“Reporter Assassinated?” was AMERICAN FREE PRESS’s Issue 27, page 1 story describing the mysterious “accident,” just before investigative journalist Michael Hastings was going to go underground to avoid government agents trying to silence him. There is new information uncovered by AFP’s investigators, however, that tells the chilling rest of the story about the latest weapons in the Obama administration’s war on journalists and whistleblowers, who have the courage to tell the truth.
Now, another brave whistleblower has come forth. He is Richard Alan Clarke, the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States, serving under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Clarke confirmed AFP’s suspicions about Hastings’s “accident.”
According to Clarke, the car crash, which occurred on June 18, was “consistent with a car cyber attack.” There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers—including the U.S.—know how to remotely seize control of a car.
“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag. . . . You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard. . . . So . . . I think whoever did it would probably get away with it,” Clarke said.
Some of the spooky ways the government can “get you” have been uncovered by AFP, but were first revealed by Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a program manager at the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who wrote recently:
Modern vehicles consist of between 30 and 100 embedded control units [ECUs], essentially small computers . . . designed to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other within a vehicle without a host computer. Researchers from [the University California, San Diego] and the University of Washington showed they could take over all of the functionality of the car that’s controlled by software. And in a modern automobile, that’s pretty much everything . . . breaks . . . acceleration . . . even the steering.
[There are] a variety of ways of [remotely controlling a target vehicle] without physically touching the car. These attacks involved infecting the computers and repair shops . . . or hacking into the blue tooth system, or using the cell phone network [or GPS, OnStar, etc.].
The most ingenious attack . . . used the stereo system in the car. The researchers were able to craft an electronic version of a song that played just fine in your household stereo system or on your personal computer. But when you put that on a CD and played it in the car CD player, it took over total control of your automobile. Yeah right—pretty scary, huh?
ECUs are the ubiquitous targets of Stuxnet, Flame and other computer malware designed by Israel and the U.S. to control and destroy vehicles, electric power plants, water and sewage systems, airplanes, drones—everything. Your only defense against Big Brother’s plots is courageous whistleblowers, journalists—and, in the words of Washington—Divine Providence.
James Sheffield, Knoxville
As I write this, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial in Fort Meade, Md., facing a slew of charges pertaining to his role in a massive leak of classified government documents. More than 8,000 miles away, former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden faces the possibility of extradition to the United States from Hong Kong, where he sought refuge earlier this month after pulling off one of the most significant leaks of government secrets in U.S. history.
Thanks to Snowden’s noble actions, we now know that President Barack Obama’s administration (and that of George W. Bush’s before him) has sanctioned the widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens under a secret NSA program known as PRISM, whereby companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Verizon have been ordered to turn over information regarding their customers to the intelligence community.
People across the political spectrum are outraged, and rightfully so. Conservatives have unintentionally joined forces with those on the far left (yes, it’s true) and many liberals in chastising the Obama administration for what amounts to one of the worst instances of governmental abuse of power — at least on the domestic front — in many years.
Needless to say, none of these things would have been exposed had it not been for those brave souls who risked spending the rest of their lives in prison so that we could know what our government is up to. In light of this, we should praise these individuals as heroes, not vilify them as traitors. Everyone who is alarmed by executive overreach should be paying close attention to what happens to Manning and others like him and should be praying to whatever god they pray to that our government doesn’t succeed in silencing all future whistle-blowers. We need them, for democracy — if that is in fact what we have — cannot function otherwise.
A “Free Bradley Manning” button.
Although we had to swelter in the Maryland sun on Saturday, I found the pre-trial rally at Ft. Meade to support Bradley Manning particularly spirit-filled. It seemed there was an unspoken but widely shared consciousness that Manning is as much Biblical prophet as Army private.
I think Manning can be seen as a classic prophet in the Abrahamic tradition. Such prophets take risks to expose injustice and challenge the rest of us to do the same. They also are a very large pain to those who oppress — and a pain, as well, to those of us who would prefer not to have to bother about such things.
Prophets will neither acquiesce in injustice nor hide wrongdoing; they answer to a higher chain of command with very different “rules of engagement.” Take Isaiah, for example, who is described as an eccentric, walking around for three full years “naked and barefoot.” (Hat tip here to Rev. Howard Bess, for his recent reminder in “Rethinking the Genesis Message,” that, whereas Bible stories are largely myth and cannot be read as history, they often witness to truth in a way that mere history cannot.)
What was Isaiah trying to say by his nakedness? Biblical scholars conclude that he sought a vivid way to demonstrate to the Israelites that, if their oppressive practices did not stop they too would be “naked and barefoot, their buttocks shamefully exposed.” (Isa. 20:2-4) Or, more simply: It is not my nakedness that is shameful. It is yours — those of you who have stripped yourselves of the vision with which you were blessed, a vision of justice and shalom.
Can we borrow Isaiah’s eyesight to see and acknowledge that the abuse uncovered and revealed by Bradley Manning — including the torture and slaughter of Iraqi civilians — exposes the buttocks of us Americans? (And I refer not simply to those in the chain of command, but the rest of us too. Are you starting to feel a draft on your derriere?)
In suggesting we all need to examine our consciences, I take my cue from a more recent prophet in the tradition of Isaiah, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who insisted that wherever injustice takes place, “few are guilty, but all are responsible.” Rabbi Heschel drove home the point, adding that, “indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.”
Responsible If Unaware
Those of us Americans who have seen and heard the U.S. Army Apache helicopter gun-barrel video showing the killing of a dozen civilians (including two Reuters journalists) in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, (during President George W. Bush’s much-heralded “troop surge”) can appreciate how that video, which has been given the apt title “Collateral Murder,” leaves our buttocks “shamefully exposed.”
The premier German TV program Panorama, unlike its American counterparts, replayed the most salient parts of the gun-barrel footage, but also put context around the incident in a short 60 Minutes-type segment. Those of us who had some role in the German version begged the producers of Panorama to “undub” the program. They acknowledged the need, made an exception to their corporate policy against “undubbing,” and what emerged is a 12-minute English version titled “Shooters Walk Free, Whistleblower Jailed.”
