The major U.S. media have ignored for the most part Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster column April 4 reporting the Obama administration's deceptive accounts of notorious killings in Benghazi and Syria.
Several major U.S. outlets reportedly declined to publish his column The Red Line and the Rat Line. That is their right, of course, and he proceeded to publish his source-based allegations in the London Review of Books.
But at some point, failure to raise questions to authorities and publish criticism smacks of a cowardly self-censorship, not mere fact-checking.
I have monitored reaction to his revelations in part because I reported similar findings in my fall 2013 book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters and on this site seven months ago.
One of Hersh's most explosive claims is that Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally in the fight to overthrow Syria's government, helped plan a sarin gas attack Aug. 21 that reportedly caused more than a thousand deaths in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
The deaths, a war crime if proven, nearly prompted a massive U.S. bombing attack on the grounds that Syria's government had crossed a "red line" set by President Obama against use of chemical weapons.
The silent treatment helps authorities foster secret military actions worldwide for regime changes that arguably violate international law.
Reasonable people can differ on what constitutes adequate sourcing to publish claims even by such a noted reporter as Hersh, especially if his sources are anonymous. Hersh said in an interview with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he respects a decision by the Washington Post not to publish his report that Turkey was behind the sarin attack. He is shown in a screenshot from a Democracy Now! video.
But if an iconic reporter like him cannot get his findings published in a major outlet in his home country or otherwise make a significant impact, who can?
Hersh cited anonymous sources, as I did in Puppetry, to describe how the infamous Benghazi attack in 2012 grew out of covert U.S. arms smuggling organized by the CIA from Libya via Turkey to NATO-supported rebels in Syria.
The smuggling violated official statements that the United States was providing merely non-lethal aid to rebels. Hersh named the smuggling route through Turkey "The Rat Line" in his column. My book described the arms and fighter smuggling as being under the command of CIA Director David Petraeus in 2012, whose role has long been obscured by both major political parties and an increasingly timid corporate-controlled media.
On April 4, Hersh also reported that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, left, led a joint chiefs effort to dissuade President Obama from undertaking a bombing campaign against Syria beginning Sept. 2 as reprisal for crossing the president's "red line" with sarin gas attacks two weeks previous.
Hersh reported the evidence of Syrian complicity was too disputed for easy answers, and so the president needed to obtain congressional approval at the minimum. Hersh’s report thus amplified his column Whose Sarin? published by the London Review of Books Dec. 8.
Those findings by Hersh are congruent with those I made Sept. 3 in a report here on the Justice Integrity Project site about Dempsey's role. My report was based primarily on anonymous sourcing. So was an independent report Sept. 1 by former Navy intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen, who broke the story two days before me.
The mainstream media did not report these matters to my knowledge.
Instead, they misled the public by portraying a White House and Pentagon unified in decision-making, albeit with bomb planning that shifted from a presidentially ordered bombing attack to a bombing plan requiring congressional approval.
InThe Red Line and the Rat Line, Hersh described the tense White House internal debates late last summer in much more detail. He confirmed that Dempsey played a key role in persuading Obama to seek congressional approval for any attack.
Support for an attack failed to materialize in Congress. Russia proposed a face-saving plan whereby Syria would destroy its chemical weapons and avoid allied bombing.
The White House photo at right shows President Obama and his top national security advisors on Aug. 30. It illustrates the seemingly united front at the White House as authorities described Syria's guilt in the sarin attacks, and White House determination to bomb Syria in reprisal.
My column today summarizes Hersh's findings and interprets the implications. The gist is that the news blackout symbolizes the continued erosion of the media's willingness to report government operations -- aside from obedient stenography of misleading government announcements.
The Justice Integrity Project has frequently reported this dire trend, especially regarding the crackdowns by authorities on government employees who communicate with the media without approval. The Hersh experience is a case study on how the problems get worse the more important the story.
Seymour "Sy" Hersh broke the story of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. He has won a Pulitzer and five Polk awards. For more than two decades, he has been a frequent contributor to the New Yorker on national security issues. A self-described freelancer, he is the most honored of all such investigative reporters in the English-speaking world and is widely respected for his independence.
His office for years until recently was in the same office building on Connecticut Avenue where I used to work in Washington, DC. After chance encounters in the building I invited him for a couple of extended discussions about pressures on journalists. That was the topic in 1987 of my first book, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper.
As regular readers here know, this site has focused increasingly on the timid coverage that mainstream news organizations are providing on major issues covering the full range of public policy, especially on intelligence, war, and police matters. Hersh holds a rare position in being able to overcome those obstacles.
Thus I looked him up this fall when he was reported to have questioned conventional wisdom regarding Benghazi in a way seemingly congruent with my findings reported in Puppetry. Seymour Hersh Attacks Obama, Fellow DC Journalists was my report, and I dropped off a courtesy copy of my book. He told me he rarely does interviews or speeches except when he is about to publish a book, which he plans to do this summer.
His ambivalence on those promotional issues make his revelations all the more important for the rest of us to study.
In Hersh's Red Line column this month, he quotes a former senior U.S. intelligence officer as saying of the sarin attack, "We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's people to push Obama over the red line."
Hersh also exposed in his column what the CIA calls "the rat line," the supply route for the Syrian rebels that the CIA has overseen in secret cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information reputedly comes from a secret part of the report by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyans on the U.S. consulate annex in Benghazi Sept. 11, 2012 in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed along with three other men.
