The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating.”We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: ” There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify ” in criminal proceedings.”
At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.
Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.
The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies — including the NSA and CIA — are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.
That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”
Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.
Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” — it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.
News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.
At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance — and has sometimes landed them in federal court.
Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article — headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” — the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”
Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists — and whistleblowers.
The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Norman Solomon is the author of many books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” which has been adapted into a documentary film. For more information, go to: http://www.normansolomon.com
It has now been a year since I entered this embassy and sought refuge from persecution.
As a result of that decision, I have been able to work in relative safety from a US espionage investigation.
But today, Edward Snowden’s ordeal is just beginning.
Two dangerous runaway processes have taken root in the last decade, with fatal consequences for democracy.
Government secrecy has been expanding on a terrific scale.
Simultaneously, human privacy has been secretly eradicated.
A few weeks ago, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on an ongoing program — involving the Obama administration, the intelligence community and the internet services giants — to spy on everyone in the world.
As if by clockwork, he has been charged with espionage by the Obama administration.
The US government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off.
It is getting to the point where the mark of international distinction and service to humanity is no longer the Nobel Peace Prize, but an espionage indictment from the US Department of Justice.
Edward Snowden is the eighth leaker to be charged with espionage under this president.
Bradley Manning‘s show trial enters its fourth week on Monday.
After a litany of wrongs done to him, the US government is trying to convict him of “aiding the enemy.”
The word “traitor” has been thrown around a lot in recent days.
But who is really the traitor here?
Who was it who promised a generation “hope” and “change,” only to betray those promises with dismal misery and stagnation?
Who took an oath to defend the US constitution, only to feed the invisible beast of secret law devouring it alive from the inside out?
Who is it that promised to preside over The Most Transparent Administration in history, only to crush whistleblower after whistleblower with the bootheel of espionage charges?
Who combined in his executive the powers of judge, jury and executioner, and claimed the jurisdiction of the entire earth on which to exercise those powers?
Who arrogates the power to spy on the entire earth — every single one of us — and when he is caught red handed, explains to us that “we’re going to have to make a choice.”
Who is that person?
Let’s be very careful about who we call “traitor”.
Edward Snowden is one of us.
Bradley Manning is one of us.
They are young, technically minded people from the generation that Barack Obama betrayed.
They are the generation that grew up on the internet, and were shaped by it.
The US government is always going to need intelligence analysts and systems administrators, and they are going to have to hire them from this generation and the ones that follow it.
One day, their generation will run the NSA, the CIA and the FBI.
This isn’t a phenomenon that is going away.
This is inevitable.
And by trying to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the US government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.
This isn’t how to fix things.
The only way to fix things is this:
Change the policies.
Stop spying on the world.
Eradicate secret law.
Cease indefinite detention without trial.
Stop assassinating people.
Stop invading other countries and sending young Americans off to kill and be killed.
Stop the occupations, and discontinue the secret wars.
The charging of Edward Snowden is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights.
That tactic must not be allowed to work.
The effort to find asylum for Edward Snowden must be intensified.
What brave country will stand up for him, and recognize his service to humanity?
Tell your governments to step forward.
Step forward and stand with Snowden.
The Obama administration has taken a hard line on secrecy and internal security, aggressively prosecuting leakers and using surveillance programs to uncover journalists’ anonymous sources. And according to the McClatchy news agency, a program aimed at preventing leaks could be discouraging whistleblowing by equating it with treason. McClatchy has apparently reviewed documents for the administration-wide Insider Threat Program, which was created in 2011 after Bradley Manning released classified cables to WikiLeaks.
The program is meant to make it easier for agencies to prevent employees from leaking information, asking them to evaluate workers’ trustworthiness and set severe penalties for intentionally breaking security protocol or failing to report a breach. But it also supposedly leaves the actual definition of a threat broad, meaning that almost anything could fall under the program’s jurisdiction. While the administration has attempted to make it easier for would-be whistleblowers to report problems through internal channels, McClatchy says a Defense Department document describes any kind of security breach as a kind of espionage. “Hammer this fact home,” it apparently says, “leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States.”
