Russ Baker en Exclusive: How Trump Backers Weaponized Anthony Weiner to Defeat Clinton <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The anatomy of a takedown.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>Executive Summary:</em></p><p><em>WhoWhatWhy, in this exclusive report, based on a month-long investigation, lays out for the first time ever the evidence that a deliberate plot was behind the exposure of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer — an act that may have put Donald Trump in the White House. This 8,000-word narrative and timeline presents the tick-tock of the operation, and the colorful cast of characters involved, including the FBI, right-wing female journalists, the founder of the mercenary army Blackwater, and an online troll army.</em></p><p>When the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided not to pursue a criminal case against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, Donald Trump’s path to the White House narrowed considerably… until a group of his staunchest supporters found a way to get the case back in the spotlight at the most opportune time.</p><p>In a month-long investigation, <em>WhoWhatWhy </em>has examined the events and players that had a hand in the FBI’s reopening of the Clinton email probe — apparently a factor in swinging the election Trump’s way.</p><p>Close scrutiny of the circumstances leading up to the FBI’s fateful decision reveals a key aspect that has thus far gained little attention — that fate got a helping hand from Trump supporters, surrogates and media allies.</p><p>This includes:</p><p><strong>•  </strong>A reasonable likelihood that Trump or somebody high up in his campaign received inside information, possibly from sources in the Bureau</p><p><strong>•  </strong>An operation to bait Anthony Weiner, the controversial husband of Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin</p><p><strong>•  </strong>A successful effort, perhaps from within the FBI, forcing director Comey to utilize the Weiner allegations as a basis to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation</p><p>That in turn gave swing voters two reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton: (1) renewed doubts about her behavior in regard to security concerns, and (2) an implied connection to Weiner’s repugnant behavior.</p><p>For plenty of voters, that may have been enough to sway them. And in a close election, the resulting redistribution of comparatively few votes in a few key states caused a seismic shift in the overall electoral outcome.</p><p>Comey and the FBI were <em>reacting</em> to events. But who were the people who set those events in motion? And what were their motives? Were these actors doing so out of concerns for justice, for the truth, or to create partisan advantage?</p><p>It is not so surprising that political operatives would identify Weiner as a chink in Clinton’s armor, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. It is only slightly less surprising that they would seek to lure Weiner, already known to have an addiction to sexting, into a situation that would embarass his wife, and perhaps cause serious damage to the Clinton campaign.</p><p>What is more intriguing, though, is the evidence that days before Comey made his explosive announcement in October 2016, Trump insiders were publicly predicting an “October Surprise.” And, further, that the problems of Weiner became not just the problems of his wife, but of Clinton, a woman who really had very little to do with him.</p><p>Very early on, Trump was publicly signalling that a way to harm Clinton was via Weiner.</p><p>On August 3, 2015, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Donald Trump tweeted</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> in his inimitable and confusing style:</a></p><p>“It came out that Huma Abedin knows all about Hillary’s private illegal emails. Huma’s PR husband, Anthony Weiner, will tell the world.”</p><p>Whatever he meant to suggest, this much is clear: Trump, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">then a lo</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ng</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">shot presidential contender</a>, not only had Clinton in his sights; he had identified Abedin and her controversial spouse Weiner as potential embarrassments to the frontrunner.</p><p>That August 3 tweet was just <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">one in a string</a>. His assertions essentially anticipated that an attack was coming, if not when and how. He also regularly referred to Weiner as a degenerate and liability to Clinton.</p><p>All that was missing was a girl to lure Weiner into another “sexting” transgression. Then the trap could be sprung and the computer contents publicized.</p><p>On March 22, 2017, a year and a half later, after a highly improbable turn of events had landed Trump in the White House and astonished the world, the new president bragged to <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Time</em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> magazine</a> that he had predicted the importance of Weiner long before the fact.</p><p>Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner] you know what I tweeted about that whole deal and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing.</p><p>Of course, Trump greatly distorted the facts, but that mattered little once the dust had settled.</p><p>From another point of view, what Trump and his enablers seem to have proven is that Hillary Clinton had (and would continue to have) evidence to back up her famous assertion from 1998, when she said that she and her husband were under siege from a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”</p><p><a href="" style="box-sizing: inherit; background-image: initial; background-position: initial; background-size: initial; background-repeat: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; transition: color 0.1s linear; color: rgb(204, 31, 38); text-decoration-line: none; font-family: Merriweather, &quot;Open Sans&quot;, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;"><img alt="Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton" class="wp-image-29593" height="304" sizes="(max-width: 457px) 100vw, 457px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" style="box-sizing: inherit; border: 0px; margin: 0px; max-width: 100%; height: auto !important;" width="457" /></a></p><p><em>Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton late in the 2016 campaign.<br />Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)</a> and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)</a></em></p><p><strong>“A Lot of Funny Business”</strong></p><p>That conspiracy — maybe a more accurate term is “obsession” — was still bearing poisonous fruit nearly two decades later.</p><p>While a lot of what was happening might qualify as hard campaigning, it would be an entirely different matter if law enforcers handed information to Team Trump. In addition, it was remarkable the way conservative news outlets were willing to spin exaggerations — even overt lies — as special, inside information from law-enforcement, to help the Republican contender.</p><p>“There was a lot of funny business going on,” Clinton recently <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour</a>. “If the election had been held on October 27, I would have been your president.”</p><p>She was referring to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement, on October 28, that he had reopened the investigation into her emails.</p><p>While Comey <a href=";nl=breaking-news&amp;nlid=70180647&amp;ref=headline" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">told the Senate</a> Judiciary Committee in early May, 2017, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think we had an impact on the election,” he also insisted that he had no choice but to go public with the news of the re-investigation back in October — no matter what the consequences.</p><p>We now know how consequential that decision was. But what is only beginning to become clear is the story behind the story that Comey told the Senate. There is evidence that the FBI director’s hand may have been forced by a “dirty tricks” campaign mounted by anti-Clinton political operatives. People within the FBI’s New York office with strong ties to the Trump camp — and an aversion to Clinton — appear to have been involved.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Huma Abedin has an unlikely defender: Anthony Weiner’s former online sex pal, Sydney Leathers <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) <a href="">October 31, 2016</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Among the players in this <em>sub rosa</em> saga were:</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Alana Goodman, who frequently took aim at the Clintons from <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">her perch at the </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Washington Free Beacon</em></a>, and then greatly expanded her audience when she began writing for the British <em>Daily Mail</em>.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Sydney Leathers, the second of Anthony Weiner’s two sexting partners, and a porn actress, who contributed pieces to <em>Washington Babylon</em>, the blog of Ken Silverstein, a liberal journalist long critical of the Clintons. Leathers has <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">presented herself</a> as an expert in the art of entrapping politicians.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Alt-right Internet <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">provoc</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ateur</a> <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson</a>, who worked at the neoconservative <em>New York Sun</em>, and eventually cycled through gigs at the <em>Daily Caller</em> and <em>Breitbart</em>. He was an early Trump supporter and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reveled in political dirty tricks</a>.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>The unnamed 15-year-old from North Carolina, who reportedly was writing a book about Weiner, sexted with him, and whose accusations in the <em>Daily Mail</em> triggered Weinergate redux.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer for the Kremlin-backed <em>Sputnik News</em>, who reportedly “converted” to a Trump supporter, after activism in Black Lives Matter and the Bernie Sanders campaign. She also is rumored to have <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">close ties to the FBI</a><a href="">.</a></p><p><strong>•  </strong>Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater, a big Trump supporter and brother of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, went public as part of a calculated propaganda campaign in a November 4 <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Breitbart News </em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">interview</a>, making a host of wild and demonstrably false allegations in connection with the Weiner/Clinton revelations.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>The New York office of the FBI, which had a long and close relationship with Donald Trump and his significant ally Rudolph Giuliani. And, as we <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">previously reported</a>, that FBI office was running a highly valued informant inside Trump Tower, a man who was doing business with Trump. One of the key FBI handlers went on to provide security to Trump’s campaign.</p><p>Once the director of the FBI became involved, it was as if a powerful electrical current had run through all of these parts of the story, completing the circuit.</p><p>A generally unsympathetic and increasingly reviled figure, Anthony Weiner has repeatedly disappointed voters and allies since his first sexting scandal surfaced. His effort to rehabilitate himself cratered with revelations of continued self-destructive behavior, in the process humiliating himself, his family, and would-be loyal supporters.</p><p>Our investigation, however, only concerns Weiner’s character inasmuch as his weaknesses — and unrestrained conduct — served the ends of a political dirty-tricks operation which seems to have altered the very fabric of the 2016 election.</p><p><strong>Comey’s Comedy of Errors</strong></p><blockquote data-lang="en"><a href=""><img alt="FBI, James Comey" sizes="(max-width: 445px) 100vw, 445px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" /></a></blockquote><p><em>FBI Director James Comey. Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">FBI</a></em></p><p>Notwithstanding some dissenters, a general consensus has emerged, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">and some data shows</a>, that one of the principal events which handed Donald J. Trump the White House may have been the revelation of a letter from Comey to Congress, 11 days before the election, in which the FBI director notified lawmakers that the Bureau was examining new evidence regarding Clinton’s use of email.</p><p>As Comey had already declared the email scandal investigation closed four months earlier, the about-face had profound political repercussions.</p><p>Within hours of the news breaking, renewed cries of “lock her up” could be heard at Trump rallies and on news outlets covering them. The ground seemed to shift beneath both candidates. Trump became even more aggressive, while Clinton’s confidence appeared to wane — just as her lead in the polls shrank.</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Polls</a> would <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">later reveal</a> that party loyalists and independent voters cooled to the Democratic candidate in the final days of the campaign.</p><p>The Comey letter to Congress empowered the always-vocal army of Trump proxies and Republican commentators to question how voters could even <em>think</em> of electing someone who was under FBI investigation.</p><p>Very few people knew at the time that Trump’s campaign had itself been under investigation for months. On serious charges too — evident collusion with the Russian government to tip the election to Trump.</p><p>In April, <em>The New York Times</em> published an exhaustive account of the political and agency motivations behind Comey’s actions, but it did not go to the heart of the issue.</p><p><em>WhoWhatWhy</em> believes the real story of Comey’s unprecedented actions took place outside the purview of FBI headquarters and the Justice Department.</p><div id="attachment_29595"><p><a href=""><img alt="Breitbart, Anthony Weiner" sizes="(max-width: 451px) 100vw, 451px" src="" srcset=" 742w, 300w, 225w, 360w, 640w" /></a></p><p><em>Breitbart screenshot of story about Erik Prince and Anthony Weiner.<br />Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Breitbart</a></em></p></div><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">What Set Off the Bomb?</strong></p><p>Many questions of crucial importance remain fully or partially unanswered. Among them:</p><p>How did Weiner’s latest “sexting” scandal come to light in the first place? Was the <em>Daily Mail</em>’s central role in the story influenced in any way by its legal dispute with Melania Trump, a suit that was only resolved after the election?</p><p>Who spread the false claim that there was a treasure-trove of as-yet-unseen Clinton emails waiting to be investigated on Weiner’s laptop?</p><p>How did <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the story</a> surface that those non-existent emails contained salacious and even criminal material — rumors floated on <em>Breitbart</em> that stoked up Trump’s base?</p><p>Who leaked advance knowledge of Comey’s bombshell before it happened, and how did the leakers come by their information?</p><p>Why were all of these leakers so closely connected to Trump?</p><p>Was this second Comey investigation into Clinton’s emails a put-up job from the very beginning, enabling the Trump team to make an additional round of outrageous and libelous claims?</p><p>We now know that there never was a “there there,” but through leaks, false stories and outrageous spin by a host of Trump’s proxies, it turned out to be enough to help turn the election.</p><p>As you read the timeline below, ask yourself this central question: Were these a bunch of unrelated events, many involving Alt-right dirty tricksters, which just happened to feed on one another until they pushed the election over the edge?</p><p>Or was there a darker, more coordinated narrative, more like the notorious “Swift-Boating” of John Kerry, a campaign of false information that vilified a genuine war hero and changed the outcome of the presidential election of 2004?</p><p>Put another way, was the Weiner story politically motivated from the start? Had Comey been “catfished?” Based on the evidence gathered in a month-long investigation, it sure looks like it.</p><div id="attachment_29596"><p><a href=""><img alt="Catfish, Urban Dictionary" sizes="(max-width: 455px) 100vw, 455px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" /></a></p><p><em>Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Urban Dictionary Screenshot</a></em></p></div><p><strong>Catfishing: A Chronology</strong></p><p><strong>2011</strong></p><p>There are multiple attempts to smear Weiner by falsely connecting him to “teen girls” online. In June, <em>Breitbart News</em> and <em>Mediaite</em> <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">posted stories</a> purporting to show evidence that Weiner had been cyber-flirting with two teenagers. <em>Mediaite</em> <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">extensively quoted two 16-year-olds</a> under the pseudonyms “Betty and Veronica.” Both of them, however, along with “Betty’s” mom, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">turned out to be invented personas</a>. <em>Mediaite </em>was forced to issue a retraction, even though the story’s writer claimed to have gone to “more than reasonable” lengths to confirm the accusers’ identities.</p><p><strong>2015</strong></p><p>Less than a month after he officially declares his candidacy, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Donald Trump tweet</a><a href="">s</a>:</p><p>“It came out that Huma Abedin knows all about Hillary’s private illegal emails. Huma’s PR husband, Anthony Weiner, will tell the world.”</p><p><strong>2016</strong></p><p><strong>July 5:</strong></p><p>In the course of a lengthy press conference, Comey announces that, after a nearly year-long investigation into the Clinton email server, the FBI has determined that no basis exists to refer charges to the Justice Department. Comey adds that no evidence was found of Clinton intentionally deleting emails “in an effort to conceal them.”</p><p>But Comey has more to say: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate the law governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”</p><p>While ostensibly closing the case, he has also thrown new fuel on the fire.</p><p>The GOP-controlled Congress wants more, though, and requests that the director notify them should the Bureau discover new information.</p><p><strong>Late July – Early August</strong></p><p>Charles C. Johnson [not to be confused with Charles Johnson the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">blogger behind the blog Little Green Footballs</a>] reaches out first to online seductress Sydney Leathers and then conservative journalist Alana Goodman to form an alliance that, while mutually beneficial, would be most rewarding for Donald Trump. A reprised “Weinergate,” Johnson mused, while ostensibly focused on Abedin’s and Weiner’s troubled union, would lead inexorably to the real target.</p><p>“The public at large would think failed marriage, and they’d think Hillary and Bill,” he told <em>WhoWhatWhy</em>.</p><p>Engaging with Leathers made sense, he said referring to the fact that she claimed to know “all these women” who had been in contact with Weiner online.“I had a friend of mine who reached out to her and we said ‘if you hear anything else, here’s the money, flip us the information, and there’ll be more money later,’” Johnson said, explaining that besides relying on crowdfunding, he has considerable personal wealth.</p><p>On just how much exactly he paid Leathers to come up with the right victims, Johnson draws a blank. “I don’t know how much we gave her, I can’t remember,” he said, adding, “We did a lot of research, all the Hillary ties, making sure it got to the right journalists. If a journalist was doing really good work against [Hillary] they’d get an email with more research. So it was a lot of fun.”</p><p><strong>August 11:</strong></p><p>Ken Silverstein, a political progressive, who has long been critical of the Clintons — and is also a <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">political columnist</a> for the <em>New York Observer</em>, the paper Jared Kushner owned until the week prior to Trump’s inauguration — launches a new website called <em>Washington Babylon</em>. It features the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">piece by Sydney Leathers</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> mentioned earlier in this article,</a> ostensibly a review of the month-old <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary “Weiner</a>.”</p><p>Silverstein tells <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> that commissioning the story was an appeal for eyeballs, saying, “I had known Sydney and liked her and was looking for a good story that would get attention for the first day of <em>Washington Babylon</em> so I called her and asked her to do it.”</p><p>But Leathers clearly has an axe to grind, complaining about “people’s” suspicions that she “set [Weiner] up” to sink his 2013 mayoral candidacy. Most importantly she claims to know for a “fact” that his sexting behaviors continue despite his claims at being rehabilitated.</p><p><strong>August 13:</strong></p><p>The pro-Trump <em>New York Post </em><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">r</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ep</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">orts</a> that an anonymous Republican student at an unnamed “NYC area college” using a female friend’s Twitter account “catfished” Weiner into sending him flirtatious direct messages. While the tone of the piece is mostly comical, given later circumstances one sentence rings ominously, “It’s the third time Weiner has been caught sexting.”</p><p>Appearing on a Miami radio show a week later, Weiner calls the “catfish” item a setup. <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">“Look, I am a target of a local newspaper here in New York</a>.” he says, clearly <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">referring to the </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Post</em></a><em>.</em> “They got someone to get into a conversation with me online. I caught them at it, but they still had enough things to make a story out of it.”</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Weiner sexted a busty brunette while his son was in bed with him <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— New York Post (@nypost) <a href="">August 29, 2016</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>August 28</strong>:</p><p>The <em>Post</em> splashes news of <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">still another Weiner sexting scandal</a> across its front page, under the headline “Pop Goes the Weiner.” The latest unnamed object of Weiner’s cyber-desire, a 40-something divorcee, was described as “a self avowed supporter of Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association who’s used Twitter to bash both President Obama and Clinton.”</p><p><strong>September 1</strong>:</p><p>Almost immediately after being slapped with a $150 million defamation lawsuit by Melania Trump over a presumably erroneous August 20 story that the would-be First Lady was once an escort, the <em>Mail</em> prints <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">a deeply</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> apologetic retraction</a>. Charles Harder —  the attorney who used Silicon Valley kingpin Peter Thiel’s fortune to put <em>Gawker</em> out of business — is Melania Trump’s attorney. Is it possible that the conservative <em>Mail</em>, under legal pressure, was looking to help the Trump campaign? Or was its readership, many of whom adored Trump, a factor?</p><p><strong>September 21</strong>:</p><p>The <em>Daily Mail’s</em> Alana Goodman breaks the Weiner <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">“underage sexting” story</a>, which will eventually lead to Comey reopening an investigation into Clinton’s emails. The lengthy feature purports to chronicle a cyber-relationship between Weiner and an anonymous North Carolina 15-year-old.</p><p>Using obscured tweets and distorted photos as proof of the teenager’s claims, the piece takes us through the unnamed high-schooler’s cyber-romance, which began flowering in January, when the girl contacted Weiner for a book she was supposedly writing about him, and ended abruptly in July for reasons that are not clear. The most salacious claims in the <em>Daily Mail</em> article are that the two spoke suggestively over Skype and that Weiner showed her pornography.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Anthony Weiner messaged a 15-year-old that he wanted to 'bust her tight p***y’ <a href=""></a></p>— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) <a href="">September 21, 2016</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Goodman’s <em>Mail</em> story, immediately picked up by other media, created a huge splash. Speaking with <em>WhoWhatWhy</em>, Johnson credits the story’s virality to what he calls his paid online “troll army,” adding, “I made sure it was amplified all over Twitter.<em>”</em></p><p>The teen reportedly sent Weiner two email “letters,” one under false pretenses, to a fake email address that was purportedly her teacher’s —  which Weiner was cc’d on — and the second after she had spoken with the <em>Daily Mail</em>. To some skeptics, the second letter is especially puzzling. At times the writer seems anxious to apologize; at other moments she is a self-righteous avenger reveling in her ability to injure Weiner. The language is a curious mishmash of half-formed and even contradictory ideas.</p><p>In lengthy blog-post, controversial former UK MP and anti-Trump activist Louise Mensch, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">noted</a> that the teenager’s letter contains passages <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">lifted from famous writers</a> such as J.D. Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk and Charles Bukowski.</p><p>The writer switches from first to third person (For example: “You took advantage of her young, naive mind. She was infatuated with you. You should be glad that I am one of the most disensitized [sic] teenagers.”) And she admits to using trickery such as setting up a fake gmail account and “ten minute mail.”</p><p>Later, the teen will release a letter to Comey complaining that her efforts to keep Weiner from harming other teens now had become politicized and could affect the election.</p><p>Critics have said that letter differs from other communications purportedly authored by the teen, which they claim suggests the teen does not exist, or was a surrogate for others.</p><p>Goodman did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But Weiner suspected he had again been the victim of a hoax. In a short emailed statement published as a sidebar to the main article, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">he wrote in part</a>, ‘While I have provided the <em>Daily Mail</em> with information showing that I have likely been the subject of a hoax, I have no one to blame but me for putting myself in this position.”</p><p>It is entirely possible that there exists in Gastonia, N.C., a precocious, emotionally vulnerable young teen who has a history of connecting with older men on the Internet and whose emails contain allusions to famous writers, sometimes switches from the first to third person, and include a few typos and mood swings. No one wants to victimize a victim.</p><p>But there is not much evidence that anyone has met the victim in person, and the interview clips of her are too fuzzy to establish whether her appearance matches that of a young teen.</p><p>The FBI has not stated its agents met in person with the teen, although a man identified as her father <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">told </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>BuzzFeed</em></a> that an on-site interview was conducted by agents. And no reporter has confirmed meeting face-to-face with her, either.</p><p>Larry McShane, who filed a follow up to the <em>Mail </em>piece for the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Daily News</em></a>, claimed to have <a href="">“</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">independently confirmed” the girl’s identity</a> without speaking to her. McShane told <em>WhoWhatWhy </em>that “he honestly didn’t remember” how the <em>News</em> verified the girl’s age and identity. Alana Goodman also would not comment about any aspects of her story.</p><p>An article <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">posted by </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>BuzzFeed</em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">, on April 10</a>, responding to Louise Mensch’s February claims that the North Carolina underage girl was bogus, is more adamant: “<em>BuzzFeed News</em> subsequently interviewed the teenager in person. She is real, not invented.”</p><p>Blogger David Mack, who also says that he has <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">interviewed her</a>, writes:</p><p><em>BuzzFeed News</em> is not identifying the underage girl or her family to protect their privacy. <em>BuzzFeed News</em> independently confirmed the teen’s identity, in part, via an email provided by Weiner, by traveling to her hometown, and by speaking with her and her father.</p><p>His statement fails to confirm who, if anyone, from <em>BuzzFeed</em> actually met the girl. Moreover, when contacted by <em>WhoWhatWhy </em>on April 13, Mack was equally vague about whether they met, only writing that his “reports speak for themselves,” and that he cannot divulge any more information because of “promises [he] made to the family.”</p><p>Weiner <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reportedly disclosed</a> her contact information to the media. However, repeated efforts by <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> to reach Weiner and Abedin have been unsuccessful.</p><div id="attachment_29597"><p><a href=""><img alt="Anthony Weiner" sizes="(max-width: 458px) 100vw, 458px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" /></a></p><p><em>Anthony Weiner Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)</a></em></p></div><p>On the very day of the <em>Daily Mail</em> story, September 21, Chuck Johnson brags on his own site <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>GotN</em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>ews</em></a> that he had been “woke” to Weiner’s texting scandal since 2013. He had indeed written, in July of that year, a long story <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">for the </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Daily Caller</em></a> about a Chick-fil-A employee and high school student who seemed to be trying to set Weiner up on Twitter in 2011.</p><p><strong>September 22</strong>:</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">CNN announces</a> there is an investigation into Weiner based on the sexting.</p><p>Jake Tapper refers to the <em>Daily Mail</em> story and repeats Anthony Weiner’s response that he has been the victim of a hoax but has no one to blame but himself. The cable news channel goes on to report that prosecutors in the office of US Attorney Preet Bharara have issued a subpoena for Anthony Weiner’s cell phone and other records. The text published by CNN reads: “The FBI and the New York Police Department have opened preliminary investigations of allegations that the former New York Democratic congressman exchanged sexually explicit text messages with a purportedly underage girl.”</p><p><strong>Early October:</strong></p><p>FBI agents seize Weiner’s laptop. Details on the precise date and exactly what level of scrutiny the Bureau’s New York office applied to the contents are unclear.</p><p><strong>October 7:</strong></p><p>The infamous <em>Access Hollywood</em> audio surfaces with Donald Trump bragging that he <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">grabs women he barely knows “by the pussy.”</a> He says they let you get away with it if you are famous.</p><p>The story creates an immediate firestorm. Most pundits claim his candidacy has been irrevocably damaged. But two things happen to mitigate the damage. Within hours, the first emails of the John Podesta email hack are released, likely courtesy of Russia by way of Wikileaks. The rest of 19,252 Democratic National Committee emails are leaked over the rest of the month.</p><p><strong>October 9:</strong></p><p>The beleaguered Trump shows up at his final debate press conference with three women who have leveled sexual assault allegations at Bill Clinton: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Juanita Broaddrick</a>, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Paula Jones</a> and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kathleen Willey</a>. A fourth woman at the press conference, Kathy Shelton (whom Johnson called “Hillary’s rape victim”), was 12 years old when a 27-year-old Hillary Clinton successfully <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">defended her accused rapist</a> in court. Johnson, Bannon and Kushner <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">worked as a team</a> to put the four women at the center of the debate.</p><p>Chuck Johnson, who paid an undisclosed amount of money to surface the Weiner sexting story, claims credit to <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> for bringing the women to the debate. “I was the one who arranged the whole thing,” he says. “From top to bottom.” (Johnson tells <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> that he spent a whopping total of one million dollars of his own money on opposition research against Hillary Clinton.)</p><p>During the month of October, nothing official is heard from either the NYPD, the FBI or the US Attorney’s office. But clearly people have been leaking regularly to Trump campaign surrogates and the Trump family about developments in the ongoing investigations.</p><div id="attachment_29598"><p><a href=""><img alt="Trump children" sizes="(max-width: 446px) 100vw, 446px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" /></a></p><p><em>Left to right: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Lara Trump (behind in red dress) and Tiffany Trump<br />Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)</a></em></p></div><p><strong>October 24</strong>:</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Appearing on Fox </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">&amp; </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Friends</a> a month after the <em>Daily Mail</em> revelations, Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump, hints broadly at an “October Surprise.” Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law says, “There’s still a few days left in October… We’ve got some stuff up our sleeve.”</p><p>The alleged 15-year-old victim of Anthony Weiner’s sexting escapades lives in Gastonia, North Carolina. Coincidentally or not, Lara and Eric Trump visited the local GOP office in Gastonia just three days before her TV appearance.</p><p><strong>October 25</strong>:</p><p>Rudy Giuliani <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">also appears on Fox </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">&amp; </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Friends</a>, bearing a similar message. Host Brian Kilmeade asks the Trump surrogate about the campaign’s plan for the final two weeks.</p><p>Laughing, Giuliani replies, “You’ll see. We’ve got a couple of surprises left.” Repeating the phrase “you’ll see,” Giuliani adds, “And I think it will be enormously effective.”</p><p>Giuliani isn’t quite finished. According to <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">a comprehensive story by DailyKos</a> on the leaks, Giuliani is asked by a <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>My City Paper</em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> reporter</a> on his way out of the Fox studio what the October Surprise might be. “No hints,” responds the former mayor. “But it will be good.”</p><p><strong>October 26</strong></p><p>Roughly three weeks after the FBI’s New York bureau seized Weiner’s laptop and discovered Clinton emails, Director Comey hears about it <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">for the first time</a>. Explanations for the purported delay in notifying Comey of this startling discovery include the New York office being distracted by other projects and its computers repeatedly crashing. The practical effect was to delay the damaging announcement to much closer to the election — when Clinton forces had much less time to respond.</p><p>On the same day Comey is notified, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, reverses course and decides that he will vote for Donald Trump after all, even though he still will not endorse him. Chaffetz had been one of the most outspoken Republicans in protesting the infamous Access Hollywood video. Is the timing sheer coincidence or has Chaffetz also heard the leaks about the bombshell that is coming and has decided to back a winner?</p><div id="attachment_29599"><p><a href=""><img alt="Rudy Giuliani" sizes="(max-width: 449px) 100vw, 449px" src="" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 225w, 360w, 640w, 1088w" /></a></p><p><em>Rudy Giuliani campaigning for Donald Trump, 2016.<br />Photo credit: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)</a></em></p></div><p>Giuliani appears on Fox News so giddy he can barely contain himself. <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">On America’s Newsroom</a> he declares that Trump has a surprise or two “that you’re going to be hearing about in the next few days.” Warming to his task, he continues, “I mean, I mean…I’m talking about some…pretty big surprises…You’ll see.” By the end of this carefully drawn out tease, Giuliani is positively chortling with self-satisfaction.</p><p><strong>October 28</strong></p><p>Comey <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">sends a letter to Congress</a> announcing that the FBI is looking into <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">new Clinton emails</a> after learning of documents “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”</p><p>Comey’s letter to Congress, described by <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">media sources</a> as well as <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">politicians on the left and right</a> as “brief” and “vague,” does not say that the FBI is re-opening its investigation, but that is how the world will interpret his remarks — thanks to the way the media echo chamber accepts <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Chaffetz’s coyly worded tweet</a> at face value. Comey, it is obvious in hindsight, had lost control of the narrative some days before his letter to Congress.</p><p>His letter reads in part: “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned about emails [which may] contain classified material.”</p><p><strong>October 29</strong></p><p>Lara Trump <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">brags to WABC’s Rita Cosby</a> that Trump had “forced” Comey’s hand with the letter.</p><p>“I think my father-in-law forced their hand in this. You know, he has been the one since the beginning saying that she shouldn’t be able to run for president, and I commend him on that.”</p><p><strong>October 30</strong></p><p>The FBI asks the federal court in New York for a warrant to search Abedin’s emails on Weiner’s computer.</p><p>The request for the warrant reads, “There is probable cause to believe that the Subject Laptop contains evidence, contraband, fruits, and/or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793 (e) and (f).”</p><p>When <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the warrant is released</a> to the public on Dec. 20, it is hammered by critics. Randy Schoenberg, the lawyer who forced the court to unseal the document, is <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">quoted in </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>The Hill</em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> as saying</a>, “I see nothing at all in the search warrant application that would give rise to probable cause, nothing that would make anyone suspect that there was anything on the laptop beyond what the FBI had already searched [for.]”</p><p><em><a href="" title="View FBI Hillary Clinton Anthony Weiner Warrant on Scribd">FBI Hillary Clinton Anthony Weiner Warrant</a> by <a href="" title="View Marc Torrence's profile on Scribd">Marc Torrence</a> on Scribd</em></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.7729220222793488" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="400" id="doc_45955" scrolling="no" src=";view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-WtzWvkzARy9AMtbD2tnX&amp;show_recommendations=true" style="box-sizing: inherit;" width="50%"></iframe></p><p><strong>October 31</strong></p><p>The mainstream media who have collectively so far viewed the election as a formality begin to show signs of worry. Reassuring its cosmopolitan readers that Clinton’s established strength remains unassailable, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Guardian </em></a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reports</a>: “Nearly 100 former Department of Justice officials and prosecutors, both Republican and Democratic and led by the former Obama attorney general Eric Holder, signed a letter criticising Comey’s decision.”</p><p>The contradiction between Comey’s radio silence on the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russian computer hacking and his vocal reopening of the investigation into Hillary’s emails draws criticism that he has violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal officials from abusing their authority to sway elections. In a <em>Times</em> op-ed explaining the complaint he has filed against the FBI with two oversight bodies, Richard Painter, a lawyer with the George W. Bush administration, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">writes</a>, “The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.”</p><p><strong>November 1</strong></p><p>Chuck Johnson, the man who told <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> he connected the 15-year-old with the <em>Daily Mail</em>’s Alana Goodman, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">brags on a Trump</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">–</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">devoted Reddit thread</a> about his role in the new Comey bombshell.</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ChuckCJohnsonVerified</a></p><p><em>Hillary is collapsing after I helped introduce underaged women who sexted with Weiner to various newspaper journalists. It’s over. The black vote is too low to matter. We can’t get complacent but there are serious problems for the Democrats.</em></p><p><strong>November 2</strong></p><p>A letter from the girl to Comey is leaked and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">published by </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>BuzzFeed</em></a>. In it, she accuses the FBI itself of having a political agenda and seeking to blow the story out of proportion by tipping off the media:</p><p>“Not even 10 minutes after being forensically interviewed with the FBI for seven hours, I received a phone call from a REPORTER asking for a statement.”</p><p>By taking this action when she did, she positioned herself as someone not seeking publicity while at the same time creating a new, damaging twist that put the whole thing back in the news.</p><p>Depicted in the tweet below are, left to right: Cassandra Fairbanks, James Gordon Meek and Alana Goodman.</p><p><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">This one came out better because it was taken by <a href="">@meekwire</a> ! <a href="">@CassandraRules</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Alana Goodman (@alanagoodman) <a href="">January 1, 2017</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>As <em>BuzzFeed</em> writes, Mensch’s ceaseless accusations against Cassandra Fairbanks based on her being a Russian agent were excessive and strange even by Twitter standards. But a <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">friend of Goodman’s</a>, and at least an acquaintance of Johnson’s, Fairbanks has engendered wariness.</p><p>Purportedly a former Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders supporter who went over to Trump’s side last summer, she had, by early June, garnered a reputation among progressive activists of <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">being a close ally of an FBI informant</a>.</p><p>A BBC article <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">dated October 5, 2016</a>, “The Social Media Star who Flipped to Trump,” accepts her lightning quick transformation at face value. But her <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">cyber-footprint of BLM “activism</a>,” filled with pseudo-radical chic selfies and provocations of fellow protesters, lend credence to suspicions that she was a counterfeit radical, i.e., a poseur, trying to <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">harm the movement</a>. This January, she wrote effusively about Johnson’s crowdsourcing efforts for the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">right-libertarian site We Are Change</a>. (Johnson told <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> that he knew Fairbanks, but “not well.”)</p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">As Election Day approaches</a>, Trump’s “outside” media machine whirrs into overdrive on the Weiner story, sensationalizing it with every re-iteration. Setting the tone, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">a </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">True Pundit</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> headline blares</a>:</p><p><strong>NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails:</strong></p><p><strong>Money Laundering, Sex Crimes with Children, Child Exploitation, Pay to Play, Perjury</strong></p><p><strong>November 3</strong></p><p>Maximizing the sordid saga for political impact, the Trump campaign releases a <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">TV ad calling Weiner a “pervert</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">”</a> and referencing emails.</p><p>The <em>Guardian</em> reports that a highly unfavorable view of Clinton among FBI rank-and-file pressured Comey into re-opening an investigation into her emails. The piece quotes an anonymous Bureau agent who says, “<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">FBI is Trumpland</a>.”</p><p><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="" width="400"></iframe></p><p><strong>November 4</strong></p><p>In one of the most amazing developments in this bizarre story, Erik Prince gives an <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">extraordinary interview on </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>Breitbart</em></a>, the propaganda outlet formerly run by Donald Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon. Prince, the founder of the reviled Blackwater mercenary force that operated in Iraq, and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, had been a well-hidden Trump campaign operative until this interview.</p><p>Prince tells <em>Breitbart</em> that he has learned what is in the newly discovered emails from well-placed sources in the NYPD, and claims that it includes evidence of “money laundering” and of a Clinton “sex island” with “under-age sex slaves” that is “so disgusting…”</p><p>He claims that Abedin is “an agent of influence very sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, that Weiner himself may soon be arrested by NYPD.”</p><p>None of these assertions held up, but for the next four days they would spread like wildfire on fake news sites and stoke the renewed cries of “lock her up.”</p><p>The new investigation will “shine the light on this great evil,” Prince announces. <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Some claim that this commentary added credence</a> to the now infamous fake “child sex ring” news story <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">dubbed Pizzagate</a> being pushed on fringe right-wing sites</p><p>In a lengthy interview with <em>WhoWhatWhy</em>, Chuck Johnson spoke of his long and close relationship with Erik Prince which began when they met in 2011 at a conservative Human Rights Conference hosted in Oslo. “We talk once or twice a week,” he adds. “We’re still friends.”</p><p>Like other Trump surrogates, Prince said that, if someone under FBI investigation were elected president, it would be a constitutional crisis. In terms of Clinton, that threat ended the following day when Comey announced that there was no “there” there — not even any new emails.</p><p>Few people knew at the time that the country <em>would</em>, in fact, elect a president who was under FBI investigation.</p><p>The flow of fake news went according to plan: from the fringe website Infowars to <em>Breitbart</em> to talk radio to Trump and his surrogates to Fox News and on to the world.</p><p><strong>November 6:</strong></p><p>Less than two days before Election Day, the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Weiner story is over</a>.</p><p>Comey clears Clinton of any wrongdoing once again. Comey’s <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">brief letter</a> to Congress explains that after “working round the clock” the investigators have decided, “not to change our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” It turns that that there were no new Clinton emails, no evidence of money laundering, nothing relating to sex islands or sex slaves, no arrest or charges against Weiner.</p><p>But the damage was done.</p><p><em><a href="" title="View James Comey Letter 11-6-2016 on Scribd">James Comey Letter 11-6-2016</a> by <a href="" title="View Doug Mataconis's profile on Scribd">Doug Mataconis</a> on Scribd</em></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.7729220222793488" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="400" id="doc_60129" scrolling="no" src=";view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-rcc0ChLqZsdPmvh5wV7d&amp;show_recommendations=true" style="box-sizing: inherit;" width="50%"></iframe></p><p><strong>November 9</strong></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Johnson is spott</a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ed in the VIP section of Trump’s victory party</a> at New York’s Hilton Hotel.</p><p>While Johnson would not divulge to <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> who invited him to the notoriously exclusive celebration, he spoke freely about his influence with Trump’s braintrust. He described a process of vetting, suggesting, and introducing candidates to the incoming administration through his highly placed friends. He estimates “about a hundred” of his picks got jobs with the new administration, with more still being added.</p><p>With their candidate headed for the White House, Giuliani can continue to gloat; Lara Trump can be thankful she had a role to play; Prince has come out of the woodwork and was <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reported to be representing Trump</a> in talks with the Russians in the faraway Seychelles Islands; Michael Flynn, who had yelled “Lock her up,” is now under various investigations. And Comey has his hands full with another investigation, looking into the possibility that Trump’s presidential campaign may have colluded with either the Russian government or the Russian mob, or both, in interfering in the presidential election on behalf of Trump. But Comey <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">waited until March 20</a> — more than four months after the election — to announce that investigation.</p><p>In terms of the Weiner story itself there were several loose ends.</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Had there ever been a 15-year-old girl? If so, had anyone put her up to sexting with Weiner and then paid her to appear on camera in disguise? (Certainly, as <em>WhoWhatWhy</em>’s investigation makes clear, Leathers was paid for her efforts.)</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Who wrote those confused letters, peppered with literary passages, surfaced by the <em>Daily Mail</em>?</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Did the fact that the <em>Daily Mail</em> was threatened by a libel suit play any part in the tale?</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Had Comey’s hand been forced by supporters of Donald Trump within the FBI?</p><p><strong>•  </strong>How did so much false information get out regarding Weiner’s laptop before the FBI even obtained its search warrant?</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Who leaked information to Lara Trump and Giuliani?</p><p><strong>•  </strong>Did anyone feed false stories to Prince, or did he make them up?</p><p>And of course the biggest question of all: Would Trump be president today had it not been for a mysterious 15-year-old girl, Chuck Johnson’s efforts, Alana Goodman’s story in the <em>Daily Mail</em> and Prince’s totally false claims about what might have been on the “new” emails that did not in fact exist?</p><p>Trump himself was clearly grateful to the FBI chief. On January 22, at a White House reception for law-enforcement officials, the newly-minted president <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">singled out Comey for special praise and a warm hug</a>.</p><p>Yet, with Trump under intense scrutiny over — practically everything, but particularly his alleged close ties to Russia — Trump’s media proxies kept their base focused on the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Clinton emails</a>. This strategy also kept the pressure on Comey, who was due to testify to Congress on both matters.</p><p>The allegations have grown to include unnamed NYPD brass claiming that Clinton personally knew all about Weiner’s sexting in real time, including but not limited to the girl’s purported suicidal ideation. As the right-wing site <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">True Pundit wrote on March 22</a>:</p><blockquote><p>New York Police Department detectives and sources working an underage child pornography case against Anthony Weiner confirm the laptop seized from the former congressman contains proof that Hillary Clinton knew he was engaging in a long sexual relationship with a minor but did not intervene to alert any state or federal authorities to protect the 15 year old.</p></blockquote><p>Almost nothing in these reports could be confirmed — including that there was any kind of pending case against Weiner, as <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">implied by the </a><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><em>New York Post</em></a>:</p><p>On the federal level, Weiner could be charged with sexual exploitation of children, which carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30.</p><p>In a replay of a move used on Comey before Election Day, a newly tweaked version of Weiner’s sexting partner’s angry letter to the Bureau director is <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">leaked on March 28</a> to <em>Gateway Pundit</em>.</p><p>Donald Trump himself played a crucial role in this. On the eve of Comey’s latest congressional testimony, the president, ever masterful at calculated distractions, was actually attacking his own FBI director, tweeting:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony...</p>— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">May 3, 2017</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>At the time of posting, Trump had added a second astonishing accomplishment to his surprise electoral victory: keeping the country focused on wrongdoing by someone other than himself.</p><p> </p> Wed, 10 May 2017 13:39:00 -0700 Matthew Harvey, Jonathan Z. Larsen, Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy 1076752 at News & Politics News & Politics james comey anthony weiner hillary clinton donald trump Why FBI Can't Tell All on Trump, Russia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin—and to Trump.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Reporters: Jonathan Z. Larsen is the former editor of The Village Voice, whose reporting team included the late Wayne Barrett and Robert I. Friedman. These people and the paper produced many of the important early investigative reports on Donald Trump and on the mob. Larsen is now a senior editor and board member of WhoWhatWhy. Russ Baker, a former investigative reporter for The Village Voice, is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. C. Collins is a WhoWhatWhy reporter.</em></p><p>UPDATE: Listen to a behind-the-scenes interview on this e<a href="">xclusive Trump-Russia-FBI story</a> <strong>—</strong> a conversation with Russ Baker and Jonathan Larsen <a data-saferedirecturl=";q=;source=gmail&amp;ust=1490942181774000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHQTcpZE4fecR9oAYaNbAGL7S-_9w" href="" target="_blank">on Radio WhoWhatWhy</a>.</p><p><strong>***</strong></p><p><strong>The Federal Bureau of Investigation cannot tell us what we need to know about Donald Trump’s contacts with Russia. Why? Because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.</strong></p><p><strong>But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. <em>WhoWhatWhy </em>provides the details of a two-month investigation in this 6,500-word exposé.</strong></p><p><strong>The FBI apparently knew, directly or indirectly, based upon available facts, that prior to Election Day, Trump and his campaign had personal and business dealings with certain individuals and entities linked to criminal elements — including reputed Russian gangsters — connected to Putin.</strong></p><p><strong>The same facts suggest that the FBI knew or should have known enough prior to the election to justify informing the public about its ongoing investigation of potentially compromising relationships between Trump, Putin, and Russian mobsters — even if it meant losing or exposing a valued informant.</strong></p><p><strong>***</strong></p><p>It will take an agency independent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to expose Donald Trump’s true relationship with Moscow and the role Russia may have played in getting him elected.</p><p>Director James Comey <a href="" target="_blank">rece</a><a href="" target="_blank">ntly revealed</a> in a congressional hearing for the first time that the FBI “is investigating … the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”</p><p>However, a two-month <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> investigation has revealed an important reason the Bureau may be facing undisclosed obstacles to revealing what it knows to the public or to lawmakers.</p><p>Our investigation also may explain why the FBI, which was very public about its probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails, never disclosed its investigation of the Trump campaign prior to the election, even though we now know that it commenced last July.</p><p>Such publicity could have exposed a high-value, long-running FBI operation against an organized crime network headquartered in the former Soviet Union. That operation depended on a convicted criminal who for years was closely connected with Trump, working with him in Trump Tower — while constantly informing for the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and being legally protected by them.</p><p>Some federal officials were so involved in protecting this source — despite his massive fraud and deep connections to organized crime — that they became his defense counsel after they left the government.</p><p>In secret court proceedings that were later unsealed, both current and former government attorneys argued for extreme leniency toward the man when he was finally sentenced. An FBI agent who expressed his support for the informant later joined Trump’s private security force.</p><p>In this way, the FBI’s dilemma about revealing valuable sources, assets and equities in its ongoing investigation of links between the Trump administration and Russian criminal elements harkens back to the embarrassing, now infamous Whitey Bulger episode. In that case, the Feds protected Bulger, a dangerous Boston-based mobster serving as their highly valued informant, even as the serial criminal continued to participate in heinous crimes. The FBI now apparently finds itself confronted with similar issues: Is its investigation of the mob so crucial to national security that it outweighs the public’s right to know about their president?</p><p>Jack Blum, a former senior Senate investigator and one of America’s foremost experts on white-collar financial crime, sums up the complexity — and the urgency — of the situation:</p><p>“What makes this investigation especially difficult is that it will lead into the complex relations between the counterintelligence operations of the FBI and its criminal investigative work,” says Blum.</p><p>“Further, it is likely other elements of the intelligence community are involved and that they have ‘equities’  to protect. Much of the evidence, justifiably, will be highly classified to protect sources and methods and in particular to protect individuals who have helped one or another of the agencies involved.</p><p><strong><em>“I Can’t Go into Those Details Here”</em></strong></p><p>In his March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey said that he could not go into detail about its probe into the Trump administration’s Russian connection.</p><p>If he had, we might have learned that, for more than three decades the FBI has had Trump Tower in its sights. Many of its occupants have been targets of major investigations, others have been surveilled, and yet others have served as informants. One thing many of them have in common is deep ties to organized crime — including the Russian mafia.</p><p>Felix Sater fits all of these categories. A convicted felon, Sater worked in Trump Tower, made business deals with Donald Trump through Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock, cooperated with the FBI and <a href="" target="_blank">CIA</a> and was subsequently protected by the DOJ from paying for his crimes. And the Moscow-born immigrant remains deeply linked to Russia and Ukraine.</p><p>Based on documents examined by <em>WhoWhatWhy, </em>it is possible to draw certain conclusions that help connect the dots between Trump, the FBI, Russia and the mob.</p><p>The resulting picture is not a pretty one for Donald Trump. However, because of its efforts to neutralize the organization of perhaps the world’s most powerful mobster — a man considered a serious national security threat — the Bureau might just have compromised its own ability to provide to Congress or inform the American public about all of the ties that exist between Trump, his presidential campaign and the regime of Vladimir Putin.</p><p>Further, Trump’s business association with Sater and Bayrock may have put the president’s financial interests at substantial risk, including possibly millions of dollars in fines, penalties, or other damages, should civil or criminal misconduct be proven in court or otherwise resolved if claims were triggered. Anyone who knew of Trump’s jeopardy in this matter would have enormous leverage over the Trump operation.