Headline of the day: "The CIA, Siberia, and the $5m bar bill"

Wired correspondent Sharon Weinberger has a compelling investigative piece in the New York Post about the CIA's quest for Russian helicopters to sneak into Afghanistan before the full-scale U.S. invasion. It's a tale of secrecy, corruption, Siberian cold, and credit card rewards.

Here's a bit of Weinbeger's synopsis at Wired's Danger Room:

As with many “black” programs, the contract had elements of craziness: Contracting officials paid the multimillion-dollar contract on a credit card at a local El Paso bar and then used the credit card rebate to redecorate their office; the team traveled under the guise of being private contractors; and the charter crew transporting the group abandoned the team in Russia in the middle of the night.

Ultimately, a five-year investigation into the mission led to the conviction of the Army official in charge and the contractor who bought the helicopters on charges of corruption. The two men, currently in federal prison, are appealing their convictions.

The full article is a thrilling read.

For more of Weinberger's coverage of questionable helicopter contracting, check out her April piece, "How to get a no-bid contract for Russian choppers." Turns out being a middleman in U.S.-Russian arms deals is pretty lucrative. 

When U.S. taxpayers shell out for these kinds of shenanigans, at least we're getting some entertainment value.

Above, Russian Mi-17s in 2007.



New source of anti-Americanism: offending Bollywood

Bollywood fans in India's northern city of Allahabad burned a U.S. flag and shouted anti-American slogans to protest treatment of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan (seen at right). Khan was stopped and held for questioning as he entered the U.S. in Newark, NJ. 

U.S. customs officials say that the questioning was standard procedure, that the delay lasted only 66 minutes and that it was made worse by the fact that the actor's bag was lost by the airline. In India, however, the perceived offense was much greater, the AP reports:

"Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It's such behavior that fuels hatred and racism. SRK's a world figure for God's sake. Get real!" actress Priyanka Chopra said on her Twitter feed.

The federal information minister, Ambika Soni, angrily suggested that India adopt a similar policy toward Americans traveling to India.

Khan, visiting the U.S. to celebrate Indian Independence day at a parade in Chicago, is also working on a new film called "My Name is Khan" about racial profiling of Indian muslims in the U.S. as potential terrorists. 

Perhaps grateful for the unexpected marketing boost, Khan later said he did not want an apology. But he added that his patience with American customs was wearing thin (he said this is not the first time something similar has happened) and that he might seek to spend more time in countries that know their Bollywood stars on sight:

"Post-9/11, one could understand and one did not complain. But this time it was a bit too much. I have travelled to other countries. I never faced any problem in the UK where I am treated like a state guest. They escort me to the car."

STR/AFP/Getty Images