“ARE THEY CHEERY? ARE THEY LOOKING AT SALON.COM OR THE ONION DURING THEIR LUNCH BREAK?”
The program also directs agencies to monitor their employees, which is standard practice in any high-security area. Frequently, that means watching for high-risk indicators like financial or marital problems, which can provide leverage for blackmailers or foreign intelligence agencies. But some non-intelligence agencies apparently encourage employees to watch each other for potential risk factors, which could fuel mistrust — especially since these factors can be something as innocuous as working at unusual hours.
At worst, it can mean telling employees to be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t seem happy enough. “It’s about people’s profiles, their approach to work, how they interact with management. Are they cheery? Are they looking at Salon.com or The Onion during their lunch break? This is about The Stepford Wives,” complained an anonymous Pentagon official.
The Obama administration has been public about the need for tracking insider threats, and we’ve known for years that there’s a fine line between looking for spies and cracking down on “disgruntled” but trustworthy employees. President Obama and other officials have also been open about the fact that they consider even principled leaking treasonous. These revelations about the Insider Threat Program underscore this, while making it clear that we’ll likely see even bigger crackdowns in the wake of Edward Snowden’s attempt to evade prosecution for espionage.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that theAP leak put U.S. lives at risk and demanded “very aggressive” method of investigation, reported the BBC.
Revelations this week of a secret Justice Department seizure of two months’ worth of phone records from The Associated Press are the latest flare up in tense relationship between the U.S. government and the media when it comes to whistleblowers.
The Obama administration’s legacy with access to information and whistleblowers has been contentious. While the administration claims it’s the “most transparent” in history, many critics accused the president of doublespeak on the issue, lauding whistleblowers with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement act of November 2012 while aggressively prosecuting leaks at the same time.
According to a statement from the White House, the president’s office was not involved in the Justice Department’s request of the AP’s phone records, reported The Huffington Post.
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has waged the most aggressive campaign against whistleblowers in U.S. history, responsible for six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. See a brief timeline of the prosecutions assembled by the newspaper here, including the famous 1973 Pentagon Papers case.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the act as a “grave violation” of press freedom and argued that the Justice Department’s overstep signals the need for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from government interference.
The Obama administration has six current and former government officials indicted on leak-related charges so far, reported The New York Times this morning. Here’s a list of them:
1. Shamai K. Leibowitz, 2009
Leibowitz, a former-FBI Hebrew translator, pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to Richard Silverstein who blogs at Tikun Olam, reported AlterNet. The translator passed 200 pages of transcribed conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. Leibowitz was sentenced to up to 20 months in prison, according to The Washington Post.
2. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, 2010
Kim was a nuclear proliferation expert working on a contract basis for the U.S. State Department when he was accused of leaking information about North Korea to Fox News.
The Justice Department claimed that Kim was the source behind Fox News journalist James Rosen’s 2009 report suggesting that the North would likely test another nuclear bomb in reaction to a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its tests, reported AlterNet.
Kim pleaded not guilty to the charges. A Federal Grand Jury indicted him but the case has not gone to trial, according to The New York Times.
3. Thomas Drake, 2010
Drake worked as a senior executive at the National Security Agency when he was charged with “willful retention” of classified documents under the Espionage Act. He leaked information about government waste on digital data gathering technology to The Baltimore Sun, according to AlterNet.
At one point Drake faced up to 35 years in prison for several charges. Eventually, most of the charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a computer.” He was sentenced to one-year probation and community service.
4. Pfc. Bradley Manning, 2010
Probably the best known of the six under indictment, Manning was the source behind the WikiLeaks and CableGate information dumps. Critics accuse the government of dragging its feet and aggressively redacting requests for public information about the trial. One journalist opined that the Guantanamo military tribunals were more transparent.
Manning faces a court martial and a harsher sentence that could include life in prison without parole, reported The New York Times. AlterNet pointed out, however, that prosecutors would have to prove Manning released the documents with the intention of harming the U.S. to win those harsher charges, something Manning denies. His trial is set for next month, June 3.
5. Jeffery Sterling, 2010
Sterling, a former-CIA official, pleaded not guilty to leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen regarding a failed U.S. attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The information in question was published in Risen’s book “State of War.”