</p><p>The government’s kid-glove treatment of Sater is partially explained in those long-suppressed legal documents, which reveal that the mobbed-up businessman was perceived by the authorities to be extraordinarily cooperative and useful. Legal filings on Sater’s behalf state that he “reported daily” to the FBI for many years.</p><p>Sater agreed to assist the US government on issues of national security and organized crime. His activities were first revealed in a lawsuit brought by a former employee of Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock. While working with Trump, Sater’s name became “Satter” publicly — presumably with the knowledge if not the encouragement of the FBI. This distanced Satter the businessman, and his partners, from Sater the criminal.</p><p>Attorneys representing the plaintiff spent years untangling the financial machinations of Bayrock — which they allege involve hundred of millions of dollars in claims arising from, among other things, money laundering and fraud.</p><p>They also sought to expose the government’s awareness of — even complicity in — Sater’s activities.</p><p>Their efforts to unseal court documents, including Sater’s legal history, have been met with a concerted pushback by DOJ lawyers, mischaracterizations of the case record, and even — according to the attorneys — anonymous death threats.</p><p>Felix Sater could not be reached for comment.</p><p><strong>A Stunning Discovery</strong></p><p>The story of Donald Trump’s business dealings with a Russian mobster might never have come out were it not for a Bayrock employee stumbling upon Sater’s cooperation agreement with the FBI, among other sensitive information, that had inadvertently been left accessible.</p><p>That employee sought out attorney Fred Oberlander, who combed through the documents. Over time, Oberlander — who was instructing undergraduates at Yale University in computational physics and computer science from age 18 — began to deconstruct the byzantine financial structure that was Bayrock, which allegedly hid a range of crimes, including massive-scale money laundering from sources in the former Soviet Union.</p><p>On February 10, 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, instructed Oberlander, in a secret order, not to inform the legislative branch of the United States government what he knew about Felix Sater. (That order remains under seal, but a federal judge has <a href="" target="_blank">unsealed a redacted version</a>.)</p><p>Apparently, the appellate court was persuaded that the unusually broad order was justified on the merits, but the lawyers opposing Sater found the imposed remedy extraordinary.</p><p>“Our being ordered to not tell Congress what we know may well be the first and only hyper-injunction in American history,” asserts Oberlander’s own attorney, Richard Lerner. “If there are others who have been scared silent by judges who wish to nullify Congressional and public oversight, we may never know. That is frightening.”</p><p><a href=""></a></p><p><strong>Characters Out of a James Bond Movie</strong></p><p>Preventing the Russian mafia from expanding its foothold in the United States has been one of the Bureau’s top priorities. In fact, it might be the FBI’s most important function apart from its role in the fight against terrorism.</p><p>The Russian mob has a breathtaking and underappreciated reach. It is so powerful that FBI Agent Peter Kowenhoven <a href="" target="_blank">told CNN in 2009</a> that Semion Mogilevich, its “boss of bosses,” is a strategic threat, and a man who “can, with a telephone call or order, affect the global economy.”</p> Thu, 30 Mar 2017 08:27:00 -0700 Russ Baker, C. Collins, Jonathan Z. Larsen, WhoWhatWhy 1074688 at News & Politics News & Politics fbi donald trump james comey russia Trump-Russia Ties How the New York Times Helped Hillary Hide the Hawk <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Timing is everything when it comes to responsible journalism.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em><a href="">This article</a> was originally published at <a href=""></a>.</em></p><p>Following a rough night in five East Coast primaries, Bernie Sanders’ path to the Democratic nomination is now more narrow and steep than it has ever been. But are these votes truly a referendum on who voters think the best candidate is or merely a reflection of what the corporate media wants Democrats to think?</p><p>In our critique of the media, we tend to focus on the <em>New York Times</em>, because it purports to be the gold standard for journalism, and because others look to the paper for coverage guidance. But the same critique could be applied to the<em> Washington Post,</em>Politico, CNN, and most other leading outfits.</p><p>In prior articles, we noted how the <em>Times</em>helped Clinton walk away with most of the African-American vote—and therefore victory in many states—by essentially <a href="">hiding Sanders</a>' comparably far more impressive record on <a href="">civil rights</a>. We <a href="">also noted</a> how it seemed that every little thing the Clinton camp did right was billboarded, while significant victories against great odds by Sanders were <a href="">minimized</a>.</p><p>These are the kinds of decisions that determine the “conventional wisdom,” which in turn so often determines outcomes.</p><p>But there is more. Clinton’s principal reason to claim she is so qualified to be president, aside from being first lady and senator, is her four years as Secretary of State. What kind of a legacy did she leave? Perhaps her principal role was to push for military engagement—more soldiers in existing conflicts, and new wars altogether. WhoWhatWhy has written about <a href="">these wars</a> and their <a href="">dubious</a><a href="">basis</a>.</p><p>Wars are good business for Wall Street, for corporations in general, and for others who have been friendly to her and her campaign. Why was this not front and center with New York voters, a traditionally liberal group with a strong antipathy toward war and militarism. Sanders tried to bring up this issue, and doesn’t seem to have succeeded. But mostly, this was a failure of the media, whose job it is to shine a strong spotlight.</p><p>Why did the<em> New York Times</em>wait until two days after the New York primary to publish its biggest piece on this, when it could no longer influence that key contest? (It appeared first on its website and later in its Sunday magazine.) With the media declaring this probably now a Clinton-Trump race, highlighting her hawkishness turns it from handicap to strength. <a href="" target="_blank">How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk</a> was the digital equivalent of a huge front-page story.</p><p>What the article makes clear is that Hillary Clinton is the most militaristic of any of the presidential candidates, even Ted Cruz. Was this delay in publication just a case of poor scheduling? Was it to ensure that the paper could not be accused of influencing the primary outcome?</p><p>The <em>Times’</em> editorials had already gotten behind her candidacy (without mentioning her refusal to release transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, or her opposition to a $15-an-hour minimum wage). Would running Mark Landler’s critical piece when it mattered have seemed like an implicit rebuke of the paper’s own editorial board or interfered with its influence?</p><p>How ironic it is that liberal Hillary Clinton has never met a war she did not like, and has never been held responsible for the chaos they caused and the policies she advocated, yet it is Bernie Sanders whose policies are being described as unrealistic by the same people who are shielding Clinton from criticism.</p><p>What is the purpose of journalism if not to introduce material when it is relevant and can have an impact? And one that is good for humanity, as opposed to the arms industry.</p><p>The <em>Times</em>, Judith Miller et al., have certainly had an impact. (<a href="" target="_blank">Read</a> one of WhoWhatWhy’s stories for some of the gory details.)</p> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:46:00 -0700 Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy 1055491 at Election 2016 Election 2016 Media hillary clinton foreign policy military election 2016 media new york times There's Something Very Wrong with the Official Story About the Boston Bombings <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There are gaping holes in the story about the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This article <a href="">first appeared at WhoWhatWhy</a>. <a href="">Read Pt 2 of Russ Baker's investigative report on the Boston bombings here</a>. </em></p><p>An exclusive <i>WhoWhatWhy</i> investigation has found serious factual inconsistencies in accounts provided by the only witness to the alleged confession of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.</p><p>Why does this matter? Because this witness is the sole source for the entire publicly accepted narrative of who was behind the bombing and its aftermath—and why these events occurred.</p><p>In case we’ve forgotten how convoluted and murky the story initially seemed, let’s recall how:</p><p>-Tamerlan Tsarnaev, on a US security watch list since 2011 after the Russians provide a warning to American intelligence, goes overseas and allegedly exhibits <a href="">further problematic behavior</a>.</p><p>-In April, 2013, a savage attack is unleashed at the Boston Marathon, disrupting an iconic American event. Innocent people lose limbs and lives, America is traumatized anew, and a large American city is “locked” down” while normal processes and procedures are abandoned. We are told that Tsarnaev and his younger brother are responsible for all this–and for the cold-blooded execution of a campus police officer several days later.</p><p>Yet our sense of certainty that the Tsarnaevs did this—and did it alone, with no one else, including America’s security apparatus, knowing a thing—is actually dependent largely on the say-so of one person, one witness.</p><p>Thus, the problems we have uncovered with the witness’s testimony (as represented by law enforcement) now raise questions about almost everything concerning what has been described as the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.</p><p><b>Truth and Its Pants</b></p><p>As the classic saying goes, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” That is perhaps even more true in these days of Twitter and Facebook and instant blogging. When a big news story breaks, the first reports are often rife with misinformation based on a combination of innocent mistakes, sloppiness, conjecture, and poor communication. Yet it’s also true that during those first 24 hours pieces of inconvenient truth may emerge that will soon be denied or even suppressed as the messy facts get neatly fashioned into an “official story.”</p><p>Such was the case with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy: sheriff’s deputies converging on the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas reported finding an entirely different type of gun than the one ultimately said to have been the murder weapon. And doctors at Parkland Hospital claimed initially that a shot had hit President Kennedy from the front, before they were told in no uncertain terms that they were mistaken, and a narrative formed around all the shots coming from behind—and only from the Depository.</p><p>Truth seekers know, from experience, to pay close attention to how a narrative changes in the first hours, days and weeks following an event of significance. And nowhere would that be truer than when the source of the changing story is the principal witness.</p><p><b>Meet “Danny”</b></p><p>The identification of the alleged Boston bombers, now a virtually unchallenged “fact,” is based largely on a single event: the supposed carjacking of a young man whose identity is still masked from public scrutiny. The public’s understanding of what took place is based on this anonymous person’s oft-cited claims to have witnessed a dual confession from Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who boasted of having committed both the bombing and a later murder of an MIT police officer.</p><p>According to the widely accepted story of the horrific events of April 15-19, 2013, three days after the Marathon bombing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer was shot and within minutes, a young man in a Mercedes SUV was carjacked, across the river in the Brighton section of Boston. Police and media accounts have Tamerlan Tsarnaev abducting a young Chinese national (known publicly only by the pseudonymous first name “Danny”). In these accounts, Tsarnaev tells Danny that he was responsible for both the Boston bombing and the MIT shooting.</p><p>The alleged carjacking led to a law enforcement shutdown of the greater Boston area, a huge manhunt, and subsequent confrontations in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was seriously wounded by multiple gunshots while hidden in a boat, before being apprehended by police.</p><p>In the current “official” narrative, the Tsarnaev brothers took Danny on a wild 90-minute ride that traversed the Boston area and involved stops to extract money from Danny’s bank account and then to buy gas for the brothers’ planned escape from the Boston metro area.</p><p>It was during a stop at a gas station, the story goes, that the younger brother went inside to pay for the gas. While the older brother was momentarily preoccupied with a GPS device, Danny made his escape and was soon sharing with law enforcement his claim that he had heard the crucial confession.</p><p>But a 10-month investigation by <i>WhoWhatWhy</i> has found major inconsistencies in Danny’s story — inconsistencies that call into question whether the authorities now prosecuting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for murder are leveling with the American people.</p><p><b>The Consensus Narrative</b></p><p>The consensus narrative of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, which began appearing in the media as early as the morning of April 19, goes something like this:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><i>For several days after the violence of Monday, April 15—which killed three people and injured another 264—an uneasy public waited nervously for word of who was behind the savage attack. The authorities were under intense pressure to produce results. The hours and days ticked by.</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><i>Then, suddenly, action! At 5pm on Thursday afternoon, the FBI released pictures of two suspects. At approximately 10:20, violence exploded anew, in a different and wholly surprising direction. On the quiet nighttime streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, was apparently executed in cold blood by the panicked Tsarnaev brothers in a botched effort to get his gun. And then another newsflash: a young Boston man had been carjacked—and after a bizarre, circuitous drive around the area, escaped to tell an astonishing tale: his captors had confessed to him their responsibility for both the Marathon bombing and the killing of Officer Collier.</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><i>That turn of events ushered in a cavalcade of developments almost too rapid to follow. It justified the unprecedented military and law enforcement “lockdown” of Greater Boston and the intense manhunt that riveted the world and brought the Boston bombing story to a quick and dirty conclusion. In the early morning hours of April 19, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a firefight. His younger brother Dzhokhar escaped, but was discovered that evening hiding in a boat parked in a backyard, and was apprehended in critical condition after authorities fired a barrage of shots into the boat. </i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><i>This frontier-justice resolution of a national tragedy eventually led to a huge rally featuring the vice president as the key speaker, praising the bravery and responsiveness of the security state. A specialty beer and a charity event were fashioned around the tragic young officer, bike rides and a host of tributes to the “first responder” followed. In the end, everyone could feel good about their country, about the “heroism” of the lowly, underpaid campus cop, about the vaunted efficiency of their law-enforcement agencies. Stressed-out Bostonians, and Americans everywhere, could be reassured that all was well in the land. </i></p><p>That is the generally established narrative. But after studying the various accounts provided by “Danny” to the media and law enforcement, <i>WhoWhatWhy</i> has found substantial inconsistencies on a range of points.</p><p>Taken together, those inconsistencies demonstrate at minimum essential unreliability, and perhaps something much more troubling…from a key witness offering damning life-or-death evidence in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.</p><p>Is Danny some pathological liar seeking fame? Or is he someone more sympathetic and perhaps vulnerable—a foreign-national entrepreneur, with an uncertain immigration status, being squeezed by law enforcement to help quickly tidy up a messy disaster that caught our multi-billion-dollar-a-year national security apparatus off guard?</p><p><u>Where was Danny Carjacked?</u></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Danny said:</b> Brighton Avenue, Allston (across the river from Cambridge)</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version:</b> <a href="">3<sup>rd</sup> Street, Cambridge</a>, the Middlesex County District Attorney initially said.</p><p><u>How Long Was Danny Held Hostage?</u></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Danny said:</b> 90 minutes (reported by The <i>Boston Globe, </i>NBC and CBS).</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 1:</b><a href="">30 minutes</a> according to a joint statement by Middlesex acting district attorney Michael Pelgro, Cambridge police commissioner Robert Haas and MIT police chief John DiFava:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“Authorities launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. The investigation determined that two males were involved in this shooting.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“A short time later, police received reports of an armed carjacking by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and <i>was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour.”</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 2:</b>“a few minutes,” according to the Boston Globe and this report by the <a href="">Associated Press</a>, citing the Cambridge Police Department:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“Police said Friday at a Watertown news conference that one of the brothers stayed with the carjacking victim for <i>a few minutes</i> and then let him go.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">Pervaiz Shallwani of the <i>Wall Street Journal</i>, one of the very few who was able to see at least part of the Cambridge police report, supports this shorter time span when he writes:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers accused of the bombing, crossed the Charles River into Boston and stole a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint, <i>briefly holding the driver hostage</i>, according to an excerpt from the Cambridge Police Department report filed by the driver and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.”</p><p><u>How Did Danny Gain His Freedom?</u></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Danny said:</b> He escaped when Tamerlan, seated next to him, was momentarily distracted, according the Boston Globe, NBC and CBS.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 1:</b>He simply got out of the car when both brothers were outside the car, having left him alone, according to WMUR.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 2:</b> The Tsarnaev brothers never held Danny as a captive, according to the Associated Press and Cambridge Police Department. They simply detained him for a few minutes, then left him by the roadside, essentially confiscating his vehicle. In this scenario, he had almost no interaction with the brothers, raising questions as to whether they would have confessed to the two crimes before taking off with his car.</p><p><u>Tamerlan’s Location When Danny Escapes?</u></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 1</b>: Tamerlan was at the gas pump.</p><p><i>Note: the conversation below includes paraphrasing of Danny’s comments in an <a href="">ABC (WMUR) interview with Nick Spinetto, April 22, 2013</a>. We replaced the paraphrases with Danny’s actual comments whenever they were flashed on the screen—presumably from a transcript of Spinetto’s interview with Danny.  While they are very similar to Spinetto’s paraphrasing, we used the on-screen comments from Danny for greater precision. </i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Spinetto</strong>: (On camera) Well, the carjacking victim is actually shaken to the core after being taken hostage by the Boston Marathon bombers. Today, <i>he and I spoke at length.</i> For safety reasons, he asked us not to reveal his name, but he did describe in vivid detail his capture by the wanted terrorists, those brutal minutes he thought he would die and, ultimately, his brave escape.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Spinetto</strong>: (Voice over scene) Shortly after MIT police officer Sean Collier was killed, authorities received reports of an armed carjacking only minutes away. Monday, that carjacking victim was ready to tell his story, but not ready to do an on-camera interview. The man says it was Thursday night around 11, he was in his car pulled over to the side of the road, when a man approached holding a gun to the passenger side window.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The victim said: “the man asked if I knew about the Boston bombing explosion. He said: ‘I did that.’”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">Court documents released Monday afternoon state: “the man with a gun forced the victim to drive to a second location, where they picked up a second man. The two men put something in the trunk of the victim’s vehicle.” The contents are thought to be the ammunition and explosives used in a battle with police later that night. The carjacking victim says he was forced into the front passenger seat as one brother drove. Now a hostage, he says: “They asked me where I’m from. I told them I’m Chinese. I was very scared. I asked them if they going to hurt me. They say they won’t hurt me. I was thinking, I think they will kill me later.” But if that was their plan, they wouldn’t get the chance. The victim told us: “My car is running out of gas, so they want to have some gas.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Spinetto</strong>: (On camera) The carjacking victim says that he drove, here, to this Shell station on Memorial drive. <i>While one brother went inside to pay for the gas, the other pumped</i>… and that’s when the victim took off.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Spinetto</strong>: (Voice over scene) Of his daring escape, he says: “I thought it was a very good chance for me to run. So, I made a judgment. I use my left hand to unbuckle my belt, my right hand to open door… I jump out of the car, run away— across the street. <i>The guy… outside the car tried to catch me… </i>use his hand. Tried to catch me but I ran very fast. Couldn’t capture me because I run very fast. I heard them— they said (expletive) when I get to run. I’m still… I can’t stop recording that moment when I was running out of the car… I was running… I was worried. It was very scary at that moment. For me, I’m so lucky.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 2:</b> Tamerlan was in the car.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong><font face="Arial"><font size="1"><i>Note:</i></font></font> <font face="Arial"><font size="1"><i>This version comes from an interview with Danny by CBS News’ John Miller.</i></font></font></strong></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Miller</strong>: So, when you get to the gas station, tell me what everybody does. Who does what, first, and then what happens?</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: Okay, so, when we get it to the gas station… hm… Jahar [Dzhokhar] get out of the car, he took my… credit card, trying to pump using my credit card. I was very lucky, the pump, it was only cash only. So, he look, looked at my window, say, asked me, [he] say: “It’s cash only!” So, Tamerlan asked him to pay some cash inside.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So he has to go in the store.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: Jahar has to go into a store.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: <i>So now it’s you and Tamerlan in the car.</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: I was with Tamerlan, so, I think it’s a very good chance for me, you know, there’s only one person in the car right now…  and uh, I was, uh, trying to watch what, uh, Tamerlan is doing… uh, I was trying to find the gun… I didn’t see the gun because the gun was put in the pocket of the, of the door.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>:  <i>Now, is Tamerlan sitting next to you in the car? Is he standing outside the car?</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: <i>He was sitting next to me. He was on the, uh, driver’s seat, I was on the passenger seat.</i></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So <i>this</i>, you think, this is your chance.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: This is my chance. So, I was… struggling, you know, should I do this? Should I do this? Becau [sic]… another good thing for me is the door was unlocked. The only thing I have to do is, use my left hand to unfasten the seatbelt, use my right hand to open the door.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So, the thing that you’ve been rehearsing in your mind, three steps, is now down to two.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: Down to two, yeah. So, that’s [unintelligible] I found that Tamerlan used both his hands, like, play, like, doing some GPS thing, or something. So, I think it’s very good for me.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">[<a href="">YouTube version:</a> includes comment that Tamerlan was “fiddling” with GPS.]</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So he’s got, he’s got the gun in the side pocket of the door, he’s got a GPS, his brother’s in the gas station, and you say… the time is now.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: Yeah, yeah…the time is now, you know.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So how do you do that in your head? Do you say, 123…?</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: I was, I was counting- I was counting, I went, 1234. And I… just <i>do</i> it! And ah, I did it.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: So what happens?</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: I jump out of the, jump, jump out of the, the vehicle, and I close the door, and I can feel, Tamerlan was trying to grab me, he didn’t touch me, but I could feel him trying to grab me.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>John Miller</strong>: And now you’re runnin’.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><strong>Danny</strong>: I was run. I was runnin’, I was running.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Conflicting version 3:</b><i>The New York Times </i>version</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">As if it weren’t enough to discover these totally incompatible versions of whether he was carjacked at all, and if so, for how long, and whether he escaped or was released, there is yet another variation, courtesy of the “newspaper of record,” <i>The New York Times, </i>the preferred go-to place for official leaks.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The <a href="">article</a> appeared on April 20 under the bylines of two Washington-based, veteran national security reporters. In the piece, almost entirely based on a narrative delivered to the world’s most influential news organization by an unnamed source identified only as a “senior law enforcement official,” the official explains that</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“It was only after the suspects decided not to kill the owner of a sport utility vehicle that had been carjacked and instead threw him out of his car around 1 a.m. — a decision that ultimately undid their plans to elude the authorities — that they re-emerged on the authorities’ radar.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">It is certainly interesting that in this interview, presumably viewed as crucial, and conducted within a day or so of the carjacking, a highly briefed official would get “wrong” such a central fact as Danny’s manner of parting with the brothers.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The <i>Times </i>account may have been the first “official” story of what happened. It would be many days before Danny’s revised account of a dramatic escape would emerge. (If the Times ever published an explanation of how it got this so “wrong” in comparison with the eventual official narrative, we could not find it.)</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">Also, in Danny’s revised account, there is no mention that the suspects “decide[d] not to kill” him. Indeed, he said they made clear from the outset that they would not harm him. Putting together elements of these two different accounts, one could conclude that, in fact, the hijackers always meant not to harm him but only to use his car to escape what they took to be their own certain deaths if they remained in town during a police manhunt spurred by a “cop killing” that they had reason to think they would be accused of.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>***</b></p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">Spinetto’s interview with Danny tracks with the <i>New York Times’ </i>version, and it is based not on a second-hand account from an unidentified law enforcement source but on a direct interview with Danny. So we thought it essential to ask Spinetto what he made of all this.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">Yet when <i>WhoWhatWhy</i> contacted Spinetto, he told us he could not speak with us unless the station manager at the Hearst-owned WMUR, Alisha McDevitt, approved. In an email, McDevitt wrote: “We will not be able to approve this request.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">To sum up, we see three very different versions.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Version 1:</b>Danny was essentially let go by his “captors”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Version 2:</b>The brothers cared so little about him that he was left alone in the car, and then “escaped.”</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in"><b>Version 3:</b>He “bravely” escaped when Tamerlan let his guard down and was momentarily distracted.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The one thing we notice about the evolution of the Danny narrative is that the original story did little to support the notion that the brothers were cold-blooded, ruthless killers. Simply put, the story that is now cast in stone makes much more sense if the goal was to create an impression of the brothers as ideologically driven terrorists and the murderers of an innocent police officer.</p><p><b>First Report of a Confession—and to One or Both Crimes?</b></p><p>The first <a href="">“dual confession” report</a> we could find, from the Associated Press, came early on the afternoon of April 19, from Edward Deveau, police chief of Watertown, the scene of a wild car chase during which Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly lobbed explosives at his pursuers before being gunned down.</p><p>Later that night, NBC also reported the dual confession, <a href="">attributing it to “sources</a>”:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The carjacking victim was released unharmed at a gas station in Cambridge, sources said. He told police the brothers said they were the marathon bombers and had just killed a campus officer.</p><p>By the next day, more news outlets (see <a href="">this</a> and <a href="">this</a>) were picking up the dual admission.</p><p>However, the Criminal Complaint, filed on the 21<sup>st</sup>, which <a href="">states</a> that Tamerlan admitted to Danny their role in the bombing, notably says nothing about an admission to having killed Collier.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">The man pointed a firearm at the victim and stated, “Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” and “I did that.”</p><p><b>On April 22,</b>Nick Spinetto <a href="">interviews Danny</a> for WMUR and ABC. Interestingly, Spinetto has Tamerlan admitting to the Marathon bombing, but, as with the Criminal Complaint, there is no mention of killing Officer Collier. This omission seems highly newsworthy on its own.</p><p><b>On April 25, late in the evening, the Boston Globe</b>published on <a href=""></a> an article based on an interview with Danny by its reporter Eric Moskowitz, the <a href="">most detailed account to date</a>—an account that has subsequently become the “official” carjacking narrative. It characterizes Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s actions as follows:</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“Don’t be stupid,” he told Danny. He asked if he had followed the news about Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. Danny had, down to the release of the grainy suspect photos less than six hours earlier.</p><p style="border: none; padding: 0in">“I did that,” said the man, who would later be identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev “And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”</p><p>In interviews a few days after the Globe article, Danny’s story had gelled. His account to CBS’s John Miller is substantially similar to a contemporaneous interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer.</p><p>The question is, what happened between Danny’s first interview and the subsequent ones that led to the changed narrative?</p><p><i>Research assistance: James Henry</i></p><p><b>Coming up in Part II: A closer look at Danny and his story</b></p> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 06:17:00 -0700 Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy 968794 at News & Politics Investigations News & Politics boston marathon bombing Why We May See a Kinder, Gentler and Cheaper Medical Care System <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The idea is that a more flexible, more humane, and more responsive medical practice is actually a money-saver.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>With the limitations of the American health care system obvious to everyone, why not try something new? The Freelancers Union, a fast-growing <a href="">national<strong></strong>entity</a> serving the one in three adult Americans who now work freelance, has added an innovative twist to the reasonably-priced health insurance it already offers to members who are located in the New York City area. If this works, look to see it tried around the country.</p><p>Through its current health insurance packages the union already covers visits to primary care doctors and specialists with additional “co-pays.” Now, the union is opening its own medical office, which will offer members <em>free</em> visits to a primary care doctor, with <em>no copays</em>or other restrictions.</p><p>Obviously, for this to work, the union and its insurer must save enough money elsewhere to make up the cost of the co-pays. According to the Freelancers Union and their insurance company, which is affiliated with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, that’s exactly what they expect to happen: “It’s rare for doing good to align with financial benefits,” said Dr. Neil Patel, who runs the new medical practice, called Freelancers Medical.</p><p>Basically, the idea is that a more flexible, more humane, and more responsive medical practice is actually a money-saver. If primary care physicians are more attentive to the needs of patients, and more emphasis is placed on prevention, the thinking goes, insurers’ outlays to expensive specialists will drop.</p><p>This idea is reminiscent of what large Health Maintenance Organizations once promised—before cost-cutting took its toll. But there’s one huge difference. Unlike the HMOs, the Freelancers Union health plan does <em>not</em> require that primary care doctors serve as gatekeepers. Plan members can see specialists without a primary care doctor’s approval or referral.</p><p>***</p><p>The first Freelancers Medical office opened recently in downtown Brooklyn, and I went over the other day during an Open House and joined in a group discussion with the principal caregiver and others involved.</p><p>The operation still feels a little rough around the edges as if they were figuring out things as they go. But for members of Freelancers Union who enroll in Freelancers Medical during an open enrollment period (one just closed, but there will be more), here are the basics:</p><p>You must make Freelancers Medical your primary care doctor—no double-dipping with your old doc.</p><p>There is no limit to the number of free visits in a year.  In fact, members are invited to hang out in the homey waiting room, as they might at a cozy coffee house, with free iPads and WiFi provided.</p><p>The pleasant and cheerful “consultation rooms” are a vast improvement over the standard creepy examining rooms.</p><p>Services incIude gynecological and pediatric care.</p><p>For now, the hours are typical of most doctors’ offices— Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-5, Thursdays 1-8. In the future Saturday hours may be added and evening hours expanded. (Of course, true freelancers may find traditional working hours just fine.)  Freelancers Medical is already talking about a possible second location on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.</p><p>There’s no charge for drawing blood for tests, though you do pay the routine fees for outside lab work.</p><p>Dr. Patel expects that patients will be able to make same-day or next-day appointments. Right now, he’s the only doctor, but he estimates that the practice could handle 5,000 patients with a second physician and the current nurse-practitioner who carries some of the load.</p><p>Another innovation being offered: shared medical visits, as an alternative or supplement to normal one-on-one doctor appointments. In this arrangement, a small group meets in a roundtable setting with a doctor, to discuss general wellness or specific issues, such as dealing with stress or repetitive use injuries, that might be shared by the group. The idea is to deliver important health care information in a more efficient way in order to optimize—and maximize—“face-time” for both doctors and patients.</p><p>Since wellness is a big part of the health-care equation, the office has a nutritionist on staff –not a credentialed dietician, but someone knowledgeable about healthy eating. Cooking classes will be offered as well. Also on staff is a “health coach,” whose job is to advocate for patients while helping them navigate the medical system. Members are invited to use the on-premises yoga studio, and there are plans for adding acupuncture.</p><p>In another “first,” patients will be encouraged to contribute to their own medical records—electronically. This is intended as an antidote to the feeling many of us have that our doctors don’t always hear what we say.</p><p>Freelancers Medical hopes to set the standard for medical “best practices” nationally. “I want to raise the bar for others,” says Dr. Patel, who has some experience with medical-care-delivery innovation. He’s involved with a parent entity called Iora Health, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup that provides primary care to employees of <a href="">Dartmouth College</a> and to unionized casino workers.</p><p>Under the model he champions, everyone is supposed to gain: patients are healthier, insurance companies pay out less, and doctors get to spend more time doing the kind of humane medicine that probably attracted them to medical school in the first place.</p><p>Patel and his colleagues project a sympathetic openness. Whether this reflects a honeymoon period or if they’ll always be this pleasant under greater pressure remains to be seen. For now, they insist that they’re really, truly, open to input. Of which, one assumes, there will be plenty.</p><p><strong>More info</strong><a href=""><strong>here</strong></a><strong>.</strong></p> Fri, 07 Dec 2012 15:45:00 -0800 Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy 757402 at Personal Health Economy Labor News & Politics Personal Health health care Freelancers Union union Oil Companies Bribing Gulf States to Ignore Spill? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Gulf states want more of a share of money from drilling, but will the public really benefit?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Recently, Gulf area legislators have been pushing to get their states a larger share of government income from offshore drilling. We’re told that they need the extra revenue to improve flood protection. But more is afoot here, and it deserves scrutiny.</p><p>First, here’s the background, from the <a href=",0,1529859.story"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a><em>:</em></p><p>Severe flooding from Hurricane Isaac has prompted a new effort by Gulf Coast lawmakers to secure a larger share of federal offshore drilling revenue to fund projects such as flood protection.</p><p>But the idea faces opposition from lawmakers who say it would siphon away money needed to pay Uncle Sam’s bills.</p><p>Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) stoked the debate this week by appealing to President Obama during his visit to the storm-battered area to support letting states share 37.5% of federal revenue from energy production off their coasts…..</p><p>Fair enough. But there’s a missing piece of this, about who benefits most. And it’s not the public.</p><p>Flood control work generates a ton of local income. It creates jobs. Channeling a larger share of the federal share of drilling income into the local area, you give residents a reason not to oppose continued drilling. Of course, these are the same people whose environment has been so badly harmed, <a href="">perhaps permanently</a>, by the risky practices of offshore production.</p><p>In other words, the very same people facing massive economic dislocation, the devastation of their ecosystem, and related chronic illness are being given a reason to put up with even more potential problems in the future.</p><p>Why shouldn’t the money from drilling go directly to the public to alleviate the harm done to it—and to develop alternative energy sources to reduce our dependency on the dangers increasingly associated with extraction of fossil fuels?</p><p>Actually, the region already gets plenty for harm remediation related to the BP spill.</p><p>One possible source of new money: the fines of as much as $21 billion that BP is expected to pay for the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. Congress recently voted to steer 80% of the penalties to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to help restore coastal ecosystems and rebuild regional economies.</p><p>But Landrieu is seeking additional money from offshore drilling, noting that inland states such as Colorado and Wyoming receive about half the revenue from drilling on federal land. “Coastal states should receive a similar allotment so they can engage these funds in flood protection,” she said in a letter to Obama.</p><p>She is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers sponsoring legislation that would let states receive 37.5% of all federal offshore drilling revenue. <strong>The idea has gained the backing of pro-production lawmakers who see it as a way to build public support for expanded offshore energy exploration that would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.</strong></p><p>There it is—in paragraph NINE. Should be in the first paragraph, and should be in the headline. Instead, it is buried under the bland headline</p><p><strong>CONGRESSIONAL FORECAST: FIGHT OVER COASTAL FLOOD PROTECTION FUNDS</strong></p><p>…which resulted in almost no one paying any attention to this story, dated September 6—and to what is really going on.</p><p>Of course, contrary to what the <em>Los Angeles Times </em>asserts, the real reason the lawmakers support the move is NOT their concern to reduce dependence on foreign oil. It is to <em>increase </em>our tolerance for risky domestic drilling.</p><p>If you doubt there’s more to it, consider who feathers Sen. Mary Landrieu’s nest. According to the <a href="">Center for Responsive Politics</a>, the vast majority of her campaign contributions from 2007-2012 ($2.5 million) came from  law firms, lobbyists, and the oil &amp; gas industry. Guess who is one of the biggest clients of law firms and lobbyists? The oil &amp; gas industry. It’s a safe bet that without doing that industry’s bidding, Mary Landrieu is toast. So she has to promote measures like this that do harm to the public interest and produce more profits for the dominant industry in her area.</p><p>It’s not that Mary Landrieu is a good or a bad person, any more than any of her Gulf Coast colleagues, of both parties, who also support this move. It’s that the system is so dirty. And that the public doesn’t have a media that can afford to just tell it to us straight—in such a way as to make us care, and make us want to actually do something about it.</p><p>Bet that, without public understanding of what is at stake, the very people who have a reason to fight against more offshore drilling in the gulf will be out there arguing <em>for </em>it.</p> Wed, 03 Oct 2012 12:40:00 -0700 Russ Baker, 719780 at Environment Environment News & Politics Water oil gulf drilling Treasure Trove of Mineral Wealth: The Real Reason for the Afghan War? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A New York Times story on Afghanistan&#039;s mineral wealth ignores the extent to which imperial-style resource grabs are the real drivers of foreign policy and wars.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>When the United States decided to invade Afghanistan to grab Osama bin Laden—and failed, but stayed on like an unwanted guest—could it have known that the Afghans were sitting on some of the world’s greatest reserves of mineral wealth?</p><p>We’ve raised this topic before (see <a href="">here</a>)—where we noted the dubious 2010 claim, published by the <em>New York Times</em>, that “t<strong>he vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was [recently] discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials</strong> and American geologists.” Other evidence, and logic, point to the fact that everyone but the Western public knew for a long time, and before the 2001 invasion, that Afghanistan was a treasure trove.</p><p>So we were interested to see <a href=";pagewanted=all">a new piece</a> from the <em>Times</em>that emphasizes those riches without stressing the crucial question: Was the original impetus for the invasion really Osama—or Mammon?</p><p>The failure to pose this question is significant because the pretense of a “recent discovery” serves only to justify staying in Afghanistan now that the troops are already there—while ignoring the extent to which imperial-style resource grabs are the real drivers of foreign policy and wars, worldwide.</p><p>As long as we continue to dance around that issue, we will remain mired in disaster of both a financial and mortal nature. As long as we fail to tote up who are the principal winners and losers then we fail to understand what is going on.</p><p>Some of the least likely candidates for insight are waking up. To quote <a href="">Alan Greenspan</a>: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Who will say the same about Afghanistan and its mineral wealth? Once we acknowledge what <a href="">General Wesley Clark claims</a> (and which the media keeps ignoring)—that he was told the U.S. had plans ready at the time of the 9/11 attacks to invade seven countries (including Iraq and Afghanistan)– then the larger picture begins to come into view.</p><p>At this point, we can’t help but revisit our <a href="">WhoWhatWhy exclusive</a> tying the 9/11 hijackers to that very reliable U.S. ally, the Saudi royal family— which itself needs constant external war and strife throughout the Middle East to keep its citizens from focusing on its own despotism and staggering corruption, and to maintain its position as an indispensable ally of the West in these wars. It was the actions of the Saudi-dominated 9/11 hijackers and their Saudi sponsor, Osama bin Laden, that created the justification for this endless series of resource wars. So, learning that the hijackers themselves may have been sponsored by, or controlled by elements of the Saudi royal family is a pretty big deal.</p><p>Nevertheless, the <em>Times</em>plays a key role in <a href=";pagewanted=all">sending us in <em>the wrong direction</em></a><em>:</em></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">If there is a road to a happy ending in Afghanistan, much of the path may run underground: in the trillion-dollar reservoir of natural resources — oil, gold, iron ore, copper, lithium and other minerals — that has brought hopes of a more self-sufficient country, if only the wealth can be wrested from blood-soaked soil.</p><p>So, according to the world’s most influential opinion-making outlet, the fact of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has nothing to do with why the United States and its allies want to stay—and why others want us to leave. No, we are told, it is just a fortuitous “discovery” that can benefit the Afghans themselves, make them “self-sufficient.” If only it can be extracted…..</p><p>Of course, this narrative continues, the suffering Afghans can only be helped to become self-sufficient if enough long-term military and technical might is applied to the country.</p><p>We’d love to see more reporting from <em>The Times</em>about what Western companies knew and when they knew it. Instead, we see JPMorgan Chase’s Afghan venture mentioned, in passing, between references to efforts by the Chinese to get their piece of the action:</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Already this summer, the China National Petroleum Corporation, in partnership with a company controlled by relatives of President Karzai, began pumping oil from the Amu Darya field in the north. An investment consortium arranged by JPMorgan Chase is mining gold. Another Chinese company is trying to develop a huge copper mine. Four copper and gold contracts are being tendered, and contracts for rare earth metals could be offered soon.</p><p>The truth is, as long as the Chinese and Russians are cut in on the deal, their objections to military actions that enrich oligarchs everywhere are likely to be muted.</p><p>Imperial militaries exist in large part to grab and hold resources vital to the continuance of empires, while their paymasters back home reap benefits. That includes the rest of us, who must balance the security and creature comforts this approach provides against the death and destruction it inevitably entails. And we can’t begin to do the moral calculus until we acknowledge what’s being done in our name around the world, and why.</p> Mon, 10 Sep 2012 12:48:00 -0700 Russ Baker, 707828 at World World How the Corporate Media is Snookering You on Syria <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The hijacking of the Arab Spring has been aided by a media that airs propaganda on Syria.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> For those versed in the black arts of propaganda, the hijacking of Arab Spring must be a beauteous thing to behold.</p> <p> First came evidently spontaneous uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Then some up-and-comer in Washington or London or Paris had a brainstorm, a new twist on a very old idea: if you can’t beat em, join em. Or even better, co-opt them, and use them for your own purposes.</p> <p> The old way of getting rid of “inconvenient” leaders was so 20th-century—in the case of Saddam Hussein, a monstrous lie followed by a massive bloodletting on both sides. Tahrir Square suggested how to bring down a regime in a manner far less costly and far more palatable to the public: lots of medium-sized and little lies, war through Twitter, war through expendable proxies. Provide financial incentives to key figures to publicly renounce the old leadership, create a steady stream of heart-rending moments and photos and allegations, generate endless “human rights violations” by baiting the government into a military response, then very publicly petition international bodies for redress of humanitarian concerns.</p> <p> Muammar Qaddafi, a fiercely independent, quasi-socialistic African transnationalist, was the guinea pig. A <a href="">brilliant disinformation campaign</a> isolated him, authentic domestic grievances were encouraged, and a <a href="">whole war</a> was conducted <a href="">on behalf of the West</a> with nary a Western soldier putting boots to ground.</p> <p> Next up: <a href="">Syria’s Bashar al-Assad</a>. So began, again, the covert arming of real domestic opponents, and an extensive and variegated propaganda campaign.</p> <p> As with Libya, Western countries were covertly overthrowing a Middle East regime, just as they have done over the decades. And, as before, the media said <a href="">not a word</a> about what was really going on. So the public did not really understand, and there was practically no debate at all.</p> <p> <strong>A Diverse Media, But a Single Message</strong></p> <p> Thanks to the Internet, we have what appears to be a more diverse range of media offerings than ever before. We know the corporate-owned American media won’t take any kind of risks to warn us about what is going on. We are lucky we have alternatives: easy access to high quality foreign media (BBC, Guardian, Al Jazeera and the like). And we have a plethora of “alternative” media, from Left to Right to Other.</p> <p> With this cornucopia of competing entities, we have every reason to expect that we will get good, hard-hitting, tough-minded reporting and analysis. Right? Wrong. Almost no news organization of any note, of any kind, has called Libya and Syria for what they really are.</p> <p> The reasons may be various, but perhaps the most decisive one is this: All have seemingly fallen victim to a superb propaganda strategy that associates critical reporting and critical thinking on Syria with defending a regime (that is of course dictatorial and brutal) against “the people.”</p> <p> When almost no media anymore question these barely disguised coups against uncooperative standing governments, we are in very deep trouble. Because if we can’t count on the media to tell us what is going on in far-off places, what may we expect of them closer to home?  We are witnessing a crisis for journalism that is nothing less than a crisis for democracy itself.</p> <p> <strong>The “Limited Hangout”</strong></p> <p> Yet one more example of how this debilitating game is played was on display the other day in the New York Times, just one of many news organizations that have essentially acquiesced in this sophisticated Western power propaganda operation.</p> <p> The paper, whose reporting on Syria has been lackluster at best, finally provided us with a peek at what is actually going on. But the revelations were spun so as to benefit those seeking to depose Assad—and bury the matter of foreign sponsorship in plain sight.</p> <p> <a href=";pagewanted=all">The Times piece</a>, under the headline, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” begins:</p> <p> A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.</p> <p> Let’s stop and consider what is being said here. If the CIA is “operating secretly,” then what are “American officials and Arab intelligence officers” doing publicizing their efforts? Are these leakers courageous whistleblowers, risking a nice visit to the Bradley Manning Hall of Detention? Don’t bet on it.</p> <p> The reason we are being told about this, in all likelihood, is that they want us to know.Why? Because this is, in spy jargon, a “limited hangout” that hides the real truth. By “leaking” potentially controversial material, they get ahead of the curve, and by framing it in the most benign possible way, they control any discussion. Read on, please:</p> <p> The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.</p> <p> So there’s another soft spin: covert American operatives are helping keep weapons “out of the hands” of terrorist groups. Or, to be precise, out of the hands of terrorist groups opposed to American interests, while channeling them to terrorist groups more amenable to our policies in that region. The identity of these friendly “opposition fighters” is not stated, but they are presumably groups the CIA approves of—  perhaps because they were originally created or at least co-opted by these very same CIA people. Of course, the history of Western support for selected terrorist groups in this region is not encouraging; recall the extensive CIA funding of anti-Soviet mujahedeen who morphed into anti-American fighters (including Taliban and Al-Qaeda) after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan ended in 1989.</p> <p> The Times article goes on to say that the US is not providing arms but that US allies—particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar—are. What it neglects to mention is that the US provides arms to these allies, and all but tells these countries what to do with those arms. The trick: Washington uses these intermediaries in order for the US to say that it is not involved in overthrowing the Assad regime.</p> <p> That’s why the US government can hypocritically chastise Russia for <a href="">sending in helicopters</a> to the beleaguered Assad government. Perhaps Russia should, Western-style, simply look the other way (wink, wink) while its own allies send in weapons? Unfortunately for Russia, it is increasingly isolated, and, since the end of the Soviet bloc, has nothing comparable to the Western alliance. All it can do is provide direct aid to the regime and raise objections at the UN to those arming the opposition.</p> <p> ***</p> <p> The fact that the United States government, and notably a Democratic administration, is waging war against another government through surrogates is a really, really big deal. Yet our media—almost all of it, Left, Right and Other—walks in lockstep with a shared dubious narrative of an essentially spontaneous uprising being crushed by a ruthless government and of a West helping “the people” purely for humanitarian purposes.</p> <p> It turns out that the US government really did learn a lesson from Vietnam. Win those hearts and minds. But not in foreign jungles or deserts. The real battle is right here at home.</p> <div>  </div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Thu, 28 Jun 2012 08:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 671439 at World World egypt syria libya gaddafi assad Why Is the Government Withholding Documents About JFK's Assassination? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">JFK assassination documents offer surprising lessons about government secrecy -- and Obama&#039;s presidency.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Next year will be a half-century since the death of JFK. And the Obama Administration thinks we need to keep secret the records on the matter … a little longer yet.</p> <p>Believe it or not, more than 50,000 pages of JFK assassination–related documents are being withheld in full. And an untold number of documents have been partially withheld or released with everything interesting blacked out. But why?</p> <p>Since the government and the big media keep telling us there was no conspiracy and that it was all Lee Harvey Oswald acting on his own, why continue to keep the wraps on?</p> <p>We don’t have an answer, but in understanding this and any number of other mysteries, we can begin looking for patterns in the way the administration handles information policy.</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">We Want to Hear from You (But That’s It — We Just Want to <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Hear </em>from You)</strong></p> <p>Earlier this year, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">asked</a>, on its online Open Government Forum, for suggestions from the public about what it could do to create greater transparency. The #1 most popular idea? <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Get those Kennedy records out </em>— before Nov. 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the Dallas tragedy.</p> <p>But instead of dealing honestly with this matter, the feds have resorted to disinformation. In an interview with the <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Boston Globe, </em>the Archivist of the United States <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">claimed</a> that at two public forums held on open records, the most public comments came from people interested either in the JFK assassination or … in UFOs.</p> <p>Except for one thing: James Lesar, an attorney and co-founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a D.C.-based nonprofit that has fought a long and valiant fight on behalf of the public interest in disclosure, attended both of those forums and says that, as he recalls, there were <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">no </em>people there asking about UFOs, or that at most it was of negligible interest. In fact, a look at NARA’s online idea forum (now closed)<strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; "> </strong>showed no UFO proposals or comments.</p> <p>So, what’s with claiming otherwise? One could be excused for seeing in the Archivist’s statement a deliberate, and unworthy, attempt to smear the legitimacy of JFK inquiries by trying to make them appear “kooky.” (Not to judge the merits of the idea that there could be life elsewhere in the Universe, but the term “UFO conspiracist” is a well-worn dysphemism.)</p> <p>Here’s what actually happened at the NARA forums.</p> <p>The first was held in 2010. The assistant archivist, Michael Kurtz, said that withheld JFK assassination records would be processed, along with other documents, for declassification — and that the process should be completed by the end of 2013.</p> <p>But by 2011, Kurtz, who had been at NARA for decades, had retired. At the 2011 forum, Jim Lesar was told that JFK assassination records are <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">not </em>part of the declassification process. Hence, they will not be reviewed for release.</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Huh? What Happened</strong></p> <p>For some perspective, meet Sheryl Shenberger. She’s the head of the Archives’ National Declassification Center. What would you guess Sheryl’s professional background would be? Library of Congress? Academic research? Nope. Before NDC, Sheryl worked for … the <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">Central Intelligence Agency</a>.</p> <p>The most logical and reasonable explanation for this is that the Obama administration placed an ex-spook in charge of declassification because this would induce her old colleagues in Langley to cooperate. (Which of course raises the question of whether, in a real democracy, you would want to have a bunch of people secretly deciding to do whatever they wanted with 50-year-old documents pertaining to a supposed loony loner who whacked a president.)