To view the video please click on the following link
Lacking any real competition, the 12-minute English version is, in my view, the most straightforward depiction of what happened, including the war crime of murdering the “Good Samaritan,” who stopped to help one of the wounded.
War crime? Yes, war crime. “Justifying” the killing of a dozen people, including two journalists, based on the claim that a camera was mistaken for a gun and that therefore the killing was in keeping with the “Rules of Engagement,” as Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed at the time, is already a stretch. But killing someone trying to help the wounded stretches that “justification” well beyond the breaking point. It is a war crime.
As Bradley Manning commented later, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the Apache helicopter shooters] appeared to have.”
What Moved Manning?
As I see it, Manning’s motivation was not necessarily religious, but rather a profoundly human reaction of the kind described in the Cain and Abel story in Genesis. I think most of us understand the imperative to be our brother’s keeper, but I do find the Genesis story helpful in sorting through these thorny issues.
What we need to bear in mind is that Genesis is not the first book of the Bible’s Old Testament that was written; it is one of the last. It was composed during and after the Babylonian captivity (587 to 538 B.C.E.) as a counter-story and repudiation of Babylon’s religion of empire.
That kind of “religion” was based largely on the concept of redemptive violence as the way to defeat evil and stave off chaos until the next time violence would be seen as unavoidably necessary. (How fortunate that we 21st Century sophisticates have long since risen above that primitive concept!)
Counter-stories are often tools designed to repair the damage inflicted on people by abusive power systems. That’s what Genesis was all about. The Israelites desperately needed to teach their children a narrative that would negate the influence of the violence-prone, opulent Babylon — their home for half a century. (Have any of you noticed how seductive the redemptive violence ethos can be, even — or especially — in nations that claim “city-on-the-hill status?”)
One story in Genesis is key to this understanding: Abel meets a violent end at the hands of his brother Cain. When God asks Cain where his brother is, Cain gives a Babylonian-empire-type response: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In his Come Out, My People: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond, Wes Howard-Brook highlights the impact of this passage, pointing out that with this question and Cain’s response, “Genesis undermines Babylon’s claim to divinely authorized violence.”
The murderer has no escape when faced with this question because there is someone who hears the victim’s blood crying out. These words, valid for the whole history of humankind, protect the person as a creature of God from other people. No cover story, no rules of engagement, can justify Cain’s act. God hears the cry of victims even from the bloody ground. And, we can add, even from the bloodstained streets and sidewalks of Baghdad.
Howard-Brook makes the point that biblical “myths” can shed light on human behavior — and misbehavior — even today. I am not suggesting that Bradley Manning was consciously motivated by the “Am I my brother’s keeper” story in Genesis. It would be a good question to ask him. I do think this story/myth can provide both guide and warning as to how we humans are to treat one another.
Manning and Goliath
Having just begun his fourth year in prison, the “speedy trial” that is every citizen’s right starts today when Bradley Manning’s actual court martial gets under way at Ft. Meade.
Indignities galore have tainted the pre-trial proceedings. Perhaps the most egregious travesty of justice occurred on April 21, 2011, with what must be the “mother of all command-influence” assertions. At a fundraiser in San Francisco, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama was videotaped claiming that Manning “broke the law.” Taking their cue from their commander, zealous Army prosecutors down the chain of command are throwing the book at Manning, even accusing him of “aiding the enemy” and demanding a life sentence.
The objective of the Obama administration is transparent. It has little to do with the law, but rather is designed to make an object lesson of Manning. The administration wants to deter others truth-tellers who might also be tempted to reveal information that is labeled secret to hide oppression and abuse — including, in this case, U.S. war crimes.
Despite all this, Manning has kept his cool. Readers may not have learned the following from the “mainstream media,” but on Feb. 28, 2013, when Manning was finally given a chance to speak, after countless “pre-trial” Army court sessions, he said this:
“The video [of the July 12, 2007, Apache helicopter attack] depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other war-porn type videos depicting combat. However, the recording of audio comments by the aerial weapons team crew and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me. …
“The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq or MNF-I would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded.
“The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good Samaritans.’ The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the weapons team members] appeared to have.
“This dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded.
“Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
“While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew … repeatedly request authorization to fire on the bongo truck and, once granted, they engage the vehicle at least six times.
“Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote ‘Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kid’s into a battle’ unquote.
“The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body — or one of the bodies. As I continued my research, I found an article discussing the book, The Good Soldiers, written by Washington Post writer David Finkel.
In Mr. Finkel’s book, he writes about the aerial weapons team attack. As, I read an online excerpt in Google Books, I followed Mr. Finkel’s account of the event belonging to the video. I quickly realize that Mr. Finkel was quoting, I feel in verbatim, the audio communications of the aerial weapons team crew.
“It is clear to me that Mr. Finkel obtained access and a copy of the video during his tenure as an embedded journalist. I was aghast at Mr. Finkel’s portrayal of the incident. Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as ‘payback’ for an earlier attack that led to the death of a soldier. … For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally. …
“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”
A final comment or two before I leave for the start of Manning’s trial. Is it not transparent what our government wants to keep hidden from us? Is it not a safe bet that the court proceedings will be orchestrated such that what remains hidden will not be revealed? But truth has a way of seeping out. I trust that it will.
Friends in the Los Angeles Catholic Worker have given this very serious issue a light touch with bumper sticker: “Jesus Loves WikiLeaks — Mark 4:22.” Here’s the verse from Mark: “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered.”
Which prompts the question: Where are the leaders of Christian institutions on all this? Deafening silence.
Sometimes it takes a compassionate but truth-telling outsider to throw light on our country, its leaders, and its policies. After the attacks of 9/11, Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa, a long-time fearless opponent of the earlier apartheid regime, offered this prophetic word:
“I have often suggested to American Christians that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire. …
“American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth.
“You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.
“This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good. But it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all. All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”
A Charism Moment
Bradley Manning has given us a charism-moment — a Christian belief in total consecration to Jesus — and a chance to reflect on all this. It is up to us now to unwrap the red, white and blue myth and ask ourselves if we are up to taking the kind of risks required by the times, if we really believe we are “our brother’s keeper.”