Risen successfully fought several subpoenas from the federal government to reveal his sources during Sterling’s trial, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Justice Department announced in the summer of 2012 that it has “effectively terminated” the case, according to the Times.
6. John C. Kiriakou, 2012
One of the few prosecuted under the Espionage act to serve jail time, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Jan. 25, 2013, for leaking classified information to the media. Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to releasing the name of an undercover CIA agent to a reporter and information about the intelligence agency’s use of waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique.
Kiriakou is the first person successfully prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years, according to the Times. The reporter the ex-CIA official spoke to did not publish the undercover agent’s name, although the Times pointed out that the agent’s identity appeared in a sealed legal filing and on an “obscure” website.
Hey America! Freedom is just around the corner…behind you
The Internet Clampdown
One saving grace of alternative media in this age of unfettered corporate conglomeration has been the internet. While the masses are spoon-fed predigested news on TV and in mainstream print publications, the truth-seeking individual still has access to a broad array of investigative reporting and political opinion via the world-wide web. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the government moved to patch up this crack in the sky. Attempts to regulate and filter internet content are intensifying lately, coming both from telecommunications corporations (who are gearing up to pass legislation transferring ownership and regulation of the internet to themselves), and the Pentagon (which issued an “Information Operations Roadmap” in 2003, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, which outlines tactics such as network attacks and acknowledges, without suggesting a remedy, that US propaganda planted in other countries has easily found its way to Americans via the internet). One obvious tactic clearing the way for stifling regulation of internet content is the growing media frenzy over child pornography and “internet predators,” which will surely lead to legislation that by far exceeds in its purview what is needed to fight such threats.
“The Long War”
This little piece of clumsy marketing died off quickly, but it gave away what many already suspected: the War on Terror will never end, nor is it meant to end. It is designed to be perpetual. As with the War on Drugs, it outlines a goal that can never be fully attained—as long as there are pissed off people and explosives. The Long War will eternally justify what are ostensibly temporary measures: suspension of civil liberties, military expansion, domestic spying, massive deficit spending and the like. This short-lived moniker told us all, “get used to it. Things aren’t going to change any time soon.”
The USA PATRIOT Act
Did anyone really think this was going to be temporary? Yes, this disgusting power grab gives the government the right to sneak into your house, look through all your stuff and not tell you about it for weeks on a rubber stamp warrant. Yes, they can look at your medical records and library selections. Yes, they can pass along any information they find without probable cause for purposes of prosecution. No, they’re not going to take it back, ever.
This last January the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root nearly $400 million to build detention centers in the United States, for the purpose of unspecified “new programs.” Of course, the obvious first guess would be that these new programs might involve rounding up Muslims or political dissenters—I mean, obviously detention facilities are there to hold somebody. I wish I had more to tell you about this, but it’s, you know…secret.
Touchscreen Voting Machines
Despite clear, copious evidence that these nefarious contraptions are built to be tampered with, they continue to spread and dominate the voting landscape, thanks to Bush’s “Help America Vote Act,” the exploitation of corrupt elections officials, and the general public’s enduring cluelessness.
In Utah, Emery County Elections Director Bruce Funk witnessed security testing by an outside firm on Diebold voting machines which showed them to be a security risk. But his warnings fell on deaf ears. Instead Diebold attorneys were flown to Emery County on the governor’s airplane to squelch the story. Funk was fired. In Florida, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho discovered an alarming security flaw in their Diebold system at the end of last year. Rather than fix the flaw, Diebold refused to fulfill its contract. Both of the other two touchscreen voting machine vendors, Sequoia and ES&S, now refuse to do business with Sancho, who is required by HAVA to implement a touchscreen system and will be sued by his own state if he doesn’t. Diebold is said to be pressuring for Sancho’s ouster before it will resume servicing the county.
Stories like these and much worse abound, and yet TV news outlets have done less coverage of the new era of elections fraud than even 9/11 conspiracy theories. This is possibly the most important story of this century, but nobody seems to give a damn. As long as this issue is ignored, real American democracy will remain an illusion. The midterm elections will be an interesting test of the public’s continuing gullibility about voting integrity, especially if the Democrats don’t win substantial gains, as they almost surely will if everything is kosher.