</p> <p>Frustrated by the administration’s foot-dragging on JFK, AARC sent a letter urging the government to get off its duff. One signer was G. Robert Blakey, who served as a Chief Counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (which in its 1978 final report said that, um … it looks like an <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">organized conspiracy</a> was responsible for JFK’s death.)</p> <p><a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">ARRC’s letter</a> was dated January 20, 2012<strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">. </strong>According to Lesar, there has still been no reply — though NARA says it is working on it.</p> <p>Release of the remaining documents, under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992<strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">,</strong> can be postponed until October 26, 2017. Not so bad, you say? Actually, the Act further states that even in 2017, the president may decide to drag this on further, by withholding records indefinitely.</p> <p>Records activists expect the CIA to petition for just such a decision. Any bets on President Hillary or President Mitt — or, quite possibly, <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">President Jeb Bush</a>, doing the right thing? What about all the <a href=";tag=who0ee-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=B003NSBMNA" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">secrets</a> Jeb’s father has to hide?</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Playing Games with Numbers</strong></p> <p>One of the problems is that we’re being asked to trust these folks at all. Even the number of documents being withheld — 50,000 — is a guess. At the 2010 public forum, Asst. Archivist Kurtz said that only about one percent of the five million pages had been withheld. Now the government is likely to say the number is even smaller. But think about it: What would they withhold, except the stuff that <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">really tells us something important</em>?<em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; "> </em>So whether it is 50,000 or 500 documents, it appears that government officials are hiding something, and they’re not about to give it up.</p> <p>One of the many wonderful spook tricks is to designate files as “Not Believed Relevant.” Among those so designated when the House Assassinations Committee investigated in the 1970s, we later learned, were files on the Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko. He had claimed to have been in charge of the KGB’s Oswald files. Also branded were files on the Cuban Revolutionary Council, a CIA front group set up by the ubiquitous master planner E. Howard Hunt that was connected in multiple ways to the Oswald story.</p> <p>“Not Believed Relevant”? We’ll take one of each of those documents, please.</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">***</strong></p> <p>Amazingly, the CIA under George W. Bush may turn out to be more compliant than Obama’s “open government” advocates. In 2004, on Bush’s watch, the agency voluntarily agreed to accelerate the release of postponed JFK assassination documents, and it did indeed release some early. </p> <p>By contrast, in the spring of 2012, three D.C. attorneys with long experience in litigating Freedom of Information cases expressed their disappointment with Obama in an <a href=";An_unfulfilled_promise_of_open_government&amp;slreturn=1" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">opinion piece</a>. They noted that the Department of Justice under Eric Holder<em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; "> seems willing to go to bat for any and every agency and department that wants to withhold information</em>.</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Open Government Plans … So Where’s the Open Government?</strong></p> <p>On his first day in office, President Obama signed a <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">government-wide directive</a> — widely reported by the media — establishing a whole new level of commitment to openness and transparency. The administration has made some real strides. But arguably not on the most sensitive — and hence most important — matters.</p> <p>On April 9, federal agencies were supposed to post updates to their Open Government Plans, this according to Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, writing on the <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">White House blog</a>. Some agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, did so. But others, such as the <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">Department of Labor</a> , <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">did not</a> — and still have not. NARA is one of those that has not complied.</p> <p>As the expression goes, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Opening up the nooks and crannies of government to public view was supposed to aid the process of discovering and rooting out the rot. This would, we were assured, help return Washington to the people. Obama selected Sunstein, a Harvard professor and old friend, to oversee this effort.</p> <p>Not long ago, when I asked to discuss this with Sunstein, I was told he was “not available” for interviews.</p> <p>Here’s the exchange:</p> <blockquote style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; quotes: none; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; "><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">From</strong>: Russ Baker<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Sent</strong>: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:12 PM<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">To</strong>: Sunstein, Cass R.<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Subject</strong>: interview request</p> <p>Mr. Sunstein, wonder if I might be able to do a phone interview with you about Open Records policy?</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">From:</strong> Strom, Shayna L.<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Sent:</strong> Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:25 PM<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">To:</strong> Russ Baker<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Subject:</strong> FW: interview request</p> <p>Unfortunately, Administrator Sunstein is unavailable for an interview.  That said, you might try the Archivist of the United States at NARA?  Best of luck!</p> <p>Warmly,</p> <p>Shayna</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">From:</strong> Russ Baker<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Sent:</strong> Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:33 PM<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">To:</strong> Strom, Shayna L.<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Subject:</strong> RE: interview request</p> <p>Is he generally unavailable for interviews? What is the policy on that? Seems relevant given that this is about open government.</p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">From:</strong> Strom, Shayna L.<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Sent:</strong> Thursday, April 12, 2012 5:00 PM<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">To:</strong> Russ Baker<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Cc:</strong> Mack, Moira K.<br /><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Subject:</strong> RE: interview request</p> <p>No, he’s not generally unavailable—but the Archivist is intimately involved in one of our big open government initiatives (records modernization), so he’s just a particularly good person to speak to on this.</p></blockquote> <p>So the person in charge of the overall governmental effort on open records wants me to talk to the person running one of the agencies that is … <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">having difficulties complying with the spirit if not letter of Obama’s announcement.</em></p> <p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">No Mr. Sunshine, That Mr. Sunstein</strong></p> <p>Actually, Sunstein has good reason to lay low. Watch this slightly raw <a href=";feature=related" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">video</a>  of someone confronting him about a paper <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">he wrote</a> a few years ago. In it, he actually advocated for “cognitive infiltration” of groups that espouse alternative views on controversial issues like the events of Sept. 11 (i. e, conspiracy theories).</p> <p>Here’s a quote from Sunstein’s paper:</p> <blockquote style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; quotes: none; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; "><p>[W]e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.</p></blockquote> <p>Sunstein is a sort of caricature of everything people don’t like and don’t trust about government. The fact that he’s in charge of “open government” speaks volumes.</p> <p>Apparently not a great enthusiast for the Freedom of Information Act, Sunstein has said that judges are not qualified to second-guess executive branch decisions on what the public should or should not be told.</p> <p>In light of this record, it’s useful to consider Sunstein’s broader mandate: to make government more efficient and accountable. Releasing records involves, in part, cutting red tape. Another aspect of cutting red tape is getting rid of bureaucracy. And that’s where things get even more interesting. Under cover of making government more accountable, Sunstein gets to push for elimination of regulations that corporations find onerous. <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">Here’s</a> a <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">Washington Post</em> article on Sunstein holding up (for more than a year) food safety legislation that the industry doesn’t like.</p> <p>What’s going on here? Why the seeming shift away from Obama’s initial commitment to openness? One attorney involved with these matters says he suspects this may be traceable to Obama’s order, shortly after he took office, to release many of the so-called “torture memos.” The President seemed taken aback by vociferous public demands that he prosecute the torturers — a <a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">perilous policy</a> due to internal resistance — and quickly shifted to favoring the intelligence community and restricting disclosure. As the attorney points out, the broader concept — that transparency leads to public awareness, which in turn leads to demands for political changes — certainly does not sit well with dominant sectors in this country. Obama has hardly distinguished himself for seriously taking on those sectors. Maybe because he doesn’t want to, maybe because … he can’t. (For more on this, see our 2010 piece, “<a href="" rel="external" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; color: rgb(255, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; ">What Obama Is Up Against</a>.”)</p> <p>***</p> <p>NARA is now saying that the White House gave “small agencies” (meaning NARA) a June deadline for publishing its revised open government plan. But no White House postings support that claim. In any case, even if and when NARA becomes more responsive, don’t bet on the government releasing the most valuable JFK-related documents … in your lifetime.</p> <p>By the way, here’s more on the new head of the Archives’ declassification center: “Ms. Shenberger served as a Branch Chief in the <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">CIA Counter Terrorism Center between 2001 </em>and 2003” before being assigned declassification work for the Agency.</p> <p>That’s very interesting — since one gets the sense that the Agency is not eager to release inside dope on the government’s astounding failures relating to <em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; ">one particular date</em> in 2001.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Fri, 01 Jun 2012 09:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 671040 at Human Rights Human Rights jfk secrecy classification Why Do Sex Scandals Destroy Democrats But Not Republicans? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Not all politicians are created equal. And not all are treated equally. Therein lies an issue deserving a closer look: whether vulnerable Democrats are targeted for destruction.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Does no one else find the very fact of John Edwards being on trial curious? Does no one else wonder about the criminal basis for the prosecution? About who in politics does and does not end up being destroyed by matters related to sexual behavior?</p> <p>Let me preface my take on the Edwards trial with one general observation: Not all politicians are created equal. And not all are treated equally. Therein lies an issue deserving a much, much closer look: whether vulnerable Democrats, chiefly of the liberal persuasion, are targeted for destruction.  Or at least helped along to their doom by a double standard.</p> <p>***</p> <p>But first, the specifics of the <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">Edwards case</a>. He faces a potential $1.5 million fine, but, far more seriously, up to thirty years imprisonment. <i>Thirty years.</i> His crime? Not murder, not torture, not armed robbery, not stealing money from clients. No, his crime was his <i>failure to report campaign contributions. </i>While preparing for his second presidential bid, in 2006, he got caught up in an extramarital affair that produced a child. And, not exactly able to announce that fact or ask his sick wife to sign off, the wealthy Edwards turned to some wealthy backers to take care of the woman and the baby and hide the whole thing from Elizabeth Edwards and presumably everyone else.<b> </b>Two people gave him a total of $900,000.</p> <p>When someone running for office receives money, or the benefit of money or services, that’s a contribution, and it must both be reported and be subject to restrictions on amount. Unless of course it has nothing to do with the campaign itself. Certainly, candidates receive ordinary income (such as fees for lawyering) that is not subject to those limits. And if someone gives a candidate a gift that is not used for the campaign, it is similarly not subject to campaign finance laws.</p> <p>So, what’s the ill intent here—and the consequence for the public interest? If this were a bribe by someone seeking to influence Edwards as an office-holder, that would be one thing. If the money were intended to help sway voters to support Edwards, that might be valid cause for pursuing the case aggressively. But nothing about the two donors, both elderly (one has since died), suggests an attempt to gain illegal influence. In reality, both donors –the billionaires Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron—apparently liked and believed in Edwards and, when asked, were quick to aid him in a tough spot.</p> <p>If it sounds like Edwards still needed to apply FEC rules and limits, consider this: Scott Thomas, a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">testified</a> that he did not consider that the payments would have come under his agency’s auspices—in part because they were not used directly for the campaign and did not free up any of Edwards’ own money to be spent on the campaign. And Thomas noted that the gifts from one of the donors continued after Edwards dropped out of the race, indicating they were not for campaign purposes. Unfortunately for Edwards, the ex-commissioner, a 37-year FEC veteran with great credibility on these matters,  was only permitted to testify without the jury present—and the jury may never get to hear from him.</p> <p>In any case, one doesn’t need to in any way defend Edwards’ conduct to see that the matter is a bit complex, and the prosecution for a federal crime, and the prospective punishment, extraordinarily harsh.</p> <p><b>The “Liberal” Media Loves to Sink Liberals</b></p> <p>What’s this really about? The equal application of election law? Equal pursuit of actual corruption? An equal standard of sexual misbehavior and how it should be handled?  It’s hard to see any of these legitimate concerns front and center here.</p> <p>What <i>did</i> strike me about this matter is that it seems to confirm a feeling that I have long had:  Progressive Democrats who get caught with their pants down appear to pay a steeper price in terms of impact on their career prospects—if not criminal prosecution— when compared to similarly compromised corporate-friendly Republicans.</p> <p>Let’s consider the long list of Democrats before John Edwards who were wounded by accusations of sexual misbehavior: Gary Hart. Gary Condit (who was tied to the disappearance and <i>murder </i>of a young woman; although in the end it turned out he had nothing to do with it, he was ruined anyway because of an alleged dalliance with the young woman). Bill Clinton. Eliot Spitzer. Anthony Weiner. (I’m sure I am forgetting some.)</p> <p>Republican politicians seem no less prone than Democrats to adultery and other common if frowned-upon behavior. But compared to the infamy visited upon those named above, how many of us recall all the GOP/Conservative Scandals? How often were these the topic of constant chatter on the major talk radio programs? Try David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, Jon Ensign, Dan Burton, Helen Chenoweth, Henry Hyde, Robert Livingston, Mark Foley, to name but a few. Several quickly resigned but the only one who, pardon the expression, went down after extensive coverage (and his own resistance) that I can recall was Larry Craig—whose public washroom behavior (and tone-deaf defense thereof) was pretty hard to ignore.</p> <p>In fact, given the standard GOP claim to represent “family values” and morality in general, it would seem that shenanigans from that side of the aisle would warrant more attention—and graver consequences — if for nothing more than the inherent hypocrisy and cynicism.</p> <p>We cannot ignore the decision-makers who decide whom to prosecute, partially in response to unstated political and other pressures. Nor should we ignore the role of the media (and supposed friends of the Democrats) in sealing their doom.</p> <p>The <i>New York Times, </i>purported linchpin of the liberal media, hammered Bill Clinton and <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">broke the Eliot Spitzer call-girl story</a><b>.  </b>Gary Hart was investigated by the purportedly moderate-liberal <i>Miami Herald </i>and <i>Washington Post</i>. Clinton was taken to the woodshed by Joe Lieberman and some feminists. Spitzer was quietly mugged, off-record, by his Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was only too glad to capture the governorship himself  two years later.  In the case of Rep. Weiner, the saturation coverage made it difficult to recall that he had not actually had sexual contact with the women he was sending messages to. Nevertheless, he was assailed by prominent liberal blogs and cut off by Nancy Pelosi; his seat, a sure Democratic bet, went GOP in a special election.</p> <p><b>T</b>he same cannot be said, in general, of conservative politicians or conservative media. Their tendency has been to largely ignore, or to understate, or to deflect attention from the Republican shenanigans and abuses.</p> <p>So much for the notion of a “liberal” media showing favoritism to its own.  My experience is that the “liberal” label when applied to journalists is a red herring which distracts us from the fundamentally accomodationist nature of the corporate-owned media. But the liberal label <i>is</i> effective in pressuring journalists to prove they do not coddle liberals—by doing the exact opposite.</p> <p>The media is, by nature, cowardly. It too seldom goes after powerful people over the actual business of governing because it is too hard to make the audience care. And it only goes after people for misusing their peckers when it senses that a mob is forming, that there’s blood in the water. Then it is all about going to the head of the pack.</p> <p>If we examine the case of Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the contrast to Edwards’s treatment is startling. Sen. Vitter, a slavish advocate of oil industry and other corporate interests, broke the law prior to 2004 by patronizing prostitutes while a member of the House. The scandal broke after he had been elected to the Senate; he is still in the Senate. When it became public that his name was in the records of a Capitol Hill escort agency, Vitter put out a written statement of contrition, went into a week of seclusion, emerged and, with his wife (who happens to be a prosecutor), made a brief public apology, then refused to answer questions. He was never prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. The woman who ran the call girl ring he frequented, <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">Deborah Jeane Palfrey</a>, aka the “DC Madam,” was found hanged in what was labeled a suicide, after publicly saying that if anything happened to her, she most certainly did not intend to do harm to herself.</p> <p>Had Vitter stepped down, the Democratic governor of Louisiana at the time would presumably have appointed a Democrat to temporarily fill his seat—an important factor in a closely divided Senate.</p> <p>The hypocrisy of a “family values” politician like Vitter knows no bounds. When Vitter was in the House of Representatives he actually took calls from the DC Madam <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">during roll call votes</a>; later, Sen. Vitter expressed outrage over purported actions of the poverty group ACORN, where several staffers showed tolerance toward conservative operatives with a hidden camera who were pretending to be involved in prostitution.</p> <p>So Vitter is still in the Senate, defending the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, while Anthony Weiner, who was never accused of any crime, was forced to resign by howls of protests from all quarters, including the Democratic leadership who abandoned him in the face of the “inevitable.”</p> <p><b>Ye Olde Honey Pot</b></p> <p>The media—and hence the public—tend to focus more attention on failings in politicians’ private lives than in their public ones. We already know that politicians are all too human in their private tastes, which appear to have little cause-and-effect relationship to their conduct in office. But we continue to make personal rectitude the standard of fitness for politicians, rather than the actual policies they advocate—and the interests that shape their priorities.</p> <p>Yet, paradoxically, it is exactly in their public actions and the policies they espouse that we may look for the roots of these selective scandals.  Could politicians with the “wrong public values” be targeted for a fall?</p> <p>I find it instructive to look at the specifics of Edwards’ predicament, and the curious decision to prosecute in a federal court what was, while morally inexcusable, private behavior involving chiefly the wronging of a spouse.</p> <p>-Edwards became enamored of a woman who approached <i>him</i>—and who was well aware that he was married, and how exposure of the affair could impact his future if it became public.</p> <p>-The story came to the public in part with the help of the <i>National Enquirer</i>, the same paper that played a prominent role in Hart’s downfall in the run-up to the 1988 Presidential election..</p> <p>-Edwards was, like Hart, a handsome, charismatic—and populist—candidate, a rare liberal hope in a party traditionally prone to nominating “system” moderates. His issues were poverty and income inequality, climate change, universal health care, and withdrawing troops from Iraq. When Rielle Hunter approached him in 2006 he was on a cross-country tour to help labor unions. <b> </b></p> <p>-Hunter in some ways is reminiscent of other women who came forward to ruin or nearly ruin Democratic politicians with accusations of sexual improprieties—while personally profiting from their actions–including Donna Rice (Hart), Gennifer Flowers (Clinton) and Ashley Dupre (Spitzer). Meanwhile, some of those who turned on Edwards, notably his former aide Andrew Young and his wife, have by their own admission <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">done well financially</a> for doing Edwards in.</p> <p>-Though Hunter was their entire case, prosecutors were sufficiently wary of her (or perhaps of drawing additional attention to her precise role in the matter) that they did not call her to the witness stand.</p> <p>This investigative reporter smells a rat in Edwards’s downfall. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not sure exactly who decided what, when, but consider that Hunter was down on her luck when she happened to bump into Edwards while he was in a hotel bar. The following excerpt is instructive. It comes from a book by Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young, now a prosecution witness against Edwards (<a href=";tag=who0ee-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=0312668252" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); "><i>The Politician</i></a>):</p> <p>The senator <b>first met Rielle</b> in early 2006 when he was in New York during a <b>cross-country speaking tour with actor Danny Glover on behalf of hotel workers</b> who wanted his help at <b>union rallies</b>. As she eventually told me herself, <b>she saw Edwards in the lounge</b> of the Regency, a five-star hotel on Park Avenue…..</p> <p>By the time she saw John Edwards, she had lived much of her life on the edge of glamour, wealth, and enlightenment but was, at <b>forty-one, divorced, unemployed, and living rent-free </b>with a friend in New Jersey named Margaret “Mimi” Hockman.</p> <p>When she made eye contact with the senator…she asked him if he was the candidate she had seen on television. After he identified himself, she said, “<b>You’re so hot</b>, but on television that doesn’t come through. You seem distant. <b>I can help you</b> with that.”…</p> <p>Rielle …decided immediately that she would devote herself to helping him reach this potential. This assistance would begin later, after <b>she arranged to bump into him on the sidewalk</b>, where she would flirt some more.</p> <p>What’s even more interesting is that Hunter wasn’t really in a position to do what she promised. Partnering with her roommate, the two had to recruit still others to execute rudimentary video and editing work. Soon she and her crew were traveling with the politician, filming him in <i style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); "><a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">cinema verite</a> </i>style for online “webisodes.”</p> <p>Now, how about Hart? The <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">Hart scandal</a> had the flavor of an operation designed to remove an enormously popular, populist candidate from the race. (Hart was at the time the leading Democratic candidate, and well ahead of his likely Republican opponent, vice president George H.W. Bush, in match-ups.)</p> <p>Hart was invited onto a boat with a ridiculously newsworthy name (“Monkey Business”), an attractive blond plopped in his lap, and a waiting photographer got the money shot. A private investigator <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">provided journalists with a report</a> saying that Hart and the blond, Donna Rice, appeared to have spent the night together.  Other reporters were given an anonymous inside tip. The story reads right like a thriller—or <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">an intelligence op</a>.  A bit like how Watergate became a sensation. (See our series on the downing of Nixon <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">here</a>.)</p> <p>It is now common knowledge that Clinton was targeted by a well-oiled Right-Wing operation (not too far off from Hillary Clinton’s statement, seemingly wild at the time, that her husband was the victim of a “<a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">vast, right-wing conspiracy</a>”). We never did learn quite enough about how someone with Monica Lewinsky’s modest credentials and unique charms (just the sort Bill Clinton was known to appreciate) ended up interning for him. On the surface, it all looks innocent enough, but I’ve seen enough hints, and, over the years, enough comparable scenarios, to wonder.</p> <p>True, there is no proof here, or smoking gun, and maybe in the end it is all circumstantial. But still the patterns add up to something consistent -- yes, a politician acting recklessly, given what was at stake, but also an eager or available woman, in the right place at the right time. </p> <p><b>Message: If You Mess With the Establishment, Don’t Mess With the Ladies</b></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">The Spitzer story</a> featured a cast of corporate kingpins angry at his actions as attorney general, and the GOP “dirty tricks” specialist Roger Stone. Exactly how Spitzer’s financial transactions drew federal attention has been inadequately explored, as has why so big a deal was made of his extracurricular activities (the central federal legal “issue” was that he arranged for a prostitute to cross state lines). As for Anthony Weiner, he was targeted by the late provocateur <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">Andrew Breitbart</a>  and fellow Right-wing activists who used fake email addresses and <a href=";smid=tw-nytimes&amp;seid=auto" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">pretended to be underage girls.</a></p> <p>Probably the most interesting thing is how many of these guys who went down—or in Clinton’s case nearly did—were messing with powerful interests. Excepting perhaps Clinton, they all had a streak of populism—going after bankers, and the one percent, and, in at least one case, the CIA. Hart and Edwards both had stirred class-conscious politics prominently into their broader messaging. Hart was on the investigative Senate committee that looked into CIA abuses in the 1970s, and became an outspoken critic of the excesses of the spy establishment—just as Richard Nixon was <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); ">secretly battling the CIA</a>, the Pentagon, and corporate interests at the time that the Watergate scandal began to undo his presidency. Weiner was a liberal and a close ally of the Clintons with an eye on the New York mayor’s office. Spitzer was a leading figure in targeting Wall Street, insurance industry and other corporate abuses. He was one big problem for some tough customers, and had his eye on the White House next.</p> <p>Is all this worth another look? This reporter thinks so.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Sun, 20 May 2012 20:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 670863 at Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships News & Politics clinton edwards 8 Things You Need to Know About America's Private Prison Industry <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America’s system of detaining and monitoring &quot;criminals&quot; impacts more people than ever before.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This story first appeared on</em><a href=""><em></em></a></p> <p>Crime is going down in America, but more Americans than ever are in prison—and more and more money is being spent and made, turning this country into a giant armed camp. Here are some key points about the private prison industry:</p> <p>1. America’s system of detaining and monitoring “criminals” impacts more people than ever before. Including those who are either in some form of incarceration or in the parole and probation process, you’re looking at an affected population of….six million. One out of every 100 Americans is behind bars now. And every year, about 13 million Americans spend some time in jail for at least a brief spell.</p> <p>2. State legislators faced with dwindling revenues are eager to offload inmates to “cheap” private facilities</p> <p>3. The private prison industry grew 350 percent over the past fifteen years.</p> <p>4. Two private companies – Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group– dominate the private prison industry. The biggest company, Corrections Corporation of America, is offering to buy prisons from states as long as they can promise an adequate supply of prisoners to make the deal worthwhile.</p> <p>5. Studies show that private facilities perform badly compared to public ones on almost every metric—prevention of intra-prison violence, jail conditions, rehabilitation efforts—except reducing state budgets and adding to the corporate bottom line.</p> <p>To keep their gravy train rolling, private prison companies need a few things from state and local government:</p> <p>6) Lots of people arrested and convicted (often of essentially victimless crimes) and given long sentences. This most heavily impacts young black males—about one in nine of whom is in prison, many for using or selling marijuana, or, to a lesser degree, harder drugs. (Although whites have comparable drug use rates, their prosecution rates are dramatically lower.)</p> <p>7) Opposition to the decriminalization of drug use, which would cut sharply into prison industry profits. (As a result, it ain’t going to happen.)</p> <p>8) The continued criminalization and detention of undocumented foreigners.</p> <p>With serious crime rates dropping, the US has fewer and fewer of the hardest-core (mostly male) criminals who were once prime targets for incarceration. To replace them, the private prison industry needs more young people, more women and (thanks to the immigration snatch game) more children as fodder for detention facilities.</p> <p>The privatization of prisons is yet another instance of how small-government advocates are driving more and more of our lives into the hands of companies whose only objective is to turn a profit – without concern for larger social consequences. When public services like incarceration are handled as cheaply as possible, terrifying outcomes can result, including, in this case, unnecessary harm to minor offenders, the hardening of minor offenders into serious criminals, and calls for still more draconian law enforcement and punishment protocols, whose main justification is to keep those for-profit prisons filled.</p> <p>How bad can it get? A private detention company in Pennsylvania bribed two judges to order youths imprisoned. </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Fri, 04 May 2012 08:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 670647 at Human Rights Human Rights industry prison private prisons The Oakland Paradox: Obama, Weed, and Guns <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Having secured the democratic vote based on the right-wing options, Obama is cracking down on medical marijuana to appeal to new voters and maintain Big Pharma&#039;s allegiance.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> The front page of Tuesday’s <em>Los Angeles Times</em>contains two articles that say a lot about priorities in this country. Those two articles both deal with incidents at universities in the same California city: Oakland.</p> <p><a href=",0,1967158.story">One</a> reports on the Obama Administration sending federal agents, backed by Oakland police, in raids of facilities associated with Oaksterdam University, an outfit that provides medical cannabis services and related courses.</p> <p>In the <a href=",0,1967158.story">other</a>, a former student with “<a href=",0,7253927,full.story">anger management</a> issues” entered Oikos University, a small Christian school, and mowed down seven people in one of the worst shooting incidents in California history.</p> <p>The lead article, “Raid on Pot College Stuns Activists,” explains that, as the search warrants are sealed, the reason for the raids are unknown. However, the background centers on interpretations of California law permitting the dispensing of marijuana for purposes of treating illnesses—under certain circumstances. It appears that there is some dispute over whether, under that law or those of other states, it is permissible for those in the cannabis trade to earn a profit.</p> <p>What is more interesting than the rationale for the raids is the overall strategic decisions being arrived at by the Obama Administration. For, whether or not for-profit medical cannabis operations are justified, they are essentially providing services that the law says serve a legitimate public interest—<a href="">mitigating the pain and suffering of chronic illness</a>. And they are not “criminal” in any real sense. Richard Lee, the man behind Oaksterdam University and a related dispensary, has been in a wheelchair since a spinal injury in 1990 and uses marijuana to treat muscle spasticity.</p> <p>Yet Obama has clearly made harassing those serving ill Americans with medical marijuana a law enforcement priority. Since he took office, federal agents have conducted more than 170 raids of medical marijuana operations nationally. And since October, the feds have sent 300 letters to landlords of marijuana dispensaries, threatening them if they do not evict their tenants.</p> <p>Clearly, this is intended to send a message, but to whom?  If law-abiding providers like Richard Lee are forced out of business, unquestionably public access to medical cannabis treatment will be constrained. And who does that serve?</p> <p>One can only think of two beneficiaries of these raids. One is the pharmaceutical industry, which is deeply worried about ways in which natural substances like cannabis could cut into their sales of more conventional cures. Interestingly, the industry has shown interest in cannabis, but on terms that benefit it—seeing huge profits in a market of FDA-approved, by-prescription, <a href="">cannabinoid medicines</a>. Outfits like Oaksterdam University are competition.</p> <p>Big Pharma is an important player in elections. During the 2008 election, it dumped <a href=";ind=H4300">$16 million into federal elections</a>, almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.  Last year it spent <a href=";ind=H4300">$150 million on lobbying</a> in Washington. Significantly, <a href=";cycle=2008&amp;recipdetail=P&amp;mem=N&amp;sortorder=U">Obama received almost $1.2 million</a> from the industry in 2008, which is <em>four times</em>what it gave his opponent, John McCain.</p> <p>To check out the revolving door between the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama administration, go <a href=";id=10">here</a>.  On that page, scroll down to Department of Justice, the lead entity harassing medical marijuana providers. Look at, for example, the first name, <a href="">Lanny Breuer</a>. He goes in and out of Democratic administrations, having worked in both the Clinton and Obama White Houses, and is currently at the Justice Department, where he is Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division. When he is not in government, he works for the lobbying firm of Covington &amp; Burling, where more than half of his business comes from….<a href="">the pharmaceutical industry</a>. Breuer is just an example—there are plenty more.</p> <p>The other beneficiary of the raids is Obama’s political image. By authorizing high-profile raids (and we can reasonably assume nothing like this would be undertaken without the president’s approval) the president is staking out the “law and order” ground crucial to victory in November. He can easily sacrifice the votes of those for whom this issue is of paramount importance. They really have no viable alternative candidate. And states such as California will be firmly in the Democratic column no matter what Obama does. But he telegraphs a message of toughness on drugs and crime that will appeal to crucial voters in swing states. To believe that major decisions are not undertaken with an eye to political consequences is to exhibit extraordinary naiveté, especially when they come in the year prior to the presidential election.</p> <p><strong>Guns Don’t Kill People, Medical Marijuana Kills People [um…NOT]</strong></p> <p>By contrast, let’s consider the crux of the issue in the article right next to it: “7 Shot Dead in Oakland Campus Rampage.” <strong> </strong> Senseless gun violence, a fair amount of it committed by people with legal weapons, occurs with numbing regularity. Almost every day, it seems, someone shoots up a college, a workplace, a church, a social event. And yet it is just ignored. Although the massive coverage of the Trayvon Martin case has focused principally on racism, the case most certainly is also about guns, because, irrespective of George Zimmerman’s motivations, if he did not have a gun, Trayvon would be alive.</p> <p>Zimmerman possessed a legal firearm. So did the gunman in Oakland. Yet few public officials, and certainly not Obama, dare take on the power of the NRA or even challenge routine gun-ownership arguments that more guns on the street make us all safer. Those who advocate America’s growing descent into a nation of frontier saloonkeepers and Old West gunslingers are on slippery ground when every day innocent people are mowed down. Yet in a sign that this country is hamstrung about the problem, nothing is being seriously proposed by our government.</p> <p>Apparently, people would rather let these daily tragedies unfold than abandon the largely illusory sense of personal safety they get by keeping weapons in their homes. Gun advocates like to point to the rare instance in which someone successfully protected their life against an intruder, while ignoring each loss of innocent life.</p> <p>In fact, in 2009 (the most recent year I could find for such <a href="">compiled statistics</a>), of 13,636 Americans murdered that year (the vast majority with guns), only 215 were classified by law enforcement as justifiable homicide by private citizens (just 165 involved handguns.)  That’s about one and a half percent of all gun deaths. Not very impressive in the self-defense category!</p> <p>The reality in a country where the ratio of guns to people is about 1:1, is that we all should feel terrified every time we encounter someone with a bad temper, with road rage, anyone who may think we looked at them in the wrong way or that we trespassed (however accidentally) on their property.</p> <p>The idea that bad guys will think twice if they know everyone around them is armed is patently nonsensical in the case of deranged shooters like the Oakland gunman. And does anyone think there will be <em>fewer</em> victims if shooters get into gun battles with armed citizens in schoolrooms, bars or churches?</p> <p>Yet nothing gets done. The Obama administration does not have the political will to tackle the issue—and no wonder.  Things are so out of whack that the <a href="">best the Administration can do</a> is to require gun store owners in <em>Southwest border states</em>to merely <em>report</em>when customers buy <em>multiple</em>high-powered rifles—within <em>five days</em>of the purchase. It’s a wonder they didn’t add, “when the purchaser is over 90 years old.”  No matter—the firearms industry predictably opposed this toothless measure.</p> <p>***</p> <p>The “Oakland Paradox,” in which the government clamps down on a legitimate medical use for marijuana while skirting a serious life-or-death issue, offers a perfect opportunity for America to have a candid conversation about common sense and political corruption—and getting it right about what is good for us, and what isn’t.</p> <p>A president in a tight re-election campaign isn’t likely to lead such a discussion. But the rest of us can push for one to begin.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Fri, 06 Apr 2012 09:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 670241 at Drugs Drugs Human Rights drugs election political administration obama california raid oakland big pharma tax lobby competition pills federal The Jeb Scenario: Can You Say “President Bush” Again? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Anyone who declares that Americans will not stand for another Bush presidency is sorely underestimating the Bush family.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> More and more GOP politicians are realizing their party has a big problem. What once seemed a great idea—a drawn-out Republican Primary slugfest intended to take the limelight from President Obama—may have only served to get their entire field on the wounded list. And what option does that leave?</p> <p>Well, one solution is to forget about the entire bunch.</p> <p>Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage, elected in 2010 with heavy Tea Party support, thinks the circular firing squad scenario might open things up for someone else. The Associated Press <a href="">quoted LePage</a> the other day on this:</p> <blockquote> <p> “I would love to see a good old-fashioned convention and a dark horse come out and do it in the fall,” LePage said, adding that he didn’t have a particular alternative candidate in mind.</p></blockquote> <p>Whoever this is, it doesn’t need to be a “dark horse,” a term signifying a generally unknown prospect who surges to prominence. Instead, as in racing, this competitor out of nowhere could be the progeny of a previous winner. Maybe even a sibling of another.</p> <p>In other words, he—and it will be a he—could be what Donald Rumsfeld might call a “known unknown”—a major brand name that has not been sullied by the current non-stop mud wrestling. For one has been  <a href="">hanging out at the steps to the arena</a> all this time. His name is Jeb Bush.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Before anyone races to declare that Americans will not stand for another Bush presidential campaign—and certainly not for another Bush presidency—let me just say that they’d be sorely underestimating the Bush family.</p> <p>The Bushes are nothing if not resilient. George W. Bush, he of so few qualifications but with his own distinctive Bush personality and formidable charisma, came out of the dust of his father’s re-election defeat in 1992, stronger than his father ever was politically. And though W. is now <em>persona non grata</em> to many, his brother would come back as a significantly different brand. He’s widely regarded as more capable, much more focused, much better at delivering points. He’s able to pull off a kind of sober, reasonable persona, more stable than a Santorum or a Gingrich or most of the other contenders. Rich but not entitled. A kind of Romney—without the Romney.</p> <p>And yet….And yet he is still a Bush. That means a great deal, because, putting aside all the stylistic differences, this is a clan with a mission. It’s a mission they’ll never talk about, beyond vague statements about a sense within the family of Duty to Nation. No, the Bush clan is the ultimate representative of the game plan of the one percent of the one percent. What they stand for in private is much, much more troubling than most Americans know. What I learned in the five years I spent investigating them—as they were going out of power the last time—shook me to my core.</p> <p>***</p> <p>There isn’t space to get into the hundreds of disturbing things about the long-term agenda and covert worldview of this family and their friends, going back not just years but generations. Suffice it to point out a few things that might seem innocuous, but aren’t.</p> <p>One is the propensity the Bushes have for long-term alliances with those on the other side of the aisle. This is emphatically <em>not </em>about bipartisanship. It is about the same kinds of things that bring Republican and Democratic elites together, that explain the 2004 nominees of both parties being members of the same Yale secret society. It is about why the same people stay on top forever.</p> <p>The Bush family made friends with Bill Clinton at the very start of his administration—right after he defeated George H.W. Bush—a relationship that is sustained to the present moment. Although a Democrat, Clinton never did take on the big issues that would have upset the people behind the Bush dynamic. Indeed, he deregulated the financial markets and outsourced government, and carried out a foreign policy comfortable to those used to extracting resources from wherever needed, no questions asked; he failed to challenge the national security establishment or generate a post-Soviet-collapse “peace dividend.”</p> <p>The Bush family has now attempted the same thing with another Democratic “opponent,” Barack Obama. Shortly after Obama took office, George H.W. Bush and Jeb (but not W.) paid the new president a private visit in the White House. That’s not a common thing, but the media essentially ignored it and we never did learn the real nature of that trip, beyond the notion that the Bush family just wanted one more peek at the West Wing.</p> <p>Recently, Obama <a href="">got another visit</a> from the duo. Jeb and his father, known familiarly as Poppy, were ostensibly in town to attend the <a href="">Alfalfa Club</a>’s annual banquet, also attended by Obama—one of those seemingly harmless events where the press is kept out and government officials and rich people frolic and reaffirm each other’s credentials in this country’s elite.</p> <p>The publications reporting on the Bush White House visit intimated that it seemed a little weird to them, but nobody came right out and said it. To be sure, this is one family with a lot of weird little coincidences, and famous excuses for happening to have to be somewhere. Examples: George H.W. Bush said he couldn’t remember where he was the day JFK was shot, but documents show that he was right there in… Dallas. Working covertly for the CIA. Before publicly not remembering, he went to the trouble of creating a hodgepodge of competing scenarios for where he was—and why.</p> <p>Another oddity: George H.W. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan in 1980, lost, and, barely suppressing his disgust and disappointment, became Reagan’s veep. Like Lyndon Johnson a decade earlier, he faced an eight-year wait for another chance at the top. Two months after the inauguration, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley—son of a family that had been <a href=",_Jr.">close with the Bushes</a> for decades. Of course, this was so very bizarre and statistically improbable (and chilling), that virtually no media organization even mentioned the connection. (For more on odd security incidents surrounding the presidency, see <a href="">this</a>.)</p> <p>***</p> <p>With a third Bush on the horizon, we need to consider the gap between the way the Bush clan is presented in the media and the reality. The media tell us that they are a family like every other family in pursuit of the American dream, perhaps blessed with just a little more drive and luck than most.  As if.</p> <p>In fact, Jeb owes his current political stature to family influence that soared when Poppy headed out from Connecticut along with many other old-money people to get in on the oil boom (with more than a little <a href="">intelligence work mixed in</a>—much of it involving anti-Castro Cubans.) Then Jeb grew up and moved to Florida, where Poppy’s CIA ties with the anti-Castro Cuban community got the son quickly fixed up, professionally, financially, and, soon enough, politically.</p> <p>There’s a whole bunch of stuff concerning Jeb that any budding investigative reporter should find good teething material. In 1980, after his father’s election as vice president, Jeb set up the Bush family franchise in the Sunshine State, with its increasing national political importance. He promptly got involved with the wealthy Cuban exile community that had long and deep covert connections to his father, and that wanted continued access for favors. One of those Cubans, Armando Codina, a self-made millionaire, took the veep’s son under his wing, and Jeb was soon on his way to his own fortune in real estate deals that often did not pass the smell test. This was, helpfully, under the shingle of “Bush Realty” in case anyone did not already know his father was in the White House and that Jeb was “<a href="">open for business</a>.”</p> <p>These guys don’t “beat around the Bush.” They don’t have to. As Jeb told the <em>Miami News</em> in 1983, “I want to be very wealthy–and I’ll be glad to tell you when I’ve accomplished that goal.”</p> <p>Jeb waded into Florida politics in 1984 as Dade County GOP Chair. One of Jeb’s closest associates was Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro. Padreda and a friend had previously been indicted for embezzlement, but the charges were dropped, it has been said, after the CIA assured prosecutors that Padreda’s friend had worked for the agency. (At the time, the elder Bush, a former CIA director, was vice president). Padreda later <a href="">pled guilty</a> to defrauding the Bush administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, though his worst punishment was two months of house arrest. Jeb also was on the payroll of another Cuban businessman, Miguel Recarey, who had been involved with CIA attempts to assassinate Castro. He lobbied his father’s administration on behalf of Recarey. Later on, Recarey was charged in what is believed to be the largest Medicare fraud in history, but managed to flee the country with a handy “expedited” $2.2 million tax refund he received from the IRS that same day.</p> <p>In 1990, when George H.W. was president, Jeb got him to release the convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, who had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts (among other things, Bosch was implicated in the bombing of a Cubana plane that resulted in the deaths of 73 civilians). In 1998, with heavy help from the Cuban community, Jeb was elected governor, and thus emerged in a prime position to help his elder brother, George W., prevail in the 2000 Florida election fiasco, and thereby become president. As governor, Jeb nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of the Cuban dictator Batista, to the Florida supreme court, though he was lacking in experience—Cantero had been the terrorist Bosch’s spokesman and attorney.</p> <p>In the aftermath of September 11, while the George W. Bush administration was pushing the colored panic light like crazy, and targeting terrorist suspects of all kinds and levels of probable guilt and innocence, it consented to the release of Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offenses. Jeb advocated for these releases as well.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Jeb has been carefully laying a scenario in which he could indeed run—and could be very well received. He’s traveled the country extensively as a kind of elder statesman. And recently he <a href="">criticized the GOP presidential candidates’ behavior</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I watch these debates and.. it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are…I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”</p> <p>In an interview with CBS News after the event, Bush added, “I think it’s important for the candidates to recognize they have to appeal to primary voters, and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition.”</p></blockquote> <p>This “bring us together” appeal would allow him to jump in, should he be needed, in 2012, and, run or not, win or lose, would position him seriously for 2016.</p> <p>That we are not already paying enough attention to this prospect is telling about the state of the American media – and electorate—today.</p> <p>Our lack of collective memory, our failure to examine deeper forces and patterns in this country, our perpetual rush to “move on” and our staunch resistance to possible insights and lessons from the past,  will come back to haunt us.</p> <p><strong>**</strong></p> <p>My hunch is that the Bushes and the <em>real </em>establishment (that’s not the Tea Party, not the Santoriacs or the Gingrichites, folks) just love<em> </em>how bad the GOP field is. Obama is almost certain to be reelected. Which is just fine. Like Clinton, he’s played ball on all the big issues that really matter to the One Percent of One Percent—foreign intervention, oil, Wall Street bailouts. They figure he won’t do anything more radical in his second term, while, like another young president (Bill Clinton), looking forward to cashing out to an extremely comfortable life after the White House. And they figure as long as Obama does not make Hillary his veep, that the electorate will tire of the Democrats in 2016 and be ready for….another Bush.</p> <p>Small wonder these Democratic and Republican administrations are all kissing cousins now. Competitive democracy? Bah—that’s language for columnists. These guys all have it made—and as ever, they’re busy divvying up the pie.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Thu, 01 Mar 2012 13:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 669738 at Election 2016 Election 2016 bush election obama romney How Conservatives Silence Critics of Religion <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We&#039;re right to worry about a candidate&#039;s religious beliefs when they threaten our liberties.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> The GOP candidates’ struggle to outdo each other in appealing to Christian fundamentalists continues. Rick Santorum, the current favorite of this constituency, topped his previous plays with his remark that John F. Kennedy’s famed 1960 speech on the importance of a separation between religion and government “makes me throw up.”</p> <div> <p>The separation of church and state is not some abstract notion, nor is it a means of oppressing people. It very reasonably keeps people from imposing their religious beliefs on other people. These are not beliefs that can be objectively measured or empirically tested—like, say, the hypothesis that public spending can affect employment levels. Religious beliefs may be comforting or helpful to some people, but no matter how deeply felt, they can have no place in a rational, shared system of managing outcomes for all Americans.</p> <p>Yet because of the current political climate in this country, we’re not supposed to talk about any of that. The other day, the New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow got in a little trouble. He <a href="">tweeted</a> an admittedly rude and rather inappropriate remark about an eccentric element of Mitt Romney’s faith—the belief that wearing special underwear literally protects the person from harm.</p> <p>Blow was hit with a barrage of criticism, and quickly apologized—which makes sense given the contextual irrelevancy and vulgarity of the comment. As a proud single parent, he was responding to a remark of Romney’s implying that single-parenting is per se bad for kids, and he should have stuck to that point in his rejoinder.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean that Romney’s avowed Mormon faith is incidental to his view on single-parenting or that a candidate’s religion is always out of bounds in political discourse.  There are a number of valid questions that can be asked about practices of the Mormon Church, and their potential impact on policy decisions of a political leader of that persuasion.</p> <p>One question would be about the effect of Mormon missionary work around the world, at a time when people of other faiths may strongly resent the presence of people trying to convert their children to a faith so clearly identified with American interests.</p> <p>Another would concern the repeated, pernicious practice of posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims—obviously without their permission and presumably against what would be their wishes. Stephen Colbert made this point when he <a href=",_i%27ll_posthumously_circumsize_mormons/">tweeted</a>: If Mormons Posthumously Baptize Holocaust Victims, I’ll Posthumously Circumcise Mormons</p> <p>There’s no reason we can’t talk about these things. And plenty of good reasons we should talk about them.</p> <p>Making fun of religious beliefs is intellectually pointless since such beliefs by definition are beyond rational argument. (“Faith” is what you proclaim when you have no objective evidence for a particular belief.) Yet there’s an inherent double standard in the way we chuckle about Scientologists and “Xenu” or various cults that bubble up before quickly disappearing, when one could argue that, empirically, all beliefs about miracles, supernatural interventions in the natural course of events, etc. are delusions designed to comfort us in times of trouble—or distract us from the recognition that if we act in concert we can make life better by and for ourselves.</p> <p>At the same time, questioning religious belief systems in terms of how they affect other people is certainly legitimate—a lot more legitimate than the subtly racist rhetoric aimed at Barack Obama. Clearly, we don’t choose what race we are born into, or what nationality, or even what religion. However, we certainly do decide, as adults, the values and beliefs we live by—whether or not they match what we were taught as children.</p> <p>The fact is, we shouldn’t ridicule or question people for attributes or circumstances that are beyond their control, and that certainly includes their ethnicity. For example, an ESPN writer was rightly<a href=""> fired</a> recently for the mobile headline “Chink in the Armor,” about the Chinese-American basketball player Jeremy Lin.</p> <p>But when someone consciously embraces a particular religion and set of tenets, then asks to be selected to run this country, those beliefs could be seen as relevant—for praise or criticism, or even humor. That’s part of a vigorous discussion, and central to freedom of speech. Also, those who seek public office in a country where declared religious beliefs are at or near the center of the discussion of values can, and should, expect scrutiny and even criticism of those beliefs.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Now, Stephen Colbert is a humorist, so he has special license, but, really, isn’t the practice of posthumously baptizing those who would not have wished to be baptized something that can be discussed? And, given that Romney allots a substantial portion of his income to the Church of Latter Day Saints, why is it not okay to examine this practice and wonder what it says about prospective President Romney? If a leading candidate was a Muslim of any stripe, or, say, a Hasidic Jew, we would expect close scrutiny of what those beliefs entailed and what they might say about the values and likely actions of a future president (concerning, for example, the reproductive rights of women). Because if one’s religious beliefs have nothing to do with practical matters—well, why have them? And why tell others about them? And why reference them, explicitly or implicitly, when one seeks votes?</p> <p>And what of the practice of other public figures—athletes, entertainers, etc.—choosing to openly draw attention to their beliefs? These figures inject their faith into the public arena as part of their brand. Does that make them fair game for criticism of those very beliefs? If so, should only those who explicitly draw attention to their beliefs face scrutiny? What about people who proclaim belief in religions that explicitly discriminate against other citizens – as official policy of the Church of Latter Day Saints did against blacks until 1978 and as the Catholic Church and other religious institutions do today against gay people? If a person’s faith has consequences that impact other people, why should that faith be out of bounds for public discussion?</p> <p>Some of the online criticism of Charles Blow, an African-American, came from those who couched their protests in an overtly racist manner. Why do those critics think that skepticism toward religious beliefs is somehow worse than racism—or than the kinds of comments routinely directed at those from other backgrounds and countries that don’t fit into an America-centric, Christian-centric world view? What about the ways in which at least some of the Republican candidates implicitly but very obviously take swipes at those who are different through constant references to “American values” and “Christian values”?