As we did our best on Saturday to wave our Veterans for Peace flags, I thought back to the President’s May 23 speech on drones and on Guantanamo. With eight American flags behind him and one on his lapel, Barack Obama referred to the “ruthless demagogues who litter history.” He then added that “the flag of the United States will still wave from small town cemeteries … to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.”
And I thought of the late Howard Zinn’s observation: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Obama concluded his long speech with his customary: “And may God bless the United States of America.” If there is a God of Justice (and I believe there is), we run the risk of forfeiting that blessing, unless and until we stop playing the role of violence-prone Cain; that is, if we fail to recognize, as Bradley Manning did, the mandate to be keepers, not oppressors, of our brothers and sisters.
God will not be mocked — or fooled by flag-waving.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of (more…)
It has been widely reported but rarely acknowledged in Washington that three US citizens — Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki — were executed in Yemen by missile-equipped drones in 2011. With Holder’s latest admission, however, a fourth American — Jude Kenan Mohammed — has also been officially named as another casualty in America’s continuing drone war.
“Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of US counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki,” the letter reads in part. “The United States is further aware of three other US citizens who have been killed in such US counterterrorism operations over that same time period,” Holder said before naming the other victims.
“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” the attorney general wrote.
The news of the admission broke Wednesday afternoon when New York Times reporter Charlie Savage published the letter sent from Holder to congressional leaders in a clear attempt to counter critics who have challenged the White House for falling short of US President Barack Obama’s campaign plans of utmost transparency. Upon a growing number of executive branch scandals worsened by the Department of Justice’s recently disclosed investigation of Associated Press journalists, Holder wrote that coming clean is an effort to include the American public in a discussion all too often conducted in the shadows cast by the US intelligence community.
“The administration is determined to continue these extensive outreach efforts to communicate with the American people,” continued Holder. “To this end, the president has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified. You and other members of your committee have on numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the administration’s use of lethal force against US citizens. In light of this face, I am writing to disclose to you certain information about the number of US citizens who have been killed by US counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities.”
The letter, dated Wednesday, May 22, was addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Drone strikes have become a signature counterterrorism tool used by the Obama administration and his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and have been attributed with killing roughly 5,000 persons abroad, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). But under the covert and protective umbrella of the Central Intelligence Agency, little has been formally acknowledged from Washington as to the details of these strikes.
As part of the vaguely defined ‘War on Terror,’ the US has reportedly waged drone strikes outside of Afghanistan where the Taliban once harbored al-Qaeda. In recent years, those strikes have targeted towns in neighboring Pakistan, as well as Yemen, Somalia and perhaps elsewhere.
But despite growing criticism over escalating use of drones, the president and his office has remained adamant about defending the operations.
“It’s important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash,” Obama said last January, adding that his administration does not conduct “a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly.”
Others have argued quite the opposite, though, and have opposed these drone strikes over the lack of due process involved and the habit of accidently executing civilians in the strikes. When researchers at Stanford University and New York University published their ‘Living Under Drones’ report last September, they found that roughly 2 percent of drone casualties are of top militant leaders. The Pakistani Interior Minister has said that around 80 percent of drone deaths in his country were suffered by civilians.
Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) led a marathon filibuster on the floor of Congress to oppose the CIA’s drone program and demand the administration explain to elected lawmakers why the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is warranted in executing suspects, often killing innocent civilians as a result.
Of particular concern, Paul said, was whether or not the Obama administration would use the 2011 Yemen strike as justification to kill American citizens within the US. For 13 hours, he demanded the White House respond.
“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” Sen. Paul said. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
One day after the filibuster, both Attorney General Holder and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reached out to Sen. Paul to say the president lacks the authority to issue such a strike within the US. With this week’s letter, however, Holder admits that at least four Americans have met their demise due to US drones. He also explains why the administration felt justified in using UAVs to execute its own people.
“Al-Awlaki repeatedly made clear his intent to attack US persons and his hope that these attacks would take American lives,” wrote Holder. “Based on this information, high-level US government officials appropriately concluded that al-Awlaki posed a continuing and imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
Later, Holder says the decision to strike al-Awlaki was “not taken lightly” and was first put into plan in early 2010. Additionally, Holder said the plan was “subjected to exceptionally rigorous interagency legal review” and that Justice Department lawyers and attorneys for other agencies agreed that it was the appropriate action to take.
According to Holder, the senior al-Awlaki and Mr. Khan were killed in the same September 2011 drone strike in Yemen. The following month, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed in a strike in the same country. Mohammed, a North Carolina resident born in 1988, was killed by a drone likely in November 2011 within a tribal area of Pakistan. Mohammed was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2009 for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country, and was considered armed and dangerous by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both Khan and the older al-Awlaki were suspected members of al-Qaeda and were affiliated with the group’s magazine, Inspire.
Last February, friends of Mohammad told a North Carolina newspaper that they believed he was dead.
“Farhan Mohammed says he heard in November that his friend was killed in a drone strike,” Raleigh’s WRAL News reported in 2012. “Jude Mohammad’s pregnant wife was hysterical about her husband’s death and called her mother-in-law in the Triangle to break the news, according to Sabra. The US government hasn’t confirmed Mohammad’s death, but the people who knew him in North Carolina say it’s probably true.”
Holder declined to explain why either Mohammad or the teenage al-Awlaki were killed. President Obama is expected to discuss America’s drone program at an address in Washington on Thursday.
Genetically modified potatoes now threaten the purity of potatoes internationally. All it takes is a careless farmer to allow his modified crop to be planted elsewhere, without properly labeling the crop as modified. This would mix in the genetically modified crop with traditional, and even organic, crops. This is a legitimate environmental issue, as it is a major threat to food integrity.
In a monumental move that signifies the truly terminal state of the international food supply, Ireland’s government officials have given the green light to begin genetically modifying the iconic potato. Met with severe resistance from both citizens, watchdog organizations, and political figures, the decision allows for the genetically modified potatoes to be planted within Ireland by the Irish food development authority Teagasc.