Bush just suggested that his brother Jeb would make a good president. We really need to fix this problem soon.
Bush has famously never vetoed a bill. This is because he prefers to simply nullify laws he doesn’t like with “signing statements.” Bush has issued over 700 such statements, twice as many as all previous presidents combined. A few examples of recently passed laws and their corresponding dismissals, courtesy of the Boston Globe:
Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Bush’s signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.
Dec. 30: When requested, scientific information ”prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay.”
Bush’s signing statement: The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.
Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.
Bush’s signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ”as advisory in nature.”
Essentially, this administration is bypassing the judiciary and deciding for itself whether laws are constitutional or not. Somehow, I don’t see the new Supreme Court lineup having much of a problem with that, though. So no matter what laws congress passes, Bush will simply choose to ignore the ones he doesn’t care for. It’s much quieter than a veto, and can’t be overridden by a two-thirds majority. It’s also totally absurd.
Amazingly, the GOP sees this issue as a plus for them. How can this be? What are you, stupid? You find out the government is listening to the phone calls of US citizens, without even the weakest of judicial oversight and you think that’s okay? Come on—if you know anything about history, you know that no government can be trusted to handle something like this responsibly. One day they’re listening for Osama, and the next they’re listening in on Howard Dean.
Think about it: this administration hates unauthorized leaks. With no judicial oversight, why on earth wouldn’t they eavesdrop on, say, Seymour Hersh, to figure out who’s spilling the beans? It’s a no-brainer. Speaking of which, it bears repeating: terrorists already knew we would try to spy on them. They don’t care if we have a warrant or not. But you should.
“Free Speech Zones”
I know it’s old news, but…come on, are they fucking serious?
Army Generals. Top-level CIA officials. NSA operatives. White House cabinet members. These are the kind of people that Republicans fantasize about being, and whose judgment they usually respect. But for some reason, when these people resign in protest and criticize the Bush administration en masse, they are cast as traitorous, anti-American publicity hounds. Ridiculous. The fact is, when people who kill, spy and deceive for a living tell you that the White House has gone too far, you had damn well better pay attention. We all know most of these people are staunch Republicans. If the entire military except for the two guys the Pentagon put in front of the press wants Rumsfeld out, why on earth wouldn’t you listen?
The CIA Shakeup
Was Porter Goss fired because he was resisting the efforts of Rumsfeld or Negroponte? No. These appointments all come from the same guys, and they wouldn’t be nominated if they weren’t on board all the way. Goss was probably canned so abruptly due to a scandal involving a crooked defense contractor, his hand-picked third-in-command, the Watergate hotel and some (no doubt spectacular) hookers.
If Bush’s nominee for CIA chief, Air Force General Michael Hayden, is confirmed, that will put every spy program in Washington under military control. Hayden, who oversaw the NSA warrantless wiretapping program and is clearly down with the program. That program? To weaken and dismantle or at least neuter the CIA. Despite its best efforts to blame the CIA for “intelligence errors” leading to the Iraq war, the picture has clearly emerged—through extensive CIA leaks—that the White House’s analysis of Saddam’s destructive capacity was not shared by the Agency. This has proved to be a real pain in the ass for Bush and the gang.
Who’d have thought that career spooks would have moral qualms about deceiving the American people? And what is a president to do about it? Simple: make the critical agents leave, and fill their slots with Bush/Cheney loyalists. Then again, why not simply replace the entire organization? That is essentially what both Rumsfeld at the DoD and newly minted Director of National Intelligence John are doing—they want to move intelligence analysis into the hands of people that they can control, so the next time they lie about an “imminent threat” nobody’s going to tell. And the press is applauding the move as a “necessary reform.”
Remember the good old days, when the CIA were the bad guys?
Read from Looking Glass News
How to tell if you are in a tyrannical police state
Police State Technology: Implanting a GPS-microchip in the body of a human being, using a high powered sniper rifle
Drifting towards a Police State
America’s Secret Police?