</p> <p>Is the idea of special non-armored <a href="">undergarments providing protection</a> more or less credible than believing that one goes to heaven and is provided with <a href="">sensual pleasures</a>, including 72 virgins? Or the attitude toward the deity that prescribes the yarmulkes and tzitzit worn by religious Jews? Or ostentatiously displayed crosses, or anything else of this nature? Can someone’s belief in anthropogenic Climate Change more legitimately be attacked or ridiculed than faith in a God—who believers insist— would never let environmental harm come to his chosen flock (unless and until he deemed such punishment appropriate)?</p> <p>In fact, isn’t the battle over religious beliefs and the secular practices they influence a central part of our political debate today? Isn’t evidence of anti-scientific, superstitious views a legitimate consideration when we choose whom we want to administer scientific funds, set broad educational policy, or consider whether to go to war with people who have different cultures, values and ideas?</p> <p>If so, how can we not talk openly—even critically—about religious beliefs in choosing our leaders?</p> <div> </div> </div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Wed, 29 Feb 2012 06:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 669721 at Visions Visions News & Politics Culture Belief The Right Wing religion mormon wall of separation Obama's World of War <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">American Interventionism (Everywhere)!</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><b>Originally published at <a href=""></a></b></p> <p>What in the world is wrong with Barack Obama? The man who as a candidate said he saw a limited role for intervention—essentially when America had an overriding “moral obligation” to intervene abroad— is now seeing moral obligations everywhere.</p> <div> </div> <div>Here’s the latest, which you probably missed, since it came and went with no public uproar: He has ordered American troops into sub-Saharan Africa to help in the fight against a bloodthirsty group that nevertheless probably only numbers in the hundreds.</div> <div> </div> <div>Before we get to the particulars, let’s consider how this man, who ran largely on opposition to George W. Bush’s reckless military adventurism, has turned out as president.</div> <div> </div> <div>He started his tenure with a symbolically significant decision: to retain Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates. On Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he fell almost totally in line with the military industrial complex. He failed to investigate wrongdoing on a host of military-national security fronts. He declared an end to torture but has apparently authorized the continued use of “secret prisons” abroad. He participated willingly in the so-called “humanitarian” intervention in Libya—which seems to have had very little to do with humanitarian objectives, and resulted in the massive destruction of that country’s infrastructure. He ordered that murky raid to take out Osama bin Laden, details of which have been deliberately obscured. He has stepped up drone strikes, with their heavy civilian casualties. Recently his administration announced the highly dubious claim that the Iranian government was behind an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States (with a Mexican drug cartel hit man), which looks to many like a Bushian-style pretext to further isolate Iran in preparation for military action against it.</div> <div> </div> <div>Now—and you’re excused if you missed this development—he is sending American troops into sub-Saharan Africa. Specifics: Last week he announced the deployment of 100 armed military “advisers” to help in the battle against a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army.</div> <div> </div> <div>It’s certainly true that the LRA is a brutal, savage, vicious outfit, terrorizing villagers across international borders, raping, maiming and killing. The ostensible purpose of Obama’s intervention is commendable, and the action is backed by some human rights groups. But it’s unclear why US troops, in particular, need to be there. The LRA is believed to number no more than several hundred. It’s hard to see why, with tremendous amounts of materiel and other aid provided by the US to militaries throughout Central Africa, it is necessary for US boots to be on the ground.</div> <div> </div> <div>Not that the media are asking the right questions. Here’s the New York Times:</div> <div> </div> <div>    [I]t…raises the risk of putting American military personnel in harm’s way in another region while the United States is winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.</div> <div> </div> <div>That’s the only thing the “paper of record” can summon up as to why this foray might be troubling: that it exposes US military personnel to physical risk. Well, duh. All military adventures expose soldiers to potential harm. The reporter showed no interest in the why of the matter, nor of why the US seems to be in more and more conflicts—with multiple wars and a military presence, by some counts, in more than a hundred countries.</div> <div> </div> <div>CAN ANYONE SAY “MINERALS”</div> <div> </div> <div>As we’ve sought to remind our readers, the US’s mandate abroad, both stated and internally understood, is to advance the American “national interest.” Humanitarianism should perhaps be a legitimate goal, yet in reality it almost never is. But wherever US troops go, valuable minerals and other resources, and the interests of large American corporations, aren’t far away.</div> <div> </div> <div>Central Africa is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate anywhere. For more on this, let’s go to the CIA’s World Factbook.</div> <div> </div> <div>Consider the Congo, just one of the countries where the LRA is said to operate:</div> <div> </div> <div>    cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver</div> <div> </div> <div>Or the Central African Republic, another LRA stomping ground:</div> <div> </div> <div>    zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber, diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower</div> <div> </div> <div>And a third LRA favorite, South Sudan:</div> <div> </div> <div>    hydropower, fertile agricultural land, gold, diamonds, petroleum, hardwoods, limestone, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver</div> <div> </div> <div>Now flash back to Iraq (massive amounts of oil) and Libya (slightly lesser but still massive amounts of oil), and Afghanistan (as reported a while back in The Times:</div> <div> </div> <div>    The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.</div> <div> </div> <div>Get the picture? Whenever you’re told that your government wants to use your money to secure humanitarian ends abroad, just check the old resource count. And then check out those places (like Syria) with mineral-poor soil, and ask yourself, “How’s that humanitarianism working out over there?”</div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Sat, 22 Oct 2011 08:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 668217 at World World News & Politics Investigations Economy war africa obama Is the Saudi Royal Family Connected to 9/11 Hijackers? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New evidence links the Saudi royal family to Saudis in South Florida, who reportedly had contact with the 9/11 hijackers before fleeing the US prior to the attacks.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>WhoWhatWhy </em>has found evidence linking the Saudi royal family to Saudis in South Florida who reportedly had direct contact with the 9/11 hijackers before fleeing the United States just prior to the attacks. Our report connects some of the dots first laid out by investigative author Anthony Summers and Florida-based journalist Dan Christensen in articles jointly published in the <em>Miami Herald</em> and on the nonprofit news site <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>In early September of this year, Summers and Christensen reported that a secret FBI probe, never shared with Congressional investigators or the presidential 9/11 commission, had uncovered information indicating the possibility of support for the hijackers from previously unknown confederates in the United States during 2001.</p> <p>Now <em>WhoWhatWhy</em> reveals that those alleged confederates were closely tied to influential members of the Saudi ruling elite.</p> <p>As reported in the <em>Herald</em>, phone records documented communication, dating back more than a year, that connected a Saudi family then living in a house near Sarasota, Florida, with the alleged plot leader, Mohammed Atta, and his hijack pilots—as well as to eleven of the other hijackers. In addition, records from the guard house at the gated community tied Atta’s vehicle and his accomplice Ziad Jarrah to actual visits to the house.  Although requiring further investigation, this information suggests that the house may have functioned as an operational base for the hijackers.</p> <p>According to interviews and records examined by <em>The Herald</em>, Anoud and Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and their young twins abruptly departed their home in Sarasota only days before September 11, 2001 and traveled to Arlington, Virginia, where they stayed briefly at another house owned by Anoud’s father, Esam Ghazzawi.</p> <p>Then, still well before 9/11, the entire group, now including the father, flew to London and on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Sarasota house was sold in 2003, as was a<a href="">penthouse apartment</a> in another DC, suburb, Rosslyn, Virginia. The Ghazzawis do not seem to have set foot again in the United States.</p> <p><strong>New Revelations</strong></p> <p>Building on these revelations, WhoWhatWhy has found documents laying out the Ghazzawis’ royal connections through a nest of Saudi corporations that share the name EIRAD. Esam Ghazzawi is director of EIRAD Management Company, the UK division of EIRAD Trading and Contracting Co. Ltd., which among other things holds the Saudi franchise for many multinational brands, including UPS. Esam’s brother Mamdouh, whose name shows up on public records associated with family properties in the U.S., is the Executive Managing Director of the parent firm, EIRAD Holding Co. Ltd. EIRAD has connections to the US government via contracts. In 2008, records show, the State Department <a href=";detail=-1&amp;sortp=f&amp;maj_agency_cat=19&amp;datype=T&amp;reptype=r&amp;database=fpds&amp;database=fpds&amp;parent_id=4668&amp;fiscal_year=2008&amp;record_num=f500">paid EIRAD $11,733</a> for rental of facilities, presumably in Saudi Arabia.</p> <p>There is no indication that the company itself, or any of its officers or employees, have any connection to the 9/11 incident, or knowledge of anything regarding Mr. Ghazzawi’s activities in the United States.  Calls for comment to the company’s main switchboard went unanswered during normal business hours; its website was not functioning properly and Saudi trade officials in the United States had not furnished alternative contact information at publication time.</p> <p>But the now-revealed link between the Ghazzawis and the highest ranks of the Saudi establishment reopens questions about the White House’s controversial approval for multiple charter flights allowing Saudi nationals to depart the U.S., beginning about 48 hours after the attacks, without the passengers being interviewed by law enforcement—despite the identification of the majority of the hijackers as Saudis.</p> <p>In addition, the new revelations draw further attention to a web of relationships that include the long and close business, personal and political ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family.</p> <p>Saudi money is woven throughout business ventures connected to the Bushes. Saudi funds even helped bail out George W. Bush’s failing oil company early in his life. Jim Bath, a close friend of Bush in the Texas Air National Guard, went on to start a business in conjunction with two sons of powerful Saudi families—Khalid bin Mahfouz, whose the family provides banking services to the Saudi royals, and Salem bin Laden, heir to the bin Laden family’s global construction empire and a half brother to Osama bin Laden. (For a detailed probe of the Bush family’s dealings with the Saudis, including substantial previously unreported material, see my book, <a href=""><em>Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</em></a><span style="text-decoration: underline; "><em>.</em>)</span></p> <p><strong>Details of The Herald’s Revelations</strong></p> <p>The Ghazzawi presence in the Sunshine State predated 9/11 by at least six years. In 1995 a young Saudi woman named Anoud Ghazzawi living in South Florida married a fellow Saudi native, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii (English spellings of his first name and surname vary, as is typical of  Arabic names<strong>.)</strong> Anoud’s father, Esam, and his American-born wife Deborah bought the couple a stylish, three-bedroom house in a gated community in Sarasota. The house remained in the elder Ghazzawis’ names while the young couple lived there and began a family.</p> <p>Six years later, less than two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, Anoud, Abdulazzi and their children left their home on or about August 30, 2001 in great haste, taking off in a white van. This was about the same time that the hijackers were purchasing their tickets for the targeted flights.</p> <p>The family apparently left with no advance planning, leaving behind almost all their possessions, abandoning three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway. As the <em>Herald</em> <a href="">article</a> explained:</p> <blockquote> <p>“there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms … all the toiletries still in place … all their clothes hanging in the closet … opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house … the pool running, with toys in it….The beds were made … fruit on the counter … the refrigerator full of food. … It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie … [But] the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. … A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they’d taken [another] computer and left the cord.”</p></blockquote> <p>After public disclosure of Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks, people in the gated community took note of the rushed departure and disappearance of the Ghazzawi-al-Hiijjiis. After all, the attackers were not just overwhelmingly of Saudi nationality, but three out of four of the future hijackers had lived and trained to fly in Venice, Florida, just 10 miles away from the house.</p> <p>The complex’s security officer alerted the FBI, which began an investigation into the house at 4224 Escondito Circle. (In addition, a suspicious neighbor alerted the FBI by email on the day of the attacks.)</p> <p>The Justice Department declined to give the <em>Herald </em>a statement, but, according to an unnamed senior counterterrorism officer who was one of two people who got into the house first and served as a key source for the paper, the investigation bore stunning fruit.</p> <p>Phone records showed communication, dating back more than a year, that connected those in the house with the alleged plot leader, Mohammed Atta and his accomplices, including eleven of the other hijackers. Other records, kept by guards at the gated community, documented numerousvisits to the house by a vehicle known to have been used by Atta, and indicated the physical presence in the car of Atta’s purported accomplice Ziad Jarrah. It appeared as if the Ghazzawi house was some kind of nerve center for the entire operation.</p> <p>According to the senior counterterrorism officer, both Esam Ghazzawi and his son-in-law al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list at the FBI predating 9/11. An unnamed U.S. agency tracking terror funds had also taken an interest in them. “464 was Ghazzawi’s number,” the officer said. “I don’t remember the other man’s number.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Secrecy Reveals Little Official Curiosity—or Coverup?</strong></p> <p>These stunning revelations—said to be based on the work of the swarm of FBI agents who descended on the gated community in the fall of 2001—would surely have generated headlines worldwide if they had become known after 9/11. But the FBI, for reasons unknown, failed to provide the information to Congressional 9/11 investigators or to the presidential 9/11 commission, and thus it has remained a secret for the past decade.</p> <p>In response to the <em>Herald</em> article, the FBI has issued a <a href="">statement</a> saying that the occupants of the house had been tracked down and interrogated, and were found to have no connections to the hijackers. It is not clear when these interrogations are supposed to have taken place, or whether they were conducted by the FBI or by Saudi intelligence. But given the FBI’s poor track record for candor in the matter, the statement is being viewed with some skepticism.</p> <p>Adding to these doubts is an ineffective effort by the Bureau to woo the house owners back to Florida. According to Scott McKay, a lawyer for homeowners’ association of the gated community, known as Prestancia, the FBI attempted to convince the Ghazzawis they needed to come back in person to sign documents related to unpaid back dues to the association. This attempt proved unsuccessful when the Ghazzawis simply arranged to sign the documents elsewhere. These facts, reported by <em>The Herald,</em> raise questions about the U.S. government’s determination to interview the couple: Esam Ghazzawi’s signature was notarized in Lebanon—by a U.S. official no less—the vice consul at the US embassy in Beirut. His wife’s signature was also notarized—<em>elsewhere in the United States</em>, in Riverside County, California.</p> <p>The emergence of this information chagrined Bob Graham, the former Florida U.S. Senator. Graham was Senate Intelligence Committee chair (and a 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination) and served as co-chair of the congressional joint inquiry into 9/11. “At the beginning of the investigation,” he told <em>The Herald</em>, “each of the intelligence agencies, including the FBI, was asked to provide all information that agency possessed in relation to 9/11.” Graham noted that the Bureau also failed to turn over information connecting the hijackers to other Saudis living in California, which his own investigators later discovered on their own.</p> <p>Just as strange, when Graham’s congressional investigators turned over a large body of information on the hijackers they had assembled to the presidential 9/11 Commission, it seemed uninterested. “They did very little with it,” Graham said, “and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. … I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that.”</p> <p>About the new discovery in Sarasota, Graham said it “opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11.”</p> <p><strong>All Eyes on Prince Sultan</strong></p> <p>Of special interest is the Ghazzawis’ boss, the chairman of EIRAD Holding Co. Ltd.,<a href="">Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud</a>. He is a prominent and powerful member of the ruling Saudi royal family who is expected to become crown prince, and thereby in line to become king. Born in 1956, which makes him approximately the same age as the Ghazzawi brothers, Prince Sultan bin Salman is a grandson of King Abdul Aziz (commonly referred to as Ibn Saud), founder of modern Saudi Arabia.<a title="" href="">[1]</a></p> <p>Prince Sultan’s family is of enormous importance in today’s Saudi Arabia. His father, Prince Salman, has been the governor of the province of Riyadh (the city of Riyadh is the Saudi capital) since 1962, and is considered an arbitrator among the frequently warring members of the Saudi royal family, with its 4000 princes. Salman is the second youngest of the so-called Sudairi Seven, an extremely powerful alliance of full brothers jockeying for power in the country.</p> <p>A leading advocate of teaching Saudis to fly, Prince Sultan is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the Saudi Aviation Club, and Chairman of the <a title="King Khaled International Airport" href="">King Khaled International Airport</a> (KKIA) Supervisory Committee. Since 2000, he has also headed <a href=";section=0&amp;article=106705&amp;d=12&amp;m=2&amp;y=2008">Saudi Arabia’s tourism commission</a>, placing him among a handful of the King’s grandsons to hold ministerial rank. One of his missions as head of the tourism commission is to repair the damage to Saudi Arabia’s image caused by the 9/11 attacks.</p> <p>In a <a href="">document</a> released by Wikileaks, the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James B. Smith,  characterizes Prince Sultan this way: “With a powerful father who is the Governor of Riyadh and a strong candidate to be the next crown-prince, Sultan is well positioned to move up the Saudi government ranks… Sultan has visited almost every state [in the U.S.]. He joked with the Ambassador that ‘perhaps the only states he has not yet visited are the Dakotas.’ ”  (He is extra well connected, with one brother serving as the deputy oil minister)</p> <p>Prince Sultan is closely allied with Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, the former longtime ambassador to the United States, who is often called “Bandar Bush” for his friendly relationship with the Bush family. Sultan and Bandar have worked together for years to promote Saudi interest in aviation.</p> <p><strong>The Bushes and the Royals</strong></p> <p>The Bush family have long been regarded as friendly with the prince’s family and their associates. Prince Sultan’s NASA mission is perceived as having been <a href="">orchestrated</a> by George HW Bush as a favor to the Saudis. Associates of the Bush family have many connections with the Prince’s family.  Prince Sultan’s father’s legal counsel is William Jeffress Jr, of Houston-based <a title="Baker Botts" href="">Baker Botts LLP</a>, where James A. Baker III, longstanding advisor to the Bush family, including both Presidents Bush, is a senior partner.  At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Baker held the post of Senior Counselor for the <a title="Carlyle Group" href="">Carlyle Group</a>, aglobal asset management firm which is heavily invested in <a href=";%20Defense/item8359.html">military contracting stocks</a>; among Carlyle’s large investors were the bin Ladens. (In a curious coincidence, Baker watched the live television coverage of the attacks from the <a title="Ritz-Carlton Hotel" href="">Ritz-Carlton Hotel</a> in Washington, where he and representatives of <a title="Osama bin Laden" href="">Osama bin Laden</a>‘s extended <a title="Bin Laden family" href="">family</a> were attending the Carlyle Group’s annual conference. In another odd coincidence, President George W. Bush himself was in Sarasota, reading to schoolchildren, at the very time the Sarasota-area-based terrorists were hijacking the planes. Indeed, he was a short distance from the home the Ghazzawis had recently abandoned.)</p> <p>President Bush’s actions in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon assaults with regard to the Saudi royal family have long been known but have yet to be fully explored. Shortly after the attacks, President Bush permitted an exception to the ban on air traffic so that planes could take prominent Saudis out of the country. One of those leaving on the flights was the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman, brother of Prince Sultan.</p> <p>In a 2004 <a href="">letter</a> to the <em>New York Times, </em>Prince Sultan responded to allegations surrounding those flights, and pointed to a conclusion in the 9/11 commission report: ”Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights.” (Another Saudi who left the US after 9/11 was the architect Abdel <a href="">Wahed El-Wakil,</a> who had a base in Miami and serves as an advisor to Prince Sultan.)</p> <p><strong>Allegations of Saudi Royal Complicity</strong></p> <p>Sultan’s brother Prince Ahmed was the most westernized of the Saudi set. He raised racehorses in Kentucky and was the owner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner, with the perhaps unfortunate name “War Emblem.” Allegations concerning Prince Ahmed emerged in the 2003 book, <em>Why America Slept, </em>by the bestselling author Gerald Posner. Posner says that intelligence sources told him how in March, 2002, under interrogation (but before he was <a href="">waterboarded 83 times in August</a>), Al Qaeda’s purported chief of operations, Abu Zubaydah, relaxed and began cooperating. Tricked into thinking he was in Saudi custody, Zubaydah asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the Saudi Royal family, who he said was his contact. He provided, from memory, the man’s private home and cell phones. This contact, according to Posner, was Prince Ahmed.</p> <p>Zubaydah is alleged to have said that Osama bin Laden had cut a deal with a top Pakistani military official, Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, who was close to Islamist elements in Pakistani intelligence. According to this account, the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki, signed off on this, and agreed to provide aid to the Taliban in Afghanistan and not to go after Al Qaeda so long as the terrorist group kept its gun sights trained away from the Saudi royals.</p> <p>In this version of events, Zubaydah is said to have also implicated Prince Sultan, along with another cousin, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, as Al Qaeda backers, and to have claimed that the Pakistani Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir and Saudi Prince Ahmed knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks.</p> <p>Though the interrogators were skeptical of these claims, Zubaydah often proved credible. Information he provided led to the capture of a senior al-Qaeda operative in Southeast Asia. Zubaydah would only talk when he thought he was in Saudi hands. When U.S. personnel, no longer posing as Saudis, confronted him, Zubaydah said he had made up his earlier statements. But investigators found no basis for believing the information to be false—and even found material that corroborated his claimed ties to high level Saudis. Not surprisingly, the Saudi and Pakistani governments insisted his claims were false in all respects.</p> <p>One of the key figures named by Zubaydah, Prince Turki, had been  removed from his position as Saudi intelligence chief on September 1, 2001, ten days before the attacks. Thus, he was apparently not in that post on the critical day. Yet, his removal was a   temporary absence from the highest levels of Saudi leadership, and not necessarily an indication that he had fallen into serious disfavor. The next year, he was named Saudi ambassador to Great Britain, just as a shift in focus from Al Qaeda to Iraq was being pitched to the British. If Zubaydah’s claims are at all credible, the removal of Turki from an official position shortly before the attacks surely warrants additional analysis— as does the Ghazzawis’ hasty flight from the U.S. right in the same time frame.</p> <p><a href="">According to the book <em>The Eleventh Day</em></a>, by Summers and his co-author Robbyn Swan, Zubaydah is not alone in asserting a Saudi-Al Qaeda deal:</p> <blockquote> <p>In sworn statements after 9/11, former Taliban intelligence chief Mohammed Khaksar said that in 1998 Prince Turki, chief of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Department (G.I.D.), sealed a deal under which bin Laden agreed not to attack Saudi targets. In return, Saudi Arabia would provide funds and material assistance to the Taliban, not demand bin Laden’s extradition, and not bring pressure to close down al-Qaeda training camps. Saudi businesses, meanwhile, would ensure that money also flowed directly to bin Laden.</p></blockquote> <p>***</p> <p>Prince Ahmed and another royal, Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulazziz, were among the fifteen Saudis spirited out of the US, with President Bush’s approval, on September 16, 2001, via Lexington, Kentucky—i.e., out of Prince Ahmed’s U.S. backyard. Prince Sultan bin Fahd is the nephew of Prince Ahmed and Prince Sultan, and the son of Prince Fahd bin Salman (see below) who died unexpectedly shortly before the 9/11 attacks.</p> <p>“It appears as if they didn’t want to be around to be questioned as to what role they had played and the best way to avoid that was to get out of the country,” former Senator Bob Graham <a href=";tc=pg">told</a> the Sarasota <em>Herald-Tribune</em>.</p> <p>As author Craig Unger notes in his book, <em>House of Bush, House of Saud</em>, FBI agents were stationed at all points of departure for the group of Saudis who massed in Lexington before departing the country, yet there’s no evidence they were asked any questions at all.</p> <p>Ironically, Posner, who is regularly cited by the corporate media for his views on the JFK assassination (he is a leading defender of the conclusion that Oswald was the lone gunman), is largely ignored for his work on the Saudi-9/11 connection, where he <em>does</em>posit high-level involvement. Posner is a <a href="">highly controversial</a> and at times perplexing figure, but he insists he has  solid intelligence sources, and the thrust of his claims have meshed with those of <em>The</em> <em>New York Times </em>intelligence reporter and best-selling author James Risen. As Risen wrote in his book <a href=""><em>State of War</em></a>,</p> <blockquote> <p>Ever since the September 11 attacks, the trail back from al Qaeda to Saudi Arabia has been an intriguing path, but one that very few American investigators have been willing to follow. . . . [B]oth before and after 9/11, President Bush and his administration have displayed a remarkable lack of interest in aggressively examining the connections between Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Saudi power elite. Even as the Bush administration spent enormous time and energy trying in vain to prove connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in order to help justify the war in Iraq, the administration was ignoring far more conclusive ties with Saudi Arabia. Those links are much stronger and far more troubling than has ever been previously disclosed, and until they are thoroughly investigated, the roots of Al Qaeda’s power, and the full story of 9/11, will never be known.”</p></blockquote> <p>Several of those alleged to have had knowledge of this putative scheme and its enormous implications met with untimely ends shortly after Zubaydah’s interrogation. In June, 2002, three months after Zubaydah’s capture, the man he identified as his controller, Prince Ahmed, died of what officials said was a heart attack while asleep. Another brother of Ahmed’s and Sultan’s, Prince Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulazziz, died of a heart attack on July 25, 2001, about six weeks before the 9/11 attacks. The death of Fahd, who preceded his brother as head of EIRAD, is described in a Riyadh-datelined article by Middle East Newsfile, as follows:</p> <blockquote> <p>Prince Fahd died suddenly. Prince Fahd did not show any symptoms of any ailment. He had, however, made an appointment with a dentist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh to check a toothache.</p></blockquote> <p>A cousin, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, died when his car crashed en route to Salman’s funeral. Zubaydah had supposedly implicated Prince Sultan bin Faisal, and another royal, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir. as Al-Qaeda supporters. All these men were in their forties. Still another key figure in Zubaydah’s monstrous scenario met an untimely death. On February 20, 2003, Mushaf Ali Mir, the Pakistani air force chief, his wife and fifteen others, were killed in a plane crash.</p> <p>Not a hint of the above information appeared in the released portion of the presidential 9/11 commission report. It is not known whether any of it was in the 28 pages of material about Saudi connections that the Bush Administration censored on national security grounds.</p> <p><strong>A Long-Standing Relationship</strong></p> <p>The Ghazzawis’ relationship with the United States seems to date back to the 1950’s, when U.S. immigration records show that Abbas Ghazzawi visited New York.  Abbas Ghazzawi was a prominent Saudi attorney. Esam, whose full name is Esam Abbas Ghazzawi, appears to be his son. (<em>WhoWhatWhy </em>was unable to reach Ghazzawi for comment on any of the matters in this article.)</p> <p>Abbas Ghazzawi, arriving on a first class ticket on a connecting flight that originated in Saudi Arabia, was traveling in an elite entourage. One companion, Rasem al-Khalidi, was<a href="">a high-ranking Saudi monetary official</a>. Another, Faisal al-Hegelan, would years later serve in the all-important position of Saudi ambassador to Washington. He held that post during 1979-1983, a period that partly coincided with the Reagan-Bush Administration. His replacement was Prince Bandar, the Bush family friend jokingly called “Bandar Bush.”</p> <p>The focus of Saudi royals in their dealings with the United States can be seen in the conduct of al-Hegelan. As ambassador, al-Hegelan was principally concerned with propping up the Saudi regime. He had seventeen military attachés assigned fulltime to lobby for the sale of the advanced command-and-control aircraft known as AWACS to the Saudi air force. (see P. 17 of the book <em>Arab Reach</em>, by Hoag Levins.)  Overcoming heavy pressure on Washington from the Israelis, the Saudis succeeded in getting Congress to approve the AWACS sale. Al-Hegelan also led a lobbying campaign against Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s public support of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. President Reagan, with strong input from his vice president, George H.W. Bush, removed Haig and  replaced him with George Schultz, who sided with the Saudis; Schultz had been president of Bechtel, one of the largest construction contractors in Saudi Arabia, whose projects included the original Trans-Arabian Pipeline.</p> <p>We find the Ghazzawi clan again in the United States in 1970, when the young Esam married the American Deborah G. Browning. The marriage didn’t last long—in July, 1971 they obtained a divorce in Orange County, California.</p> <p>The first sign of the Ghazzawi clan on the east coast of the United States was in 1992, when Esam bought a penthouse apartment in the D.C. suburb of Rosslyn, Virginia. In various accounts, Esam is described as a banker or financier, who also works as an interior designer. He accrued additional property in Arlington, Virginia and Longboat Key, Florida, and his name turns up in connection with a fancy office building in the K Street lobbying corridor.</p> <p>In this period, Esam’s name surfaced when investigators probing the monumentally corrupt <a href="">Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI)</a> sought to recover assets from Saudi Prince Fahd bin Salman—brother of Prince Sultan bin Salman.  The prince argued that his assets were being held in another account under Esam Ghazzawi’s name. Only low-level BCCI officials went to jail in the sprawling scandal, which involved banks and governments all over the world. Prince Fahd bin Salman is one of the relatives who died unexpectedly in the year of the 9/11 attacks. (The Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations were repeatedly accused by investigators into the BCCI mess of obstructing their inquiries; it is worth noting that the Treasury Department official responsible for scrutinizing BCCI’s affairs in the Reagan-Bush administration was assistant secretary for enforcement John M. Walker Jr.—who happened to be George H.W. Bush’s cousin.)</p> <p>In 1995, Ghazzawi’s daughter Anoud, living in South Florida, married Abdulazzi al-Hiijii, who was a university student in the area. Esam and Deborah Ghazzawi, apparently reunited sometime after their 1971 divorce, purchased the Sarasota home into which the couple moved. Abdulazzi appears to have received a B.S. and Masters of Information Systems from the University of South Florida. His Master’s should be noted in the context of only one of two items removed from the Sarasota house before the couple fled—a computer.</p> <p>Today, the family seems comfortably ensconced back in Saudi Arabia. In August, 2003, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii became a career counselor at the <a href="">government oil company</a>—Saudi Aramco—a position he retains to this day. He served on the committee holding a<a href="">symposium</a> about electronic services in the eastern (oil-producing) province of Saudi Arabia, held in Khobar in 2008.</p> <p>We found the American-born Deborah Ghazzawi, posting <em><a href="">online</a></em> just three years ago for help on finding her username/password for a Saudi Blackberry sim card.</p> <p>***</p> <p>The seeming reluctance of the US government to pursue hints of possible Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks, wherever they might lead, is hardly an isolated failure. Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, has recently <a href="">stated his view </a>that the CIA made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit two of the hijackers as double agents before the 9/11 attacks, then scurried to cover up this bungled effort. Clarke thinks evidence points to the spy agency itself allowing the hijackers into the U.S. as part of this scheme. If Clarke is correct, this would be another case of interested parties in the government keeping the truth bottled up for their own purposes.</p> <p>Even more disturbing, the final section of the Congressional inquiry’s report, on “sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers,” was totally redacted. It is still unavailable to the public on the 10<sup>th</sup> anniversary of the attacks. Both Graham and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, determined that national security would not be harmed by releasing those pages. Yet they were withheld—on the orders of George W. Bush.</p> <p>Graham told the reporters he thinks suppression of the material provided “protection of the Saudis from embarrassment, protection of the administration from political embarrassment … some of the unknowns, some of the secrets of 9/11.”</p> <p>Tellingly, the venerable British insurance company Lloyd’s of  London actively investigated Saudi complicity in 9/11. As <a href="">reported</a> by the U.K. paper <em>The Independent</em>, a Lloyd’s unit has launched what is described as “a landmark legal case” again Saudi Arabia, claiming that the kingdom is indirectly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Lloyd’s asserts that Saudi banks and charities acting as surrogates for the royal family gave the terrorist group the sustenance it needed to carry out the 2001 assault. (Lloyd’s is seeking to recover sums it paid to firms and individuals affected by the event.) Reports <em>The Independent</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The legal claim states: “Absent the sponsorship of al-Qa’ida’s material sponsors and supporters, including the defendants named therein, al-Qa’ida would not have possessed the capacity to conceive, plan and execute the 11 September attacks. The success of al-Qa’ida’s agenda, including the 11 September attacks themselves, has been made possible by the lavish sponsorship al-Qa’ida has received from its material sponsors and supporters over more than a decade leading up to 11 September 2001.”</p></blockquote> <p>Bizarrely, several days ago, Lloyd’s quietly withdrew its suit, declining to explain why. But the move was conducted in such a way to suggest a possible settlement, thereby raising still more questions for investigation.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in the United States, a growing chorus of voices—some very establishment voices—are demanding accountability and candor. Graham and Clarke have now been joined by retired CIA officer Bob Baer, by several former FBI agents and by Tom Kean, chairman of presidential 9/11 commission, all of whom express concern that the full story has not been permitted to emerge.</p> <p><strong>“No evidence,” But None Sought</strong></p> <p>The 9/11 Commission report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials” financed Al Qaeda. But this carefully worded statement does not foreclose the possibility that members of the Saudi royal family personally provided financing, or that senior officials funded companies or outsiders that in turn provided financing.</p> <p>Many questions remain to be answered. For example, why did the Ghazzawi clan flee in such a hasty manner, pausing only to empty their safe but leaving food on the kitchen counter and their pool pump running? Was it because they had received some unexpected news, news so urgent and alarming that normal preparations for an orderly departure gave way to what appears to be a panicky exit?</p> <p>If this question seems inconsequential, think about what kind of news, in the days just before 9/11, could have prompted such intemperate flight from the United States by a well-connected clan of Saudis? The possible answers to this question could prove world-changing.  The most important Mideast nation so far untouched by the dislocations of the Arab Spring is Saudi Arabia, the <a href="">single largest supplier of petroleum</a> to the western world. If major players in that country’s ruling family are shown to have had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, it would be the equivalent of a geopolitical tsunami—upsetting powerful elites around the world. Is it any wonder that efforts have been made to prevent a no-holds-barred investigation of this connection? And isn’t it time, ten years later, to end this coverup — in the name of the common good?</p> <p>Former Senator Graham, for one, is increasingly adamant. As he told the <em>St. Petersburg Times</em>: “These 19 people did not play out this plot as lone wolves. The chances that 19 people, most of whom had never been in the U.S., who did not speak English, and most of whom did not know each other, could have completed training, practiced and executed such a complicated plot defies common sense.”</p> <p> </p> <p><em>1. Saudi lineages are complicated due to men being named for their ancestors. For example, Prince Sultan (Prince Sultan bin Salman) should not be confused with his uncle, also known as Prince Sultan (Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud), who is Defense Minister and Crown Prince, or his late cousin Prince Sultan bin Faisal.</em></p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 20:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 667837 at News & Politics World News & Politics bush 9/11 oil terror terrorism middle east saudi arabia september 11 saudi The Untold Story in Libya: How the West Cooked Up the "People's Uprising" <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Wait! Did the West just engineer the overthrow of another unpopular regime to get at an easy supply of oil?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As I write this, a new day is dawning in Libya. The “people’s revolt” against yet another tyrant is unquestionably exciting, and the demise (political and/or otherwise) of Muammar Qaddafi will, of course, be widely hailed. But barely below the surface something else is going on, and it concerns not the Libyan “people”, but an elite. In reality, a narrowly-based Libyan elite is being supplanted by a much older, more enduring one of an international variety.<br /><br /> The media, as is so often the case, has botched its job. Thus virtually all of its resources over the past six months have gone into providing us with an entertainment, a horse race, a battle, with almost no insight into the deeper situation..<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> It’s true that Qaddafi, like many—perhaps a majority of—rulers in his region, was a thug and a brute, if at times a comical figure. But one doesn’t need to be an apologist for him—nor deny the satisfaction of seeing the citizenry joyously celebrating his ouster—to demand some honesty about the motives behind his removal. Especially when it comes to our own government’s role in funding it, and thus every American’s unwitting participation in that action.<br /><br /> Let’s start with the official justification for NATO’s launch of its bombing campaign—for without that campaign, it’s highly improbable the rebels could ever have toppled Qaddafi. We were told from the beginning that the major purpose of what was to be very limited bombing—indeed, its sole purpose—was to protect those Libyan civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime from massive retaliation by Qaddafi. Perhaps because of NATO’s initial intervention, the feared Qaddafi-sponsored, genocidal bloodletting never did occur. (At least, not beyond the military actions one would expect a government to take when facing a civil war: after all, remember General Sherman’s “scorched earth” policy in the US Civil War?). However, protecting civilians apparently didn’t generate sufficient public support for intervention, so we started to hear about other purported reasons for it. Qaddafi was encouraging his soldiers to…commit mass rape! And giving them Viagra! And condoms!<br /><br /> You can’t make this sort of thing up. And yet that’s just what the NATO crew did—made it up. The media, always glad to have a “sexy” story, especially a sick sexy story, even a sick sexy story with no evidence to back it up, covered this ad nauseum, but never bothered to find out if it was true.<br /><br /> We’ve been expressing doubts about these claims, for a number of reasons—including logic—for some time now. (For more on that, see this [3] and this [4] and this [5].) But it’s tough to counterpoise hot-button issues with rationality. If you questioned the mass rape story, you were a “rape-enabler.” If you pointed out that Qaddafi was being bombed for anything other than humanitarian reasons, you were a “Qaddafi-lover.”<br /><br /> The media was so gullible that the professional disinformation guys went onto auto-pilot, recycling tired old tropes that nobody ought to be buying anymore. For example, most news outlets reported recently that Libya had fired a SCUD missile at the rebels.<br /><br /> “That it didn’t hit anything or kill anyone is not the point. It’s a weapon of mass destruction that Col. Qaddafi is willing to train on his own people,” said one Western official.<br /><br /> If the effort to rally public opinion against Qaddafi centered on any one factor, it was fury over Libya’s purported role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. As we noted in a previous article [6], in the years since the conviction of a Libyan intelligence officer in the tragedy, a chorus of doubts has grown steadily. The doubt is based on new forensic evidence and research, plus subsequent claims by prosecution witnesses that their testimony was the result of threats, bribes, or other forms of coercion. It is an ugly and disturbing story, not well known to the larger news audience.<br /><br /> Yet Lockerbie has continued to touch nerves. In February, when Qaddafi’s Justice Minister turned against him and became a rebel leader, he brought with him dynamite. Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil made the dramatic claim [8] that his ex-boss was the culprit behind the bombing of Pan Am 103. He asserted that he had proof of Qaddafi giving the direct order for the crime. This got considerable media attention, though almost no news organizations followed up or reported that Jeleil never did supply that proof. The Libyan convicted of the crime has consistently denied any involvement. Nonetheless, his conviction in the case has had Qaddafi on the defensive for years—and working hard to prove to the West that he can be a “good citizen.” Part of this has entailed his paying out huge sums in reparations.<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> From the beginning of the Libya saga in February until now, the NATO coalition has never wavered from its initial declaration of humanitarian motives. And, to be sure, we may still learn of horrible, previously-unknown atrocities by Qaddafi. Still, the United States and its allies have little history of using their might strictly to protect civilians. If so, millions of South Sudanese, Rwandans and others might not be in their graves.<br /><br /> Besides, with all the talk about Qaddafi harming his citizens, what about the effect of more than 7000—yes, seven thousand—NATO bombing runs? We heard constant reports about how Qaddafi was facing charges of “war crimes,” with never a word about NATO. To learn the impact of this massive unleashing, you had to be relying on Tweets from Libyans witnessing it, or visiting obscure websites that shared eyewitness accounts.<br /><br /> Some Western military officials couldn’t even be bothered to participate in the “humanitarianism” charade. For example, the top British general explicitly stated [10] that the objective was really to remove Qaddafi. Nobody—including the media—paid much attention to this admission, perhaps because it was already assumed to be the case.<br /><br /> Qaddafi should never be seen as a victim—indeed, he has always been sleazy and monstrous in various ways. But the US and its allies appear to have cared little about this, while being deeply troubled by his role as a fly in the geopolitical ointment. A look at the long and complex historical relationship between Qaddafi and the West begins to explain the true reason he had to go. It also dovetails perfectly with a growing body of indications that Western elites encouraged and even provoked the uprising—while tapping into deep discontent with the dictator.<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> Qaddafi has long been a thorn in the side of the West’s oil industry and their national security apparatus. In the early 1970s he worked closely with Occidental Petroleum chairman Armand Hammer in thwarting the ambitions of the oil majors. He was a leader in the boycott of Israel and often cozied up to the Soviet Union.<br /><br /> Back in the 1980s, the Reagan Administration plotted for five years to get rid of Qaddafi and sent 18 U.S. warplanes in April 1986 to eliminate the “Mad Dog of the Middle East.” Reporter Seymour Hersh actually did investigate the whys and wherefores of the ensuing bombings over Tripoli. (The bombings killed the Libyan dictator’s daughter but obviously failed to achieve their primary objective). Hersh’s piece in the February 22nd, 1987 New York Times Magazine, “Target Qaddafi,” has striking echoes in the NATO attacks of 2011. It revealed:<br /><br /> - “internal manipulation and deceit” on the part of the White House to disguise its real intentions, namely, to assassinate Qaddafi;<br /><br /> - Denials after the raid on Qaddafi’s compound that he had been a target, insisting that the compound hit was “a command-and-control” building;<br /><br /> - The training of Libyan exiles, armed by Israel, to infiltrate Libya through Tunisia.<br /><br /> - The creation of a pretext for the attacks. In this case, it was the April 5, 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin,a hangout of American servicemen. This bombing was blamed on Libya “based on intercepted communications,” despite the explicit rejection of this claim by Berlin’s then-chief of anti-terrorist police.<br /><br /> - The revelation, according to one intelligence official, that “We came out with this big terrorist threat to the U.S. government. The whole thing was a complete fabrication.”<br /><br /> - As for real motives, Hersh discerned from a three-month investigation that the Reagan Administration saw Qaddafi as being pro-Soviet, “relentlessly anti-Israel,” and a supporter of extreme elements in Syria as opposed to “the more moderate regimes in Jordan and Egypt.”<br /><br /> - Qaddafi’s “often-stated ambition to set up a new federation of Arab and Moslem states in North Africa” frightened policy makers about their access to minerals.<br /><br /> It’s this that has to be considered as background for the true story of Libya—the one the Western media cannot, or will not now, report.</p> <p><br /><strong>Behind Libya's 'Spontaneous Revolution'</strong><br /><br /> What the media has so relentlessly characterized as the “spontaneous uprising” of February 2011 was hardly spontaneous. It began even before the Arab Spring itself commenced in Tunisia during December of last year—and it was orchestrated by the West.<br /><br /> In October 2010, Qaddafi’s protocol chief, Nouri Al-Mesmari, arrived in France, purportedly for medical treatment. But he had his family with him, and the declared reason for his trip was a cover story. He almost immediately plunged into talks with the French and their intelligence service. He argued that Qaddafi was weak. He pointed out breaches in Qaddafi’s national security shield that made it possible to take him down. (More on this can be found on the subscription-newsletter site [13] “Africa Intelligence.”)<br /><br /> In December, Mesmari was joined by three Western-educated Libyan businessmen who had years earlier staged an unsuccessful revolt against Qaddafi. It didn’t take long for the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy to sign on to a covert effort to topple Qaddafi. There are multiple possible reasons for this, including intra-European competition, notably with the Italians, who enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Qaddafi and an inside track on Libya’s oil. In addition, the French were deeply concerned about illegal immigration from Arab and African countries,via Libya, that they felt was tolerated or even encouraged by Qaddafi. The French began talking with the British, who shared many of their concerns and a history of cooperation on covert projects.<br /><br /> In November, a French trade delegation, including representatives of multinational corporations, traveled to Benghazi in Eastern Libya. That delegation has been characterized by Africa Intelligence’s Maghreb Confidential as having included French military officials under commercial cover, assessing the possibilities on the ground.<br /><br /> The New Year’s uprising in Tunisia, followed in rapid succession by those in other Arab states, created a kind of perfect storm, arguably even a smoke screen for the “popular revolt.” (It is interesting to note the above newsletter’s assertion that Mesmari paid a brief visit to Tunisia in October on his way to France.)<br /><br /> “Muammer Kadhafi’s [i.e., Muammar Qaddafi’s] chief of protocol, Nouri Mesmari, is currently in Paris after stopping off in Tunisia. Normally, Mesmari sticks closely to his boss’s side, so there’s some talk that he may have broken his long-standing tie with the Libyan leader.”<br /><br /> Egypt followed quickly on Tunisia’s heels, and on February 16, just days after the dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled in neighboring Egypt, peaceful demonstrations began in Benghazi—after calls went out on Facebook for people to take to the streets in protest over the arrest of a human rights lawyer. (The lawyer, Fethi Tarbel, was quickly released—news organizations do not appear to have scrutinized who ordered Tarbel arrested, or exactly why—though this was the seminal event that would ultimately lead to the end of Qaddafi’s regime.)<br /><br /> On February 27, a National Transitional Council, made up of politicians, ex-military officers, tribal leaders, businessmen and academics, announced its launching in Benghazi as the rebel leadership. Not surprisingly, no mention was made of the French back story.<br /><br /> The Italian intelligence services, intent on preserving that country’s advantageously close relationship with Qaddafi, began trying to leak what was going on. (More on the extent of the coziness between Libya and Italian oil companies, and between Qaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi here [16].) When it proved unable to stop the operation, the Italian government seemingly decided to switch and try to head this particular parade, lest the spoils go to the others.<br /><br /> The United States was late to this affair, but determined to get its share of the picnic. The US has been as nervous about Qaddafi’s relationship with Russia’s Putin as France was about his ties to Italy.<br /><br /> CIA was ready with its own man and plan. As we previously noted [18], Khalifa Hifter, a former Libyan army officer, had spent the past two decades living just down the road from CIA headquarters, with no apparent source of income. In 1996, while a resident of Vienna, Virginia, he organized a Benghazi-based revolt that failed. When the current uprising was sputtering in March, CIA sent Hifter in to take command.<br /><br /> When the rebels were being routed, the United Nations Security Council approved a no-fly order for Qaddafi. The NATO bombing began almost immediately, under the “humanitarian” label.<br /><br /> Before long, other European countries had covert elements in Libya. The British paper, The Guardian, has just reported [20] the role of British special forces in coordinating the rebels on the ground. This was denied by the UK government . But then another British paper, The Telegraph, cited [21] UK defense sources saying special forces had been in Libya already for weeks, i.e., since early August.)<br /><br /> For the first time, defence sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya [22] for several weeks, and played a key role in co-ordinating the fall of Tripoli.<br /><br /> Now that it is all over, expect details to emerge daily. For example, see this [23] from the Daily Beast on the extent of US involvement behind the scenes, including:<br /><br /> [A]t NATO headquarters outside Brussels, the U.S.was intimately involved in all decisions about how the Libyan rebels should be supported as they rolled up control of cities and oil refineries and marched toward the capital, Tripoli.<br /><br /><strong>NATO'S Mare Nostrum</strong><br /><br /> Ok, so certain Western powers wanted, really, really badly, to oust Qaddafi. But why exactly? France’s intra-European competitive motive was certainly one factor. But there was more.<br /><br /> Back in 2007, European Union leaders were seriously toying with the idea of NATO-izing the entire Mediterranean, turning it into the new mare-nostrum originally contemplated in Roman days. In 2007, France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy invited 27 European Union heads of state to launch a “Mediterranean union.” He also invited 17 non-EU Mediterranean countries to use, as Britain’s Daily Telegraph [24] put it, “imperial Rome’s centre of the world as a unifying factor linking 44 countries that are home to 800 million people.”<br /><br /> One leader did not buy in, however: Muammar Qaddafi. He claimed the scheme would divide Africa and the Arab World. “We shall have another Roman empire and imperialist design,” he was quoted as saying in July, 2008. “There are Imperialist maps and designs that we have already rolled up. We should not have them again.”<br /><br /> Qaddafi was particularly angered [24] that an earlier plan, which contemplated building closer co-operation among a few southern European and North African states bordering the Mediterranean, had been replaced with one which included the whole EU, the Middle East—and Israel—in the new “Union.”<br /><br /> “It is unbelievable that I would come to my own country and people and say that I have a union with Israel. It is very dangerous,” he said, referring to the possibility of the plan fomenting jihadism throughout Europe, not just the Middle East.<br /><br /> Despite this “insult,” however, Qaddafi had been attempting for some time to get his country out of the near-global embargo imposed after blame for the Lockerbie bombing was laid at Libya’s feet. And the West, for its part, had been largely in a great hurry to “forgive”—and to get access to Libya’s riches.<br /><br /> While Qaddafi was discussing with the Russians in 2007, for instance, the prospect of building a Russian military base in Libya, he’d also been busy rapidly repairing relations with other potential allies. French President Sarkozy visited that year, and signed a number of agreements, including a deal for France to build a nuclear-powered facility to desalinate ocean water for drinking. The next year, Qaddafi signed a cooperation treaty with Italy’s Berlusconi. And American secretary of state Condi Rice came calling in 2008, accelerating the thaw George W. Bush had avidly begun early in his administration.<br /><br /> In recent years, Qaddafi was on such good behavior that U.S. officials showered him with the sort of praise usually reserved for those officially deemed to be close allies. If that sounds unlikely, all you need to do is watch this video [27] of Republican Sen. John McCain on an August 2009 visit to Tripoli—with his buddy Joe Lieberman, known to most as a pro-Israel, pro-Iraq-war hawk—gushing about Qaddafi and his regime. Emerging from meetings, they evoked a spirit of friendship and mutual respect, and endorsed the US providing defense equipment to that regime. (Ever the political animal, in recent weeks, the very same McCain who led that delegation has turned to criticizing Obama for not being willing to bomb Libya heavily enough.)<br /><br /> A cable [28] from the US embassy in Tripoli, released by WikiLeaks, confirms that on the 2009 visit,<br /><br /> “Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends,” the cable continues. “The Senators recognized Libya’s cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger.”<br /><br /> This rapprochement was characterized by a land rush of Western corporations that had long coveted their share of Libya’s oil revenues. Leading the way was the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Qaddafi and his advisers trusted Goldman’s claims that it would turn handsome profits with any funds entrusted to it. Yet Goldman managed to lose an astonishing 98 percent [6] of the funds, which were the Libyan people’s sovereign wealth. No matter. Goldman was soon back with more brilliant ideas—including suggesting, at the height of the Wall Street crisis, that Qaddafi buy a substantial stake in the Goldman firm itself.<br /><br /> Qaddafi was faced with these huge losses at the very time Libya was carrying a crushing obligation of reparations for the Lockerbie bombing that had been pressed on Libya as a condition of its re-emergence from years of isolation, and he began to worry about how he would pay for it all. Keeping the Libyan population at a relatively high standard of living (compared certainly to neighboring Egypt) was essential to his maintaining power. It was at this point that Qaddafi began pressing [30] foreign oil companies to increase the royalties they pay, and the companies began grousing about it.<br /><br /> Could this hardening of postures have contributed to the sudden decision to oust a man who had worked hard to ingratiate himself with the West?<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> At least two factors appear to have come together to create an impossible situation for Qaddafi: (1) The French, perhaps impatient with Qaddafi’s independence, and frustrated with his Italian alliance, began considering whether they might effect a change of government in Libya. And (2) the Arab Spring. Suddenly, a startling number of the thuggish Middle Eastern allies of the NATO countries began to come under threat. For a number of U.S. Eastern Establishment types, at least, these regional spasms of disaffection and bravery seemed to come as a genuine surprise. The Council on Foreign Affairs produced articles titled “What Just Happened?” and “Why No One Saw it Coming,” in the May/June issue of its Foreign Affairs magazine, dedicated to “the New Arab Revolt.”<br /><br /> No one seemed to know for certain what was going to happen, although there was plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking about how the Arab Spring was entirely predictable in light of the world-wide financial meltdown in 2008-09 and a growing restiveness in the Arab world. (See also our recent article [32] about a correlation between skyrocketing food prices and the revolts.)