Starting off with a trial within the nation’s borders, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized Teagasc to plant the GMO crops throughout a two hectare land plot. While supports continue to assert that the relatively small size makes the process ‘safe,’ experts from within the Emerald Isle say otherwise. In response to the idea that starting the trial with a ‘small’ land plot is safe, The Organic Trust in Dublin explains that once you unleash genetically modified seeds into the environment, the consequences that may follow do not depend on how many acres of land is modified — only the fact that genetically modified seeds have been planted.
Spokesperson Gavin Lynch stated:
It is only a two hectare trial, but that’s like saying you’re only a little bit pregnant, there are no grey areas with GM…. Organic Trust calls on Teagasc not to act on the approval granted but to adhere to the wishes of the vast majority of Irish citizens not to pollute our precious land. Not one single solitary benefit will accrue to Ireland as a result of this trial. So why it is going ahead?”
The above stated is a valid question to which the answer may hide in previously leaked documents dating as far back as 2007. It was back in 2007 that WikiLeaks cables revealed a surprising threat made to nations who rejected GMO crops and biotechnology overall. As plainly stated by the United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, all nations that oppose GMOs will be hit with calibrated ‘target retaliation’ and ‘military-style trade wars’.
Stapleton even goes on to specifically state that many European nations are culprits of such anti-GMO activity and should therefore be hit with such target retaliation. In other words, it is becoming more and more apparent that political incentives and even political threats appear to play a much greater role in the establishment of genetically modified crops and subsequent trials than public opinion. And until the public utilizes serious political activism and peacefully demands change from their representatives on a major scale, such political corruption will continue to ultimately influence decisions that affect your daily life.
The hunger strike by prisoners held at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo, Cuba, is growing, as their fight against abusive conditions and open-ended detention gains international attention.
The number of prisoners reported on hunger strike increased sharply following an April 13 raid by U.S. soldiers that put nearly every detainee into solitary lockdown.
The hunger strike began Feb. 6 after guards went through prisoners’ Korans, supposedly in search of contraband. Soldiers also seized “comfort items” such as family pictures and mail.
By April 27 some 100 of the 166 remaining Guantánamo prisoners were refusing to eat, according to U.S. officials. Attorneys for some detainees say the figure is actually closer to 130. The military is currently force-feeding 23 prisoners through their nostrils. Five of them have been hospitalized.
American Medical Association President Dr. Jeremy Lazarus stated in an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that “force feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession,” according to the Miami Herald.
“There is a growing problem of more and more detainees on a hunger strike,” Dianne Feinstein, Democratic senator and chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote in an April 25 letter to President Barack Obama’s national security director. Feinstein requested the administration review the status of the 86 detainees cleared for release or transfer in the past, to find “suitable places to continue to hold or resettle these detainees either in their home countries or third countries.”
The International Red Cross also sent a delegation to the Guantánamo prison at the end of April for an “assessment visit.”
Some media coverage of the Guantánamo hunger strike has recalled the worldwide attention and political embarrassment for the U.K. created by the 1981 hunger strike by Bobby Sands and other Irish prisoners, 10 of whom died. Imprisoned in northern Ireland, they refused food to press their demand to be treated as political prisoners by the government of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
At an April 30 White House news conference Obama said he thinks the Guantánamo prison should be closed. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing,” he said. “I don’t want these people to die.”
A total of 779 detainees have spent time in Guantánamo since January 2002, when then President George W. Bush opened the prison camp following the Sept. 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Some 613 of these have been released or transferred, most under the Bush administration, and nine have died.
Despite a January 2009 presidential executive order pledging to close the prison within a year, it has remained open. In May 2009, Obama ordered the resumption of military tribunals for some prisoners, after initially suspending their use, and affirmed that certain detainees would be held indefinitely without charges.
In November 2009 the administration made a short-lived attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in federal court for the Sept. 11 attacks. The five prisoners are now being tried by a military commission in Guantánamo, along with a sixth, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, charged in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.
A month later Obama halted the transfer of further Guantánamo prisoners to Yemen, following an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner that was traced to al-Qaeda’s branch in that country.
“There are 86 prisoners approved by Obama’s own task force for transfer. But until the hunger strike started, Obama was sitting back and doing nothing,” Andy Worthington, a British journalist who has written extensively on Guantánamo, said in a phone interview.
Supporters of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still imprisoned in Guantánamo, demonstrated April 24 outside Parliament in London, to demand his release. More than 117,000 people signed an online petition calling on the British government to take “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the U.K.,” which prompted a parliamentary debate on his detention. Families and other supporters of the Yemeni detainees have also held protests demanding their freedom.
Americans deserve to hear the dirty secrets of the CIA’s war on terror. We’ll all be better off with the truth.
In April 1975, Sen. Frank Church impaneled a special investigative committee to look into shocking accounts of CIA dirty tricks. The Church Committee ultimately published 14 reports over two years revealing a clandestine agency that was a law unto itself — plotting to assassinate heads of state (Castro, Diem, Lumumba, Trujillo), carrying out weird experiments with LSD, and suborning American journalists. As a result, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning the assassination of foreign leaders, the House and Senate established standing intelligence committees, and the United States set up the so-called FISA courts, which oversee request for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign agents.
But the war on terror unleashed the CIA once again to carry out dark deeds against America’s enemies — torture, secret detention, and “rendition” to “black sites” across the world. How have Americans reckoned, this time, with the immoral and illegal acts carried out in their name? They have not: the CIA has retained control over the narrative. As the Constitution Project’s Detainee Treatment report describes in great detail, the CIA falsely reported — to the White House as well as to the public — that torture “worked” in wresting crucial information from high-level detainees, and thus needed to be an instrument available to interrogators. Officials like Vice President Dick Cheney repeated ad nauseum that the CIA’s dark arts had saved thousands of lives. Is it any wonder that a plurality of Americans think the United States should torture terrorists?
I wrote last month about the detainee treatment report, but I find it incredibly frustrating — and all too telling — that the findings were overwhelmed by the tidal wave of coverage of the Boston bombing. Because we fear terrorism far more viscerally than we feared communism — certainly by 1975 — we are all too susceptible to the view that America cannot afford to live by its own professed values. But of course that’s what Chileans and Brazilians thought in the 1970s. That’s why Sri Lankans have granted themselves the right to slaughter homegrown terrorists wholesale, and react furiously to any hint of criticism.