Framework for a police state
American Police State: The Frog Has Cooked
Body Politics: Evolving Police State in America
NSA Snoop Program: Greasing the Skids of the Police State
Obama Names Top Fundraisers to Major Political Posts
Last week, the Obama administration announced its choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission: Tom Wheeler, who is not only a former telecom lobbyist but also a huge bundler for the Obama campaign. The New York Times Editorial Page today explains that this choice is “raising serious questions about [Obama’s] 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration.” It also notes that “given his background, it is almost certain that [Wheeler] raised money [for Obama] from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest.”
Last week, President Obama named another big bundler of his, the billionaire heiress Penny Pritzker, to be his Commerce Secretary; at the Nation, Rick Perlstein details just some of the interesting questions about that choice that need to be explored. At this point, the only surprising thing is that there are any more bundlers left for Obama to appoint to important administration positions.
While despicable, this is nothing new.
The Center for Public Integrity reported in 2011 that Obama had rewarded as many big money bundlers in 2 years as Bush had appointed in 8:
Source: Public Citizen, iWatchNews analysis. Graphic: Jeremy Borden/iWatch News.
The Center wrote:
As a candidate, Obama spoke passionately about diminishing the clout of moneyed interests and making the White House more accessible to everyday Americans. In kicking off his presidential run on Feb. 10, 2007, he blasted “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests,” who he said had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.”
• Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.
• The big bundlers had broad access to the White House for meetings with top administration officials and glitzy social events. In all, campaign bundlers and their family members account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits. Half of them raised $200,000 or more.
• Some Obama bundlers have ties to companies that stand to gain financially from the president’s policy agenda, particularly in clean energy and telecommunications, and some already have done so. Level 3 Communications, for instance, snared $13.8 million in stimulus money. At least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities.
Bundling is controversial because it permits campaigns to skirt individual contribution limits of $2,500 in federal elections. Bundlers pool donations from fundraising networks and as a result “play an enormous role in determining the success of political campaigns,” according to Public Citizen. The group has tracked bundlers on a website http://www.whitehouseforsale.org in the belief that they are “apt to receive preferential treatment if their candidate wins.”
Ambassadorships have been the classic payoff for big bundlers. But it’s not just the posts in foreign capitals that are attractive. Light, the NYU expert on presidential transitions, said that in recent years many have sought jobs with deep reach into the federal bureaucracy — and found a receptive ear in the White House.
“When they get a resume from a bundler, that is a real signal of seriousness,” Light said. “It’s also a thinly veiled quid pro quo,” and it “goes without saying they will get considered.”
Bringing in a lot of cash to the campaign, Light added, “seems to be well established as a signaling device for getting into key jobs running the government. It’s become more significant and nobody seems to have much outrage about it.”
Passing over career diplomats in favor of mega-donors amounts to “selling ambassadorships,” said Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association. She said it runs contrary to the law and is unethical, yet, “That hasn’t stopped anybody.”
Thomas Pickering, who served as ambassador to Russia and several other countries during a diplomatic career spanning four decades, said turning to bundlers adds a “new dimension” to what he termed “buying offices” through aggressive fundraising.
Hyatt hotels heiress Penny Pritzker, Wall Street titan Robert Wolf and financier Mark Gallogly, for instance, all served on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Commission.
In late February, in creating a new commission to take on the task of creating jobs, Obama again appointed the three businesspeople. Transcripts of the recovery board meetings show that commission members are free to press for an agenda that could significantly benefit their business interests.
The Center pointed out in 2012:
At least 68 of 350 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration, ranging from seats on advisory boards that tackle critical national issues such as economic growth, to ceremonial posts such as serving on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
At least 250 of the bundlers have been cleared to attend a White House event since January 2009. Most have come twice while others are frequent visitors. The events range from policy briefings to coveted invitations to state dinners and music and entertainment nights featuring top-draw performers at the executive mansion.
At least 30 of the 2012 bundlers have ties to companies that conduct business with federal agencies or hope to do so. They range from Wall Street investors to green energy, technology and defense firms with multimillion-dollar government contracts.