<br /><br /> But while it may take years to put the Arab Spring in its proper perspective, it surely had begun to occur to foreign policy elites that NATO’s plans for a militarized Mediterranean would be susceptible to unraveling if Libya’s unpredictable Qaddafi remained…unpredictable. Especially with the NATO-allied dictator Mubarak on his way out and Egypt destabilized.<br /><br /> A mere glance at the map reveals the strategic location of Libya. Right next to Egypt. Large. Unlike Egypt, full of oil. And of a particularly sought-after grade of sweet crude oil. (If you had momentarily forgotten how incredibly important oil is to Western government and corporations, consider this news item: Exxon Mobil reported second quarter profits of $10.7 billion, up 41 percent from the previous year.)<br /><br /> In other words, Libya is both sitting on gobs of oil and perfectly, strategically located for military bases to protect that oil and the oil of nearby countries, including Saudi Arabia, whose citizens have expressed hostility to the siting of American troops there. Almost nobody could stand Qaddafi. So if he were pushed out, who would complain?, By getting behind the rebels (or, even better, helping to create and fortify the rebels) the forces of the West might be able to have their own Arab Spring.</p> <p><strong>What? It's All About Oil?</strong><br /><br /> In an inexcusable affront to the public, the media (with notable exceptions such as The Guardian) has largely waited until Qaddafi was destroyed to begin focusing on this incredibly obvious oil factor. One example is a piece just published [35] by the New York Times. How useful is it to allow the one-sided demonization of this man, and then, when he is on his way out, to begin saying, Oh, by the way, it was always about oil?<br /><br /> The piece focuses on the rebels’ plans to favor the countries who backed them over those who preferred a negotiated settlement with Qaddafi:<br /><br /> “We don’t have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” Abdeljalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the Libyan rebel oil company Agoco, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”<br /><br /> Russia, China and Brazil did not back strong sanctions on the Qaddafi regime, and they generally supported a negotiated end to the uprising. All three countries have large oil companies that are seeking deals in Africa.<br /><br /> This feels like Iraq Redux, only with different players and, so far, a different outcome. In 2003, Germany and “Freedom-fries” France refused to join the “Coalition of the Willing” in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Why? Because they had pending oil deals with Saddam Hussein.<br /><br /> There are other possible factors, including Qaddafi’s unique influence as an uncontrollable, Castro/Chavez-style independent nationalist with influence throughout the region. Qaddafi was an avid promoter of African unity, of governments that would remain free from the influence of the major powers. He poured a lot of money into South Africa, for instance, when it was struggling to free itself from Western influence after the fall of the apartheid regime there. As Qaddafi was going down to defeat, the West began pressuring South Africa to turn over frozen Libyan funds. (Not incidentally, there’s more than $35 billion of frozen Libyan assets in the U.S., and a comparable sum in Europe.)<br /><br /> African nationalism remains a big concern for Western mining, banking and industrial interests. Though the people of Africa remain desperately poor, the continent is the earth’s richest potential source of precious and strategic metals, minerals and resources of every stripe.<br /><br /> In hindsight, the Libyan “revolution” may be viewed as a clever effort to harness genuine domestic discontent to a global competition for the resources necessary to sustain the industrial West as well as newly emerging industrial countries like China, India and Brazil. Refracted this way, the whole NATO involvement in Libya appears to be, at root, business as usual. As they say in law enforcement, follow the money. In the midst of a severe fiscal crisis, Pentagon spending [37] alone on Libya through the end of July was $896 million. Will everyone who believes that the Western military establishment is spending such vast sums to further the “aspirations of the Libyan people,” please raise their hands?<br /><br /> At this juncture, it seems realistic to expect the US and its allies to settle in, nice and comfortable, on Libyan “assets” for a very long time. Anyone who doubts that might want to check out US statements [38], not widely discussed, of intent for US troops to remain in Iraq well past the original troop departure date. Or a proposal for the same thing in Afghanistan—see this report [39] about a desire to keep substantial military personnel there through 2024. Then do a little reading on the potentially $1 trillion worth of minerals in Afghanistan which the US says it only recently learned about. (Wink, wink.) As The New York Times reported [40] in June, 2010 (the story generated little public reaction):<br /><br /> The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.<br /><br /> An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.<br /><br /> Some will say that ascribing solely selfish motives to Western “liberators” is too cynical. For one thing, aren’t the rebels at least an improvement on Qaddafi in terms of human rights, liberties, and so forth?<br /><br /> For a possible answer, it’s worth reading [42] the British journalist Patrick Cockburn. He nicely sums up the craziness, brutality and internecine murder taking place in the rebels’ ranks without proper Western media attention. They appear to have killed one or possibly two of their own commanding generals on suspicion of treachery—or at least being partial to the wrong faction. For example, we’ve been hearing—in part via a seemingly well-informed individual inside Libya—that the reason the rebels killed their own commander-in-chief General Abdul Fatah Younis was his advocacy of negotiations with Qaddafi. If that’s correct—and these subjects need more reporting by the news organizations there on the ground—then we’d like to know what position all those Western spooks took on the ouster and killing of this man.<br /><br /> Continuing on this score, we have the plight of black Libyans, generally among the poorest in the country. We’ve seen a steady stream of indications [44] that, almost by definition, anyone black in Libya (many African migrant workers but also some Libyan citizens) has been lumped in with Qaddafi’s non-Libyan African mercenaries, considered a suspected Qaddafi loyalist and therefore targeted for harassment, physical violence and death.<br /><br /> Meanwhile, the rebels have released, en masse, prisoners linked to extremist Islamic movements. And one analyst is currently asserting [45] that an Al Qaeda-linked figure is the new military commander of post-Qaddafi Tripoli.<br /><br /> Here’s another twist: The Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie bombing, released in 2009 from jail in Scotland and allowed to return home for health reasons, is now, according to CNN, on his death bed, said to be deprived of medicines due to the recent looting of Libyan pharmacies. Once the rebels had consolidated their hold over Tripoli, CNN found Abdel Basset al-Megrahi [46] comatose, and while he has consistently maintained his innocence, it is unlikely the world will ever learn what he knows. With him and Qaddafi disappearing from the scene, any demand for a deeper inquiry into the bombing will likely evaporate.<br /><br /> But where is the West in all of this? A leaked plan [47] for post-Qaddafi Libya shows how elaborately involved NATO has been in the entire operation. It includes a carefully thought-out proposal for avoiding the mistakes made in the Iraq occupation—including embracing most of Qaddafi’s security forces, and an initial occupying force “resourced and supported” by the United Arab Emirates, with essentially no (visible) Western “boots on the ground.”<br /><br /> Doesn’t this sound more and more like an invasion, for spoils? And one that could—notwithstanding lessons supposedly learned—quickly get very messy?<br /><br /> Notes:<br /><br /><br /> [1] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [2] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [3] this: <a href=""></a><br /> [4] this: <a href=""></a><br /> [5] this: <a href=""></a><br /> [6] previous article: <a href=""></a><br /> [7] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [8] claim: <a href=""></a><br /> [9] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [10] explicitly stated: <a href=""></a><br /> [11] View Page 2 of 3: <a href=""></a><br /> [12] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [13] site: <a href=""></a><br /> [14] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [15] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [16] here: <a href="http://whowhatwhy.comadd:%20Libya%20relationship%20with%20ITALY%20--%20">http://whowhatwhy.comadd:%20Libya%20relationship%20with%20ITALY%20--%20h...</a><br /> [17] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [18] previously noted: <a href=""></a><br /> [19] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [20] just reported: <a href=""></a><br /> [21] cited: <a href=""></a><br /> [22] Libya: <a href=""></a><br /> [23] this: <a href=";om_mid=_BOXNRGB8dCTPIU"></a><br /> [24] Daily Telegraph: <a href=""></a><br /> [25] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [26] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [27] this video: <a href=""></a><br /> [28] cable: <a href=""></a><br /> [29] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [30] began pressing: <a href=""></a><br /> [31] View Page 3 of 3: <a href=""></a><br /> [32] recent article: <a href=""></a><br /> [33] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [34] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [35] just published: <a href=""></a><br /> [36] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [37] Pentagon spending: <a href=""></a><br /> [38] US statements: <a href=""></a><br /> [39] this report: <a href=""></a><br /> [40] reported: <a href=""></a><br /> [41] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [42] worth reading: <a href=""></a><br /> [43] Image: <a href=""></a><br /> [44] indications: <a href=""></a><br /> [45] asserting: <a href=";">;</a><br /> [46] found Abdel Basset al-Megrahi: <a href=""></a><br /> [47] leaked plan: <a href=""></a><br /> [48] click here to donate: <a href=""></a><br /> [49] 1: <a href=""></a><br /> [50] 2: <a href=""></a><br /> [51] 3: <a href=""></a><br /> [52] 4: <a href=""></a><br /> [53] 5: <a href=""></a><br /> [54] 6: <a href=""></a><br /> [55] 7: <a href=""></a><br /> [56] 8: <a href=""></a><br /> [57] 9: <a href=""></a><br /> [58] 10: <a href=""></a><br /> [59] 11: <a href=""></a><br /> [60] 12: <a href=""></a><br /> [61] 13: <a href=""></a><br /> [62] 14: <a href=""></a><br /> [63] 16: <a href=""></a><br /> [64] 17: <a href=""></a><br /> [65] 18: <a href=""></a><br /> [66] 19: <a href=""></a></p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Fri, 02 Sep 2011 14:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 667611 at World World News & Politics Media Investigations oil nato libya gaddafi Qaddafi rebels Who's Behind The New Yorker's "Official" Story Of The Raid That Killed Bin Laden? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On closer inspection, the widely-celebrated New Yorker cover story on the death of Osama Bin Laden raises more questions than it answers.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><br /> The establishment media just keep getting worse. They’re further and further from good, tough investigative journalism, and more prone to be pawns in complicated games that affect the public interest in untold ways. A significant recent example is<em>The New Yorker</em>’s vaunted August 8 <a href="">exclusive</a> on the vanquishing of Osama bin Laden.<br /><br /> The piece, trumpeted as the most detailed account to date of the May 1 raid in Abbottabad Pakistan, was an instant hit. “Got the chills half dozen times reading @NewYorker killing bin Laden tick tock…exquisite journalism,” tweeted the digital director of the PBS show<em>Frontline</em>. The author, freelancer Nicholas Schmidle, was quickly featured on the Charlie Rose show, an influential determiner of “chattering class” opinion. Other news outlets rushed to praise the story as “exhaustive,” “utterly compelling,” and on and on.<br /><br /> To be sure, it is the kind of granular, heroic story that the public loves, that generates follow-up bestsellers and movie options. The takedown even has a Hollywood-esque code name: “Operation Neptune’s Spear.”<br /><br /> Here’s the introduction to the mission commander<strong>, </strong>full of minute details that help give it a ring of authenticity and the most intimate reportorial access:</p> <blockquote><br /> James, a broad-chested man in his late thirties, does not have the lithe swimmer’s frame that one might expect of a SEAL—he is built more like a discus thrower. That night, he wore a shirt and trousers in Desert Digital Camouflage, and carried a silenced Sig Sauer P226 pistol, along with extra ammunition; a CamelBak, for hydration; and gel shots, for endurance. He held a short-barrel, silenced M4 rifle. (Others SEALs had chosen the Heckler &amp; Koch MP7.) A “blowout kit,” for treating field trauma, was tucked into the small of James’s back. Stuffed into one of his pockets was a laminated gridded map of the compound. In another pocket was a booklet with photographs and physical descriptions of the people suspected of being inside. He wore a noise-cancelling headset, which blocked out nearly everything besides his heartbeat.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> On and on went the “tick-tock.” Yet as Paul Farhi, a <em>Washington Post </em>reporter,<a href="">noted</a>, that narrative was misleading in the extreme, because the<em>New Yorker</em>reporter never actually spoke to James—nor to a single one of James’s fellow SEALs (who have never been identified or photographed–even from behind–to protect their identity.) Instead, every word of Schmidle’s narrative was provided to him by people who were not present at the raid. Complains Farhi:</p> <blockquote><br /> …a casual reader of the article wouldn’t know that; neither the article nor an editor’s note describes the sourcing for parts of the story. Schmidle, in fact, piles up so many details about some of the men, such as their thoughts at various times, that the article leaves a strong impression that he spoke with them directly.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> That didn’t trouble <em>New Yorker </em>editor David Remnick, according to Farhi:</p> <blockquote><br /> Remnick says he’s satisfied with the accuracy of the account. “The sources spoke to our fact-checkers,” he said. “I know who they are.”<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> But we don’t.<br /><br /> On a story of this gravity, should we automatically join in with the huzzahs because it has the imprimatur of America’s most respected magazine? Or would we be wise to approach it with caution?<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> Most of us are not the trusting naïfs we once were. And with good reason.<br /><br /> The list of consequential events packaged for us by media and Hollywood in unsatisfactory ways continues to grow. It starts, certainly, with the official version of the JFK assassination, widely discredited yet still carried forward by most major media organizations. (For more on that, see <a href="">this</a>.) More and more people realize that the heroic Woodward &amp; Bernstein story of Nixon’s demise is deeply problematical. (I’ve written extensively on both of these in my book <a href=""><em>Family of Secrets</em></a><em>.</em>)<br /><br /> And untold millions don’t think we’ve heard the real (or at least complete) story of the phenomenal, complex success of those 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. Skeptics now include former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, who <a href="">recently</a> speculated that the hijackers may have been able to enter the US and move freely precisely because American intelligence hoped to recruit them as double agents—and that an ongoing cover-up is designed tohide this. And then, of course, there are the Pentagon’s account of the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq, which turned out to be a hoax, and the Pentagon’s fabricated account of the heroic battle death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, who turned out to be a victim of friendly fire. These are just a few from scores of examples of deceit perpetrated upon the American people. Hardly the kind of track record to inspire confidence in official explanations with the imprimatur of the military and the CIA.<br /><br /> Whatever one thinks of these other matters, we’re certainly now at a point where we ought to be prudent in embracing authorized accounts of the latest seismic event: the dramatic end to one of America’s most reviled and storied nemeses.<br /><br /> The bin Laden raid presents us with every reason to be cautious. The government’s initial claims about what transpired at that house in Abbottabad have changed, then changed again, with no proper explanation of the discrepancies. Even making allowances for human error in such shifting accounts, almost every aspect of what we were told requires a willing suspension of disbelief—from the manner of Osama’s death and burial to the purported pornography found at the site. (For more on these issues, see previous articles we wrote on the subject, <a href="">here</a>, <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>.)<br /><br /> Clarke’s theory will seem less outrageous later, as we explore Saudi intelligence’s crucial, and bizarre, role at the end of bin Laden’s life—working directly with the man who now holds Clarke’s job.<br /><br /> Add to all of this the discovery that the reporter providing this newest account wasn’t even allowed to talk to any raid participants—and the magazine’s lack of candor on this point—and you’ve got an almost unassailable case for treating the<em> New Yorker </em>story with extreme caution.<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> We might begin by asking the question: Who provided <em>The New Yorker </em>with its exclusive, and what was their agenda in doing so? To try and sort out Schmidle’s sources, I read through the piece carefully several times.<br /><br /> One person who spoke to the reporter, and who is identified by name is John O. Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. Brennan is quoted directly, briefly, near the top, describing to Schmidle pre-raid debate over whether such an operation would be a success or failure:</p> <blockquote><br /> John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser,<strong>told me </strong>that the President’s advisers began an “interrogation of the data, to see if, by that interrogation, you’re going to disprove the theory that bin Laden was there.”<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> The mere fact of Schmidle’s reliance on Brennan at all should send up a flare for the cautious reader. After all, that’s the very same Brennan who was the principal source of incorrect details in the hours and days after the raid. These included the claim that the SEALs encountered substantial armed resistance, not least from bin Laden himself; that it took them an astounding 40 minutes to get to bin Laden, and that the White House got to hear the soldiers’ conversations in real time.<br /><br /> Here’s a<em>Washington Post</em>account from Brennan published on May 3, less than 48 hours after the raid:</p> <blockquote><br /><strong>Half an hour had passed </strong>on the ground, but the American commandos raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideaway <strong>had yet to find their long-sought target.</strong><br /><br /> …The commandos swept methodically through the compound’s main building, clearing one room and then another as they made their way to the upper floors where they expected to find bin Laden. As they did so, Obama administration officials in the White House Situation Room listened to the SEAL team’s conversations over secure lines.<br /><br /><strong>“The minutes passed like days,” said John O. Brennan</strong>, the administration’s chief counterterrorism adviser. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled.”<br /><br /><strong>Finally, shortly before 2 a.m. in Pakistan, the commandos burst into an upstairs room.</strong><strong>Inside, an armed bin Laden took cover behind a woman, Brennan said. </strong>With a burst of gunfire, one of the longest and costliest manhunts in modern history was over.<br /><br /><strong>..</strong>The commandos moved inside, and <strong>finally reached bin Laden’s upstairs living quarters after nearly 40 minutes on the ground.</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Almost all that turns out to be hogwash—according to the new account produced by <em>The New Yorker </em>three months later. An account that, again, it seems, comes courtesy of Brennan. The minutes did <em>not </em>pass like days. Bin Laden was not armed, and did not take cover behind a woman. And the commandoes most certainly were not on the ground for 40 minutes. Some of them were up the stairs to the higher floors almost in a flash, and it didn’t take long for them to run into and kill bin Laden.<br /><br /> For another take, consider this account from NBC News’ Pentagon correspondent—also reported the week after the raid— two days after Brennan told the <em>Washington Post </em>a completely different story. This one appears to be based on a briefing from military officials who would have been likely to have good knowledge of the operational details:</p> <blockquote><br /> According to the officials’ account, as the first SEAL team moved into the compound, they took <strong>small-arms fire from the guest house</strong>in the compound. The SEALs returned fire, killing bin Laden’s courier and the courier’s wife, who died in the crossfire. <strong>It was the only time the SEALs were shot at.</strong><br /><br /> The second SEAL team entered the first floor of the main residence and could see a man standing in the dark with one hand behind his back. Fearing he was hiding a weapon, the SEALs shot and killed the lone man, who turned out to be <strong><em>unarmed.</em></strong><br /><br /> As the U.S. commandos moved through the house, they found several stashes of weapons and barricades, as if the residents were prepared for a violent and lengthy standoff — which never materialized.<br /><br /> The SEALs then made their way up a staircase, where they ran into one of bin Laden’s sons. The Americans immediately shot and killed the 19-year-old son, who was also <strong><em>unarmed,</em></strong>according to the officials.<br /><br /> Hearing the shots, bin Laden peered over the railing from the floor above. The SEALs fired but missed bin Laden, who ducked back into his bedroom. As the SEALs stormed up the stairs, two young girls ran from the room.<br /><br /> One SEAL scooped them up and carried them out of harm’s way. The other two commandos stormed into bin Laden’s bedroom. One of bin Laden’s wives rushed toward the Navy SEAL, who shot her in the leg.<br /><br /><strong>Then, without hesitation, the same commando turned his gun on bin Laden, standing in what appeared to be pajamas, and fired two quick shots, one to the chest and one to the head. </strong>Although there were weapons in that bedroom, bin Laden was also <strong><em>unarmed </em></strong>when he was shot.<br /><br /><strong>Instead of a chaotic firefight, the U.S. officials said, the American commando assault was a precision operation, with SEALs moving carefully through the compound, room to room, floor to floor.</strong><br /><br /><strong>In fact, most of the operation was spent in what the military calls “exploiting the site,” gathering up the computers, hard drives, cellphones and files that could provide valuable intelligence on al-Qaida operatives and potential operations worldwide.</strong><br /><br /><strong>The U.S. officials describing the operation said the SEALs carefully gathered up 22 women and children to ensure they were not harmed. Some of the women were put in “flexi-cuffs” the plastic straps used to bind someone’s hands at the wrists, and left them for Pakistani security forces to discover.</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> ***<br /><br /> Given that Brennan’s initial version of the raid was strikingly erroneous, his later account to<em>The New Yorker</em>is suspect as well. So who else besides Brennan might have been Schmidle’s sources? At one point in his piece, he cites an unnamed counterterrorism official:</p> <blockquote><br /> A senior counterterrorism official who visited the JSOC redoubt described it as an enclave of unusual secrecy and discretion. “Everything they were working on was closely held,” the official said.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Later, that same unnamed counterterrorism official is again cited, this time seeming to continue Brennan’s narrative of the meeting before the raid, in which participants disagreed on the likely success of such a mission:</p> <blockquote><br /> That day in Washington, Panetta convened more than a dozen senior C.I.A. officials and analysts for a final preparatory meeting. Panetta asked the participants, one by one, to declare how confident they were that bin Laden was inside the Abbottabad compound. <strong>The counterterrorism official told me that the percentages “ranged from forty per cent to ninety or ninety-five per cent,” and added, “This was a circumstantial case.”</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> From the story’s construction, one could reasonably conclude that the unnamed counterterrorism official is indeed still just Brennan. If not, who could it be? How many different white House counterterrorism officials would have debriefed the SEALs, if indeed that is even their role? How many would have been privy to that planning meeting? And how many different officials would have gotten authorization to sum up the events of that important day for this <em>New Yorker </em>writer? Also, it’s an old journalistic trick to quote the same source, on and off the record— thereby giving the source extra cover when discussing particularly delicate matters.<br /><br /> So, we don’t know whether the article was based on anything more than Brennan, under marching orders to clean up the conflicting accounts he originally put out.<br /><br /> UNEXPLAINED DISPUTES<br /><br /> It’s curious that the source chooses to emphasize the fundamental disagreement over whether the raid was a good idea. Presumably, there was a purpose in emphasizing this, but the <em>New Yorker’s </em>“tick-tock”, which is very light on analysis or context, doesn’t tell us what it was. It may have been intended to show Obama as brave, inclined toward big risks (thereby running counter to his reputation)—we can only guess.<br /><br /> This internal discord will get the attention of anyone who remembers all the assertions from intelligence officials over the years that bin Laden was almost certainly already dead—either of natural causes or killed at some previous time.<br /><br /> Here’s a bit more from <em>The New Yorker </em>on officials’ doubts going into the raid:</p> <blockquote><br /> Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.’s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center’s director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Those doubts are particularly interesting for several reasons: the CIA has had a long history of disputes between its covert action wing, which tends to advocate activity, and its analysis section, historically prone to caution. The action wing also has a history of publicizing its being right—when it could purport to be right—and covering up its failures. So when an insider chooses to make public these disagreements, we should be willing to consider motives.<br /><br /> This dispute can also be seen as an intriguing prologue to the rush to dump Bin Laden’s body and not provide proof to the public that it was indeed bin Laden. What if it <em>wasn’t </em>bin Laden that they killed? Would the government announce that after such a high-stakes operation? (“<em>While we thought he’d be there, we accidentally killed someone else instead</em>”? Seems unlikely.)<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> Now, let us go to the next antechamber of this warren of shadowy entities and unstated agendas.<br /><br /> Who exactly wanted bin Laden shot rather than taken alive and interrogated—and why? There’s been much discussion about the purported reasons for terminating him on sight, but the fact remains that he would have been a source of tremendous intelligence of real value to the safety of Americans and others.<br /><br /> Yet, early in the piece, Schmidle writes:</p> <blockquote><br /> If all went <strong>according to plan,</strong>the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Laden’s guards, <strong>shoot and kill him at close range, </strong>and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> That was the plan? Whose plan? We’ve never been explicitly told by the White House that such a decision had been made. In fact, we’d previously been informed that the president was glad to have the master plotter taken alive if he was unarmed and did not resist. So, that’s a huge and problematical discrepancy that is only heightened by Schmidle’s misleadingly matter-of-fact treatment of the matter.<br /><br /> GET ME RIYADH<br /><br /> If the justification for killing Osama presented in <em>The New Yorker </em>warrants concern, the account of how—and why—they disposed of his body ought to send alarm bells clanging.<br /><br /> At the time of the raid, the decision to hastily dump Osama’s body in the ocean rather than make it available for authoritative forensic examination was a highly controversial one—that only led to more speculation that the White House was hiding something. The justifications, including not wanting to bury him on land for fear of creating a shrine, were almost laughable.<br /><br /> So what do we learn about this from <em>The New Yorker? </em>It’s truly bizarre: the SEALS <em>themselves </em>made the decision. That’s strange enough. But then we learn that Brennan took it upon himself to verify that was the right decision. How did he do this? Not by speaking with the president or top military, diplomatic or legal brass. No, he called some foreigners—get ready–<em>the Saudis</em>, who told him that dumping at sea sounded like a good plan.<br /><br /> Here’s Schmidle’s account:</p> <blockquote><br /><strong>All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden’s corpse into the sea</strong>—a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth. They had successfully pulled off a similar scheme before. During a DEVGRU helicopter raid inside Somalia in September, 2009, SEALs had killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of East Africa’s top Al Qaeda leaders; Nabhan’s corpse was then flown to a ship in the I ndian Ocean, given proper Muslim rites, and thrown overboard. Before taking that step for bin Laden, however, John Brennan made a call.<strong>Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, phoned a former counterpart in Saudi intelligence. Brennan told the man what had occurred in Abbottabad and informed him of the plan to deposit bin Laden’s remains at sea. </strong>As Brennan knew, bin Laden’s relatives were still a prominent family in the Kingdom, and Osama had once been a Saudi citizen. Did the Saudi government have any interest in taking the body? <strong>“Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Let’s consider this. The most wanted man in the world; substantive professional doubts about whether the man in the Abbottabad house is him; tremendous public doubts about whether it could even be him; the most important operation of the Obama presidency; yet the decision about what to do with the body <em>is left to low-level operatives</em>. Keep in mind SEALs are trained to follow orders given by others. They’re expected to apply what they know to unexpected scenarios that come up, but the key strategic decisions— arrived at in advance—are not theirs to make.<br /><br /> Even more strange that Brennan would discuss this with a foreign power. And not just any foreign power, but the regime that is inextricably linked with the domestically-influential family of bin Laden—and home to many of the hijackers who worked for him.<br /><br /> Is it just me, or does this sound preposterous? Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser is just winging it with key aspects of one of America’s most important, complex and risky operations? And the Saudi government is the one deciding to discard the remains of a man from one of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful families, before the public could receive proper proof of the identity of the body? A regime with a great deal at stake and perhaps plenty to hide.<br /><br /> Also please consider this important caveat: As we noted in a <a href="">previous</a> article, the claim that the <strong>body had already been positively identified via DNA has been disputed by a DNA expert </strong>who said that insufficient time had elapsed before the sea burial to complete such tests.<br /><br /> The line about Brennan himself having been a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia is just sort of dropped in there. No recognition of what it means that a person of that background was put into that position after 9/11, no recognition that a person of that background and those fraught personal connections is controlling this narrative. He’s not just a “counterterrorism expert”—he is a longtime member of an agency whose mandate includes the frequent use of disinformation. And one who has his own historic direct links to the Saudi regime, a key and problematical player in the larger chess game playing out.<br /><br /> It’s relevant to note that Brennan is not only a career CIA officer (they say no one ever really leaves the Agency, no matter their new title) but one with a lot of baggage. He was deputy director of the CIA at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He was an adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign, after which Obama initially planned to name him CIA director. That appointment was pulled, in part due to criticism from human rights advocates over statements he had made in support of sending terrorism suspects to countries where they might be tortured.<br /><br /> Of course, there could have been other sources besides Brennan. In addition to the unnamed “counterterrorism official” previously cited, the<em>New Yorker</em>mentions a “special operations officer,” as in:</p> <blockquote><br /> …according to a special-operations officer who is deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Subsequent quotes from him indicate that this had to be a supervisory special ops officer. His comments are surprising:</p> <blockquote><br /> “This wasn’t a hard op,” the special-operations officer told me. “It would be like hitting a target in McLean”—the upscale Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Whoops! Here’s a Special Ops guy saying the Special Ops raid was actually no big deal! Shouldn’t that, if a valid assessment, get more attention? Especially given the endless praise and frequent statements of how difficult the operation was. I mean, the toughness and diciness of the Abbottabad mission is the prime reason we want to read the <em>New Yorker’s </em>account in the first place!<br /><br /> To further underline the point, consider that this fellow is not alone in his assessment:</p> <blockquote><br /> In the months after the raid<strong>, the media have frequently suggested that the Abbottabad operation was as challenging as Operation Eagle Claw and the “Black Hawk Down” incident, but </strong>the senior Defense Department official told me that “this was not one of three missions.”….<strong>He likened the routine of evening raids to “mowing the lawn.”</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Why would a person overseeing an operation like this deflate the bubble of adoration? It doesn’t seem helpful to the interests of Special Operations– and it doesn’t seem credible, either. So there’s presumably a reason that this person is—again speaking to <em>The New Yorker </em>after this important exclusive has been carefully considered and strategized. We just don’t know what it is, and the magazine doesn’t even bother to wonder.<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> Most of the other sources seem to play bit roles. One is “a senior adviser to the President” whose only comment is that Obama decided not to trust the Pakistanis with advance notice of the raid—which we already knew. Another— named—source is Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, who does not evince any intimate knowledge of the raid itself.<br /><br /><em>The New Yorker </em>also includes a few other officials who brief Schmidle on general background, like a “senior defense department official” explaining the overall relationship between Special Operations and CIA personnel, and a named former CIA counsel explaining that the Abottabad raid amounted to <strong>“a complete incorporation of JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] into a C.I.A. operation.”</strong><br /><br /> That’s only slipped into the article, but it is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the piece, along with a brief mention of the way in which former Iraq/Afghan commander General DavidPetraeus has gone to CIA while CIA director Panetta has been made Defense Secretary. (For more on these important but confusing games of high-level musical chairs, which were not deeply scrutinized in the conventional media, see our WhoWhatWhy pieces <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>.)<br /><br /> This may sound too technical for your taste, but the takeaway point is that fundamental realignments are afoot in that vast, massively-funded, powerful and secretive part of the US government that is treated by thecorporate press almost as if it does not exist. The tales of internal intrigue that we do not hear would begin to provide us with the real narratives that are not ours to have.<br /><br /> In the<em> New Yorker </em>piece, we do learn lots of things we did not know before—for example, that Special Ops considered tunneling in or coming in by foot rather than helicopter. We learn that CIA director Robert Gates wanted to drop massive bombs on the house. General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared that view—Cartwright is one of the few who is directly identified as a source for Schmidle. That’s important stuff, and worth more than brief mention. And, once again, we need more effort to try and understand why we are being told these things.<br /><br /> “WE REALLY DIDN’T KNOW…WHAT WAS GOING ON”<br /><br /> About two-thirds of the article is a sort of scene-setter, a prologue to on-the-ground story we’ve all been waiting for. But when the big moment arrives, <em>The New Yorker’s </em>Schmidle instead punts:</p> <blockquote><br /> Meanwhile, James, the squadron commander, had breached one wall, crossed a section of the yard covered with trellises, breached a second wall, and joined up with the SEALs from helo one, who were entering the ground floor of the house. <strong>What happened next is not precisely clear. “I can tell you that there was a time period of almost twenty to twenty-five minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on,” Panetta said later, on “PBS NewsHour.”</strong><br /><br /> Until this moment, the operation had been monitored by dozens of defense, intelligence, and Administration officials watching the drone’s video feed. The SEALs <strong>were not wearing helmet cams</strong>, contrary to a widely cited report by CBS. None of them had any previous knowledge of the house’s floor plan, and they were further jostled by the awareness that they were possibly minutes away from ending the costliest manhunt in American history; <strong>as a result, some of their recollections—on which this account is based—may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute</strong>.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Schmidle claims that the SEALs’ “recollections—on which this account is based”—are subject to dispute. But as I’ve noted, the article is NOT based on their recollections, but on what some source <em>claims </em>to Schmidle were their recollections. Why the summary may be imprecise and thus subject to dispute after it has been filtered by a person controlling the scenario, must be asked. Perhaps this is why <em>The</em><em>New Yorker </em>is not permitted to speak directly to the SEALs—because of what they could tell the magazine.<br /><br /> Now, killing the men who lived in the compound: First, the SEALs shot and killed the courier, who they say was armed, and his wife, who they say was not, when they emerged from the guesthouse. Then they killed the courier’s brother inside the main house, who they say was armed. Then they moved up the stairs:</p> <blockquote><br /> ..three SEALs marched up the stairs. Midway up, they saw bin Laden’s twenty-three-year-old son, Khalid, craning his neck around the corner. He then appeared at the top of the staircase with an AK-47. <strong>Khalid</strong>, who wore a white T-shirt with an overstretched neckline and had short hair and a clipped beard,<strong>fired down</strong>at the Americans. (<strong>The counterterrorism official claims that Khalid was unarmed</strong>, though still a threat worth taking seriously. “You have an adult male, late at night, in the dark, coming down the stairs at you in an Al Qaeda house—your assumption is that you’re encountering a hostile.”) At least two of the SEALs shot back and killed Khalid.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Ok, that’s pretty strange. First, Schmidle asserts that Khalid bin Laden was armed and fired with an AK-47. Then he quotes the “counterterrorism official” saying that Khalid was unarmed. Why does <em>The New Yorker </em>first run the “Khalid was armed” claim as a fact, and then include Brennan’s disclaimer? What’s really going on here, even from the<em>New Yorker’s</em>editorial standpoint?<br /><br /> Here’s another such instance: a dispute over where Osama was when they first saw him:</p> <blockquote><br /> Three SEALs shuttled past Khalid’s body and blew open another metal cage, which obstructed the staircase leading to the third floor. Bounding up the unlit stairs, they scanned the railed landing. On the top stair, the lead SEAL swivelled right; with his night-vision goggles, he discerned that a tall, rangy man with a fist-length beard was <strong>peeking out from behind a bedroom door, ten feet away</strong>. The SEAL instantly sensed that it was Crankshaft [codename for Osama]. (<strong>The counterterrorism official asserts that the SEAL first saw bin Laden on the landing</strong>, and fired but missed.)<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> What’s the purpose of all this? How good is intelligence work when they can’t reconstruct whether the singular focus of the operation was first spotted peeking out from a doorway, or standing on the landing above them?<br /><br /> And then one of the most interesting passages, about the kill:</p> <blockquote><br /> A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “<strong>There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees</strong>,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.)<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Uh-oh. So who is this Special Operations officer? He is directly disputing the administration’s claim on what surely matters greatly—what were President Obama’s intentions here? And did they always plan to just ignore them? That <em>The New Yorker </em>just drops this in with no further analysis or context is, simply put, shocking.<br /><br /> It seems almost as if Panetta, Obama, and the people in the story who most closely approximate actual representatives of the public in a functioning democracy, were basically cut off from observing what went down that day—or from influencing what transpired.<br /><br /> Consider this statement from Panetta, not included in the <em>New Yorker </em>piece:</p> <blockquote><br /> “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.<br /><br /> “We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Panetta’s “lost 25 minutes” needs to be seen in the context of a man with civilian roots, notwithstanding two mid-60s years as a Lt. in military intel: Former Congressman, Clinton White House budget chief and Chief of Staff, credentials with civil rights and environment movements—a fellow with real distance from the true spook/military mojo.<br /><br /> Taken together, here’s what we have: President Obama did not know exactly what was going on. He did not decide that bin Laden should be shot. And he did not decide to dump his body in the ocean. The CIA and its Special Ops allies made all the decisions.<br /><br /> Then Brennan, the CIA’s man, put out the version that CIA wanted. (Keep in mind that, as noted earlier, CIA was really running the operation—with Special Ops under its direction).<br /><br /> What we’re looking at, folks, is the reality of democracy in America: A permanent entrenched covert establishment that marches to its own drummer or to drummers unknown. It’s exactly the kind of thing that never gets reported. Too scary. Too real. Better to dismiss this line of inquiry as too “conspiracy theory.”<br /><br /> If that sounds like hyperbole, let me add this rather significant consideration. It is the background of Nicholas Schmidle, the freelancer who wrote the <em>New Yorker </em>piece. It may give us insight into how he landed this extraordinary exclusive on this extraordinarily sensitive matter—information again, significantly, not shared by <em>The New Yorker </em>with its readers:<br /><br /> Schmidle’s father is Marine Lt. General Robert E. “Rooster” Schmidle Jr. General Schmidle served as Commanding Officer of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (Experimental)—that’s essentially Special Operations akin to Navy SEALs. In recent years, he was “assistant deputy commandant for Programs and Resources (Programs)”—where, among other things, he oversaw “irregular warfare.” (See various, including contract specs <a href="">here</a> on “Special Operations,” and picture caption <a href="">here</a>) In 2010, he moved into another piece of this, when Obama appointed him deputy commander, U.S. Cyber Command. Cumulatively, this makes the author’s father a very important man in precisely the sort of circles who care how the raid is publicly portrayed—and who would be quite intimate with some of the folks hunkering down with Obama in the Situation Room on the big day.<br /><br /> You can see a <a href="">photo</a> of Gen. Schmidle on a 2010 <a href="">panel</a> about “Warring Futures.” Event co-sponsors include <em>Slate </em>magazine and the New America Foundation, both of which, according to Nicholas Schmidle’s <a href="">website</a>, have also provided Schmidle’s son with an ongoing perch (with <em>Slate </em>giving him a platform for numerous articles from war zones and the foundation employing him as a fellow.) These parallel relationships grow more disturbing with contemplation.<br /><br /> ***<br /><br /> So let’s get back to the question, Who is driving this Ship of State?<br /><br /> First, consider this passage:</p> <blockquote><br /> Obama returned to the White House at two o’clock, <strong>after playing nine holes of golf </strong>at Andrews Air Force Base. The Black Hawks departed from Jalalabad thirty minutes later. Just before four o’clock, Panetta announced to the group in the Situation Room that the helicopters were approaching Abbottabad.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> To be really useful reporting here, rather than just meaningless “color”, we’d need some context. Was the golf game’s purpose to blow off steam at an especially tense time? Did Obama not think it important enough for him to be constantly present in the hours leading up to the raid? Is this typical of his schedule when huge things are happening? We desperately need a more realistic sense of what presidents do, how much they’re really in charge, or, instead, figureheads for unnamed individuals who make most of the critical decisions.<br /><br /> Here’s something just as strange: we are told the President took a commanding role in determining key operational tactics, but then didn’t seem interested in important details, after the fact.</p> <blockquote><br /> Forty-five minutes after the Black Hawks departed, four MH-47 Chinooks launched from the same runway in Jalalabad. Two of them flew to the border, staying on the Afghan side; the other two proceeded into Pakistan. <strong>Deploying four Chinooks was a last-minute decision made after President Barack Obama said he wanted to feel assured that the Americans could “fight their way out of Pakistan.”</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Now, consider the following climactic <em>New Yorker </em>account of Obama meeting with the squadron commander after it’s all over, with bin Laden dead and the troops home and safe. Schmidle decides to call the commander “James…the names of all the covert operators mentioned in this story have been changed.” The anecdote will feature a canine, one who, in true furry dog story fashion, had already been introduced early in the <em>New Yorker </em>piece, as “Cairo” (it’s not clear whether the dog’s name, too, was changed):</p> <blockquote><br /> As James talked about the raid, he mentioned Cairo’s role. “There was a dog?” Obama interrupted. James nodded and said that Cairo was in an adjoining room, muzzled, at the request of the Secret Service.<br /><br /><strong>“I want to meet that dog,” Obama said.</strong><br /><br /> “If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” James joked. Obama went over to pet Cairo, but the dog’s muzzle was left on.<br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Here’s the ending:</p> <blockquote><br /> Before the President returned to Washington, he posed for photographs with each team member and spoke with many of them, but <strong>he left one thing unsaid. He never asked who fired the kill shot, and the SEALs never volunteered to tell him.</strong><br /></blockquote> <p><br /> Why did the president not want to ask for specifics on the most important parts of the operation—but seemed so interested in a dog that participated? While it is certainly plausible that this happened, we should be wary of one of the oldest PR tricks around—get people cooing over an animal, while the real action is elsewhere.<br /><br /> Certainly, Obama’s reaction differs dramatically from that of other previous presidents who always demanded detailed briefings and would have stayed on top of it all throughout—including fellow Democrats JFK, Carter and Clinton. At minimum, it shows a degree of caution or ceremony based upon a desire not to know too much—or an understanding that he may not ask. Does anyone doubt that Bill Clinton would have been on watch 24/7 during this operation, parsing legal, political and operational details throughout,andwould have demanded to know who felled America’s most wanted?<br /><br /> Summing up about the reliability of this account, which is now likely to become required reading for every student in America, long into the future:<br /><br /> •It is based on reporting by a man who fails to disclose that he never spoke to the people who conducted the raid, or that his father has a long background himself running such operations (this even suggests the possibility that Nicholas Schmidle’s own father could have been one of those “unnamed sources.”)<br /><br /> •It seems to have depended heavily on trusting second-hand accounts by people with a poor track record for accurate summations, and an incentive to spin.<br /><br /> •The alleged decisions on killing bin Laden and disposing of his body lack credibility.<br /><br /> •The DNA evidence that the SEALs actually got their man is questionable.<br /><br /> •Though certain members of Congress say they have seen photos of the body (or, to be precise,<em>a</em>body), the rest of us have not seen anything.<br /><br /> •Promised photos of the ceremonial dumping of the body at sea have not materialized.<br /><br /> •The eyewitnesses from the house—including the surviving wives—have disappeared without comment.<br /><br /><br /><br /> We weren’t allowed to hear from the raid participants. And on August 6, seventeen Navy SEALs died when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. We’re told that fifteen of them came, amazingly, from the same SEAL Team 6 that carried out the Abbottabad raid—but that none of thedead were present for the raid. We do get to hear the stories of those men, and their names.<br /><br /> Of course, if any of those men had been in the Abbottabad raid—or knew anything about it of broad public interest, we’d be none the wiser—because, the only “reliable sources” still available (and featured by the New Yorker) are military and intelligence professionals, coming out of a long tradition of cover-ups and fabrications. Meanwhile, we have this president, this one who according to the magazine article didn’t ask about the core issues—why this man was killed, who killed him, under whose orders, what would be done with the body.<br /><br /> Well, he may not want answers. But we ought to want them. Otherwise, it’s all just a game.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Wed, 17 Aug 2011 11:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 667387 at News & Politics World News & Politics raid bin laden pakistan new yorker seals schmidle russ baker abbottabad 12 Ways Rupert Murdoch's Media Empire Has Made the World Worse <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rupert Murdoch has done a whole lot more damage over his career than what is being revealed in the hacking scandal.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This column</em><a href=""><em>originally appeared at</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>Rupert Murdoch has had a profound influence on the state of journalism today. It’s a kind of tribute, in some sense, that the general coverage of his current troubles has reflected the detrimental effect of his influence over the years.  Right now, the media, by and large, are focusing on tawdry “police blotter” acts of the very sort that have historically informed Murdoch’s own tabloid sensibility, while the bigger picture gets short shrift.</p> <p>To be sure, the activities and actions of Murdoch’s that dominate the public conversation at the moment are deeply troubling, leaving aside their alleged criminality.  Still, what is really pernicious about Murdoch is not his subordinates’ reported hacking of phones, payments of hush money, etc., or the possibility that Murdoch may have known about, tolerated, enabled, or even encouraged such acts.</p> <p>It is, instead, the very essence of the man and his empire, and their long-term impact on our world and our lives. (For a detailed look at his practices, see for example <a style="outline-style: none; outline-width: initial; outline-color: initial; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(222, 33, 35); " href="">this</a>, <a style="outline-style: none; outline-width: initial; outline-color: initial; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(222, 33, 35); " href="">this</a>and <a style="outline-style: none; outline-width: initial; outline-color: initial; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(222, 33, 35); " href="">this</a>.)</p> <p>Here are twelve “take-away” points that are being obscured in the daily rush of revelations, and the related specialized coverage (his wife’s wardrobe and demeanor, the effect on his company’s stock price, etc.):</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has transformed world politics for the worse</span>: It was George W. Bush’s first cousin(John Ellis), working as head of Murdoch’s Fox News election night “decision desk,” who, during the Florida voting uncertainties, called the election for Bush and set off a chain reaction from other media. The eight Bush years that followed, and all that came with them, can in this respect be laid at Murdoch’s feet. Once Bush was finally out of power, it was two of Murdoch’s most powerful entities (Fox News Channel and the<em>Wall Street Journal) </em>that provided a regular editorial slot for Bush’s “architect” Karl Rove to attack Bush’s successor.  Murdoch’s role on the state and local level has been no less significant—in New York, for example, he has used his pulpit (including the <em>New York Post)</em> to advance the careers of sympathetic politicians (see the mayoral election of Ed Koch for example) as well as to relentlessly promote local, state and national scandals (Lewinsky, et al) that wounded or destroyed pols and candidates not in his corner. He has similarly influenced and shaped governments in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere for decades.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has ridiculed and raised doubts about global catastrophes, and about science itself</span>, while elevating absurd theories and hyping minor matters. For example, his outlets have played a leading role in dismissing and deriding scientific consensus on climate change, while creating hysteria about false issues like President Obama’s place of birth.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has undermined liberty</span>: His outlets led the drumbeat for restriction or elimination of certain fundamental rights, including those under the US Fourth Amendment, while at the same time supporting unrestrained wiretapping, the  harsh treatment of suspects who may have done nothing wrong, and fueling panic justifying the build-up of the national surveillance state.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has turned the public against the press</span>. By the generally inferior product produced, with a few exceptions, by the majority of the news outlets he controls and the tawdry methods sponsored by many of them, he has eroded the public’s confidence in media in general, tarnishing its belief even in those outfits whose work deserves to be taken seriously. He has also used his outlets to convince the public that other, more conscientious news organizations are ideologically suspect and biased.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has simultaneously propagandized for “the law” and compromised it. </span>Murdoch properties are the leading hagiographers of law enforcement and the military—while at the same time routinely assailing the patriotism of those who advocate for civil and privacy rights, who question wars, and so forth. Meanwhile, as shown by the unfolding UK drama, Murdoch himself stands accused of compromising the law enforcement establishment—and not just in that country. (See his relationship with former NY police commissioner Kerik, who is now in prison, for example.)</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has undermined essential rules about propriety in the news business,</span> degrading ethical walls put in place through long tradition. He has used his properties to advance his personal interests, and made cross-promotion his trademark.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has propagandized for many of society’s worst instincts<em>.</em></span><em> </em>Whether it involves advancing subtle racism or stoking greed, Murdoch and his minions have been out front. Fox News and the <em>New York Post </em>are best known for this in the US, but examples of various magnitudes may be found in almost all of his properties.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has until now effectively neutralized many would-be critics in journalism. </span>As the news profession shrinks, his control over an increasing percentage of the paying positions makes journalists reticent to risk their jobs—or the prospects of future employment–by speaking out about his practices. The current flurry of revelations are only possible because of the sheer force of cascading events.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has relentlessly applied a double standard</span>: Long a vilifier of others as communist sympathizers, he has created a pragmatic, but cynical partnership with the Chinese communist party dictators that has benefited him financially without helping ( in fact, in some ways hindering) the prospects of democracy and freedom in that country.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has dumbed down the news business and hence the public. </span>His tabloidization of the world has now come back to haunt him with a made-for-Murdoch style story of an ogre-like entity hacking the phone of a murdered 13 year old girl. This kind of story makes it impossible for him to defend himself on more nuanced, big-picture grounds. Nevertheless, where Murdoch and News Corp are concerned, the broader activities hardly look any better.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">He has used his wealth regularly to stave off businesses and individuals that his company has illegally damaged.</span> Multi-million dollar payoffs have led plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs to withdraw their lawsuits and agree to silence.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline; ">His campaign contributions and the public support of his media organizations have persuaded politicians to override laws against media monopolies. </span>And with each successive step, his growing dominance made the following step in building an empire easier to achieve.</p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Mon, 25 Jul 2011 08:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 667109 at Media News & Politics Media fox murdoch hacking-gate The Media's Role in the Assault on Working People <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A common theme runs through a variety of news stories: there isn’t enough money around, and so working people must take a hit. But is that really the only solution?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A common theme runs through a variety of news stories: there isn’t enough money around, and so working people must take a hit. But is that really the only solution? First, let’s look at the stories. There’s growing <a href="" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','']);">talk</a> of letting state governments declare bankruptcy so they can get out of paying pension benefits to retired state workers. As <em>The New York Times</em>put it:</p> <blockquote> <p>Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.</p></blockquote> <p>The article does not really get into why this is all happening, and the only real defense of not going this route is from—surprise, surprise, a union leader, making it sound like this defense is of only parochial interest:</p> <blockquote> <p>Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers.</p> <p>“They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”</p></blockquote> <p>It also does not interview anyone who would point out that retirees who have less, spend less, meaning less “recovery.” In that sense, it is typical media narrative compartmentalization. Meanwhile, it notes, only very briefly, and so it is easy to miss, the crux of what is going on here:</p> <blockquote> <p>Discussion of a new bankruptcy option for the states appears to have taken off in November, after Mr. Gingrich gave <a href="" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','']);">a speech</a> about the country’s big challenges, including government debt and an uncompetitive labor market.