People give themselves a pass unless and until they are forced to face the truth, which is why a public airing of history is so important — and so politically fraught. There’s always a compelling reason to avoid facing the ugly truth. In early 2009, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for an independent commission to investigate allegations of torture. But President Barack Obama’s spokesman said that the proposal would not be “workable.” We know what he meant: you can hardly blame the president for avoiding a colossal fight with Republicans over the past, especially, when he had so many fights he needed to wage over the future.
Obama probably thought that he could put the problem to rest by ending torture as well as the cult of secrecy surrounding CIA practices. He succeeded on the first count, but failed on the latter. In April 2009, he agreed to release the so-called “torture” memos written by President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as well as photos of prisoner abuse from Iraq and Afghanistan. But then, after a fierce debate inside the White House said to pit Obama’s military commanders against his counselor, Gregory Craig, among others, the administration reversed itself. The president later signed legislation allowing him to withhold the pictures if he determined that the release would harm national security.
Once adopted, the logic of national security carries all before it. The release of the OLC memos, the detainee treatment report notes, was the high-water mark of Obama-era transparency on torture. CIA reports on the death of three prisoners in custody as well as on broad policy towards detainees remain classified; so do the results of inquiries by the armed forces criminal investigation division. The agency’s ability to withhold information probably contributed to the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue indictments on any of the 100 or so cases of CIA mistreatment which it investigated. Defense lawyers in the military trial of the “9/11 defendants” held at Guantanamo have had to work around a “protection order” which classifies entire subject areas — including anything related to the defendants’ arrest or capture, the conditions in which they were held, or the interrogation techniques to which they were subjected. Whatever becomes of the defendants, Americans will learn nothing from the trials.
On matters of secrecy, Obama has been little better than Bush. This has become notorious in the case of the drone program, a centerpiece of Obama’s prosecution of the war on terror. In a recent speech at the Oxford Union, Harold Koh, the former chief counsel of the State Department, said that the administration has failed to be “transparent about legal standards and the decision-making process that it has been applying.”
I asked Koh why the White House has so regularly deferred to the CIA on issues of transparency and accountability. Koh pointed out that the CIA’s concern that exposing past bad acts could serve as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda was hardly trivial. But, he said of the White House: “They don’t have a good balancing mechanism on the value of disclosures. It’s almost like if nobody’s clamoring for it, the pressure can be resisted.” The pressure comes from the outside — from the press, from civil-liberties groups, and activists — but not from the inside. So the CIA carries the day.
And yet it’s not too late to expose, and learn from, the sorry history of the last decade. Last December, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a 6,000-page report on the finding of its secret investigation into the treatment of detainees. The report, which has not been made public, describes the CIA’s detention program in minute detail. Among other things, it puts to rest the canard that torture works. In his confirmation hearings, CIA director John Brennan admitted that the report had led him to question “the information that I was given at the time” that so-called “enhanced techniques” had saved lives.
Brennan has learned this; other Americans may not have the chance. The CIA is likely to both dispute the findings and to try to keep them secret. In a letter to Obama, Sen. Mark Udall complained that Brennan had shown “little to no interest” in working with his staff, and had already missed the deadline for response by more than two months. A congressional aide said that there was no sign that the White House had even examined the report, much less prepared a response.
The good news is that the irrepressible Vice President Joe Biden recently advocated publishing the findings, saying that Americans needed to “excise the demons” through a full disclosure of past abuses. Biden even compared the redemptive value of facing the truth on torture to the effect of the war-crimes tribunals on Germany. Obama probably didn’t authorize the analogy, but he may well have signed off on the position — in which case the comment should be read as a pre-emptive shot across the CIA’s bow.
In the course of questioning Brennan during Senate hearings, Sen. Udall quoted Howard Baker, the widely admired Republican moderate from the bygone age of Republican moderates, to the effect that the Church Committee report may well have weakened the CIA in the short run, but strengthened it in the long run — by reminding the agency of what it should as well as shouldn’t do. Apparently even the CIA agrees, since its website carries an admiring description of the committee’s findings. If and when the Senate Intelligence Committee report is made public, in whole or in part, current and former CIA officials, conservative pundits, and Republican politicians will no doubt join as one to warn that America’s national security has been compromised, its enemies emboldened, its intelligence operatives compromised. That’s what they said in 1975. They were wrong then, and they will be wrong now.
Obama, who has betrayed democracy in America, unleashing execution on American citizens without due process of law and war without the consent of Congress, provoked Maduro’s response by suggesting that Maduro’s newly elected government might be fraudulent. Obviously, Obama is piqued that the millions of dollars his administration spent trying to elect an American puppet instead of Maduro failed to do the job.
If anyone has accurately summed up Washington, it is the Venezuelans.
Who can forget Chevez standing at the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York City speaking of George W. Bush? Quoting from memory: “Right here, yesterday, at this very podium stood Satan himself, speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulphur.”
Hegemonic Washington threw countless amounts of money into the last Venezuelan election, doing its best to deliver the governance of that country to a Washington puppet called Henrique Capriles, in my opinion a traitor to Venezuela. Why isn’t this American puppet arrested for treason? Why are not the Washington operatives against an independent country — the US ambassador, the counsels, the USAID/CIA personnel, the Washington funded NGOs — ordered to leave Venezuela immediately or arrested and tried for spying and high treason? Why allow any presence of Washington in Venezuela when it is clear that Washington’s intention is to make Venezuela a puppet state like the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Japan, and on and on.
There was a time, such as in the Allende-Pinochet era, when the American left-wing and a no longer extant liberal media would have been all over Washington for its illegal interference in the internal affairs of an independent country. But no more. As CounterPunch‘s Jeffrey St. Clair has recently made clear, the American left-wing remains “insensate to the moral and constitutional transgressions being committed by their champion” — the first black, or half-black, US president — leaving “Rand Paul to offer official denunciations concerning [Washington’s] malignant operations” against independent countries.