Bundlers have been cleared for more than 5,000 visits to the White House from January 2009 through August 2011, according to visitor logs.
Boyle of Common Cause said that wealthy bundlers can amass political clout and use it to “further enrich themselves, and their circle of friends and business acquaintances.”
“Money buys access and influence and that’s the big problem,” she said. “Those who don’t have it are left out in the cold. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work, and it must change.”
That’s not likely, according to Tufts political science professor Berry.
Asked if a Republican presidential challenger would end the practice should he win the office next year, Berry said: “It would be shocking if they decided not to try to reward their most loyal fundraisers. It would make no sense.”
Of course, Obama’s top donors in the 2008 election included:
JP Morgan Chase
Goldman Sachs folks held so many top jobs in the Obama administration in his first term that everyone called the cozy relationship “Government Sachs”.
Obama appointed GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt as his jobs czar.
And of course, Obama rewarded his big contributors with tidal waves of government money.
Bush was a horrible crony nepotist, who favored the super-elite at the expense of the little guy.
Obama agency rules Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes ‘ordinary business operations’
The Obama Administration has given its blessing to PepsiCo to continue utilizing the services of a company that produces flavor chemicals for the beverage giant using aborted human fetal tissue. LifeSiteNews.com reports that the Obama Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided that PepsiCo’s arrangement with San Diego, Cal.-based Senomyx, which produces flavor enhancing chemicals for Pepsi using human embryonic kidney tissue, simply constitutes “ordinary business operations.”
The issue began in 2011 when the non-profit group Children of God for Life (CGL) first broke the news about Pepsi’s alliance with Senomyx, which led to massive outcry and a worldwide boycott of Pepsi products. At that time, it was revealed that Pepsi had many other options at its disposal to produce flavor chemicals, which is what its competitors do, but had instead chosen to continue using aborted fetal cells — or as Senomyx deceptively puts it, “isolated human taste receptors” (http://www.naturalnews.com).
A few months later, Pepsi’ shareholders filed a resolution petitioning the company to “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.” But the Obama Administration shut down this 36-page proposal, deciding instead that Pepsi’s used of aborted babies to flavor its beverage products is just business as usual, and not a significant concern.
“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use — we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of CGL, concerning the SEC decision. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations!”
To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.
Back in January, Oklahoma Senator Ralph Shortey proposed legislation to ban the production of aborted fetal cell-derived flavor chemicals in his home state. If passed, S.B. 1418 would also reportedly ban the sale of any products that contain flavor chemicals derived from human fetal tissue, which includes Pepsi products as well as products produced by Kraft and Nestle (http://www.naturalnews.com).
Sources for this article include:
At a forum hosted by Foreign Policy magazine, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded the leaders of Latin America, whose countries have been savaged by drug-war violence, that the Obama administration, and Clinton in particular, are opposed to legalizing drugs as a means of making those countries less reminiscent of failed states:
“I respect those in the region who believe strongly that [U.S. legalization] would end the problem,” Clinton said Thursday at a Washington D.C. forum hosted by Foreign Policy magazine. “I am not convinced of that, speaking personally.”
Some Central American leaders have urged the United States to consider other approaches to domestic drug usage — citing ruthless drug cartels that murder thousands of their citizens. Several Central American countries are considering limited legalization of drugs within their borders.
“I think when you’ve got ruthless vicious people who have made money one way and it’s somehow blocked, they’ll figure out another way,” she said. “They’ll do kidnapping they’ll do extortion.”
Speaking about the two states that recently legalized marijuana, Clinton repeated the Obama administration position that they haven’t formulated a response yet.
“This is an ongoing debate,” she said. “We are formulating our own response to the votes of two of our states as you know —what that means for the federal system, the federal laws and law enforcement.”
“I think you can, with a comprehensive strategy succeed in certainly pushing back the tide of violence and corruption that drug trafficking brings,” she said.
Clinton’s statement about ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington represents the largest number of words a named official of this administration has uttered regarding the single biggest change in drug policy this century. Good on Clinton for acknowleding that it happened.
It’s also fascinating to me how Clinton has shifted on this topic. Here’s what she said during a Mexico City trip in 2009:
“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”