</p></blockquote> <p>Thus, it cites the consistently pro-corporate presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, without reminding us of what constituency he represents. Also, <em>The Times</em>should better contextualize Gingrich’s remarks. He’s neither a direct player in this matter nor is he an expert on state and local government finances. So why quote him at all? If the point is that he initiated the whole thing, that’s a big deal—and should be the basis of a proactive line of inquiry.</p> <p>Also, in quoting Gingrich, the reporter does not ask the basic question: why, or in what way is the US labor market uncompetitive? Is it because we don’t have a good enough educational system? Is it because Americans don’t make good workers? Is it because companies can get far cheaper labor in developing countries with much lower standards of living? Well, what about looking at what European countries, also faced with serious budgetary pressures, are doing while still maintaining a much higher level of retirement security? And wouldn’t it be possible to recognize that state and local pension funds have had plenty of funny business going on and need streamlining without assuming that the entire system needs to be tanked?</p> <p>On the topic of doing something about those who have no jobs, there are lots of <a href="" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','']);">articles</a> about “job creation” where a careful reporter could really question the terminology—and, as importantly, the assumptions. Example, in an article about Obama bringing in JPMorgan Chase executive William Daley as his chief of staff, headlined “Obama Sends Pro-Business Signal With Adviser Choice,” the <em>New York Times</em>writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>President Obama, sending another strong signal that he intends to make the White House <em>more business-friendly</em>, named a high-profile corporate executive on Friday as his chief outside economic adviser, continuing his efforts to show more <em>focus on job creation</em>and reclaim the political center.</p></blockquote> <p>One wonders: how exactly did Daley himself create jobs at Morgan?</p> <p>Then there are the articles about how the president wants to hear from business about which <a href="" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','']);">government regulations</a> to cut back so as to create jobs.</p> <blockquote> <p>President Obama on Tuesday ordered “a government-wide review” of federal regulations to root out those “that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive,” but he exempted many agencies that most vex corporate America.</p></blockquote> <p>It’s worth noting that a lot of this talk about “job creation” is really not about that at all, but about creation of benefits to the people at the top, under the implied or assumed justification that jobs will appear magically down below as a result.</p> <p>Cutting some government regulations <em>could</em>theoretically create jobs, and certainly do so in some cases, but doing so does not necessarily ensure that result—not by a long shot. All you have to do is look at all the companies that saw their profits soar under Bush Administration deregulation but still went ahead and cut jobs where they could. And ask any friend in business—it’s not the job of top decision-makers at corporations to create jobs. It’s to turn profits for shareholders.</p> <p>Irrespective of your personal preferences on these policies, you should want reporters to report these things honestly. For example, you can find government regulation burdensome, and that would make a legitimate story, but that doesn’t mean that the burden is the same for everyone, or that the public benefit necessarily is outweighed by the inconvenience experienced by the entity being regulated.</p> <p>What’s missing here is a consistent look at who is always coming out on top in these situations, plus comparisons with other countries to see how they are coping with budgetary crises.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is editor of <a href=""></a> and author of "<a href="">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years</a>." </div></div></div> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 13:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 665060 at Media Economy Media media unions pensions public workers Exposing the Dirty Truth That Bush's New Memoir Tries to Cover Up <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Investigative journalist Russ Baker offers a corrective counter-narrative to Bush&#039;s &#039;Decision Points.&#039;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In George W. Bush’s book <em>Decision Points</em>, the former president tells a story of his presidency based on his own say-so. In my book <em>Family of Secrets</em>, based on five years of research, hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, I reveal a very different one.<br /><strong><br /> BUSH:</strong> Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld pushed him to invade Iraq. He portrays himself as a reluctant warrior who had qualms about resort to force.<br /><br /><strong>BAKER:</strong> Bush was already looking forward to invading Iraq years earlier. Bush told his own contracted ghostwriter, back in 1999, when he was not yet even the GOP nominee, that if elected president he would invade Iraq. The reason? Score political points and secure high poll numbers. Bush confided his belief that successful presidents needed to win a war, and he thought Iraq would be an easy one.<br /><strong><br /> BUSH:</strong> A religious conversion changed his life.<br /><strong><br /> BAKER:</strong> In a way, yes; but not as Bush’s account implies. Bush’s “conversion” came after a key Bush family political adviser warned that it was impossible to win the presidency without embracing the sentiments of America’s huge bloc of fundamentalist Christians.<br /><br /><strong>BUSH:</strong> He was mortified by the disaster that resulted from Hurricane Katrina (and takes some responsibility for the slow response)<br /><br /><strong>BAKER:</strong> The incompetence of the federal government was the result of willful neglect of FEMA, the agency in charge of response. Bush and his team were interested in weakening and defunding agencies like FEMA, and outsourcing their functions and budgets to friends and supporters.<br /><strong><br /> BUSH:</strong>His father did not have much influence with him, beyond being generally supportive offstage.<br /><br /><strong>BAKER:</strong>Father and son were joined in the family enterprise from the start. Their respective ventures in the oil business were connected to covert intelligence operations. Most of the key figures in bringing Bush to power and keeping him there were associates of his father.<br /><br /> Those are just a few of the problems with the Bush narrative. But the principal failing of Decision Points is that it skips over so much that is crucial to understanding the man and his presidency. It is not accidental that, like his father, George W. chose not to write a full-bore memoir that would have brought this broader focus into play.<br /><br /><em>Here are a few examples of what Bush has chosen not to tell us:</em><br /><strong><br /> -A Good Cleaning Saves a Presidency:</strong>Two generations of George Bushes, working together, used a simple dental exam to cover up the son’s disappearance from the military during the Vietnam War. The trick has successfully deflected inquiry for nearly four decades.<br /><br /><strong>-“A Higher Father”:</strong> George W. Bush’s claim that he didn’t ask his father for advice on Iraq but rather turned to a “higher father” for guidance was a story most of the media found too good to check. Reporters also recited faithfully the supposed generational schism between father and son that cast George W. as a genuine rough-hewn Texan, unlike his father, whose political career was hobbled and re-election bid foiled in part because he could never shed his establishment trappings. In fact, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush were not just close—they were partners in complex political and intelligence operations that are to this day completely unknown to the public.<br /><strong><br /> -Oil the Presidents Men:</strong> A close friend of George W. Bush helped provide cover for W’s disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard unit in which both served. He then was rewarded with a lucrative assignment as middleman between Saudi oil interests and the Bush family, that included financing of the illegal Iran-Contra operation and an alliance with a clan called Bin Laden.<br /><br /><strong>-Land of Opportunity:</strong>One of the strangest companies ever to appear in the oil business, tied to the CIA, foreign dictators, money launderers, and illicit caches of gold, helped fund George W. Bush’s rise to the presidency.<br /><br /><strong>-The Loan (ar)Ranger—</strong>A group of individuals seeking favor with the administration of Bush’s father subsidized George W. Bush’s stock holdings in the Texas Rangers baseball team. They created a lucrative virtual no-show job that associated him with a popular local sports franchise and also with a business success. Later, Bush sold his Rangers stock at a big gain to a man he enabled to profit off University of Texas pension funds—and who ultimately put the Rangers into bankruptcy.<br /><strong><br /> - Back in the Saddle, Temporarily:</strong> The Crawford ranch was a favored venue for photo ops of a president supposedly more at home clearing brush than behind a White House desk. Yet George W.—a product of Eastern establishment pillars such as Philips Andover, Yale, and Harvard— bought the ranch shortly before he ran for president, and rarely visits it now that he’s back in Texas.<br /><strong><br /> -Making (Up) The Grade:</strong>Bush’s future Education Secretary faked the Texas school performance numbers that helped persuade voters that Bush was the man to fix the nation’s schools.<br /><br /><strong>- An Eye for Talent:</strong> Bush touted his environmental convictions during his presidential campaign. Then he turned the Environmental Protection Agency’s most polluted region over to a car dealer who had helped Bush earn a fortune off the Texas Rangers baseball team.<br /><br /><strong>- Lemons Into Lemonade:</strong> The Bush forces went into the 2004 campaign with a major vulnerability – evidence that, after a plum position in the Texas Air National Guard enabled him to avoid Vietnam, he disappeared from the final third of his obligatory—if cushy—Guard stint. With Bush facing media inquiries from an aggressive CBS News and a daunting threat from John Kerry, a Democratic opponent with a bona fide war record in the jungles of Indochina, the then-president’s disinformation machine went into action. In the end, John Kerry was politically wounded and CBS anchorman Dan Rather professionally destroyed. News organizations abandoned intensive scrutiny of Bush, and he squeaked through to another term.<br /><br /><strong>-Keyboard Kops:</strong>George W. affected a Bubba persona that the media generally bought, and that gained him slack for gaffes and incompetencies. But when it came to strategy and tactics, he actually was sly like a fox. He once confided to an adviser how naïve journalists are, and how easy to fool. His example: hide tactical information “in plain sight” for reporters to “find” and report as inside dope.<br /><br /><strong>-A Bush In Your Future?</strong>Notwithstanding George W. Bush’s purported Texas isolation and his general silence since leaving Washington, the Bush family enterprise remains as viable as ever. Members of their circle work in the Obama administration, while his brother Jeb gears up for a possible national campaign of his own—raising the prospect of a third Bush in the White House. Meanwhile, through Decision Points, the upcoming George W. Bush presidential library/democracy “think tank”, and the active role of his lieutenant Karl Rove in orchestrating a GOP comeback, they are already rewriting past history—and defining history yet to come.<br />  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. His web site is <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 09 Nov 2010 21:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 664594 at Books Culture Books Investigations george bush Decision Points family of secrets Bob Woodward's Dark Side -- Famed Reporter Carries Water for the Pentagon <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A crucial aspect of Bob Woodward&#039;s career that has been ignored by most of the media: Woodward is the military&#039;s man, and always has been.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Just one year before the publication of "Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward became a player in his own book-in-progress. He morphed into his true identity: <i>Warrior Bob. </i> Actually, there's an even deeper persona, <i>Agent Woodward</i>--but we're getting ahead of ourselves.</p> <p>In June of 2009, Woodward traveled to Afghanistan with General Jim Jones, President Obama's National Security adviser, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of forces there. Why did Jones allow this journalist to accompany him? Because Jones knew that Woodward could be counted on to deliver the company line--the military line. In fact, Jones was essentially Woodward's patron. </p> <p>The <i>New Republic</i>'s Gabriel Sherman<i> </i><a target="_blank" href="">wrote</a> at the time that</p> <ul><p><em>Jones was a guest of Woodward at his wife Elsa Walsh's fiftieth birthday party held at Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee's house. He and Elsa were glued to Jones at the cocktail party before the dinner started </em></p> </ul><p>In September of last year, McChrystal (or someone close to him) leaked to Woodward a document that essentially forced President Obama's hand. Obama wanted time to consider all options on what to do about Afghanistan. But the leak, publicizing the military's "confidential" assertion that a troop increase was essential, cast the die, and Obama had to go along. Nobody was happier than the Pentagon--and, it should be said, its allies in the vast military contracting establishment.</p> <p>The website Firedoglake chronicled the developments in a pungent <a target="_blank" href="">essay</a>:</p> <ul><p><em>Apparently General McChrystal and the Petraeus cabal aren't willing to wait for their Commander in Chief to set the strategy. Prior to the President's interviews, McChrystal's people were already telling journalists that they were "impatient with Obama" as</em><a target="_blank" href=""><em>Nancy Youssef reported</em></a><em>. This "</em><a target="_blank" href=""><em>Power Play</em></a><em>," as I mentioned last night, included a veiled threat that McChrystal would resign if he didn't get his way.</em></p> </ul><ul><p><em>And sure enough, just hours after the Commander in Chief was on the airwaves, somehow McChrystal's classified report hit the</em><a target="_blank" href=""><em>Washington Post</em></a><em>compliments of Bob Woodward no less.</em></p> </ul><ul><p><em>Wow, what a coincidence!</em></p> </ul><p>This episode highlights a crucial aspect of Bob Woodward's career that has been ignored by most of the media. Simply put, Woodward is the military's man, and always has been.</p> <p>For almost four decades, under cover of his supposedly "objective" reporting, Woodward has represented the viewpoints of the military and intelligence establishments. Often he has done so in the context of complex inside maneuvering of which he gives his readers little clue. He did it with the book <i>Veil, </i> about CIA director William Casey, in which he relied on Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a rival of Casey's, as his key source. (Inman, from Texas, was closely identified with the Bush faction of the CIA.) The book was based in part on a "deathbed interview" with Casey that Casey's widow and former CIA guards said never took place.</p> <p>Typically, Woodward uses information he gets from his main sources to gain access to others. He then gets more secrets from them, and so on down the line.  His stature--if that's the word--as a repository of this inside dope has been key to the relentless success machine that his media colleagues have perpetuated. The <i>New York Times</i> <a target="_blank" href="">review</a> of his Obama book laid out the formula:</p> <ul><p><em>In Obama's Wars, Mr. Woodward, as usual, eschews analysis and commentary. Instead, he hews to his I Am a Tape Recorder technique, using his insider access to give readers interested in inside-the-Beltway politics lots of granular detail harvested from interviews conducted on background, as well as leaked memos, meeting notes and other documents. Some of this information is revealing about the interplay of personality and policy and politics in Washington; some of it is just self-serving spin. As he's done in his earlier books, Mr. Woodward acknowledges that attributions of thoughts, conclusions or feelings to a person were in some cases not obtained directly from that person, but from notes or from a colleague whom the person told--a questionable but increasingly popular method, which means the reader should take the reconstructed scenes with a grain of salt.</em></p> </ul><p>And then, thanks to all this attention, and even with that grain of salt, the book went to #1.</p> <p>But might there be more to Woodward and his oeuvre than just questionable work practices? Well, let's see. Woodward granted former CIA director George H.W. Bush a pass by excluding him from accounts of Iran-Contra, which occurred while the notorious intriguer was vice president under the notoriously hands-off Ronald Reagan. (When I asked Woodward about this for my book <i>Family of Secrets, </i>he replied, "Bush wasWhat was it he said at the time? <i>I was out of the loop</i>?") Later Woodward got exclusive access to H.W.'s son. He spent more time with George W. Bush than did any other journalist, writing several largely sympathetic books about his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan before playing catch-up with prevailing sentiment and essentially reversing course.</p> <p>Now, for a bit of cognitive dissonance. Woodward's signature achievement--bringing down Richard Nixon--turns out not to be what we all thought. If that comes as a surprise, you have missed a few books, including bestsellers, that put pieces of this puzzle together. (<i>Family of Secrets </i> has several chapters on the real Watergate story, but there are others that present detailed information, including those by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, James Rosen, Jim Hougan and others.)</p> <p>Here's the deal: Bob, top secret Naval officer, gets sent to work in the Nixon White House while still on military duty. Then, with no journalistic credentials to speak of, and with a boost from White House staffers, he lands a job at the <i> Washington Post.  </i>Not long thereafter he starts to take down Richard Nixon. Meanwhile, Woodward's military bosses are running a spy ring inside the White House that is monitoring Nixon and Kissinger's secret negotiations with America's enemies (China, Soviet Union, etc), stealing documents and funneling them back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They then give what they stole to columnist Jack Anderson and others in the press.</p> <p>That's not the iconic Woodward of legend, of course--so it takes a while for this notion to settle in the mind.  But there's more--and it's even more troubling. Did you know there was really no Deep Throat, that the Mark Felt story was conjured up as yet another layer of cover in what became a daisy chain of disinformation? Did you know that Richard Nixon was loathed and feared by the military brass, that they and their allies were desperate to get Nixon out and halt his rapprochement with the Communists? That a bunch of operatives with direct or indirect CIA/military connections, from E. Howard Hunt to Alexander Butterfield to John Dean--wormed their way into key White House posts, and started up the Keystone Kops operations that would be laid at Nixon's office door?</p> <p>Believe me, I understand. It sounds like the "conspiracy theory" stuff that we have been trained to dismiss. But I've just spent five years on a heavily documented forensic dig into this missing strata of American history, and I myself have had to come to terms with the enormous gap between reality and the "reality" presented by the media and various establishment gatekeepers who tell us what's what. </p> <p>Given this complicity, it's no surprise that when it comes to Woodward's latest work, the myth-making machine is on auto pilot. The public, of course, will end up as confused and manipulated as ever. And so things will continue, same as they ever were. Endless war, no substantive reforms. Unless we wake up to our own victimhood.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. His web site is <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 01 Oct 2010 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 663776 at News & Politics News & Politics Media national security bob woodward What Obama Is Up Against in His Own Branch of Government <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Americans harbor a quaint belief a new president takes charge of a govt. eagerly awaiting his orders. But there are huge power centers that have their own agendas.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The first anniversary of Barack Obama's historic election finds many of his supporters already grousing. Fair enough: Obama has been more vigorous in some areas than others. But one essential question goes unasked: How much can any president accomplish against the wishes of recalcitrant power centers within his own government?</p> <p>We Americans harbor a quaint belief that a new president takes charge of a government that eagerly awaits his next command. Like an orchestra conductor or perhaps a football coach, he can inspire or bludgeon and get what he wants. But that's not how things work at the top, especially where "national security" is concerned. The Pentagon and CIA are powerful and independent fiefdoms characterized by entrenched agendas and constant intrigue. They are full of lifers, who see an elected president largely as an annoyance, and have ways of dealing with those who won't come to heel.</p> <p>Compound that with the Bush-Cheney administration's aggressive seeding of its staunch loyalists throughout the bureaucracy, and you have a pretty tough situation. Obama, then, has to contend not only with the big donors and corporate lobbies. His biggest problem resides right inside his "team."</p> <p>***</p> <p>The internal battles between American presidents and their national security establishments are not much reported. But if it is an invisible game; it is also a devious and even deadly one. Our civilian leaders end up mirroring the chronically nervous chiefs of state of the fragile democracies to our south.</p> <p>Those who do not kowtow to the spies and generals have had a bumpy ride. FDR and Truman both faced insubordination. Dwight Eisenhower, who had served as chief of staff of the US Army, left the White House warning darkly about the "military industrial complex." (He of all presidents had reasons to know.) John Kennedy was repeatedly countermanded and double-crossed by his own supposed subordinates. The Joint Chiefs baited him; Allen Dulles despised him (more so after JFK fired him over the Bay of Pigs fiasco), and Henry Cabot Lodge, his ambassador to South Vietnam, deliberately undermined Kennedy's agenda. Kennedy called the trigger-happy generals "mad" and spoke angrily to aides of "scattering the CIA to the wind." The evidence is growing that he suffered the consequences.</p> <p>In the 1950s, the late Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, a high-ranking Pentagon official, was assigned by CIA Director Allen Dulles to help place Dulles's officers under military cover throughout the federal government. As a result, Dulles not only knew what was happening before the president did, but had essentially infiltrated every corner of the president's domain. One Nixon-era Republican Party official told me that in the early 1970s, there were intelligence officers everywhere, including the White House. Nixon was unaware of the true background of many of his trusted aides, particularly those who helped drive him from office. Remember Alexander Butterfield, the so-called "military liaison," who told Congress about the White House taping system? Years later, Butterfield admitted to CIA connections.</p> <p>In December 1971, Nixon learned of a military spy ring, the so-called Moorer-Radford operation, that was piping White House documents back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs were wary of secret negotiations the president and Henry Kissinger were conducting with America's enemies, including North Vietnam, China and the USSR, and decided to keep tabs on this intrusion upon their domain. Jimmy Carter came into office as revelations of CIA abuses made headlines. He tried to dismantle the agency's dirty tricks office, but wound up instead a victim of it - and a one-term president.</p> <p>Those who avoided problems - Johnson, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Jr. - were chief executives that made no problems for the Pentagon and intelligence chiefs. All embraced military and covert operations, expanded wars or launched their own. The agile Bill Clinton was a special case - no babe in the woods, he focused on domestic gains and pretty much steered clear of the hornets' nest.</p> <p>As for the Bushes, their ascension represented a seizure of power by the national security state itself. Their family had profited from arms manufacturing for decades. The patriarch, Prescott Bush, monitored US assassination plots against foreign leaders as a senator; and records indicate that the elder George Bush had been a secret agency operative for decades before he became CIA director - and then, 12 years later, president.</p> <p>Obama seems to understand his narrow range of movement, and to be carefully picking his fights. He retained many of Bush's top military brass, and even Bush's Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who himself had served as a CIA director for Bush's father. He has trod very carefully with the spy agency, and has declined to aggressively investigate Bush administration wrongdoing on torture and wiretapping. Obama's campaign rhetoric about disengaging from Iraq seems a long time ago, and the war in Afghanistan is taking on the hues of permanency.</p> <p>The old boys' network is very much in place, and it is hard at work to force Obama's hand, a la Vietnam. Witness the leaking of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's supposedly "confidential report" calling for escalation in Afghanistan. The leak was, not surprisingly, to the reliable Bob Woodward. The reporter was himself in Naval Intelligence shortly before he went to work at the Washington Post, where he soon built a career around leaks from the military and spy establishment. The White House was furious at the McChrystal release. But what could it do? Presidents come and go, and the security folks have ways to hasten the latter.</p> <p>Covert alliances and payments to corrupt foreign allies continue, making creative diplomacy more difficult. In late October came a front-page story that the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, suspected of being a major figure in that country's opium trade, has been on the CIA's payroll for eight years. Anyone who finds this shocking should go back and read about the CIA and the drug trade in Southeast Asia.</p> <p>Throughout its six-decade history, the CIA has resisted accountability, with even some of its own nonspook directors kept in the dark about the agency's most troubling activities. As for the public's elected representatives, Nancy Pelosi is the most recent in a long line of legislators to accuse the CIA of deliberately misleading Congressional overseers.</p> <p>None of this is likely to change soon, and not without a huge fight. Half a century after Ike's famous admonition, conflict and intrigue remain the engine of our economy, and everyone from private equity firms to missile makers to car and truck manufacturers count on that to continue. The homeland security industry, the most recent head to grow on this hydra, is now seeking permanency.</p> <p>So Barack Obama is boxed in. But so are the American people, and so, really, is democracy itself. Bringing this inconvenient truth out in the open is the essential first step toward taking back control of our government - and our future. For all the reasons laid out here, Obama will need help. He may, in the rote formulation, hold "the most powerful office in the world." However, the extent to which he controls the government he heads, is another matter.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is an investigative journalist and founder of the nonprofit reporting web site <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. His latest book, <a href="" target="_blank">"Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years,"</a> now available in hardcover, will be published in paperback November 10. Gore Vidal calls it "one of the most important books of the past ten years." </div></div></div> Tue, 10 Nov 2009 09:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 659245 at News & Politics News & Politics presidency obama white house Media Enabled Bush 1's Savage Attacks on Maddow and Olbermann, Yet Continue to Ignore Bush Family's Sordid Past <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '658822'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src=""/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">George HW Bush gets a free pass for attacks without evidence, meanwhile his CIA ties remain largely ignored and his son&#039;s lies about Iraq remain unprosecuted.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The other day, George H.W. Bush fired a salvo against mean media liberals who savaged his son. Soon, brickbats were flying to and fro about who said what about whom. But this mini-controversy is nothing more than a distraction from the real story: even the most animated of Bush critics on television have not gotten around to acknowledging the full, unspeakably dark  nature of the Bush enterprise. Bush41, it turns out, has nothing at all to complain about.</p> <p>The kerfuffle began last Friday, when <a href="">CBS ran a story</a> on its website about George H.W. Bush criticizing MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow for edgy rhetoric and name-calling, in which he then … called them names -- specifically,  “sick puppies.”</p> <p>"The way they treat my son and anyone who's opposed to their point of view is just horrible," Mr. Bush said. "When our son was president they just hammered him mercilessly and I think obscenely a lot of the time and now it's moved to a new president," he added.</p> <p>Of course, this is ridiculous on many counts. First is the absurdity of the man who employed the political assassin Lee Atwater (look up Willie Horton) and gave Karl Rove his first job, whining about incivility. Then there is the way the former president glided over the snapping trash- mouths and conjurers of the Right, from Limbaugh to Hannity to Beck, who dominate and influence the media’s vast market of vulnerable and hurting Americans.  And finally, it is hard to recall criticism of H.W.’s son that was wildly inaccurate, truly out of bounds, or not reflective of the awful reality of W.’s presidency.  </p> <p>The real problem is not that popular media figures have gone after the Bushes, it is quite the opposite: that they have stopped well short of sharing the full story with the American people.</p> <p>CBS inadvertently touched on this when it reported H.W.’s general satisfaction with how his personal saga was playing out in his golden years:</p> <p> “Mr. Bush also said his own life is "very good, very private."</p> <p>Perfect irony resides in that remark. One reason that the elder Bush’s life is so very good, and remains so very private, is because of the media’s failure to unearth the extent of the continuing deception perpetrated by the Bush family and their allies. The guilty parties surely include CBS itself -- which stopped asking questions when under pressure and unceremoniously tossed to the lions Dan Rather, the most visible television personality willing to dig into the truth about the Bushes.</p> <p>That the bigger picture never emerged is not only the fault of the mainstream, however, but also of the very “liberals” castigated by the elder Bush. Our favorite television talking heads continue to focus on the failings of the George W. Bush Administration without providing the added context from substantive discoveries about the Bush family and their longer-term activities that would shock the nation and the world.</p> <p>In early 2009, the respected publisher Bloomsbury released <em>Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means For America</em>. This was the result of five years of deep research I conducted into the rise of the Bushes, into those who propelled them to the top and kept them there through decades, and their long-term and continuing grip on policy. The book contains page after page of revelations about things we need to know but have collectively missed, and about a nexus of power that shapes the American destiny to this moment.</p> <p>Here is a little taste of what <em>Family of Secrets</em> reveals about the “very good, very private” lives and thoughts of George Bush, father and son, not brought to you by NBC or Comedy Central:</p> <p>-Proof that the senior Bush, far from being the outsider CIA director in 1976 he claimed to be,  had actually worked with the intelligence services in “very private” capacities for his entire adult life. <br /> -Overwhelming and painstakingly documented evidence that the senior Bush lied when he claimed not to remember where he was on Nov. 22, 1963, the day JFK was shot,  and that, in fact, he was in Dallas, working for the CIA, and closely associated with a small web of figures directly tied to Lee Harvey Oswald, the control of JFK’s motorcade, the Texas School Book Depository, and other crucial aspects of the events of that day. <br /> -Source interviews and paperwork that show the junior Bush lied when he claimed to have completed his obligatory service during the Vietnam war, and that he was, in effect,  AWOL, a crime with no statute of limitations.<br /> -Documented assertions from a Bush family adviser suggesting that W. cynically adopted the mantle of Jesus to clean up a spotty past and to win over the crucial fundamentalist vote without which he would have lost badly in 2000.<br /> -Evidence that the man the junior Bush put in charge of handling the domestic emergency response to attacks and natural disasters, Michael Brown, was even far less qualified than previously understood—and why such a person ended up being in that incredibly important position as Hurricane Katrina descended on the Gulf coast. <br /> -Testimony that the junior Bush’s principal personal motivation for invading Iraq was not WMDs, or Al Qaeda, or neoconservative aspirations, or geopolitical goals, or even oil, but because he was convinced that a successful presidency requires a war. <br /> -A body of facts strongly indicating that the same interests, working through the CIA, that removed JFK from power—a group that appears to have included the senior Bush—also took action to cause Richard Nixon to be removed from power. This is of urgent importance because it helps to provide some sense of why Barack Obama has continued to kowtow to major power centers—CIA, military, defense contractors, oil companies, Wall Street—because, simply put, he has absolutely no choice.</p> <p>These are just a few of the literally hundreds of revelations that cast the Bushes—and the ongoing power configuration in this country—in a new and even more disturbing light. Yet   viewers of Maddow, Olbermann, and for that matter, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and even Amy Goodman have never heard them. The publisher and a small legion of concerned citizens have tried repeatedly to get these programs to take an interest in the book’s extensively-documented and footnoted findings. But for whatever reason, the gatekeepers of the liberal media continue to ignore it. (Goodman taped an interview with me but never broadcast it.) The most common refrain was that by January 20, 2009, the Bushes and all they represented was “ancient history” and the shows were looking for new micro-skirmishes with more of a current feel.</p> <p>The tragic thing is that without a big picture, we lack context on where we are as a country, and where we are going. In this vacuum the elder Bush is able to continue to be treated as a gracious statesman, and his son is busy rehabilitating his image. The rest of us remain largely in the dark on the who, the what, and the why of the world we inhabit.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is an investigative journalist and founder of the nonprofit reporting website <a href=""></a>. His latest book, "<a href="">Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America</a>," now available in hardcover, will be published in paperback this fall. Gore Vidal calls it "one of the most important books of the past ten years." </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2009 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '658822'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 20 Oct 2009 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, AlterNet 658822 at News & Politics News & Politics keith olbermann rachel maddow george hw bush There's a Lot More to Arrested Financier Hassan Nemazee's Past Than Just Being a 'Clinton Fundraiser' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Nemazee was much more than just a Clinton fundraiser -- he was a bipartisan financier of the influence bazaar that American politics has become.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em><a href=""></a> reports exclusively on the background of Hassan Nemazee, the top Hillary Clinton fundraiser who was arrested and charged with forging loan documents. Early media accounts cast the event as an embarrassment for Ms. Clinton and the Democratic Party involving the financial misdoings of one prominent backer. Actually it is much more.  Behind the Nemazee arrest lies a sprawling cautionary tale of presidents, would-be presidents, and the shadow world of wealthy operators who cozy up to them for their own gain.  It reaches into the Bush operation as well as that of the Clintons, and is a microcosm of an influence bazaar that has gone global along with the economy.</em><br />  —  —  —  — </p> <p><br /> On August 25th, Hassan Nemazee, a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton,  was arrested and charged with forging loan documents in order to borrow $74 million from Citibank. He could face up to 30 years in prison. Early media accounts cast the event as an embarrassment for Ms. Clinton involving the financial misdoings of one prominent backer. Actually it is much more.</p> <p>Behind the Nemazee arrest lies a sprawling cautionary tale of presidents, would-be presidents, and the shadow world of wealthy operators who cozy up to them for their own gain.  It reaches into the Bush operation as well as that of the Clintons, and is a microcosm of an influence bazaar that has gone global along with the economy.</p> <p>Hassan Nemazee, who served as a finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, began raising sizable sums for the Democratic National Committee in the mid-nineties. In 1998, in the midst of the Lewinsky affair, Nemazee collected $60,000 for Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund in $10,000 increments from relatives and friends.</p> <p>The following year, President Clinton nominated the money manager and investor to be ambassador to Argentina. Then an article in <em>Forbes</em> raised questions about his business practices. Among other things, Nemazee, an Iranian-American, had magically turned himself into an “Hispanic” by acquiring Venezuelan citizenship in order to fulfill the minority-ownership requirement of a California public pension fund. The nomination was withdrawn.</p> <div>That embarrassment did not, however, hamper Nemazee’s rise within the Democratic Party. By 2004 he was New York finance chair for John Kerry’s campaign, and in 2006 he served under Senator Chuck Schumer as the national finance chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).  During this period the committee raised about $25 million more than its Republican counterpart.</div> <div> </div> <div>By 2008, Nemazee was one of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle, and was being publicly touted as a top foreign policy adviser. When another major fundraiser, a clothing manufacturer named Norman Hsu, was arrested and unmasked as a swindler, it was Nemazee who was trotted out to defend Ms. Clinton and argue that she knew little about Hsu.</div> <div> </div> <div>But she should have known plenty about Nemazee. In 2005, Nemazee and his business partner, Alan Quasha, went deep into the Clinton circle to hire Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton confidante and former chairman of the Democratic Party, for Carret Asset Management, their newly acquired investment firm. During the interregnum between McAuliffe’s party chairmanship and the time he officially joined Hillary Clinton’s campaign as chairman, Nemazee and Quasha set McAuliffe up with a salary and opened a Washington office for him.  There he worked on his memoirs and laid the groundwork for Ms. Clinton’s presidential bid.</div> <div> </div> <div>In March 2007, Nemazee, at the behest of McAuliffe, threw a dinner for Ms. Clinton at Manhattan’s swank Cipriani restaurant, which featured Bill Clinton and raised more than $500,000. In 2008, after Barack Obama gained the nomination, Nemazee raised a comparable sum for him.</div> <div> </div> <div>But it is not fair to characterize Nemazee as an embarrassment to Democrats alone. Nemazee’s profile is considerably more complicated. For legal representation in his current troubles, for example, Nemazee has retained Marc Mukasey, a partner in Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm and the son of Michael Mukasey, who served as George W. Bush’s last Attorney General. </div> <div> </div> <div>There’s more than choice of counsel involved. Before moving into the Democratic camp, Nemazee had backed such Republican senators as Jesse Helms, Sam Brownback and Alfonse D’Amato. None could be described as Clinton fans. Nemazee’s business partner, Alan Quasha, who specializes in buying up troubled companies, has also played both sides of the partisan divide. Quasha gave to both Bush and Al Gore in 2000, and in the 2008 race gave to Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as well as Democrats Barack Obama and Chris Dodd.</div> <div> </div> <div>The strikingly trans-partisan and trans-national nature of this high-stakes influence game is best exemplified by the relationship between Quasha’s oil company, Harken Energy, and George W. Bush. Harken provided a home for Bush in the 1980’s when his own oil businesses failed, offering him handsome compensation and a solid financial base from which to enter politics. Bush was named to the Harken board and received a range of benefits from the company while devoting most of his time to his father’s presidential campaign and then his own outside career efforts.</div> <div> </div> <div>Harken is a curious outfit. Its early funding sources were opaque, and its investors and board members had a dizzying array of connections into global power centers -- and ties to the Saudi leadership and the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah of Iran, as well as to the Swiss Bank, UBS, which has been charged by the US government with providing cover for  Americans who were evading taxes.</div> <div> </div> <div>Around the time George W. Bush joined its board, Harken received an unusual and sizable cash infusion from the Harvard Management Company, which handles Harvard University’s endowment, the largest in the nation. Robert G. Stone, Jr., a figure with ties to US intelligence and to the Bushes, was head of the Harvard board of overseers that approved financial strategies. Former employees of Harvard Management have recently made highly-publicized charges that the company engaged in Enron-style investment practices. (Prior to going to work for Nemazee and Quasha, Terry McAuliffe had publicly criticized Bush for his financial dealings with Harken, disparaging that company’s own Enron-like accounting. Both Quasha and Nemazee, like Bush, have Harvard degrees, and both have sat on prestigious Harvard committees in recent years.)</div> <div> </div> <div>Nemazee’s role as a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton can be better understood through his own Iranian connections.  His father was a shipping magnate who was close with the Shah of Iran and served as the Shah’s commercial attaché in Washington; Nemazee was a founding member of the Iranian-American Political Action Committee, a lobbying group. Recent strains have been reported between President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over policy toward Iran. Clinton has advocated a harder line toward the Islamic fundamentalists who took over when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, while Obama has stressed dialogue.  </div> <div> </div> <div>With Nemazee’s arrest for financial fraud certain to attract some sustained coverage, it remains to be seen whether it will be treated as yet another isolated case of financial wrongdoing, or lead to a deeper look at the influence bazaar that American politics has become.</div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->For a more in-depth look at Nemazee and Quasha, see the 2007 <a href="">whowhatwhy</a> article by Russ Baker and Adam Federman. For a thorough investigation of Harken, see Baker’s 2009 book, <a href="http://WWW.FAMILYOFSECRETS.COM" onclick="javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/WWW.FAMILYOFSECRETS.COM');">Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty</a>, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America.) </div></div></div> Fri, 28 Aug 2009 13:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 657742 at News & Politics News & Politics bush hillary clinton bill clinton fundraising john kerry chuck schumer hassan nemazee harken alan quasha Obama Should Worry About the Bush Family Tentacles Undermining His Plans <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '653029'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src=""/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bush may be gone, but his influence -- and the forces that put him in office -- aren&#039;t.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As George W. Bush leaves office and Barack Obama takes over, we are in danger of missing the opportunity for change our new president has promised -- unless we come to grips with what the great historian and Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin called our "hidden history," not just of the past eight years but of the past half-century and more. </p><p>President Obama will face a staggering array of challenges, most, if not all, of which stem from the policies of Bush. But efforts at reform will fall short if we fail to probe and confront the powerful forces that wanted this disastrous administration in the White House in the first place -- and that remain ready and able to maintain their influence behind the scenes today.</p><p>Like most people, I took the failings of George W. Bush at face value: an inattentive, poorly prepared man full of hubris, who committed colossal blunders as a result. Then I spent five years researching my new book, <em>Family of Secrets</em> and came to see that the origins go much deeper. This backstory is getting almost no attention in the talking-heads debate over the Bush legacy. Yet it will continue to play, affecting our country and our lives, long after Bush leaves office.</p><p>A more profound explanation for the rise of George W. Bush came as I studied the concerted effort  to convince the public that he was  independent of, and often in disagreement with, his father. The reason for this, it turned out, was that exactly the opposite was true. W. may have been bumptious where his father was discreet, but in fact the son hewed closely to a playbook that guided his father and even his grandfather.</p><p>Over much of the last century, the Bushes have been serving the aims of a very narrow segment from within America's wealthiest interests and families -- typically through involvement in the most anti-New Deal investment banking circles, in the creation of a civilian intelligence service after World War II, and in some of that service's most secretive and still-unacknowledged operations.</p><p>Through declassified documents and interviews, I unearthed evidence that George W. Bush's father, the 41st president of the United States, had been working for the intelligence services no less than two decades before he was named CIA director in 1976. Time and again, Bush 41 and his allies have participated in clandestine operations to force presidents to do the bidding of oil and other resource-extraction interests, military contractors and financiers. Whenever a president showed  independence or sought reforms that threatened entrenched interests, this group helped to ensure that he was politically attacked and neutralized, or even removed from office, through one means or another.</p><p>We are not dealing here with what are commonly dismissed as "conspiracy theories."  We are dealing with a reality that is much more subtle, layered and pervasive -- a matrix of power in which crude conspiracies are rarely necessary and in which the execution or subsequent cover-up of anti-democratic acts become practically a norm.</p><p>In 1953, 23 years before he became CIA director as a supposed neophyte, George H.W. Bush began preparing to launch an oil-exploration company called Zapata Offshore. His father, investment banker Prescott Bush, had just taken a Senate seat from Connecticut; and his father's close friend Allen Dulles had just taken over the CIA. A staff CIA officer, Thomas J. Devine, purportedly "resigned" to go into the oil business with young George.</p><p>Bush then began to travel around the world. His itineraries had little apparent relationship to his limited and perennially unprofitable business enterprises.  But they do make sense if the object was intelligence work. When his company at last  put a few oil rigs in place, they ended up in highly sensitive spots, such as just off Castro's Cuba before the Bay of Pigs invasion.</p><p>As part of his travels, Bush senior even appeared in Dallas on the morning of the Kennedy assassination, although he would famously claim that he could not recall where he was at that historic moment. After leaving the city, he called the FBI with a false tip about a possible assassin, pointedly emphasizing that he was calling from outside Dallas. It is also intriguing to learn that an old friend of Bush's, a White Russian émigré with intelligence connections, shepherded Lee Harvey Oswald upon his return to America in the year preceding the assassination. In any event, when Lyndon Johnson replaced Kennedy, the oilmen and the intelligence-military establishment once again had a friend in the White House.</p><p>The pattern continued. New evidence suggests that Bush senior and his associates in the intelligence services, far from being the loyalists to Richard Nixon they claimed to be, had turned on the 35th president early in his administration, unceasingly working to weaken and eventually force him out. These efforts culminated in what appears to have been a deliberately botched Watergate office burglary -- led by former CIA officers.</p><p>Ironically, Nixon's career had been launched with the quiet backing of Wall Street finance figures upset with the man Nixon would defeat, a leading congressional supporter of banking reform, and Prescott Bush himself had played a key role. Yet, when Nixon finally achieved the presidency, he became surprisingly resistant to pressure from the very power centers that had helped him get to the top. He turned a deaf ear to the demands of the oil industry,  battled with the CIA and cut the Pentagon out of the loop as he (and his aide Henry Kissinger) negotiated secretly with Moscow and Beijing.</p><p>These acts estranged Nixon from those who felt he had betrayed his sponsors -- men who had the means to do him in. Bush senior, it turns out, was closely allied with the surprising number of White House officials with covert ties to the intelligence service that surrounded Nixon. Through it all, Bush senior would routinely claim to be "out of the loop," as he would later pretend during the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan era, although we know that as vice president he was at the center of that and other abuses of power.</p><p>None of this let up after Nixon was forced to resign. His pliant successor, Gerald Ford, brought in young staffers named Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and the two participated in the so-called Halloween massacre, which saw the administration veer in a far-right direction on foreign policy, a development that paved the way for the appointment of Bush senior as CIA director. This happened just as Congress was launched into the deepest investigation ever of intelligence abuses, and public voices were clamoring to reopen official inquiries into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.</p><p>Then came Jimmy Carter, whose plans to reform the CIA were an echo of JFK's intent to scatter the CIA to the winds after the ruinous Bay of Pigs invasion.  When Carter defeated Ford, ousted Bush from the CIA helm and sought to bring the intelligence juggernaut under control, he ended up deeply compromised by complex financial shenanigans orchestrated by figures from the same  intelligence circles -- and undermined by the crisis with Iran, exacerbated by covert dissident CIA elements tied to Bush. Carter was a one-term president, defeated by a ticket with none other than George H.W. Bush, backed by a phalanx of CIA officers, as vice president. And then Bush senior became president himself.  </p><p>Bill Clinton apparently grasped the pattern. He cultivated a friendly relationship with the elder Bush and instituted virtually no significant reforms in, or issued challenges to, either the intelligence or military establishments.</p><p>All this is relevant today because the furtive forces and pressures that haunted, and ultimately dominated, these past presidents have not abated.</p><p>Indeed, what the presidency of George W. Bush truly represented was the unfettered, most reckless manifestation of the objectives this group has pursued for many decades. In Bush 43's trademark pattern of showing the old man how it's done, the son was bringing virtually into the open the kinds of things his father preferred pursued sub-rosa. But behind the different façade it was the same game all over again.</p><p>The dirty tricks of Karl Rove, who got his first job under Bush 41 at the Republican Party during Watergate; the use of the Supreme Court to force an election their way; an early move to suppress the records of prior presidencies; the maniacal secrecy of Vice President Cheney; the false rationale used to justify the seizure of Iraqi oil reserves through invasion; the clampdown on dissent and the unauthorized domestic eavesdropping, the efforts to smear independent voices like Joseph Wilson (the husband of  CIA officer Valerie Plame) and newsman Dan Rather; and last and perhaps most significant, the unleashing from government oversight of their friends and allies in finance and industry -- these and more emerged from the old dreams and methods of this anti-democratic culture. </p><p>Now, as a new president enters the White House promising reform, how much will he be able to achieve if his reforms step on the same big toes? We must begin to take seriously, and speak openly about, the true nature of the forces behind the Bush family enterprise. If we do not, we will find ourselves, several years from now, shaking our heads at new disaster, still unable to comprehend what has happened -- and why.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter. He has written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Village Voice and Esquire. Baker received a 2005 Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s military record. Information on his new book, Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America, can be found at <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2009 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '653029'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 21 Jan 2009 21:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, AlterNet 653029 at News & Politics bush george w. bush Hillary's Mystery Money Men <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The man who helped make Bush&#039;s first fortune now wants to claim the Clinton campaign. Is someone cooking the books at Hillary Inc.?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In the Clintons' pursuit of power, there is no such thing as a strange bedfellow. One recently exposed <i>inamorata</i> was Norman Hsu, the mysterious businessman from Hong Kong who brought in $850,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign before being unmasked as a fugitive. Her campaign dismissed Hsu as someone who'd slipped through the cracks of an otherwise unimpeachable system for vetting donors, and perhaps he was. The same cannot be said for the notorious financier Alan Quasha, whose involvement with Clinton is at least as substantial -- and still under wraps.<br /><br />Political junkies will recall Quasha as the controversial figure who bailed out George W. Bush's failing oil company in 1986, folding Bush into his company, Harken Energy, thus setting him on the path to a lucrative and high-profile position as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and the presidency. The persistently unprofitable Harken -- many of whose board members, connected to powerful foreign interests and the intelligence community, nevertheless profited enormously -- faced intense scrutiny in the early 1990s and again during Bush's first term.<br /><br />Now Quasha is back -- on the other side of the aisle. Operating below the radar, he entered Hillary Clinton's circle even before she declared her candidacy by quietly hiring Clinton confidant and longtime Democratic Party money man Terry McAuliffe at one of his companies. During the interregnum between McAuliffe's chairmanship of the Democratic Party and the time he officially joined Clinton's campaign, Quasha set McAuliffe up with a salary and opened a Washington office for him.<br /><br />Just a few years earlier, McAuliffe had publicly criticized Bush for his financial dealings with Harken, disparaging the company's Enron-like accounting. Yet in 2005 McAuliffe accepted this cushy perch with Quasha's newly acquired investment firm, Carret Asset Management, and even brought along former Clinton White House business liaison Peter O'Keefe, who had been his senior aide at the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe remained with the company until he became national chair of Hillary's presidential bid, and O'Keefe never left. McAuliffe's connection to Quasha has, until now, never been noted.<br /><br />Another strong link between Quasha and Clinton is Quasha's business partner, Hassan Nemazee, a top Hillary fundraiser who was trotted out to defend her during the Hsu episode -- in which the clothing manufacturer was unmasked as a swindler who seemingly funneled illegal contributions through "donors" of modest means.<br /><br />In June, by liquidating a blind trust, the Clintons sought to distance themselves from any financial entanglements that might embarrass the campaign. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson argued that the couple had gone "above and beyond" what was legally required "in order to avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest." But throughout their political careers, Bill and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly associated with people whose objectives seemed a million miles from "a place called Hope." Among these Alan Quasha and his menagerie -- including Saudi frontmen, a foreign dictator, figures with intelligence ties and a maze of companies and offshore funds -- stand out.<br /><br />"That Hillary Clinton's campaign is involved with this particular cast of characters should give people pause," says John Moscow, a former Manhattan prosecutor. In the late 1980s and early '90s he led the investigation of the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) global financial empire -- a bank whose prominent shareholders included members of the Harken board. "Too many of the same names from earlier troubling circumstances suggests a lack of control over who she is dealing with," says Moscow, "or a policy of dealing with anyone who can pay."<br /><br />Ideology does not seem to be the principal issue driving either Quasha or Nemazee. Nemazee backed the likes of archconservative Republican senators Jesse Helms, Sam Brownback and Al D'Amato before moving aggressively into the Democratic camp. Quasha, frequently identified as a Republican fundraiser, gave to both Bush and Al Gore in 2000 and so far in the 2008 race has given to Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as well as Democrats Barack Obama and Chris Dodd, in addition to Hillary Clinton. But Quasha's concerted efforts to get into Clinton's inner circle are reminiscent of his relationship with a pre-Governor Bush.<br /><br />A student at Harvard's business school at the same time as Bush, Quasha was a little-known New York lawyer when he took over the small Abilene-based Harken Oil in 1983, using millions from offshore accounts held in the name of family members. Quasha's now-deceased father, Manila-based attorney William Quasha, was known for his close friendship with Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his ties to US intelligence; he was also a member of the "Eagles Club" of major GOP contributors.<br /><br />In 1986 Alan Quasha embraced a struggling George W. Bush, rescuing his failing Spectrum 7 oil company, folding it into Harken Energy and providing Bush with a directorship, more than $600,000 in stock and options and a consulting contract initially valued at $80,000 a year (which was raised in 1989 to $120,000). The financial setup allowed Bush to devote most of his time to the presidential campaign of his father, a former CIA director who as Vice President was the Reagan Administration's overseer of a massive outsourcing of covert intelligence operations, and who had his own warm relationship with Marcos.<br /><br />Harken's financials were famously complicated. Reporters from top publications like the <i>Wall Street Journal</i>, <i>Time</i> and <i>Fortune</i> went at Harken with zest, but they ultimately failed to unravel all its labyrinthine activities. In 2003 Harken was described in the trade publication <i>Platt's Energy Economist</i> as "a toxic waste dump for bad deals, with a strong odor of US intelligence spookery and chicanery about it." Indeed, the company was kept afloat by an all-star cast of financiers with ties to BCCI, Saudi intelligence, the South African apartheid regime, Marcos and the Shah of Iran. The company perennially lost money for ordinary investors while benefiting insiders like Bush, Quasha and Nemazee. Indeed, Harken has lost money nearly every year since Bush's days there, piling up cumulative losses in the hundreds of millions.<br /><br />Nevertheless, in 1990, when the <i>Dallas Times Herald</i> ranked Harken fifth on its list of worst-performing local firms, the tiny oil refiner beat out the giant exploration company Amoco for an offshore drilling contract in Bahrain that was potentially worth billions. As George W. Bush biographer Bill Minutaglio wrote, "Oil analysts were stunned that bottom-feeding Harken...could hook such a meaty international contract ... not only hadn't Harken drilled overseas, it had never drilled in water. Speculation immediately surged that it was because Bahrain wanted to do business with the son of the U.S. president."