my investigations. I work alone, using my own money and passport. Journalistically, it would have been great to meet Ilich, but I couldn’t do it.”

In Venezuela’s fringe community of political extremists, he bumped into people from Eta, the Túpac Amaru (a group of armed Venezuelan radicals who support Chávez), and other groups. Repeated requests for hands-on training eventually saw him invited to a camp in Venezuela, where he learned to handle pistols, rifles and machine guns, including a Kalashnikov AK-103, an Uzi sub-machine gun, the American M4 carbine and a Belgian-designed FN FAL. He also practised with a sniper’s telescopic sight and received explosives training. “I learned all that a jihadist might need to take his message of terror to a city in Europe or the United States,” Salas says. “There was nothing glamorous about it. It was just a question of learning to kill better.”

His instructors included a Venezuelan army colonel, though Salas insists the camp was not run by the Chávez regime. “It just so happened that my instructors, as well as being supporters of revolutionary causes, were Venezuelan army officers.”

His strangest discovery was the willingness of different extremist groups to blindly embrace the varied causes of others, even when they had nothing to do with one another. So it was that, as a supposed Palestinian Islamist, he found himself appearing in a video for the Túpac Amaru. Salas stood manfully beside leader Alberto Carías clutching a Heckler & Koch MP5-A3 sub-machine gun, as the latter urged armed revolutionary groups across South America to join forces.

Salas came close to blowing his cover only once, when he met US journalist Jon Lee Anderson, who was in Venezuela promoting his Che Guevara biography. It was a nerve-racking encounter. “When he said he had been to Burkin and started naming people there, I feared my cover was gone.”

Anderson remembers the meeting: “Burkin is an amazing place in the hills above Jenin. It is said to have the finest olive oil in the world. I remember thinking there was something odd [about Abdullah]; he was cautious around me and flustered, but Caracas is full of wackos. It didn’t occur to me to think he was a plant.”

Far from being made world-weary or cynical by his exposure to such violent worlds, Salas remains almost naively optimistic about the results of his investigations – which have spawned Spanish best-sellers, popular documentaries, even a feature film. After his previous two books, he says, he received letters from people who had given up being skinheads or frequenting prostitutes. “I hope for the same thing with this,” he says. “In Spain and Latin America there are a lot of adolescents – many of whom I saw arrive at the mosque for the first time as children – who will feel the draw of violence in a few years’ time.”

So what conclusions does Salas draw from rubbing shoulders with international terror? His answer is coloured by the fact that half a dozen people he met during his investigation have since died – often violently. “I don’t justify violence, but I can understand it. I never found any glamour or sophistication in that world, nor anyone especially intelligent – except for The Jackal. Terrorists really have only two ends – they either die or go to jail. You have to be a bit stupid to do that.”

 Carlos will be screened at the London Film Festival this Saturday and is in cinemas from October 22