Against the Obama regime‘s acts of international and domestic violence, “the professional Left — from the progressive caucus to the robotic minions of Moveon.org — lodge no objections and launch no protests.” St. Clair has written a powerful article. Read it for yourself here.
I think the American left-wing lost its confidence when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Chinese communists and Indian socialists turned capitalist. Everyone misread the situation, especially the “end of history” idiots. The consequence is a world without strong protests of Washington’s and its puppet states’ war criminal military aggressions, murder, destruction of civil liberty and human rights, and transparent propaganda: “Last night Polish forces crossed the frontier and attacked Germany,” or so declared Adolf Hitler. Washington’s charges of “weapons of mass destruction” are even more transparent lies.
But hardly any care. The Western governments and Japan are all paid off and bought, and those that are not bought are begging to be bought because they want the money too. Truth, integrity, these are dead-letter words. No one any longer knows what they mean.
The moronic George W. Bush said, in Orwellian double-speak, they hate us for our freedom and democracy. They don’t hate us because we bomb them, invade them, kill them, destroy their way of life, culture, and infrastructure. They hate us because we are so good. How stupid does a person have to be to believe this BS?
Washington and Israel present the world with unmistakable evil. I don’t need to stand at the UN podium after Bush or Obama. I can smell Washington’s evil as far away as Florida. Jeffrey St. Clair can smell it in Oregon. Nicolas Maduro can smell it in Venezuela. Evo Morales can smell it in Bolivia from where he cast out CIA-infiltrated USAID. Putin can smell it in Russia, although he still permits the treasonous “Russian opposition” funded by US money to operate against Russia’s government. The Iranians can smell it in the Persian Gulf. The Chinese can smell it as far away as Beijing.
Homeland Security, a gestapo institution, has “crisis actors” to help it deceive the public in its false flag operations.
The Obama regime has drones with which to silence American citizens without due process of law.
Homeland Security has more than a billion rounds of ammunition, tanks, a para-military force. Detention camps have been built.
Are Americans so completely stupid that they believe this is all for “terrorists” whose sparse numbers require the FBI to manufacture “terrorists” in so-called “sting operations” in order to justify the FBI’s $3 billion special fund from Congress to combat domestic terrorism?
Congress has taxpayers paying the FBI to frame up innocents and send them to prison.
This is the kind of country American has become. This is the kind of “security” agencies it has, filling their pockets by destroying the lives of the innocent and downtrodden.
“In God we trust,” reads the coinage. It should read: “In Satan we follow
Even in death, Thatcher’s zombie ideology that “there is no alternative” will continue to feed on our imagination. The time has come to prove her wrong.
Thatcher is dead — and I am in a state of mourning. I am mourning because she got away with it. Just like that disgusting dictatorial friend of hers, General Pinochet, when the mass-murdering monster peacefully died in his sleep in 2006. They both got away with it. And worse: each left behind an ideological legacy so politically and culturally pervasive that we are still beating our heads into the wall just to try and erase it. Like some kind of zombie ideology preying on our collective imagination, the undying spirit of Pinochet and Thatcher lingers on into the 21st century. We protest, we write, we riot — but nothing ever seems to change. For these are the undead. They cannot die.
“Liberalize, privatize, stabilize!” The austerity mantra is repeated by bland and lifeless technocrats from Mexico to Greece, while teenage students lock themselves up in high schools and go on hunger strike in Santiago de Chile. Others run riot in the street, dragging policemen off their horses and beating them up with sticks. In London, the disaffected youth rise up in riotous fury, attacking police, looting shops and burning down their neighbor’s homes. “There is no alternative,” Thatcher said. In this neoliberal era of cynicism, the only alternative left for Generation Playstation has become the emulation of the effigies of consumerism; or burning down its symbols of authority.
The traditional Left still has good reason to hate Thatcher, and perhaps to organize some kind of public party on her state-funded grave. I don’t blame them. But I also don’t think the celebration of her long-awaited death will do the cause of the Left much good. The traditional Left — based as it is on defunct political parties and dysfunctional trade unions that toppled over the moment the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew a whiff of its neoliberal hot air at them — is clearly moribund and destined for the dustbin of history. Partly, the ferocity with which Thatcher pursued her state-based class war was responsible for its demise; but for the most part the decline of state-oriented labor activism is simply the result of a process of structural change that goes far beyond the actions of an individual woman.
In an otherwise profoundly misguided article, Slavoj Zizek once rightly observed that the greatest achievement of Thatcherism was not the 11-year rule of Thatcher herself, but the premiership of Tony Blair. There is a truth in these words that should weigh heavily on the conscience of all those who remain committed to social change today. The great triumph of Thatcher’s neoliberal project resides not in the many confrontational ways in which she sought to weaken Labour, but rather in the subversive ways in which her polarizing rhetoric actually ended up strengthening Labour — eventually turning it into the most powerful weapon of the capitalist class. If anything, Tony Blair proved that it was never really Thatcher who ruled Britain, but the financial interests in the City of London all along.
From the very beginning it was clear that Thatcher was really just the bitch of financial capital — who did not mind biting ordinary citizens in the face on its behalf. She deregulated the financial sector with a religious ferocity that would make even an inquisition-era Pope blush; but she was by no means single-handedly responsible for the financialization and de-industrialization of the British economy. Indeed, the seeds of that process go back way further, at least to the late 1950s, when a combination of structural pressures and deliberate state actions helped to establish the so-called Eurodollar markets in London, which effectively served to re-establish the City as a major international financial center. And, of course, Thatcher’s deregulation of the City continued with equally dogmatic conviction under Tony Blair.
In this sense, Thatcher is hated not because she assaulted labor and destroyed the British welfare state — but because she did it with such religious zeal and such extreme determination. She was hated, in other words, not for the policies and ideas she pursued but for the ugly face she put on them, and the extremely obnoxious squeaking voice with which she barked at her opponents. Ultimately, Thatcher was hated because she personified the naked logic of class warfare operating underneath the technocratic surface of her neoliberal project. She was hated because she made “there is no alternative” sound like there really was no alternative; and because her version of class warfare seemed to veer on the same blunt brutality that had marked the profoundly dehumanizing logic of laissez-faire capitalism in the Victorian era.