<br /><br />Bush appeared to benefit from insider trading when he sold two-thirds of his stock in Harken at a peak price after the Bahrain deal -- and just before news emerged that the company had failed to find oil and its share price plummeted. He also failed to report his sale of company stock on time, leading many to believe that he had something to hide. Immediately after a 1991 <i>Wall Street Journal</i> article detailing Bush's involvement with Harken, the SEC launched an investigation, but unsurprisingly, with George H.W. Bush in the White House, it came to nothing. The <i>Journal</i> article speculated that there was more to the picture:<blockquote>What does emerge is a complex pattern of personal and financial relationships behind Harken's sudden good fortune in the Middle East, raising the question of whether Bahrainis or others in the Middle East may have hoped to ingratiate themselves with the White House. Even more intriguing, there are numerous links among Harken, Bahrain and individuals close to the discredited Bank of Credit &amp; Commerce International, a banking empire that used Mideast oil money to seek ties to political leaders in several countries.</blockquote>Thanks to his income from Harken, Bush was able to become managing partner of the Texas Rangers -- a glamorous and highly visible sinecure that would eventually earn him nearly $15 million and make him a credible front-runner for the Texas governorship. This rescue and makeover of a ne'er-do-well son was a key step in W.'s path to political power.<br /><br />Quasha's Clinton play began in 2003, when he bought Carret Asset Management, a once-revered private equity investment firm that manages nearly $2 billion in assets. Its founder, Philip Carret, a Wall Street legend and hero of Warren Buffett, died in 1998; the firm was sold twice<br /><br />before Quasha bought it for a song. Some were troubled when they learned the identity of the new owner. "I was horrified that he was going to hide behind my family's name," says Renee Carret, a longtime executive at the firm whose grandfather started the company in 1963. When Quasha took over, she resigned. "I just personally didn't want to be affiliated with him. There were too many questions that were left unanswered."<br /><br />As his co-chair in the private firm, Quasha chose his old friend Nemazee, a fellow Harken investor. By the time of the Carret acquisition, Nemazee, a founding member of the Iranian-American Political Action Committee whose family was close with the late Shah of Iran, had become a significant fundraiser for the Clintons and the Democratic Party. In 1995 he raised money for the DNC. In 1998, in the midst of the Lewinsky affair, Nemazee collected $60,000 for Bill Clinton's legal defense fund in $10,000 increments from relatives and friends. Clinton subsequently nominated Nemazee as ambassador to Argentina but withdrew the nomination after an article in <i>Forbes</i> raised questions about Nemazee's business dealings in the 1980s and '90s -- which noted that the American-born Nemazee magically became "Hispanic" by acquiring Venezuelan citizenship because of a requirement that certain California public pension funds be run by minorities.<br /><br />Failure to be named ambassador did not, however, hamper Nemazee's rise within the Democratic Party. By 2004 he was New York finance chair for John Kerry's campaign, and in 2006 he served under Senator Chuck Schumer as the national finance chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) -- a period during which the committee raised about $25 million more than its Republican counterpart. This past March Nemazee, at the behest of McAuliffe, threw a dinner for Hillary at Manhattan's swank Cipriani restaurant, which featured Bill Clinton and raised more than $500,000.<br /><br />The exact nature of McAuliffe's duties at Carret is unclear, and Quasha, Carret and McAuliffe all declined to answer <i>The Nation</i>'s<i> </i>questions on this matter. But McAuliffe seems to have served, at least occasionally, as a good will ambassador for Quasha's business operations. He brought Wang Tianyi, head of a formerly state-owned Chinese firm and a business associate of Quasha's, to meet with Bill Clinton. And Quasha has visited the ex-President at his Harlem office over the past several years, according to Joe Wozny, former president of a Carret affiliate. Wozny recalls that Quasha "was up there quite a few times, meeting with Bill Clinton." As for that Washington office, the Carret website says only that it specialized in providing "information regarding products and services for institutions."<br /><br />But the office seems to have benefited McAuliffe -- and Hillary Clinton. When McAuliffe stepped down as DNC chair in February 2005, he said he planned to hit the lecture circuit and spend more time with his family. He may have done both, but he did so as vice chair of Carret from the new company office on the seventh floor of the venerable McPherson Building, once the home of the John Kerry campaign and just off K Street's lobbyist gulch. Simon Rosenberg's New Democrat Network, where Mark Penn, chief pollster and strategist for Hillary's campaign, has served as a fellow, was housed next door to McAuliffe and O'Keefe.<br /><br />While there, McAuliffe found time to pen his memoir, <i>What a Party!</i>, his paean to the Clintons and his role in raising record amounts of money for them and the party. Yet the memoir itself, for which he earned a seven-figure advance, makes no mention of Carret or his role as its vice chair.<br /><br />Three people working in nearby suites said they remembered McAuliffe and O'Keefe working out of the office, but none of them remembered the Carret name. Nor did any of them have any idea what McAuliffe was doing as Quasha's vice chair. One person who visited McAuliffe in the suite recalled that he was working on his book but said he was unaware of the official function of the office. "Terry holds his cards pretty close on his business activities," he said.<br /><br />According to another visitor, McAuliffe was using his time to lay the groundwork for Hillary's long-anticipated presidential bid. With McAuliffe leading Clinton's ravenous fundraising operation, the possibility that Carret's Washington office was opened up, at least in part, to serve just such a function is bolstered by the fact that Carret opened the office only after hiring McAuliffe -- and closed it down once he left. During that period, though no Clinton campaign committee yet existed, there were signs that he was already operating on her behalf. In 2005 he appeared on CNN's <i>Crossfire</i>, where the former Democratic chief did not bother to feign neutrality in the primaries: "Personally, I hope she runs," he said. "We would be lucky if she did run, I'll tell you that." In 2006 he kept one foot in Clintondom as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, an organization whose membership is primarily by invitation to elite business leaders. Wang, whose China International Industry and Commerce partnered with Carret soon after McAuliffe joined the company, was also named to the initiative in 2006.<br /><br />Meanwhile, during McAuliffe's employment at Carret, Quasha himself donated large sums to the DSCC. He gave $26,700 in June 2006 and $25,000 that October and also personally contributed $4,600, the maximum allowed, to the Hillary Clinton presidential exploratory committee.<br /><br />Since his start as a young fundraiser on Carter's 1980 re-election campaign, McAuliffe has consistently melded politics, policy and private enterprise. By the time he was 30, he had launched a dozen companies, his own law firm and numerous venture capital companies. Perhaps his most controversial association was with the telecommunications company Global Crossing, where McAuliffe managed to turn a $100,000 personal investment into an $18 million windfall. After McAuliffe sold his shares and got out, the company collapsed; nearly 10,000 employees lost their jobs, and investors lost $54 billion. McAuliffe defended the firm's top executives, who were close with both the Bushes and Clintons, but went on to attack President Bush for similar patterns at Harken.<br /><br />At a DNC meeting in Las Vegas in 2002, McAuliffe spoke about the recent collapse of Enron and questioned whether Bush could "restore confidence to Wall Street when he has engaged in the same practices he condemns today," a reference to Bush's Harken profiteering. That same year, associates of McAuliffe, fronted by a fake grassroots organization, released an aggressive ad campaign seeking to highlight the Harken-Bush connection.<br /><br />It is not surprising, then, to learn that neither McAuliffe's connection to Carret nor Quasha's role in the firm have been widely publicized. Carret employees said they were surprised that when Quasha acquired the prestigious firm he did not choose to publicize his coup, instead keeping it quiet. In fact, the company's website does not reveal his role as chair -- or much of anything about the firm. The company's chief financial officer, Marco Vega, said he was unable to provide details on Quasha's role in the company, or even to confirm his current title.<br /><br />The silence is deafening. Repeated requests for interviews on this topic were ignored or rebuffed by the offices of Hillary Clinton's campaign, Bill Clinton, Alan Quasha, Hassan Nemazee, Terry McAuliffe and Peter O'Keefe. McAuliffe's spokeswoman, Tracy Sefl, who works for the Clinton-connected communications firm the Glover Park Group but represents McAuliffe informally, said that McAuliffe would not grant an interview or respond to detailed e-mailed questions on these matters. Sefl minimized McAuliffe's involvement with the company, claiming he was only "an adviser to Carret -- as he was to many other companies."<br /><br />But a vice chair is much more than just an adviser, and Carret's opening an office off K Street was not a casual gesture. Notably, though the DC office was closed after McAuliffe left for Hillary's campaign, McAuliffe protégé O'Keefe has stayed on as Carret's managing director for marketing -- providing Quasha with an ongoing pipeline to the Clinton operation.<br /><br />With an international man of mystery like Quasha, it's nigh impossible to definitively identify his endgame. But one thing he seems to have a stake in is free rein for hedge funds -- and preservation of the low rate at which their profits are taxed.<br /><br />In 2005, while McAuliffe was on his payroll, Quasha traveled to Bermuda to speak at the MARHedge World Wealth Summit, which addressed the topic "Hedge Fund Management in a Perilous Investment Climate." McAuliffe, too, weighed in on the well-being of hedge funds as the featured speaker at a 2006 investors' conference of the Carret unit Brean Murray, Carret &amp; Co., where, according to advance publicity material, he planned to address the "current political debate in Washington, DC and its impact on Wall Street and the status of potential further hedge fund regulation." Also indicative of an interest in influencing hedge fund policy is the presence on Carret's International Advisory Board of Philippa Malmgren, who served as George W. Bush's liaison to the financial markets, and who often speaks and writes on politics and policy related to hedge funds.<br /><br />According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hillary Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, works for a hedge fund run by a prominent Democratic donor -- came in second only to Joe Lieberman in cash raised from hedge fund managers during the 2006 election cycle. She has belatedly and reluctantly joined other presidential candidates in calling for a change in the law so that fund managers would pay taxes at the same rate as everybody else. Clearly, her supporters among hedge fund figures have much to gain by electing a President who feels Wall Street's pain.<br /><br />Whatever Carret's overall objectives, the company is on the march. "We've taken the Brean Murray and the Carret platforms and expanded them into China, India, Eastern Europe and Russia, and we will be doing so in Latin America as well," Nemazee said in a 2006 interview with <i>Leaders</i> magazine.<br /><br />While Quasha &amp; Co. keep an eye on hedge fund regulation, they also appear to be helping the repressive Chinese government keep an eye on its own people. Brean Murray, Carret recently acted as the sole placement agent in an $8 million deal with the Shenzhen-based China Security and Surveillance Technology. China Security won a contract last year from the quasi-governmental Shenzhen Cyber Café Association to install video monitoring systems for more than 1,000 local Internet cafes, popular outlets for criticism of the regime. A Brean Murray, Carret press release celebrates its cooperation with the clampdown: "the estimated 2.19 million registered entertainment halls in China must purchase video-monitoring systems covering entrances, exits and main corridors. The Company is actively pursuing similar opportunities within the other provinces of China."<br /><br />Is there cause for concern over Alan Quasha's apparent efforts to gain influence with a potential President of the United States? Amazingly, to reassure the public on the integrity of its operation, the Clinton camp has rolled out none other than Quasha's business partner Hassan Nemazee. In an interview with the <i>New York Times</i> on the implications of the Hsu affair, Nemazee, who describes himself as an economic policy adviser to Hillary but was identified by the <i>Times</i> as a "fundraising bundler for Mrs. Clinton, as Mr. Hsu had been," declared, "The Clinton campaign has done as much if not more than any campaign to protect itself from situations such as this, and none of the other campaigns, other than hypocritically, can point a finger at the Clinton campaign on fundraising problems." <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is the founder of the <a href="">Real News Project</a>. Adam Federman is the research associate of the Real News Project. They may be reached at <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div> Sun, 21 Oct 2007 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, Adam Federman, The Nation 642091 at News & Politics campaign hillary clinton fundraising election 2008 money and politics The Top 10 Corporate Democrats-For-Hire <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '636079'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src=""/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They claim to be &#039;centrists,&#039; but these D.C. Dems -- whose corporate agendas aren&#039;t too different from Bush administration policies -- are living proof that the system needs fixing.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->The media like a simple story line -- and Joe Lieberman's defeat in the Connecticut Senate primary fits the bill: Pro-war senator goes down. Anti-war progressives ascendant, Republicans gleeful, and so forth. But Lieberman is more than an ally in the Bush administration's dissembling on Iraq. He is yet another example of someone who came to Washington as a purported idealist and turned into a creature of the capital's big-money culture. Lieberman's loss is a loss for Cheney and Rumsfeld to be sure, but it's also a loss for an army of sleazy political operatives and consultants.<br /><br />While Lieberman is best known outside of Washington for his neocon views, he's famous in the capital for his undying support for corporate causes. There are countless examples: Remember Lieberman's role in blocking the reforms of stock option accounting that former SEC chair Arthur Levitt was trying to enact? This was a question of honest accounting that became part and parcel of the corporate corruption scandals of recent years, and Lieberman was a champion of the wrong side.<br /><br />Beyond that, Lieberman happily has done the bidding of the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies and many others, thus establishing an unsavory underside to his more admirable record on environmental and other issues. And of course, his support of and continued rationalization of the Iraq invasion, like many of Lieberman's other stances, has served chiefly to benefit large corporations, in this case the "national security/homeland defense" industry that got a huge boost from Bush's reckless military adventurism. It's no great surprise to learn that Karl Rove called Lieberman the other day after his loss, and described him as a "friend."<br /><br />Lieberman and his defenders have tried to portray his brand of politics as "centrism." But it has little to do with mainstream voters and much to do with the money culture of Washington of which many Democrats have become a part. And yet, Ralph Nader is wrong in his blanket condemnations of Democrats: You still are more likely to find someone willing to stand up to the big money boys among Democrats than Republicans. But the gap is narrowing. Voters sense it.<br /><br />How big a problem is the growing influence of the bipartisan Beltway Party? Details on this can be found in a report from the <a href="">Real News Project</a>, a new nonprofit noncommercial investigative reporting outfit I founded. RealNews examined the track records of prominent Washington Democrats, consultants, advertising and public relations executives, lobbyists, attorneys and the like who have close connections to the top circles of their party. Many of them served in the Clinton-Gore White House, and many of them will likely be tapped should a Democrat be elected in 2008 and have considerable influence in a future Democratic-controlled Congress.<br /><br />We scrutinized scores of Washington Dems and found many ensconced in firms working to advance corporate agendas that don't look that different from policy we see emanating from the Bush administration. To be sure, many of these people have redeeming qualities, represent some admirable causes as well, and may personally harbor inclinations for the greater good. Yet, in trying to earn a handsome living in Washington, they apparently do what a person's gotta do. Can political success and influence be attained without working for The Man? Let's defer that debate for another time and start with a few facts.<br /><br />First, let's check in with Mike McCurry, President Clinton's former press secretary. He's a partner at the firm Public Strategies Washington, Inc., and serves as chairman of Hands Off the Internet -- an outfit created by telecom companies such as AT&amp;T and BellSouth which, paradoxically, want to put their hands ON the internet by creating what amounts to internal tariffs on internet traffic for large downloads and such. The hands that are supposed to stay off are those of regulators or legislators who want to keep the internet free.<br /><br />Want Clinton? Over at a "strategic communications" company founded in 2001, you've got enough Friends of Bubba to fill a VW bug. There's McCurry's successor as Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart, and Al Gore's top strategists Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman. There's Howard Wolfson, former spokesman for Hillary Clinton and executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And Joel Johnson, senior adviser for policy and communications to President Clinton.<br /><br />When an election pops up, nearly the entire top brass rush to work on it. Lockhart and Wolfson, for example, took leaves in 2004 to work on the Kerry campaign and at the DNC. Johnson went from another firm to the Kerry campaign, then joined Glover Park.This mixture of politics and business seems to be working, because in 2005, the firm was ranked the fastest-growing private company in the District of Columbia.<br /><br />What business, you ask? Even before Glover Park, Eskew, who has done media work for Sens. Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, and Tom Harkin, and is close to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, was criticized for his work providing media advice to the tobacco industry. This time around, Eskew has been working again for Lieberman.<br /><br />Among Glover Park's clients: Rupert Murdoch, who paid Glover Park about $200,000 for work to block TV ratings changes that could harm ad revenues at his Fox Broadcasting (the attempt was unsuccessful). Glover also got a large retainer for PR work and organizing groups against the plan (including the Don't Count Us Out coalition, which initially gave the impression it was an independent group representing the interests of people of color but turns out to represent mostly one Australian media buccaneer by the initials R.M.) Is it a coincidence that Murdoch's <i>New York Post</i> went from gleefully pillorying Hillary to praising her and attacking her critics and opponents?<br /><br />Other firm clients have included the government of Turkey; Think About It (another faux-grassroots outfit waging an unsuccessful campaign to allow casino gambling in Maine); Microsoft (handled media inquiries about Microsoft's ties to Jack Abramoff's lobbying team); the Pentagon; Asbestos Study Group (an industry coalition formed to fight for limits on asbestos-related lawsuits); the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA (wants to continue making health claims for food supplements without scientific backing; multilevel marketing firms love this, most health and consumer groups don't); and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), undoubtedly big fans of making prescription drugs more affordable.<br /><br />How small a world is this cozy micro-universe? Lets take a <i>Quinn</i>tessential example:<br /><br /><b>Jack Quinn</b> served as Vice President Gore's chief of staff and later as counsel to President Clinton. In January 2000, he left what was still a Democratic White House and formed Quinn Gillespie with Ed Gillespie, a Republican and close friend of Tom DeLay. This firm was among the pioneers of the one-stop-shopping approach that has since swept Washington. Want to influence the legislative process? Now you can get right to the top of <i>both</i> parties by hiring a single firm.<br /><br />Quinn Gillespie has represented clients who want to drill in fragile areas of Alaska, put the screws to already beleaguered American creditors, and prevent the introduction of more healthy dairy substitutes in school lunches. Quinn helped secure a controversial pardon for the fugitive financier Marc Rich as Clinton was leaving office.<br /><br />Firm clients have included: Enron; the American Petroleum Institute (supported lifting federal ban on offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf, including Alaska; opposed raising taxes on oil companies); the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care (which of course is actually the notorious nursing home industry -- the Alliance was indicted in late 2004 for a $100,000 illegal contribution to DeLay's PAC); the Partnership to Protect Consumer Credit (which wants to preempt tougher state and local laws designed to protect consumers); the International Dairy Foods Association (which opposes the introduction of more healthful dairy substitutes in school lunches); "Ax the Double Tax" coalition (which in truth prefers no taxes at all, but if they must exist, would like corporations to be able to repatriate foreign subsidiary profits at a lower tax rate); Bank of America (fighting stricter consumer data-protection legislation proposed after big data breach at BOA).<br /><br />Perhaps the coziness is most poetically illustrated by the fact that there is another Jack Quinn in the same business, but, in a perfect reversal of Jack Quinn #1, he is a <i>Republican</i> paired with a <i>Democrat</i>. The increased Dem-Republican cooperation (perhaps 'cooptation' is a better term) is reflected in remarks by yet a third Quinn, Thomas Quinn (no relation to either Jack Quinn). Here's what he says about the work of <i>his</i> firm, Venable LLC, applies to the whole politically neutral K Street scene today: "Here we work very collegially, and I've gotten more collegial as there are more Republicans. We work closely with Republicans. All of us are in this together."<br /><br />Thomas Quinn has been active in Democratic politics from Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) presidential run in 1980 to Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) in 2004. He's a key player on financial services, taxation and homeland security issues. Venable's clients have included: Wal-Mart, Tsakopoulos Investments (Wal-Mart-connected real estate developer opposing Endangered Species Act restrictions) and McWane (Birmingham, Ala.-based cast iron pipe manufacturer whose executives were convicted in federal court of environmental crimes).<br /><br /><b>Mark Penn</b> was a principal pollster for Bill Clinton. He continues to do work for Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is Burson-Marsteller's worldwide chief executive. Burson practically invented the concept of faux-grassroots organizations (known in the trade as "astroturf") that were no more than fronts for corporations and industries pushing embarrassing products and agendas. For example, Burson created the "National Smokers Alliance," a purportedly grassroots movement for smokers rights, on behalf of its client Altria (Philip Morris Tobacco) and later funded the Center for Individual Freedom Foundation (advocates for "smaller government and greater personal liberties," led by a former B-M exec), which has lobbied to block obesity-related lawsuits against fast-food restaurants. One of B-M's clients is McDonald's (recent ad campaigns have sought to give the fast-food chain a healthier image by promoting exercise and balanced diets), which has been the target of several such lawsuits. According to consumer advocate John Stauber, B-M employees spied on opponents and critics of genetically engineered cow growth hormones when the firm was working for the companies developing the hormones.<br /><br />Other B-M clients have included major pharmaceutical companies (advised Johnson &amp; Johnson after the Tylenol tampering crisis; launched a "corporate reputation campaign" for Merck after its blockbuster arthritis drug Vioxx was pulled off the market); Royal Dutch Shell (charged with a massive financial fraud in a U.S. class action lawsuit brought by the UNITE National Retirement Fund and the Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund); the Iraqi National Congress (of the controversial Ahmad Chalabi); Dow Chemical (Dow has refused to compensate the victims of the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, a liability it inherited when it took over Union Carbide.)<br /><br /><b>Bill Andresen</b> is senior vice president in charge of federal lobbying at Dutko Worldwide. Part of Harry Reid's K Street Cabinet, he served as chief of staff to Sen. Joe Lieberman, and has worked with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and Third Way, an advocacy group for centrist Democrats, which is pushing for closer ties to business.<br /><br />Firm clients have included: York Capital Management (an investor in distressed companies with an interest in minimizing asbestos liability); the Ephedra Committee of the American Herbal Products Association (the controversial Ephedra was blamed in the deaths of scores of people, the best known being Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler); the Personal Watercraft Industry Association (wants to assure the right to use wave runners and other motorized vehicles on lakes and rivers and in national parks); the American Chemical Council (oppose efforts to control pollution and protect public health from toxic chemicals, and push the U.S. government to oppose EU efforts to test chemicals sold in Europe for health and environmental risks), and General Dynamics (a huge defense and "homeland security" contractor).<br /><br /><b>Michael Berman</b> has played a key role in every Democratic convention since 1968. He's president of the eminently bipartisan Duberstein Group; his boss, Kenneth Duberstein, is a former chief of staff to President Reagan. Firm clients have included Comcast (nation's largest cable operator; uses aggressive anti-union tactics, trying to block cities from providing cheap wireless internet access; censored political issue ads it didn't like); DeBeers (hired to protect the interests of the huge international diamond mining/trading company as Congress considered legislation that would strengthen bans against the sale of so-called "conflict diamonds" that fund civil wars in parts of Africa); Arthur Andersen (Enron accounting scandal), and something called "Americans for Accountability" (lobbying disclosures for this "accountability" group say it is interested in educational reform but unaccountably does not show up in article database searches or search engines); the oil companies Conoco, Amerada Hess, and USX/Marathon (firms that supported lifting economic sanctions against Libya, named as a state sponsor of terror, to gain access to Libya's vast oil reserves); the Business Roundtable (big business super-lobby; goals include social security privatization, elimination of class action suits, and opposing mandatory reductions of greenhouse emissions).<br /><br /><b>Leslie Dach</b>, a former media consultant for Bill Clinton, former senior advisor for communication for the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry for President Campaign in 2004, and a lobbyist for the Environmental Defense Fund. He's vice president of Edelman World-Wide and heads Edelman's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice where his role has included defending Edelman PR's relationship with tobacco companies, despite the company's pledge not to represent tobacco companies. Clients of his CSR practice include TotalFinaElf (an oil conglomerate with interests in Sudan and investments in Burma that provide revenues to the country's oppressive military regime), and the foods giant Kraft (owned by tobacco company Altria, it is trying to improve its image and convince the public it is not aggressive in marketing junk foods to kids; the company makes, among other things, Oreos, Chips Ahoy! and Kool-Aid). Dach was architect of Wal-Mart's "rapid-response war room" designed to preempt and counterattack criticism of the company from labor, environmental and small business critics.<br /><br />Say hi to <b>Phil Goldberg</b> of the firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon. Goldberg served as an aide to several Democratic members of Congress. Before coming to Shook Hardy, he headed the litigation communications section of D.C. public relations firm Ketchum (run by former GOP House star Susan Molinari, it's the outfit that channeled $240,000 from the Bush administration to Armstrong Williams, the prominent African-American radio and television personality, for his support for the president's No Child Left Behind project). Promotional materials say that Goldberg "educates the public and other important audiences of client issues. Through his work, Phil has become an emerging voice in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party."<br /><br />Goldberg personally represents the National Restaurant Association (objectives include making it more difficult to sue over obesity-related issues and opposition to consumer group efforts for greater truth in labeling). Firm clients have included the Pharmaceutical Research &amp; Manufacturers (on medical malpractice liability and opposing class actions); Animal Health Institute (on limiting pet medicine manufacturers' liability for animal health); Philip Morris/Altria (limiting liability in class-action suits); Coalition for Litigation Justice (insurance industry lobby group seeking to limit liability in asbestos and silica cases). The firm was named by the International Who's Who of Business Lawyers 2005 as "the world's leading firm for product liability defense expertise."<br /><br />There's <b>Anthony Podesta</b>, not to be confused with his brother, John Podesta (Bill Clinton's final chief of staff and founder of the liberal Center for American Progress; John also did occasional lobbying for Podesta Mattoon until 2003)<a href="/story/40482#correction">*</a>. Another bipartisan wonder of a firm, employing the son of Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert. Firm clients have included major pharmaceutical firms; Vehicle Renting and Leasing Alliance ( opposed holding rental companies liable for injury, death or property damage arising from renter or lessee's negligence); U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (lobbying to allow Made in USA labels on garments produced at levels below U.S. minimum wages); Pacific Open Markets Coalition (ditto) , Coalition for Fair and Affordable Lending (nonprime mortgage lenders who oppose state and local laws designed to protect consumers); Altria (Philip Morris Tobacco).<br /><br />Remember <b>Jody Powell</b>, Jimmy Carter's press secretary? He now hangs his shingle with Sheila Tate, who was Nancy Reagan's press secretary. Together, they run a crisis management and PR firm that has gone through too many ownership changes and renamings to be sure what it will be called when you read this. Try Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick.<br /><br />Firm clients have included: the Saudi Economic and Development Co. (whose projects must comply with Islamic law); Crusader Industrial Alliance (lobbied Congress and the Pentagon not to terminate the Crusader self-loading cannon system, which critics called outdated); the Alliance for Better Foods (created to promote public acceptance and to oppose labeling of genetically modified foods); Hooters of America (not clear if Hooters complies with Islamic law); Food Lion (which gained notoriety when an ABC News hidden camera report revealed shocking labor and sanitary practices in its supermarkets); Americans for Safe &amp; Efficient Transportation (opposing tough state clean air standards); the Japanese Whaling Association; the New Zealand government-owned logging company <a href="">Timberlands</a> (was involved in controversial rain forest logging on public lands).<br /><br />In terms of political correctness dba making money, it's hard to top <b>Ingrid Duran</b> and <b>Catherine M. Pino</b>, political and personal partners who appear to take advantage of their identity as Latina Lesbians to play in D.C.'s power sweepstakes.<br /><br />Duran held several positions on Capitol Hill, served on Clinton's Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS and was president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) for six years. Pino worked in the foundation world and for a Democratic senator, and served on the board of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.<br /><br />Today, they are partners in D&amp;P Creative Strategies, whose motto is "Consulting with a Social Conscience." Among other things, it gives corporations advice on fostering an improved image through philanthropy, outreach to communities of color, etc. Firm clients include: Wal-Mart; Comcast (nation's largest cable operator; uses aggressive anti-union tactics, trying to block cities from providing cheap wireless internet access, censored political issue ads it didn't like); Sodexho (huge French-owned military food contractor, facing class action suit by black employees over racial discrimination in hiring and promoting practices).<br /><br />And this is merely a sampling. For those wishing to read of still more Democratic consultants who have joined the Beltway Party, check out the <a href="">full report</a>.<br /><br /><i>[<a name="correction" id="correction">*</a>This article originally stated that John Podesta does occasional lobbying for Podesta Mattoon, which is incorrect. Podesta occasionally lobbied for Podesta Mattoon until 2003. The article has been corrected to reflect this.]</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. He is the founder of the <a href="">Real News Project</a>. </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2006 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '636079'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 23 Aug 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, AlterNet 636079 at News & Politics Getting Past the Watergate Fixation <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The ongoing GOP corruption scandals are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is how business is done every day in Washington.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->We knew this was big back in March, when a court sent ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. -- convicted of taking $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors -- off to serve eight years in prison, the most severe sentence ever handed out to a member of Congress. From then on, the sleaze chain has been metastasizing. More members of the House might be implicated -- and even top CIA officials. Now it is being described as the largest federal corruption scandal in a century. With stories of prostitutes and all-night poker games at the Watergate hotel, it is one scandal that truly is deserving of the "-gate" suffix that has become such a dreary journalistic cliché.<br /><br />No matter how big the affair grows, though, it is likely to follow in the path of so many of its predecessors -- distracting public attention from a larger and more important reality: Today, "the largest corruption scandal in a century" is not WatergateGate -- it is the everyday performance of the U.S. government. The worst sleaze in Washington is mainly legal, as the old saying goes; and that includes the sorry state of the entire intelligence apparatus -- beyond whether the <a href="">#3 CIA official improperly participated</a> in those late-night, high-stakes card games.<br /><br />Too many in the media treat a juicy mess like the Cunningham Affair as a shocking aberration. Consider the wording in a <em>New York Times</em> article on Sunday, which described "a growing suspicion among some lawmakers that corrupt practices may have influenced decision-making in Congress and at executive-branch agencies."<br /><br />Who would have thought? Don't the editors read their own paper? It's been clear for some time that corruption in the Bush administration has exceeded a Washington standard that already was pretty tawdry. Some of the stories are known already, <a href="">especially</a> to <em></em> readers: White House procurement chief taken out in handcuffs in connection with a sprawling lobbying corruption investigation; the vice president's chief of staff <a href="">indicted for perjury</a>; the <a href="">unseemly setup</a> between Bush's first FEMA director and Brownie, the incompetent neophyte who replaced him.<br /><br />But many of the larger misdeeds have gone unreported, in part because -- technically illegal or not -- they represent business as usual in Republican Washington today. Virtually every federal agency is now captive to the corporate interests it is supposed to regulate. The reach of corporate influence has even compromised the science agencies on whose fact-finding and truth-telling crucial questions of national safety and even survival depend.<br /><br />And then there is Congress. A quick comparison of committee activity and floor votes with campaign finance reports tells the story. Never mind the now-controversial "earmarks," in which legislators secretly slip goodies at the last minute into larger bill packages. The real scandal is going on in plain sight. The entities that give the most get the most -- and the goodies keep on coming. That outfits like <a href=";type=15">Halliburton</a> can survive a never-ending series of contracting horror shows with their federal contacts intact says a lot about Congress's willful abrogation of fiduciary duty on behalf of the taxpayer.<br /><br />The main mistake Randy Cunningham made was accepting the goodies while he was still in Congress. There is no crime involved in doing the exact same favors for government contractors, and later joining the company's board or getting hired as a highly-paid lobbyist, or getting payback on a more indirect basis. That's the deal all over town, and some of the most "well-respected" names in America have such arrangements -- and not all of them are Republicans. The whole thing stinks, but what to do about it? That's the rub.<br /><br />Speaking of a rub, besides the careless greed, in the Cunningham Caper we are blessed by the emergence of a sexual angle worthy of a British tabloid, with the congressman alleged to have enjoyed the favors of big-league prostitutes in return for military contracts. Sexual peccadilloes always get the public's attention in a way that other misdeeds, like accepting bribes from defense contractors, cannot. That Cunningham and his buddies may have preferred presumably-discreet professional company over out-of-wedlock friends of the Gennifer Flowers ilk, makes perfect sense in an atmosphere where holier-than-thou sanctimony cannot bear scrutiny. That might take the story to a new level, since these sins would have been committed by the staunchest defenders of the "sanctity of marriage."<br /><br />Those who care about the ever more brazen sellout of the public interest over the last five years have no choice but to take these revelations in whatever garb they come -- and if they're scantily clad, so be it. Meanwhile, consorting with prostitutes -- the thing that will get perhaps get the most attention -- is the one thing that matters least to the future of our body politic.<br /><br />With this new WatergateGate, we must at all costs beware the Woodward Fallacy -- that sanitation is a substitute for politics and ideas. It is the conceit of the reigning elite. But in fact we can get rid of Cunningham and his cronies and the rot will continue, unless change goes much deeper to the root. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. His web site is <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 10 May 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 634554 at News & Politics Media Hurricane <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The media responded to the Katrina debacle with some high winds of their own.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->The magnitude of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the media's astonished--and astonishingly vigorous-- response puts in perspective how hard it has generally become, in this country, to deliver the unadorned, unapologetic truth. Indeed, for at least as long as George Bush has been in office, the great unspoken challenge for mainstream journalists has been to do one's job while keeping one's job.<br /><br />As the Bush organization has flipped one lever after another of  a vast and well-fueled propaganda machine, it is has become ever more difficult for reporters to render useful, accurate information to the public without neutering it in the cop-out "on the one hand, on the other" format. Constant pressure from the White House is one challenge. Another is from corporate bosses who must produce untenable profit growth while maintaining friendly relations with the federal government.<br /><br />One of the most tricky work environments surely must be the Fox News Network, Rupert Murdoch's vehicle for dispensing highly opinionated, fact-light 'news' in the guise of helping provide Americans with "Fair and Balanced" journalism. And so it was with a sense of wonder that I viewed a clip of an exchange between two of Fox's stars, Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera, and hard-core propagandist talk show host Sean Hannity, who had morphed into the role of anchorman for a "Fox News Alert".<br /><br />If you have broadband Internet access, you owe it to yourself to watch this exchange , which aired Friday night.  Smith, Fox's principal news anchor, and Rivera, its high-priced celebrity gunslinger, reported in from the scene of devastation in New Orleans. Smith and Rivera, both usually loyal to Fox's rigidly pro-administration line, yell, cry (Geraldo) and generally register disgust as Hannity seeks to gild the Bush administration's glacial response to the crisis. Here are a few choice excerpts [<a href="">VIDEO</a>]:<blockquote><b>SMITH:</b> They won't let them walk out of the...convention center. ..  they've locked them in there. The government said, "You go here, and you'll get help," or, "You go in that Superdome and you'll get help."  </blockquote><blockquote>And they didn't get help. They got locked in there. And they watched people being killed around them. And they watched people starving. And they watched elderly people not get any medicine...</blockquote><blockquote>And they've set up a checkpoint. And anyone who walks up out of that city now is turned around. You are not allowed to go to Gretna, Louisiana, from New Orleans, Louisiana. Over there, there's hope. Over there, there's electricity. Over there, there is food and water. But you cannot go from there to there. The government will not allow you to do it. It's a fact.</blockquote><blockquote><b>HANNITY:</b> All right, Shep, I want to get some perspective here, because earlier today...</blockquote><blockquote><b>SMITH:</b> That is perspective! That is all the perspective you need!</blockquote>Soon, Hannity switches to Geraldo, where he finds no relief:<blockquote><b>RIVERA (holding aloft a baby):</b> Sean...I want everyone in the world to see, six days after Katrina swept through this city, five days after the levee collapsed, this baby--this baby--how old is this baby?</blockquote><blockquote><b>UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:</b> Ten months old.....</blockquote><blockquote><b>RIVERA:</b> Look in the face of the baby. This is it. This is it. No sugar coating, no political spin, no Republicans or Democrats. People suffering.</blockquote><blockquote>Let them go. Let them out of here. Let them go. Let them walk over this damn interstate, and let them out of here.</blockquote><blockquote><b>HANNITY:</b> All right. Thanks, Geraldo. Appreciate it. We appreciate--and from New Orleans tonight.</blockquote>For once, Hannity was nearly speechless. His mandate--and preferences--were clear: Keep Fox's viewers, Bush's vaunted base, steady, until the administration spin machine could be shoved on top of the volatile events that threatened to expose the horrible truth about the priorities and competencies of  this White House after an unprecedented, years-long free ride.<br /><br />When Fox reporters are the most emphatically critical of the Bush administration, you know something is going on. Had Roger Ailes decided that it was simply impossible to ride out this storm with Bush? What of the defections of The New York Times' conservative columnist David Brooks and others in recent days?  Perhaps they figure that this is simply too enormous a screw-up to defend, and hope that by joining the ranks of the indignant they may escape a sinking ship. Or, maybe, maybe, even they have finally had enough.<br /><br />Another remarkable breakthrough came Sunday, on Meet the Press , Tim Russert freshened his typical beltway bonhomie mix with a "real" person, Jefferson Parish President (i.e., county manager) Aaron Broussard. His guest, who, by the way, is white, delivered a startlingly blunt indictment of the federal response to the death and destruction facing the largely poor, black population that had been unable to get out [<a href="">VIDEO</a>]. <blockquote><b>BROUSSARD:</b> ..[T]he aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. ...Why did it happen?  Who needs to be fired?  And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy.  We have months to go.  We have years to go.  And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.</blockquote><blockquote><b>RUSSERT:</b> Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility?</blockquote><blockquote><b>BROUSSARD:</b> Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming."  I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry.  The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.</blockquote><blockquote>...We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water.  FEMA turned them back.  They said we didn't need them.  This was a week ago. ...we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish.  The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away."  When we got there with our trucks, they got a word.  "FEMA says don't give you the fuel."  Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines.  They cut them without notice.... </blockquote><blockquote>...The guy who runs...emergency management...His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son?  Is somebody coming?"  And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you.  Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday.  Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday.  Somebody's coming to get you on Friday."  And she drowned Friday night.  [Broussard was sobbing at this point]</blockquote><blockquote>... Nobody's coming to get us.  Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised.  Everybody's promised.  They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences.  For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.</blockquote><blockquote><b>RUSSERT:</b> Just take a pause, Mr. [Broussard]. While you gather yourself in your very emotional times, I understand, let me go to Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.</blockquote>And there we were, back in the bad old days. Russert had no tasteful way to note that Barbour had been GOP chairman in the mid-90s, a key strategist and fundraiser for the transformation of American government into a one-party state for the interests of the rich, and the dismantlement of the safety net, that, among other things, is supposed to protect all Americans from the most extreme ravages of natural disaster and daily life alike. Or to ask hard questions about Barbour's avid support for Bush's Iraqi war, and its unusual overseas deployment of National Guard units that properly should have been in place in the Gulf region to provide relief and order in case of emergency.  It's hard to point this out when you work for NBC, a unit of General Electric, a huge defense contractor that has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Bush administration priorities and policy.<br /><br />Fixing journalism's deep structural deficiencies will take more than the Labor Day Revolt.  Getting it right means more than expressing momentary indignation, however heartfelt, or reporting on the current crisis as if the important thing was how the disaster is affecting the administration's "approval" rating.  Because it's not the administration's spin with which we  need to concern ourselves. It is the media's long, long sleep in the face of mounting evidence that Bush and his team are not only ideologues seriously out of touch with the American public but grievously incompetent managers of the nation's commitments, resources and people.<br /><br />As we take stock of the true costs of the failures surrounding Katrina, journalists should note their own role as collaborators. We, too, have been complicit in this. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. His web site is <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 07 Sep 2005 07:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, 630365 at Media Hurricane Katrina Media The Sins of Judith Miller <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '615809'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src=""/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The New York Times reporter who helped spread the fallacy that Saddam Hussein had WMD has a new beat: discrediting the United Nations.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->As a media critic, I spend what feels like far too much time trying to persuade people that most reporters are not sloppy, agenda-driven, biased, or lazy. But it seems that whenever I get up on my high horse, back into the news rides Judith Miller.<br /><br />Miller, a longtime star at <i>The New York Times</i>, has a formidable track record of egregious violations of journalistic standards and best practices, and a habit of sending the public off on what turn out to be wild goose chases. Relying on a small circle of highly interested parties (often anonymous "sources"), she became the leading journalistic purveyor of the fallacy that Saddam Hussein had WMD and that he was tied to Al-Qaeda.<br /><br />Despite having essentially admitted in a written apology, long ex post facto, that its reporter helped to promote a fallacious rationale for an unnecessary invasion and catastrophically protracted occupation, the <i>Times</i> has not put Miller out to pasture. Instead, it has moved her at her request to another challenge: covering scandal wherever it might rear its head within the United Nations.<br /><br />This is an ironic assignment, since it was the success of the UN's peaceful approach to controlling WMD in Iraq that underlined the wrongheadedness of the pro-invasion clique that supplied Miller with her faulty "scoops."<br /><br />Over the past year, she has produced a plethora of stories, chock full of innuendo and allegation but short of independent journalistic verification, suggesting that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is a bad man and perhaps a corrupt one, and that, by extension, the UN is hardly worth respecting and funding, much less including in geopolitical decision-making.<br /><br />Most of Miller's sleuthing centers on contracts handed out in connection with the so-called Oil for Food program (which got indispensable staples to the Iraqi people during the embargo). Miller's articles typically take murky evidence and create in readers' minds the sense that there's something deeply wrong in the UN's command structure, when in fact, there may not be. At worst, the malfeasance there pales by comparison to what goes on in Washington day after day.<br /><br />Since March, Miller has been largely invisible, but last week she returned to the UN dirt beat with a vengeance. On June 15, she came up with goods that at first looked damning. Her article, "Investigators To Review Hint of Annan Role in Iraq Oil Sales," dealt with a memo that seemed to indicate that Secretary General Kofi Annan may have had more contact with a UN contractor for whom his son worked than he had previously admitted. Miller makes it clear that the company in question, Cotecna, has been belatedly forthcoming with information about how it got the UN contracts. But in the penultimate paragraph, she drops this little bomb: "A new internal audit showed that Cotecna had not made the $306,305 in payments that [a UN investigative] panel said might have gone to Kojo Annan [Kofi Annan's son]."<br /><br />Is she being deliberately opaque or is this just bad writing? What she is actually saying in this throwaway paragraph is that the allegation behind her many previous stories, about a corrupt link between Kojo Annan and the company that got a UN contract, may be unfounded. If the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, why is that possibility raised only near the end of the article?<br /><br />Two days after that article appeared, the <i>Times</i> ran another in which Miller shared a byline with the <i>Times</i>' estimable UN bureau chief, Warren Hoge. Their jointly bylined article is headlined "Contractor Now Denies He Talked With Annan on Oil-for-Food Bid." What does that mean? It means that the very source in Miller's earlier piece is now changing his story. It also means that <i>Times</i> editors are sufficiently concerned to include this as an entirely separate article in a paper always short of space for important stories.<br /><br />This article notes that this is the second time that the source, a one-time business partner of Kojo Annan, has revised his story about what his partner's father might have known about UN contract favoritism. If this source is known to be unreliable, why write an article every time he's quoted saying something harmful to Kofi Annan (and, perhaps not coincidentally, useful to Miller's friends in the neocon community, who are ever eager to discredit the United Nations).<br /><br />Remarkably, the Miller-Hoge piece actually quotes the Secretary General himself, chastising unspecified "reporters" (read: Miller):<blockquote>He urged reporters "to resist the temptation to substitute yourself for the Volcker (UN investigative) commission."</blockquote>Would Miller have put that obvious slap at her into her own article if she weren't forced by her editors?<br /><br />By Monday, June 20, it became clear that there really was something wrong with Miller's reportage. Of just four corrections in the print edition, one was about her reporting; although, it didn't name her. (The paper would take a big leap forward if it would simply say, "An article on Friday by Judith Miller incorrectly stated....) <br /><br />The first correction was of a photo caption that misidentified someone named Toni as Tony. The second correction, presumably dubbed of lesser import than the misapplication of a given name, was Miller's.<br /><br />Here is Miller's original wording:<blockquote>This is not the first time that Mr. Wilson has recanted a statement involving the secretary general and his son.</blockquote><blockquote>The March report of the Volcker committee records an interview with Mr. Wilson last January in which he recounted a conversation with Kofi Annan in November 1998, when Mr. Annan's son was still a consultant for the company, about a potential conflict of interest in Cotecna's bid.</blockquote><blockquote>The Volcker report said that 15 to 20 minutes after the interview, Mr. Wilson called the investigator to change the conversation date to after Kojo Annan had left Cotecna.</blockquote>Here is the language of the correction: <blockquote> An article on Friday about a contractor who said in a 1998 memo that he had met with the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, shortly before the contractor's company received a contract under the oil-for-food program for Iraq, but who then recanted the report, referred incorrectly to an earlier episode in which the man was reported to have recanted a statement. In March, the panel appointed by the United Nations to investigate the program reported that the man had changed his story of a conversation with Mr. Annan, saying that it was actually in 1996, not 1998. The report did not say the man changed his account to say that the conversation took place after Mr. Annan's son, Kojo, was no longer working for the company.</blockquote>If this all seems laughably convoluted, that's because of the way the <i>Times</i> corrections department obscures what is really going on. Still, taking together Miller's article and the correction, one can see what she was implying: That the man was deliberately lying to somehow draw attention away from the Annan family. Yet, as the correction says, that is not what he was doing -- he was simply correcting a date.<br /><br />After so many mistakes, it's becoming apparent to anyone (including perhaps the entire <i>Times</i> newsroom) that Miller is a problem. She's Inspector Clouseau turned loose by the Perle/Cheney gang, bumbling her way through a fragile and dangerous world, leaving reputations shredded, international relations damaged, and facts scattered far and wide. Why top management at an institution that is normally fierce about staff errors continues to tolerate this is a continuing mystery. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><a href="">Russ Baker</a> is a freelance journalist and essayist. He is currently involved with launching a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing investigative journalism. </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2005 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '615809'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 23 Jun 2005 21:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, AlterNet 615809 at Media Media Fishing for New Environmentalists <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '613823'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src=""/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Thus far, the environmental movement and progressives in general have not done nearly enough to engage the millions of Americans who hunt and fish.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In Thursday's <i>New York Times</i>, we read of concerns in New Hampshire about the Bush administration's relaxation of standards on factory mercury emissions. In case you haven't been following the controversy, mercury is that stuff that can badly damage the nervous systems of infants (and all of us, really), that settles into the food chain and ought to make us think twice about how much sushi we consume.<br /><br />On March 15, 2005, the EPA announced new legislation that will cut mercury emissions by about 22 percent, a pittance compared to the 94 percent reduction that environmentalists say is essential and feasible. And the EPA proposes to do its pittance with unnecessary lethargy.<br /><br />In the <i>Times</i> article, the reporter spoke with a fisherman. When she told him that the lake in which he was fishing was a probable mercury "hot spot," he replied, "You're worrying me."<br /><br />And there, my friends, is a political goldmine for good environmental policy. For many years, the NRA has had the upper hand with the hunting-and-fishing crowd. It has been so successful in stressing threats to the right to carry a gun that the NRA almost single-handedly, with help from the Christian right, transformed Congress into a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Corporate State.<br /><br />Hunters and fishermen are not all the same, to be sure, and they're also not as ideologically one-dimensional as they are often portrayed. If they understand the larger consequences of the NRA-wrought "revolution," they'll become alarmed about the threats that face them. Shrinking stocks of fish, more pollutants in the food chain, erosion of natural area by development and logging – all of these are disturbing developments for those of us who spend time outdoors.<br /><br />Thus far, the environmental movement and progressives in general have not done nearly enough to engage the millions of Americans who hunt and fish. When they come to understand the direct consequences of the administration's steady unshackling of polluters, they will realize that there's more at stake in local, state and federal elections than the kind of gun they may carry. As for Christian fundamentalists, they have recently developed a vocal environmentalist wing, based on the religious conviction that humans should act as "good stewards," not despoilers, of God's green earth.<br /><br />These people are a ready-made audience for a clear save-the-environment message. The facts are there, for sure. The state of Connecticut has noted, for example, that most types of fish have some mercury in them, and advised that the following people should not eat more than one meal a month of fish that are caught in Connecticut rivers and lakes:<br /><ul><li>Women who are pregnant </li><br /><li>Women who plan to become pregnant </li><br /><li>Women who are nursing their baby </li><br /><li>Children under six</li></ul><br /><br />Subsistence and sports fishermen who eat their catch can be at a particularly high risk of mercury poisoning if they fish regularly in contaminated waters, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Nationally, though many waterways haven't even been tested yet, mercury pollution is known to have contaminated 12 million acres of lakes, estuaries, and wetlands (30 percent of the total), and 473,000 miles of streams, rivers, and coasts. Forty-four states have issued fish consumption advisories – that's enough to put a damper on a boisterous fish-fry around any campfire.<br /><br /><i>The Washington Post</i> reported late last year that male fish in the Potomac River are producing eggs – that's male fish, folks, presumably as troubling a gender issue to social conservatives as any. The causes are believed to be pollution, farming runoff, and human hormones coming from raw sewage. And the Potomac is hardly the only place where this is happening.