For this, we should actually be grateful to Thatcher: at least she made it very obvious where she stood. From the extreme police brutality at the Battle of Orgreaves to the highly symbolic milk snatching from school children, Thatcher’s approach to class struggle was straightforward and in-your-face: “my job is to stop Britain going red”, she once proudly boasted. Under Thatcher, as under Reagan and George W. Bush, the battle-lines were clearly drawn: you were either with her or against her. Things were so simple then. What are we to do today, with the Orwellian ideological apparatus of the neoliberal project firing on all cylinders? Thatcher’s dictum that “there is no such thing as society” became Cameron’s “Big Society”. The policies and social outcomes are still the same, but many people just don’t see it anymore.
In the global class war of the 21st century, Thatcher’s blunt upper-class sneers have been replaced with the seemingly progressive reason of the embarrassingly subservient Nick Clegg; Pinochet’s murderous role in suppressing the Left became Piñera’s heroic role in saving trapped Chilean miners; Reagan’s cowboy attitude to CIA-sponsored coups and US invasions in Latin America has long since made way for Obama’s friendly smiles and silent drone strikes. In the process, the dehumanizing logic of global capitalism and neoliberal ideology is obscured with a gentle layer of good-intent. This is capitalism with a human face; a blend of market fundamentalism specifically tailored to making you believe it is in your best interest to obey.
But the financial meltdown of 2008 and the deluge of public debt that followed in its wake have made it clear that the financial sector still pulls the strings everywhere, and that the political puppet-show and democratic dress-rehearsal repeated every four years or so are just that: superficial changes to cover up a terrifying process of structural change towards ever greater capitalist control over our lives. Coming on the heels of the collapse of the corporatist Keynesian compromise that had marked the post-war decades, Thatcher’s relentless assault on the working class came to embody that structural change — it came to represent it. But it remains crucially important to make a distinction here: it was not Thatcher who systematically erased our dignity and destroyed our society. It was the capitalist system she sought to defend.
If there is one thing that captures Thatcherism as an ideology and sets it apart from the naked logic of capitalism as Thatcher otherwise expounded it, it must be the immensely effective mantra that “there is no alternative.” In this respect, Thatcher helped to bring about one of the most dramatic and most successful suppressions of humanity’s collective imagination since the invention of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the mantra was so powerful that it continues to be repeated ad nauseam by the right today — in the proclamations of Troika representatives, for instance, when they claim that “there is no alternative” to dramatic budget cuts, impossible tax hikes and a mass firesale privatization of state assets in Greece or Spain. This is surely the most powerful way to repress change and avoid any democratic debate.
And yet the mantra’s most destructive and subversive legacy resides not in its dogmatic appropriation by the right, but in the many subversive ways in which it managed to undermine the collective imagination of the Left. For instance, when reviewing David Graeber’s new book on democracy, John Kampfner argues that “Graeber’s unwillingness to set out credible economic and political alternatives is curious.” But did not Graeber, by helping to set up the New York General Assembly and by explicitly mentioning Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots and its emphasis on direct democracy, provide precisely such an already-existing alternative? Was not the prefigurative politics of the Occupy movement precisely the type of real-world alternative we have all been longing for? By just refusing to see it, Kampfner indirectly helps to perpetuate Thatcher’s dictum that there is, indeed, no alternative.
Either way, regardless of how successful her ideological mantras may have been, Thatcher was never really the prophet her supporters made her out to be. In the 1980s, she unapologetically defended the Apartheid regime in South Africa, stating that Mandela’s ANC “is a typical terrorist organisation” and “anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.” For Thatcher, there was apparently no alternative to white racist rule in South Africa. Luckily, it only took a few years for the Iron Lady to be proven wrong. Now that global capitalism and neoliberal ideology are running on their last legs, the time has come for us — those anti-capitalists living in “cloud-cuckoo land” — to prove her wrong once more.
New Film Explores Obama’s War on Whistleblowers and the Free Press
Four cases reveal the administration’s extraordinary crackdown on national-security whistleblowers.
—By Dana Liebelson
Americans love the idea of the whistleblower: one brave person willing to stick their neck out for the greater good, even in the face of severe blowback. Many American high school students read On Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau‘s classic treatise that urges Americans to take a stand against government’s ills. But more than 160 years later, legal protections for whistleblowers haven’t caught up with Thoreau’s ideals. Americans who disclose government misconduct risk losing their jobs and their homes—and some are prosecuted under the Espionage Act, a 1917 law originally intended for dealing with foreign spies. That’s life for national-security whistleblowers under the Obama Administration, according to a new documentary premiering next week titled War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State.
The film, a project of the Brave New Foundation, focuses on four whistleblowers: Michael DeKort, a former project manager for Lockheed Martin; Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency; Franz Gayl, an adviser for the Marine Corps; and Thomas Tamm, a former attorney to the Department of Justice. Each exposed grave misconduct, and each faced severe reprisals from their employers and the government. The film also includes commentary from one of the most famous whistleblowers of all time: Daniel Ellsberg, a Vietnam War analyist for the military who released the “Pentagon Papers,” which detailed US mistakes in Vietnam.
“It’s extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong,” says Drake, who was charged under the Espionage Act for disclosing secret warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency (the major felony charges were eventually dropped after an outpouring of public support for Drake.) “Speaking truth to power is now a criminal act.” Jane Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker who won the George Polk Award for her coverage of the Drake case, explains the unusual measures she had to take during the course of reporting the story. She and Drake couldn’t talk on the phone because he was being charged with leaking and there was concern of eavesdropping, so she had to meet sources in unmarked hotel rooms. “It does not feel like America, land of the free press,” she says in the film.
Michael DeKort was a lead systems engineer at Lockheed Martin, in charge of the Deepwater program for the Coast Guard. He became aware of serious problems with Lockheed’s execution of the contract. “The waterproof radios weren’t waterproof, the communications equipment could compromise national security, the electronics equipment installed outside of the boats wouldn’t survive harsh weather, and the camera surveillance system had major blind spots,” he tells Mother Jones. After his supervisors refused to listen to his complaints, he made a YouTube video exposing the problems and was dismissed by Lockheed, a move that led to a congressional hearing, the boats being taken out of service, and quite possibly, a life-saving deterrent against disaster. DeKort says he is still assisting the Department of Justice with its case against the subcontractor that performed the hull design services, but the US government “has no apparent intention to compensate me for bringing the problem to attention.”