<br /><br />The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reported that eating blue claw crabs from the Newark Bay region may cause cancer and harm brain development. This is the result of contamination from dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).<br /><br />Tom DeLay, as a former exterminator, loves all pesticides, but not that many fishermen are likely to agree when they know the gory details. You get fewer fish when the small plants and animals they eat die, which they do when it rains and pesticides get swept by storm drains into streams and rivers, as New York State authorities have warned. The pesticide diazinon makes lawns look good but kills ducks, geese and other water fowl, and, it seems, song-birds.<br /><br />Meanwhile, climate change isn't something that will only affect our great-grandchildren (as if that wasn't worry enough). If current warming trends continue unchecked, more than one in five Pacific Northwest rivers could become too warm for salmon, steelhead and trout by 2040. Already the region appears to be suffering the effects of warming. According to this AP report:<blockquote>Average air temperatures in the Pacific Northwest rose 1.5 degrees during the 20th century – faster than the average global rise of 1 degree. At the same time, annual precipitation increased, mostly in the form of rain, while snowpack declined. Most of Washington state's glaciers are receding rapidly, and several have disappeared altogether in recent decades.</blockquote>Bush's general relaxation of standards ignores the fact that nationwide, as far back as 2002, his own EPA was reporting that more than a third of surveyed rivers, and about half of all lakes and estuaries were too polluted for swimming or fishing.<br /><br />Fish and fishermen are just the beginning. The continued opening up of wild areas to development obviously offers equally fertile ground for appealing to hunters and other traditionally conservative sports enthusiasts. It's just no fun heading out to bag a moose next to an oil rig or chasing rabbits round mine shafts or subdivisions. Between 2000 and 2003, the number of leases for oil, gas and coal mining on public lands increased by 51 percent – from 2.6 million acres to more than 5 million acres. In agricultural areas, the deer are so chock full of pesticides, that hunters know to stay away from them.<br /><br />I could go on an on, but let's cut to the nib. Wouldn't it be nice to see ad campaigns aimed at a new group of potential environmentalists? If the forces of disinformation can use the fictitious couple, Harry &amp; Louise, to sink universal health insurance on television, then surely the forces of human survival can show a couple of fishermen talking about "enough already" with the mercury madness. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Russ Baker is a freelance journalist and essayist. His web site is <a href=""></a>. </div></div></div><!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2005 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '613823'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 27 Mar 2005 21:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, AlterNet 613823 at Environment Environment Election 2004: Stolen or Lost <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As time passes and allegations of fraud are investigated, it seems clearer that the story of the 2004 election is more about incompetence and dysfunction than intentional misconduct.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Many of us fear that the Ohio election was stolen because people – like talk-show sleuths, blogger number-crunchers, forensic attorneys, crusading professors and partisan activists – keep telling us so. We don't even know most of these people, yet we gladly forward their e-mails and web links, their pronouncements, analyses, essays and statistical exercises. While their credentials may not be that impressive, we listen to their conspiracy theories because – frightened by the direction our country has taken – we want to believe them. <br /><br />As an old-style investigative reporter, I, too, was alarmed by charges that outright fraud might have changed the outcome of the most important presidential election in recent times. So I recently traveled to Ohio – where I connected with a group of attorneys who were fighting to have the Ohio presidential results overturned, and the state – and, by extension, the presidency – awarded to Kerry. In legal pleadings known collectively as the "Contest" these attorneys are not shy about using the F-word: "While a variety of methods were used to perpetrate the election fraud of which there is clear and convincing evidence in the form of the exit polls, ... it is likely that traditional easily detectable means were one of the principal methods of the election fraud."<br /><br />Strong words indeed. Among the evidence supporting them:<br /><ul><li>Specific instances in which strange or troubling things happened when people voted or while votes were being counted. </li><br /><li>The discrepancy between exit polls and the final result.</li></ul><br /><br />This week, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., released a <a href="">report</a> that catalogues widespread problems in the Ohio vote. The report concludes that the "massive and unprecedented" voting irregularities in Ohio were in many cases caused by "intentional misconduct and illegal behavior." Sounds like fraud to me.<br /><br />Conyers' report is considerably tamer and more cautious than earlier pronouncements out of his office, and certainly more so than many of the allegations being circulated on the internet. Much of his report, however, is based on charges emerging from the Contest. Let's see how such charges hold up under close scrutiny.<br /><br /><b>Voting Irregularities</b><br /><br /><b>Charge:</b> Misallocation of voting machines<br /><b>Finding:</b> True<br /><b>Intentional?</b> Probably not<br /><br />The Contest petition lists specific counties where voting irregularities occurred, including Franklin and Trumbull: "In Franklin County there was a discriminatory assignment of more voting machines per registered voter to precincts with more white voters than African-American voters. ..."<br /><br />William Anthony is the chairman of the Franklin County board of elections. As an African American and a Democrat himself (in fact, he is the county chairman and works as a union representative) Anthony resents the suggestion that Franklin County authorities somehow worked to help Bush. "I worked my ass off in those precincts," he says of African-American areas of the county.<br /><br />A precinct-by-precinct historical comparison of registered and actual voters, and of voting machine assignments, does show that some precincts with a large African-American population ended up with fewer machines per person than some mostly white precincts. But Anthony points out that Franklin County faced a number of challenges. For one thing, it was using very old electronic voting machines that under new state law will be defunct by the next presidential election, when every county will be required to have a paper trail for recounts. Given the short lifespan of the machines, it didn't make economic sense to buy more of them. So it was a matter of allocating a scarce resource. That resource was stretched thinner by an increasing population. Franklin County had a spurt of growth in outlying areas, with blocks of apartments sprouting recently where cornfields had been. Suddenly, authorities had 29 additional precincts to conside – requiring approximately 200 more machines.<br /><br />Also, although incoming voter registration figures showed surges in certain areas, that didn't mean the newly registered would necessarily vote. And certainly not in greater numbers than in many established precincts where a high percentage of registered voters typically went to the polls.<br /><br />When the county elections director recently explained the machine assignment process as "a little bit art, a little bit science," he was ridiculed by the critics. But in fact, what he meant was that a whole multiplicity of factors had to be considered – it wasn't a simple formula.<br /><br />Significantly, the people making these decisions aren't necessarily Bush partisans. Every county in Ohio, by law, divides its elections personnel evenly between the Democrats and Republicans. This means that where the chief administrator of elections is, say, a Republican, the chairperson of the elections board is a Democrat. In the case of Franklin County, two individuals shared the task of allocating machines – and one was a Democrat.<br /><br /><b>Charge:</b> Miscounting of absentee votes<br /><b>Finding:</b> False<br /><br />A Contest attorney who asked that his name not be used told me that he considered irregularities in Trumbull County perhaps the most damning of all. Here are the specifics: Dr. Werner Lange, a Trumbull County resident, examined poll books in county offices, looked at 106 precincts and calculated that, in all, "580 absentee votes were cast for which there was no notation of absentee voting in the poll books." Extrapolated statewide, this pattern – if it existed – could translate into 62,513 fraudulent votes, or, more than half of Bush's advantage.<br /><br />Lange, who – according to his affidavit – holds a Ph.D. in political science and is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament, told me that he had suspicions because the area was heavily Democratic, but that Bush had done surprisingly well.<br /><br />Then I checked in at the Trumbull County offices. "Mr. Lange came in here looking for problems and he didn't want to ask us anything," says Rokey Suleman, the deputy director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections. Suleman explains that the poll books Lange looked at had been printed before absentee voting ended – including those who voted in the final days before the election at the Board's offices. The books would – according to practice – be updated to include everyone. Like Anthony in Franklin County, Suleman is a Democrat.<br /><br /><b>Charge:</b> Tampering with voting machines<br /><b>Finding:</b> Probably false<br /><br />There were a number of anecdotal claims that personnel from voting machine companies came into several counties and seemed to  do something improper with the machines before the recount began. I had the opportunity to listen to an audio tape of a film crew interviewing an official of Triad, a ballot counting contractor accused on the internet of various indiscretions – in which the man appears to be very patiently and logically explaining the exact role of company personnel in preparing machines for recounts. I asked Contest attorneys if they wanted to listen to the tape, but they were too busy rushing out filings – which included allegations involving Triad. <br /><br />In a couple of precincts in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), third party candidates did inexplicably well. In one precinct located in a predominantly African-American area, Kerry got 290 votes, Bush 21 and Michael Peroutka – candidate of the anti-immigrant Constitutional Party – got 215. In another precinct that voted at the same high school, the tally was Kerry 318, Bush 21, and Libertarian Michael Badnarik 163. These are, for the moment, mysteries, but they are not indications of widespread fraud.<br /><br />"I think incompetence is the most likely explanation in most of these cases," says Mark Griffin, who ran the legal team for Kerry that oversaw the provisional ballot count and recount in Cuyahoga. "If there's fraud, it's in the tabulation. But it wouldn't be in Cuyahoga, where we got a big turnout."<br /><br /><b>Challengers May Have Good Intentions But Bad Facts</b><br /><br />The lawyers on the Contest team are well-meaning, intelligent people. However, like all lawyers, they're about arguing their side, not getting to the bottom of things. Each time I checked in, one of them (always the same person, always insisting that our conversations were "off the record") would introduce a new operative theory of what had happened, of what "evidence" was the most meaningful indicator of the shenanigans that had gone on.<br /><br />By the day I left, my "source" was telling me that the legal discovery process was not going well, and so they could not, in a timely fashion, get the information needed to show how the "fraud" was perpetrated.<br /><br />Attorney Don McTigue, a senior official in the Ohio Secretary of State's office when a Democrat held the office, now devotes his entire legal practice to elections. "We don't have evidence of fraud," says McTigue, who represented the Kerry campaign for the recount, an entirely separate proceeding from the Contest, which resulted in almost no change in the vote totals, and left Bush with a hefty 118,000-vote margin.<br /><br />You wouldn't have much of a case for conspiracy if you didn't have Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. As Ohio's chief elections official and the Bush state campaign chairman, he was already juggling a couple of hats that should have been nowhere near each other. Furthermore, Bush traveled to Ohio on election day to meet with Blackwell. There's no doubt that Blackwell consistently ruled in a manner that seemed to favor Bush. But the impact of these rulings on the election was probably minimal. For example, Blackwell ruled that Ohio voters could not cast provisional ballots outside their designated precinct. Local officials had hoped to alleviate confusion over polling places by letting people come to "zones" – regional locations where they could cast a ballot when their assigned precinct was in doubt. When Blackwell blocked this option, a number of counties, including Franklin, went ahead and accepted provisional ballots at polling places from people who signed a statement explaining why they were in the wrong place, why they didn't have time to go to their designated precinct, etc.<br /><br />Blackwell's attempt to disqualify voter registration cards that didn't meet an 80-lb paper test also failed, as did his push to get counties to switch from punch cards to "black box" balloting (using Direct Recording Electronic machines, or DREs) Paradoxically, if he had prevailed on DREs, the election would likely have been closer, because punchcards generate more spoilage. Electronic voting, i.e. "black box" balloting where there is no paper trail, existed only in a handful of counties.  Franklin is the largest of these – and Kerry did better than expected there, even with the long lines. <br /><br /><b>Charge:</b> Voting company fraud<br /><b>Finding:</b> Unlikely<br /><br />As for Diebold and other vilified companies, in all probability, they didn't, and wouldn't, risk the ignominy and consequences of fixing an election. The primary reason so many people are suspicious of Diebold in the first place is because of the CEO's ill-advised promise, in a GOP fundraising letter, to do everything he could to see Ohio's electors awarded to Bush. That was an outrageous thing to say, but even on its face more likely a sign of cluelessness than of hidden plans to alter the outcome.<br /><br /><b>Charge:</b> Exit poll results were more accurate than actual ballots<br /><b>Finding:</b> False<br /><b>Explanation of Problem:</b> Imperfect nature of polls<br /><br />Now to the central issue: the claim that exit polls, which never lie, showed Kerry winning. Our understanding of this – and the argumentation in the Contest – is based largely on an analysis by  Steven F. Freeman, Ph.D. But Freeman is not an expert in polling. According to his affidavit, he is a visiting scholar in the Graduate Division, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Center for Organizational Dynamics.<br /><br />To get some insight into this issue, I spoke with a source who, in the common parlance, is "familiar with the thinking of" Warren Mitofsky, the "father" of the exit poll.<br /><br />Asked about Freeman's analysis, my source told me that it is "all wrong." We spent several hours going through Freeman's specific claims, and reviewed how exit polls – and Mitofsky's in particular – work.<br /><br />Much of the belief that the election was stolen was based on "screen shots" of raw numbers provided by CNN. In exit polling, raw numbers mean almost nothing – since the essence of a successful exit poll is to interview a sampling of voters, and then apply a variety of methods in order to adjust to the most probable accurate assessment.  "To say you want the raw data is ludicrous," said the source. "You can't use it until you do something with it. You're talking about a bunch of naïve people that had [only] the first course in statistics."<br /><br />Bill Leonard, a former CBS News VP who was a polling pioneer, has called exit polls "blunt instruments." The widely circulated notion that they are always right is dead wrong. <br /><br />The notion that a single definitive number showing Kerry winning ever existed is also wrong. "We never had unadjusted unofficial totals," said the source. "As we get more data, we're always adjusting."<br /><br />In this case, what most likely happened was that more Bush supporters failed to complete exit poll surveys than Kerry backers. The reason for that can be as trivial as a sampler skipping someone who looks unfriendly or voters not liking the race or demeanor of the sampler.<br /><br />(For what it is worth, I learned that Mitofsky is a lifelong liberal and apparently holds no brief for Bush. But a job's a job, and a professional is a professional.)<br /><br /><b>Conclusions</b><br /><br />While it's appallingly easy to mess around with a computer, it's a lot more difficult to rig an election.  <br /><br />To have a conspiracy of this magnitude, you'd need more than a bunch of individual mishaps – you need a plan and coordination. And you'd need a large number of collaborators willing to commit felonious and treasonous behavior of the highest order.<br /><br />None of this is to say that election fraud could not, theoretically, happen – particularly in a truly opaque system that produces no paper trail. Indeed, with 88 counties, a bewildering variety of voting systems, and often conflicting decisions by courts, and state and local officials, it's a wonder that elections work at all.<br /><br />More allegations of fraud in the 2004 election will be floated. The problem is that those who float these claims don't bother to perform any measure of due diligence. So far, every claim of fraud that I have examined has turned out to have a credible alternate explanation. <br /><br />Legitimate avenues of inquiry remain. Exploring how particular companies get contracts is one; the appropriate role and behavior of top state elections officials is another. Then there are the kinds of bad administrative decisions made at the county level.<br /><br />Certainly, there were many instances of small-scale cheating and intimidation – as there probably always are. Limited numbers of voters received phone calls and letters on bogus official letterheads, telling them  they could not vote; in one egregious instance, elderly Democrats were "informed" that it might be more comfortable for them to vote on Wednesday, when lines were shorter. But there's no evidence or even likelihood that this was authorized from on high; it's far more like that such amateurish interventions were locally conceived.<br /><br />Technical and administrative failings were certainly apparent. The inadequate distribution of machines was just one. Another was the fact that poll workers couldn't get through  continuously busy phone lines to county officials.<br /><br />"Overall, Ohio has a good system," said Democratic election lawyer McTigue. "Like any system, if you scrutinize it enough, you're going to find weaknesses."<br /><br />One conclusion seems obvious: Because of the growing partisan animus and attendant suspicions, everyone connected with the electoral process is going to have to be a whole lot more careful and a whole lot more forthcoming. That goes, especially, for those responsible for creating the system, installing and maintaining it, making the decisions. "Times have changed," says Chris Wilson, Franklin County's election technology administrator, and a "Republican" hire who is well-regarded and insists on his independence. "You can't go in and do maintenance without everybody knowing what's going on. You can't talk gobbledygook anymore."<br /><br />Sadly, it appears that much of the blame for the Bush victory rests with those who wished it were otherwise. In Cuyahoga County, for example, Republicans worked very aggressively to get out their voters, while Democrats often did not. Mark Griffin, the former Kerry campaign attorney, recalls being told by colleagues that, according to the numbers, a county with 1.4 million people had only a couple of dozen swing voters.<br /><br />"I don't think the evidence shows a conspiracy," says Griffin. "It doesn't show the Republicans stole the election. It shows we are continuing to have mechanical and systemic failures that, in a closer election, could have flipped the results."<br /><br />Half-baked conspiracy theories are damaging to the public confidence in democracy. We could use a few less conspiracy theorists, and a few more Griffins. It takes a pretty big person to admit that one's own side screwed up, or was simply bested in a fight (even a nasty one), or to accept, and tackle, the growing alienation of potential voters in America.  And the unexciting, labor-intensive process of analyzing and fixing the machinery of the people's will. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><a href="">Russ Baker</a>, a founding fellow of the new Fourth Estate Society, is a regular contributor to Support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.   </div></div></div> Sun, 09 Jan 2005 21:00:01 -0800 Russ Baker, 611929 at News & Politics Skipping Texas for Alabama <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There is increasing evidence that Bush left his Texas Air National Guard unit in &#039;72 for Alabama because he was having problems piloting a fighter jet.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Growing evidence suggests that George W. Bush abruptly left his Texas Air National Guard unit in 1972 for substantive reasons pertaining to his inability to continue piloting a fighter jet.<br /><br />A months-long investigation, which includes examination of hundreds of government-released documents, interviews with former Guard members and officials, military experts and Bush associates, points toward the conclusion that Bush's personal behavior was causing alarm among his superior officers and would ultimately lead to his fleeing the state to avoid a physical exam he might have had difficulty passing. His failure to complete a physical exam became the official reason for his subsequent suspension from flying status.<br /><br /><br />This central issue, whether Bush did or did not complete his duty – and if not, why – has in recent days been obscured by a raging sideshow: a debate over the accuracy of documents aired on CBS's 60 Minutes. Last week CBS News reported on newly unearthed memos purportedly prepared by Bush's now-deceased commanding officer. In those documents, the officer, Lieut. Col. Jerry Killian, appeared to be establishing for the record events occurring at the time Bush abruptly left his Texas Air National Guard unit in May 1972. Among these: that Bush had failed to meet unspecified Guard standards and refused a direct order to take a physical exam, and that pressure was being applied on Killian and his superiors to whitewash whatever troubling circumstances Bush was in.<br /><br /><br />Questions have been raised about the authenticity of those memos, but the criticism of them appears at this time speculative and inconclusive, while their substance is consistent with a growing body of documentation and analysis.<br /><br /><br />If it is demonstrated that profound behavioral problems marred Bush's wartime performance and even cut short his service, it could seriously challenge Bush's essential appeal as a military steward and guardian of societal values. It could also explain the incomplete, contradictory and shifting explanations provided by the Bush camp for the President's striking invisibility from the military during the final two years of his six-year military obligation. And it would explain the savagery and rapidity of the attack on the CBS documents.<br /><br /><br />In 1972 Bush's unit activities underwent a change that could point to a degradation of his ability to fly a fighter jet. Last week, in response to a lawsuit, the White House released to the Associated Press Bush's flight logs, which show that he abruptly shifted his emphasis in February and March 1972 from his assigned F-102A fighter jet to a two-seat T-33 training jet, from which he had graduated several years earlier, and was put back onto a flight simulator. The logs also show that on two occasions he required multiple attempts to land a one-seat fighter and a fighter simulator. This after Bush had already logged more than 200 hours in the one-seat F-102A.<br /><br /><br />Military experts say that his new, apparently downgraded and accompanied training mode, which included Bush's sometimes moving into the co-pilot's seat, can, in theory, be explained a variety of ways. He could, for example, have been training for a new position that might involve carrying student pilots. But the reality is that Bush himself has never mentioned this chapter in his life, nor has he provided a credible explanation. In addition, Bush's highly detailed Officer Effectiveness Reports make no mention of this rather dramatic change.<br /><br /><br />A White House spokesman explained to AP that the heavy training in this more elementary capacity came at a time when Bush was trying to generate more hours in anticipation of a six-month leave to work on a political campaign. But, in fact, this scenario is implausible. For one thing, Guard regulations did not permit him to log additional hours in that manner as a substitute for missing six months of duty later on. As significantly, there is no sign that Bush even considered going to work on that campaign until shortly before he departed – nor that campaign officials had any inkling at all that Bush might join them in several months' time.<br /><br /><br />Bush told his commanding officers that he was going to Alabama for an opportunity with a political campaign. (His Texas Air National Guard supervisors – presumably relying on what Bush told them – would write in a report the following year, "A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Alabama.") But the timing of Bush's decision to leave and his departure – about the same time that he failed to take a mandatory annual physical exam – indicate that the two may have been related.<br /><br /><br />Campaign staff members say they knew nothing of Bush's interest in participating until days before he arrived in Montgomery. Indeed, not one of numerous Bush friends from those days even recalls Bush talking about going to Alabama at any point before he took off.<br /><br /><br />Bush's behavior in Alabama suggests that he viewed Alabama not as an important career opportunity but as a kind of necessary evil.<br /><br /><br />Although his role in the campaign has been represented as substantial (in some newspaper accounts, he has been described as the assistant campaign manager), numerous campaign staffers say Bush's role was negligible, low level and that he routinely arrived at the campaign offices in the afternoon hours, bragging of drinking feats from the night before.<br /><br /><br />According to friends of his, he kept his Houston apartment during this period and, based on their recollections, may have been coming back into town repeatedly during the time he was supposedly working full-time on the Alabama campaign. Absences from the campaign have been explained as due to his responsibilities to travel to the further reaches of Alabama, but several staffers told me that organizing those counties was not Bush's de facto responsibility.<br /><br /><br />Even more significantly, in a July interview, Linda Allison, the widow of Jimmy Allison, the Alabama campaign manager and a close friend of Bush's father, revealed to me for the first time that Bush had come to Alabama not because the job had appeal or because his presence was required but because he needed to get out of Texas. "Well, you have to know Georgie," Allison said. "He really was a totally irresponsible person. Big George [George H.W. Bush] called Jimmy, and said, 'he's killing us in Houston, take him down there and let him work on that campaign....' The tenor of that was, Georgie is in and out of trouble seven days a week down here, and would you take him up there with you."<br /><br /><br />Allison said that the younger Bush's drinking problem was apparent. She also said that her husband, a circumspect man who did not gossip and held his cards closely, indicated to her that some use of drugs was involved. "I had the impression that he knew that Georgie was using pot, certainly, and perhaps cocaine," she said.<br /><br /><br />Now-prominent, established Texas figures in the military, arts, business and political worlds, some of them Republicans and Bush supporters, talk about Bush's alleged use of marijuana and cocaine based on what they say they have heard from trusted friends. One middle-aged woman whose general veracity could be confirmed told me that she met Bush in 1968 at Hemisphere 68, a fair in San Antonio, at which he tried to pick her up and offered her a white powder he was inhaling. She was then a teenager; Bush would have just graduated from Yale and have been starting the National Guard then. "He was getting really aggressive with me," she said. "I told him I'd call a policeman, and he laughed, and asked who would believe me." (Although cocaine was not a widespread phenomenon until the 1970s, US authorities were struggling more than a decade earlier to stanch the flow from Latin America; in 1967 border seizures amounted to twenty-six pounds.)<br /><br /><br />Bush himself has publicly admitted to being somewhat wild in his younger years, without offering any details. He has not explicitly denied charges of drug use; generally he has hedged. He has said that he could have passed the same security screening his father underwent upon his inauguration in 1989, which certifies no illegal drug use during the fifteen preceding years. In other words, George W. Bush seemed to be saying that if he had used drugs, that was before 1974 or during the period in which he left his Guard unit.<br /><br /><br />The family that rented Bush a house in Montgomery, Alabama, during that period told me that Bush did extensive, inexplicable damage to their property, including smashing a chandelier, and that they unsuccessfully billed him twice for the damage – which amounted to approximately $900, a considerable sum in 1972. Two unconnected close friends and acquaintances of a well-known Montgomery socialite, now deceased, told me that the socialite in question told them that he and Bush had been partying that evening at the Montgomery Country Club, combining drinking with use of illicit drugs, and that Bush, complaining about the brightness, had climbed on a table and smashed the chandelier when the duo stopped at his home briefly so Bush could change clothes before they headed out again.<br /><br /><br />It is notable that in 1972, the military was in the process of introducing widespread drug testing as part of the annual physical exams that pilots would undergo.<br /><br /><br />For years, military buffs and retired officers have speculated about the real reasons that Bush left his unit two years before his flying obligation was up. Bush and his staff have muddied the issue by not providing a clear, comprehensive and consistent explanation of his departure from the unit. And, peculiarly, the President has not made himself available to describe in detail what did take place at that time. Instead, the White House has adopted a policy of offering obscure explanations by officials who clearly do not know the specifics of what went on, and the periodic release of large numbers of confusing or inconclusive documents – particularly at the start of weekends and holiday periods, when attention is elsewhere.<br /><br /><br />In addition, the Bush camp has offered over the past few years a shifting panoply of explanations that subsequently failed to pass muster. One was that Bush had stopped flying his F-102A jet because it was being phased out (the plane continued to be used for at least another year). Another explanation was that he failed to take his physical exam in 1972 because his family doctor was unavailable. (Guard regulations require that physicals be conducted by doctors on the base, and would have been easily arranged either on a base in Texas or, after he left the state, in Alabama.)<br /><br /><br />One of the difficulties in getting to the truth about what really took place during this period is the frequently expressed fear of retribution from the Bush organization. Many sources refuse to speak on the record, or even to have their knowledge communicated publicly in any way. One source who did publicly evince doubts about Bush's activities in 1972 was Dean Roome, who flew formations often with Bush and was his roommate for a time. "You wonder if you know who George Bush is," Roome told USA Today in a little-appreciated interview back in 2002. "I think he digressed after awhile," he said. "In the first half, he was gung-ho. Where George failed was to fulfill his obligation as a pilot. It was an irrational time in his life." Yet in subsequent years, Roome has revised his comments to a firm insistence that nothing out of the ordinary took place at that time, and after one interview he e-mailed me material raising questions about John Kerry's military career. Roome, who operates a curio shop in a Texas hamlet, told me that Bush aides, including communications adviser Karen Hughes, and even the President himself stay in touch with him.<br /><br /><br />Several Bush associates from that period say that the Bush camp has argued strenuously about the importance of sources backing the President up on his military service, citing patriotism, personal loyalty and even the claim that he lacks friends in Washington and must count on those from early in his life.<br /><br /><br />In 1971 Bush took his annual physical exam in May. It's reasonable to conclude that he would also take his 1972 physical in the same month. Yet according to official Guard documents, Bush "cleared the base" on May 15 without doing so. Fellow Guard members uniformly agree that Bush should and could have easily taken the exam with unit doctors at Ellington Air Force Base before leaving town. (It is interesting to note that if the Killian memos released by CBS do hold up, one of them, dated May 4, 1972, orders Bush to report for his physical by May 14 – one day before he took off.)<br /><br /><br />Bush has indicated that he departed from Ellington Air Force Base and his Guard unit because he had been offered an important employment opportunity with a political campaign in Alabama. The overwhelming evidence suggests, however, that the Alabama campaign was a convenient excuse for Bush to rapidly exit stage left from a Guard unit that found him and his behavior a growing problem. If that's not the case, now would be an excellent time for a President famed for his superlative memory to sit down and explain what really happened in that period. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Tue, 14 Sep 2004 12:00:01 -0700 Russ Baker, The Nation 608887 at Election 2004 Election 2004 'Scoops' and Truth at the Times <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If the Times is serious about reform, it needs to stop looking just at troublesome cases like Jayson Blair and to examine its star system.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Who's the exact opposite of Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter accused of inventing sources and quotes, plagiarizing and other sins? Well, how about Judith Miller? Where Blair is young and black and inexperienced, a rookie journalist whose job was largely to interview ordinary people, Miller is middle-aged, white, and a veteran Times star whose job it is to interact with the best and the brightest in science, academia and government.<br /><br />But Blair and Miller have more in common than you might think. Both are in trouble for giving readers dubious information. While Miller's alleged improprieties are of a more subtle nature, and she comes into this rough patch with an estimable reputation built over the course of a long and distinguished career, her case reveals a great deal about the state of today's news media. What Miller did, and the fact that her brand of journalism is encouraged and rewarded by the powers that be, is precisely the kind of topic that the Times's leadership ought to air during its current semipublic <i>glasnost</i> phase. In Blair's case, the only serious damage has been to the paper's image. Miller, on the other hand, risks playing with the kind of fire that starts or justifies wars, gets people killed and plays into the hands of government officials with partisan axes to grind.<br /><br />Every morning, almost every other source of news looks to see what the Times does, then follows its lead. On the morning of April 21, in a front-page story from Iraq, Miller suggested that the main reason US forces had failed to find the much-ballyhooed Weapons of Mass Destruction -- the ostensible primary reason for the invasion -- was that they had been recently destroyed or existed only as precursors with dual, civilian uses. Her source? A man standing off in the distance wearing a baseball cap, who military sources told her was an Iraqi scientist who had told them those things. In the same piece, she floated unsupported claims alleging that Iraq had provided WMD aid to Syria and Al Qaeda. In so doing, she put the Times's imprimatur on a highly questionable formulation that was also essential to White House political interests.<br /><br />In response to questions to Miller, her editor, Andrew Rosenthal, told The Nation via e-mail that the article "made clear that Judy Miller was aware of his identity and in fact met him, but was asked to withhold his name out of concern for his personal safety." Yet the article does not bear that out. It says military officials "declined to identify him," that she was only permitted to view him from a distance and that she was not allowed to interview him but merely permitted to view a letter ostensibly written by the man, in Arabic. "What's surprising and I think disappointing is that the New York Times, not just Judith Miller, chose to take at face value the initial assessments of a US investigations team that certainly has a vested interest in finding WMD in Iraq," says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. The New York Observer spoke with sources at the Gray Lady who indicated widespread grumbling about the piece; one source called it "wacky-assed."<br /><br />But it was more than that: Miller and the Times consented to prepublication approval of her piece by the military. "Those officials asked that details of what chemicals were uncovered be deleted," Miller wrote. "They said they feared that such information could jeopardize the scientist's safety by identifying the part of the weapons program where he worked." (Why his safety would be in question with Saddam vanquished was not explained.)<br /><br />The April 21 story was one of a series of pieces on WMD in Iraq filed by Miller that relied heavily on unnamed sources and Pentagon officials. The question of how close Miller may have come to serving as a vehicle for Administration views was raised by Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz in a May 26 story. He quoted an internal e-mail by Miller in which she said that the main source for her articles on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction was Ahmad Chalabi, an exile leader who is close to top Pentagon officials. In the e-mail to Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, Miller said of Chalabi: "He has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper." As Kurtz noted, "According to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was a key source of information about weapons for the Pentagon's own intelligence unit -- information sometimes disputed by the CIA. Chalabi may have been feeding the Times, and other news organizations, the same disputed information."<br /><br />"Chalabi has NEVER been an unnamed source of mine," Miller told The Nation in an e-mail. "He has ALWAYS been named. Every time. This is one of several gross errors in Kurtz's story." Miller did not identify those errors. It's notable that Miller's comments about Chalabi don't jibe with what she told Burns in her e-mail to him. Chalabi is named or quoted in sixteen Miller articles over the past year, mostly on political topics, but in only one of those is he mentioned, even remotely, in connection with WMDs -- and then only to note that he and US military investigators might be exchanging intelligence information. If he were the New York Times's key supplier of exclusives on that subject and, as Miller claims, was not used as an unattributed source, his name should appear in those articles. Rosenthal did not comment on the Chalabi memo beyond saying Kurtz should not have published it.<br /><br />Probably the most instructive exercise in assessing Miller's reporting is to compare her with the Post's Barton Gellman. You would think the two were in different countries, if not on different planets. After Miller's "baseball cap" piece appeared, Gellman wrote an article that politely dismissed her scoop: "Without further details of the find, experts said, its significance cannot be assessed." Here are typical Miller headlines from May:<blockquote>May 21: "U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms"<br /><br />May 12: "Radioactive Material Found at a Test Site Near Baghdad"<br /><br />May 11: "Trailer Is a Mobile Lab Capable of Turning Out Bioweapons, a Team Says"<br /><br />May 9: "G.I.'s Search, Not Alone, In the Cellar of Secrets"<br /><br />May 8: "U.S. Aides Say Iraqi Truck Could Be a Germ-War Lab"</blockquote><br />Now Gellman:<blockquote>May 18: "Odyssey of Frustration; In Search for Weapons, Army Team Finds Vacuum Cleaners"<br /><br />May 11: "Frustrated, U.S. Arms Team to Leave Iraq; Task Force Unable to Find Any Weapons"<br /><br />May 10: "Seven Nuclear Sites Looted; Iraqi Scientific Files, Some Containers Missing"<br /><br />May 4: "Iraqi Nuclear Site Is Found Looted; U.S. Team Unable to Determine Whether Deadly Materials Are Missing"</blockquote><br />To be sure, Gellman's record isn't without blemishes, but he seems to have realized early on that tying his fortunes to the military's not-always-reliable sources wasn't wise. The thrust of Gellman's reporting in recent months, and his central theme, has been that no one has confirmed that Iraq actually manufactured or retained biological or chemical weapons after the last ones accounted for by UN inspectors in 1998. Miller, by contrast, either downplays this point or doesn't highlight it sufficiently.<br /><br />Miller's reporting on WMD follows a pattern established with her articles on the anthrax attacks of October 2001 [see Michael Massing, "Where Germs Rule," December 17, 2001]. The Bush Administration quickly labeled the attacks "terrorism," without being more explicit, but Miller weighed in with a co-bylined front-pager, labeled "news analysis," that implied Al Qaeda might be responsible. She wrote that according to one scientist, the discovery of expertly processed anthrax "casts serious doubt" on the theory that the attacks were the work of a lone amateur. "'I do think in one form or another, a state was involved,' one former American scientist said.... <i>Nor is it clear whether Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's network, was involved in any way. American intelligence officials say Mr. bin Laden has tried to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.</i>" [Emphasis added.]<br /><br />After the Post reported that it seemed to be the work of a "lone amateur" after all, Miller simply dropped the matter. On the same day that the Post was excising the foreign connection, Miller was back with more Osama in a co-bylined story headlined "Al Qaeda Sites Point to Tests of Chemicals," with the subhead "U.S. Suspects Bin Laden of Producing Mass Poison; U.S. Intelligence Pointed Out Two Afghan Locations Where Chemical Warfare May Be in the Making." The article itself contained numerous disclaimers about the suspected connection: "Collecting intelligence about facilities of this sort is an inexact science at best; intelligence officials and policy makers have learned from past mistakes to be wary when using such information."<br /><br />In September 2002, a year after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Miller had yet another Osama scoop provided by the authorities. Headlined "Lab Suggests Qaeda Planned to Build Arms, Officials Say," the article begins: "Pentagon officials disclosed new details today about equipment found in a laboratory near Kandahar, Afghanistan, that they contend Al Qaeda intended to use to make biological and chemical weapons."<br /><br />Is this a real story? The headline and lead are powerful. But here's the second paragraph: "The officials said the equipment -- a centrifuge for separating liquids and an oven in which slurried agents could be dried -- supported the assessment that Al Qaeda might have acquired what it needed to make 'a very limited production of biological and chemical agents,' one official said."<br /><br />Each time Miller produces an article that could induce panic, she almost always mentions, some paragraphs down, that Al Qaeda's capability to deploy or develop these types of weapons has been judged by the Bush Administration to be crude at best. But the effect remains the same. Miller gets a story with a whopper of a headline, the story gets picked up and it connects with the American zeitgeist in support of extreme measures by the Administration domestically (Patriot Act) and internationally (invade Iraq), with few reading down to where Miller deflates the balloon and thereby preserves her credibility, in the same way that politicians leak and spin while preserving their deniability.<br /><br />How did Miller get to a position in which she could write such stories and her editors give them such play? Part of the answer is journalism's star system. Out of the hundreds of thousands of journalists in America, just a handful enter the firmament of media stars, and Miller is one of them. Concentrating on the area of germ and chemical weapons, she mastered the complicated subject and racked up a score of successes, becoming part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for the Times and co-writing a formidable though somewhat flawed bestselling book on the subject. She became ubiquitous, appearing frequently on television.<br /><br />Because reporters at these levels get unparalleled access to high-level sources, they are uniquely positioned to publish information that powerfully impacts government policy, public perceptions and even life on earth. By the same token, high-level sources use these journalists to selectively make public material that is helpful to their agenda. "The reporting is indispensable, because such journalists are able to win interviews and obtain documents that others cannot," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' project on government secrecy. "It is unreliable for the same reason -- it cannot be independently confirmed. And over time, it tends to adhere to a certain narrow model of perception and a certain uniform way of thinking."<br /><br />Of course, these reporters don't act alone. Their market-driven editors are complicit, ready to hype what is often little more than tendentious hearsay in order to present front-page scoops. Aside from attracting readers, such reporting -- when it's on topics of interest to the Bush White House -- can immunize news organizations against the persistent right-wing canard that they are liberal patsies. It's safe to conclude that few people at high levels will risk their jobs -- and perhaps jail time -- to leak unauthorized material. Hence, what's given to reporters like Miller can generally be assumed to be carefully orchestrated. The leakers know that her reporting will play big. Rosenthal argues that all sources have agendas, and notes that "whenever possible, the reporter should help the reader understand these [sources'] motivations. Judy has done this consistently in her coverage of the WMD issue."<br /><br />A Miller appearance with CNBC's Brian Williams during the pre-invasion propaganda campaign shows how the game is played. Here's the intro:<blockquote>Page one in this morning's New York Times, a report by Judith Miller that Iraq has ordered a million doses of an anti-germ warfare antidote. The assumption here is that Iraq is preparing to use such weapons....</blockquote><blockquote> WILLIAMS: Iraq's attempt to buy large quantities of the antidote in question was first reported by veteran New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller in this morning's edition of the newspaper. She is also, by the way, author of the recent book on terrorism called Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War. And she is with us from the Times newsroom in New York tonight.</blockquote>Miller then explains that "what worried people" was that although the drug in question has civilian uses, it's unlikely that Saddam would order a million doses for benign purposes. "That really got heads up in Washington," she tells Williams. The anchor asks her if the "Western assumption" is that Saddam is planning to protect his military with the antidote. "Right, exactly," she replies. Consider: The highest priority of the Bush Administration was to persuade the world that Saddam Hussein constituted a grave threat. It found indications of that threat and gave them to Miller, who rushed to break the story.<br /><br />Jayson Blair used the cover of unidentified sources to make things up. Miller allows sources to hide their identities in order to advance a self-serving agenda. Using unnamed sources is a common and necessary technique in journalism. But sources should not be allowed to remain unnamed when the information they are imparting serves to directly advance their own and their employers' objectives. In other words, a reporter needs a very good justification for not naming a source -- usually because a source is saying something that could get him or her in big trouble with some powerful entity. But what kind of trouble could befall some unnamed Pentagon source who is leaking material in accord with the objectives of the current Administration? The principal motive for remaining under cover in such circumstances, besides preserving deniability, is to gain greater currency for the leaked material, as something that has received the imprimatur of our internationally recognized "newspaper of record," the New York Times.<br /><br />If the Times is serious about reform, it needs to stop looking just at troublesome cases like Jayson Blair and to examine its star system and its desire to break news, beat the competition and all the while stay in the good graces of top officials. Good journalism is about a lot more than taking advantage of connections and access. It requires going wherever the reporting takes you. Even if that means the story ends up not on the front page but on the spike. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Sun, 08 Jun 2003 21:00:00 -0700 Russ Baker, The Nation 598239 at Media Media Comparing American and British War Coverage <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">British reporting corraled facts and asked tough questions, while American press viewed the war as a chance to present an &quot;exciting&quot; story within narrow limits.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Here in Belgrade, along just about every street, satellite dishes sprout. Many residents are watching and comparing American and British coverage of the Iraq war, as are untold millions around the world. And so am I. From my position, embedded in the Third Couch Division, I see news organizations placing themselves on a spectrum of objectivity, from a great deal to absolutely none at all.<br /><br />Click. BBC: "Shells are falling within two kilometers of a port where ships arrived with humanitarian aid...the port was believed secure."... "[Citizens of Basra] are not really welcoming them. They're more weary than anything. [Coalition troops] are still men with guns in a foreign country." Click. Fox News: "What should people be thinking about as we head into the weekend?" the anchor asks a Fox military consultant, who replies: "That, aside from what the media says, the American people -- people in the heartland -- support our troops -- except for a few nuts." Anchor (laughing in agreement): "Thanks. Always a pleasure to talk to you."<br /><br />In general, for the Brits, war coverage offers an opportunity to corral facts and to ask tough questions about hugely consequential events. For the Americans, it is a chance to present an "exciting" story within narrow limits. Compared with the BBC's studied neutrality, Fox (broadcasting globally its original stateside programming, complete with Brit Hume, Mort Kondracke et al.) comes across as a kind of Gong Show of propaganda. The result is a myopic vision of war that proves alternatively nerve-racking, boring or uplifting, but in the aggregate effectively sanitizes events and numbs the audience. Watching Fox, Serbs see a striking similarity to something in their own recent past: "Why, it's just like TV here under Milosevic!"<br /><br />The privately owned Fox is actually more gung-ho in its support of the war than US government entities like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which has filed many balanced dispatches. Fox anchors report everything Arabs do with an audible sneer, while treating every official US pronouncement, no matter how self-serving, as gospel.<br /><br />It is said that 90 percent of viewer perceptions are based on visual stimuli, not actual content, and Fox certainly grasps this. When carrying the daily briefing from Centcom, Fox divides its screen. Only a small video window with sound is devoted to the briefing. In a larger window, context-less military activity unfolds, tanks fire and vehicles roll. In the upper left corner is Fox's omnipresent American flag, and at the bottom the news ticker, which further distracts from serious concentration or analysis.<br /><br />Outside the United States, viewers are deprived of CNN's star studio personas, Aaron Brown, Bobbie Batista, et al. The CNN International crew, beaming from London and other locales, is generally more balanced and professional than their stateside compatriots. But CNN International still does poorly in conveying the horror of war or providing a persuasive sampling of world opinion.<br /><br />There's also a huge skepticism gap. The American outfits bother little or not at all to frame the conflict in terms of the stated rationale: alleged weapons of mass destruction and terrorist ties. On CNN, newsbar items scroll by announcing the discovery of possible weapons of mass destruction, only to unceremoniously cancel the claims later.<br /><br />The British networks air far more footage of the situation inside places that coalition forces are attacking, providing a much better sense of what it is like to be a civilian caught up in the terror of the moment. SkyNews, like Fox, is owned by the jingoistic Rupert Murdoch, and like Fox, it exhibits unabashed support for the British troops it accompanies -- although without the embarrassingly aggressive, egregiously hostile tone of Fox.<br /><br />Fox, and CNN to a lesser extent, seem in a hurry to brush off stories about problems, miscalculations, consequences: friendly fire, civilian casualties and the exposure of Iraqi civilians to Saddamite reprisals, all subjects extensively treated by the Europeans. By comparison, when the bodies of the first British casualties arrived back in England, Sky ran the caption, "None of 10 who returned were killed by enemy."<br /><br />Generally, the fellows with the "credentials" on CNN and Fox, especially the "military experts," alternate between belaboring the yawningly obvious and exhibiting partisanship. "The goal of that bombing was to 'degrade' those targets," said one presumably well-paid former officer. BBC in particular, and SkyNews to a lesser extent, seem to encourage on-air anchors to ask reasonably tough questions and give time to smart, savvy, blunt civilian analysts.<br /><br />Click. SkyNews: Voiceover commentary from a London-based Iraqi dissident who, while eager to see Saddam Hussein vanquished, is deeply disturbed by the carnage being unleashed: "You cannot put in place a democratic government," he says. "That's an oxymoron. A democracy has to be built up gradually according to the culture of a place."<br /><br />When it comes to presenting the "Arab" side of the conflict, US networks favor footage of Iraqi officials looking ridiculous and making clearly incredible statements. On the BBC, an Arab affairs specialist comments on shifting perceptions in the greater Arab world, how he is seeing anti-Saddam moderates suddenly rooting for the dictator and what this might portend for the United States in the long run. This is followed by a brief, informative history of the Kurds. The BBC even does a better job of airing the views of thoughtful American critics of the war, including a Washington-based human rights advocate worried about the effects of cluster bombs on civilian populations.<br /><br />Of all the news channels available here, my personal favorite is the multilingual, pan-European independent news channel, Euronews. Its coverage of the war in Iraq has no marketing-department spin; it is simply labeled "The War in Iraq." We see no correspondents or anchors. We don't even know the names of those who offer the rigorously neutral narration over the raw-edged footage. Euronews also runs a feature called "No Comment," in which footage from inside and outside Iraq, collected from a wide variety of sources, airs without any narration or commentary at all. Guess which news show consistently provides the best insight and emotional comprehension of unfolding events? No comment. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Sun, 27 Apr 2003 21:00:00 -0700 Russ Baker, The Nation 597162 at Media Media Want to Be a Patriot? Do Your Job <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Journalists are wrapping themselves in the stars-and-stripes at a time when tough-minded reporting is needed more than ever.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In the aftermath of September 11, Dan Rather publicly shed patriotic tears on David Letterman’s show, demonstrating that he was in as much pain as any American and as loyal to the national cause. At the same time, TV news programs across the country were wrapping themselves in stars-and-stripes graphics as news outlets of all kinds rushed to associate themselves, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, with the nation’s surge of patriotic emotion.<br /><br />Flag-waving is not surprising in the aftermath of a full-scale attack on American civilians. As individuals, we are all part of a severely traumatized body politic. But it is precisely during the most trying periods that journalists must distance themselves from their emotions if they are to do their best work. And it is also imperative to distinguish between patriotism, love of one’s country, and nationalism -- the exalting of one’s nation and its culture and interests above all others. If patriotism is a kind of affection, nationalism is its dark side. Nationalistic pressure also makes it hard for journalists to do their job. Even today, eight months after the events, many journalists are troubled by a sense that we have failed an important test, that we have allowed certain kinds of honest reporting to be portrayed as somehow disloyal.<br /><br />Raising questions about the wisdom of government actions in wartime, particularly early in a war, is not easy. For example, early in Operation Desert Storm, ABC anchor Peter Jennings says he commissioned a piece on the antiwar activist Ramsey Clark. Despite his own sense of urgency, Jennings recalls that it took weeks to get the piece on the air. "It was not quite the right moment," he says. Internally, "people were arguing less about the relationship between the media and the administration than about the media’s relationship with its public." To confront a popular government at such a time, he says, is to be "running emotionally upstream."<br /><br />When war began in Afghanistan, Jennings says, "We decided early on that we would not exploit the violence of all of this without losing sight of how violent it was, and that we would be reluctant to sloganeer." But when Jennings and his people departed from the patriotic consensus they paid a price. Jennings had a howling pack after him, inflamed by Rush Limbaugh’s charge that the anchor was disloyal for raising questions about Bush’s conduct on September 11, when the presidential plane zig-zagged across the nation while the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were burning. (ABC eventually was able to get Limbaugh to issue a correction noting that Jennings had merely observed that some presidents are perceived as handling crises better than others.) After a study showed that Jennings paid more attention to civilian casualties in Afghanistan than either his NBC or CBS rivals, he was subject to on-air criticism from Fox News’s Brit Hume, while conservative media critics pointed to his Canadian citizenship.<br /><br />Another news program that successfully upheld journalistic principles in the post-9/11 world was Ted Koppel’s Nightline, which consistently asked pointed questions about the executive branch’s newly assumed domestic law-enforcement powers, and insisted on airing cautionary voices. This on a show that, during the Letterman affair, an unnamed ABC executive called irrelevant.<br /><br />We are, of course, at war. And the public does not have a right to know everything. Still, in the post-September 11 world, an official obsession with secrecy has grown out of the war against terrorism, making the job of the journalist even harder. As we know, Americans have been given less information about what is being done in this war than in any prior conflict in U.S. history (see "Access Denied," cjr, January/February). Lack of access to information is not, in itself, a journalistic dereliction of duty. Failing to make a public issue out of it is, however.<br /><br />"Information is being managed in this war, and frankly, we can’t expect a lot of breaks," says Jeffrey Dvorkin, ombudsman at National Public Radio. But why don’t we read and see more news about this serious problem? Walter Cronkite, who set the standard for television anchors, laments that TV no longer has the kind of editorial voice typified by the late Eric Sevareid. Cronkite says if it were up to him, he would be running "opinion of the management" editorials. "Complaining to the Pentagon is not good enough," he says. "We should be letting the public know the restrictions under which we operate."<br /><br />The need for tough-minded reporting has never been clearer. When journalists hold themselves back -- in deference to their own emotions or to the sensitivities of the audience or through timidity in the face of government pressure -- America is weakened. Journalism has no more important service to perform than to ask tough, even unpopular questions when our government wages war.<br /><br /><i>Russ Baker is a contributing editor to CJR.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Thu, 13 Jun 2002 21:00:00 -0700 Russ Baker, Columbia Journalism Review 590388 at Media Media