The filmmakers take great care to emphasize the difference between leakers and whistleblowers, framing their subjects as the latter. As Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, explains, whistleblowers are employees that disclose information they “reasonably believe evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety” while leakers simply make secret information public (in many cases, whistleblowers take extreme care not to divulge classified information).
It’s a distinction the Obama Administration hasn’t always made, mounting an aggressive campaign against Drake and spearheading a multiyear investigation against Thomas Tamm, who went to the New York Times with information about George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
In November 2012, Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), a law that improves protections for federal employees and makes it easier for the government to discipline employees who retaliate against whistleblowers—a crucial provision, given that many whistleblowers lose their jobs. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 also includes a section that strengthens protections for government contractors—a law that would have greatly helped DeKort’s case.
“We’ve never had a president more supportive of federal workers who blow the whistle—except when it comes to national security,” Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight, where I used to work, tells Mother Jones. National security and intelligence employees were left out of the WPEA, and even though the president issued a policy directive extending protections to these employees, Canterbury says that the directive has inherent problems. For one thing, it protects only whistleblowers who report wrongdoing internally—which can be self-defeating when your employer is behind the wrongdoing. Tom Devine, legal director at the Government Accountability Project, also notes that Obama is seeking new rules that would allow the government to fire thousands of employees without appeal if they work in the national-security arena. “We’ve warned the White House many times, if you put whistleblowers in jail your legacy will be defined for prosecuting them for exercising free speech rights,” says Devine.
DeKort, who blew the whistle on Lockheed, adds that the government needs to understand that “if people did the right thing, whistleblowers wouldn’t exist. When was the last time a whistleblower raised an issue that wasn’t correct? Do you know how insane you’d have to be to go through all this crap if you were wrong?”
Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded and still have no right to sue?
NATO forces have refused to turn Afghan prisoners over to some local jails due to concerns about the torture committed in many of those detention centers. After a dozen years of U.S. efforts to export democracy to Afghanistan, that’s just one example of why this mission has proven to be an utter failure.
The Guantánamo prison also illustrates what’s gone wrong with our permanent battle formerly known as the Global War on Terror. President Barack Obama promised to shut it down when he was first sworn in four years ago, but the Caribbean detention center is still wrecking lives and standing as a gleaming symbol of so many things that are wrong with U.S. foreign policy.
The biggest obstacle to closing Gitmo is the dilemma of what to do with the detainees still held there. In any event, Congress has barred their transfer to American soil. People here have rights, or at least used to, and we surely can’t afford to let terror suspects claim any of those.
The farther they are from U.S. shores, and the murkier the justice systems of the receiving nations, the harder it’s going to be to trace any appalling abuse back to our “anti-terrorism” experts.
So hard, in fact, that Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled it can’t be done. No prosecutions await, therefore, for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Petraeus, Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, or the hundreds — maybe thousands — of underlings who oversaw acts of torture committed in U.S. custody or later covered them up. We can’t be entirely sure whether such deeds still go on until some brave soul makes another movie or another whistleblower decides it’s worth life in jail to tell us.
The FBI prosecuted him for divulging the name of another agent to a journalist. Even though the reporter didn’t publish the operative’s name, Kiriakou began serving a 30-month prison sentence on Feb. 28. This made the whistleblower the only CIA officer to do time for anything related to torture
As Kiriakou’s fate indicates, our justice system isn’t much help for thwarting government-sponsored abuse. A federal appeals court has ruled that even U.S. citizens who were tortured by our own military have no “right of action.” How’s that? Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded too and still have no right to sue? Attacked by one of our own government’s drones?
Historically, it’s no surprise that torture turns out to be an established weapon in America’s diplomatic arsenal.
After all, look at the history behind the School of the Americas, where some of the most vicious leaders in Latin America learned terror techniques at our behest. That training beefed up our ability to defend friendly dictators in the West, and to oust leftist leaders who somehow managed to get elected.
U.S. citizens understandably have trouble knowing what to believe. It just can’t be true that our own virtuous democracy has, now or ever, perpetuated torture. But then there is all the evidence. Guantánamo detainees have been subjected to everything from sensory deprivation to Chinese torture techniques.
Washington will have us believe that the victims are all terrorists. And the Republicans (John McCain aside) say it’s really OK since we must be getting some valuable information.
The rest of the world isn’t quite so sure. A war crimes tribunal in Malaysia has independently found the United States guilty of those crimes. So have the European Court of Human Rights and the Italian Supreme Court.
In his second term, President Barack Obama should shut Gitmo and put an end to these abuses that stain our nation’s integrity.
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org
Hola mi amigos!
Buenvenidos and Ding Dong, for the Dictator Hugo Chavez is dead! God struck Hugo Chavez dead with his awesome power! Let this be a message to all dictators! If God’s President Obama called you out into the Axis of Evil, your days are numbered!
For years Hugo Chavez broke the greatest commands of the Bible, refusing to bow before America’s glory and freely share all the oil in his country with the nation drafted to protect the Western hemisphere from communist East Bloc tyranny.
Chavez always bad-mouthed President George W. Bush and even made friends with mean spirited dictators like Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is rumored that Adolph Hitler may have been hiding in Argentina as well.
Most famously, Hugo Chavez threatened to not share our oil in Venezuela and Argentina with us. America automatically owns the Western hemisphere by virtue of the Monroe Doctrine, so his actions were criminal and unjust.
ith Chavez out of the way, South America is in chaos and it is the perfect chance for America to muscle in and coerce a governor over the people, to kindly rule them toward democracy and setup some Halliburton drilling. Hopefully you fools invested in that company because the fields will be a-flowing with the beautiful crude oil!
How appropriate that the Wizard of Oz is coming back to theaters soon, because the wicked dictator is dead. Bye-bye.