Freelancer Brad Hoff, a Marine from 2000 to 2004 at Headquarters Battalion at Quantico, summarized Hersh's recent disclosures on Syria as follows. Hoff lived, studied, and traveled throughout Syria off and on from 2004 to 2010 following his military service.
His column, Media Blackout over Syria, states, "Hersh’s newest investigative findings are going unacknowledged in mainstream US media." Hoff listed 11 major points (excerpted below). The first was "Obama’s push for attack on Syria was halted last minute when evidence that the Syrian government had nothing to do with the August 21 chemical attack became too overwhelming."
Consortium News founder Robert Parry assessed the importance of Hersh's report in Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack? Parry is especially well-qualified to make such judgments after taking the lead role in breaking the Iran-Contra arms smuggling scandal in the 1980s while he worked for the Associated Press and Newsweek.
"The significance of Hersh's latest report is twofold," Parry wrote. "First, it shows how Official Washington's hawks and neocons almost stampeded the United States into another Mideast war under false pretenses, and second, the story's publication in the London Review of Books reveals how hostile the mainstream U.S. media remains toward information that doesn't comport with its neocon-dominated conventional wisdom."
"In other words," Parry continued, "it appears that Official Washington and its mainstream press have absorbed few lessons from the disastrous Iraq War, which was launched in 2003 under the false claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to share hidden stockpiles of WMD with al-Qaeda, when there was no WMD nor any association between Hussein and al-Qaeda."
Passing up Hersh’s column, according to news reports, were the New Yorker, Washington Post and New York Times. Hersh had won a Pulitzer at the Times for exposing the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.
Congressman Frank Wolf, a senior Republican representing Northern Virginia, is among others facing difficulty raising some of these issues. Wolf has tried with scant success to raise media attention regarding his suspicion that the Obama administration and the CIA were running an arms smuggling program from Benghazi to Syria via Turkey.
Wolf, even more than Hersh, would seem an unlikely Washingtonian to face the silent treatment. Elected in 1980 with Ronald Reagan leading their GOP ticket, Wolf represents the 10th Congressional district that includes the CIA’s headquarters. Also, Wolf chairs the House Appropriations Justice, Science and Technology Subcommittee during a period when his House colleagues continue, as they did during the 2012 Presidential campaign, to make the Benghazi killings a central attack point against the Obama presidency.
But his questions, like Hersh’s reporting and my book, do not neatly play out in traditional Republican vs. Democrat politics, and so are ignored for the most part.
In sum, these developments illustrate how government and the media are increasingly dominated by what I call their “masters” who keep a low profile in the private sector.
Major media mostly gave Hersh the silent treatment, as noted here. Those relatively few high-profile critics who commented attacked him for publishing such an important story based on anonymous sources.
In Seymour Hersh Gasses Turkey, the Daily Beast quoted pro-intervention analysts and anonymous government officials as disputing Hersh. But the Daily Beast, a glitzy, celebrity-focused founded by the now-departed Tina Brown, is an apologist for the UK-US foreign policy establishment. Its criticism of Hersh relies on the unsupported opinion of pro-government advocates, some anonymous.
Hersh was subjected also to derogatory commentaries on various discussion groups, such as the TerraList thread "Why Doesn't New Yorker Publish Seymour Hersh Anymore?"
Much of that criticism was misplaced. Neither Hersh nor anyone else can readily quote on-the-record sources and documents without subjecting sources to job or criminal reprisals. Mainstream publications increasingly fail to identify top government spokespeople who making official messages. Most leading news organizations cooperate -- not always but all too frequently -- by keeping officials anonymous when they spin reporters on sensitive matters, thereby preventing accountability if the officials are wrong.
Furthermore, most major news and publishing companies have employees who are highly sympathetic to their official contacts, thereby posing a risk to sources that is not entirely theoretical.
Under such circumstances, it is preposterous for some critics to suggest that work of such established journalists as Hersh should not even be mentioned because the sources are not more verifiable.
Under the Obama administration especially, government security experts risk indictment as spies if they help a reporter as a source. Among those charged with such spy charges in an unprecedented crackdown have been Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim, and John Kiriakou. Sources run extreme risk of arrest and punishment because of the advanced detection methods now possible from NSA surveillance and retention of essentially all electronic communications of Americans with the cooperation of private sector companies.
An Even Bigger Picture
In Presidential Puppetry, I asked readers to reflect on where they would go if they thought they had important, secret information about a major news story. Congress? Somewhere in the press?
I suggested that it is not as easy to find an outlet as one might think even if -- or especially if -- the information is important.
As noted above, Hersh published his findings April 4 in the London Review of Books. It is a well-regarded publication but has a circulation of just 59,000 and little ripple effect in the United States.
Roughly at the same time, on April 2, the Associated Press distributed a major investigative story published in the Washington Post under the headline, U.S. secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest on communist island. The long investigative report by Alberto Arce, Desmond Butler and Jack Gillum show how the social network was meant to be a tool to organize demonstrations that might trigger a Cuban Spring.
It's revealing to compare follow up treatment of the the AP and Hersh stories. The commitment by the nation's largest news organization, AP, meant that the story would be carried widely by member news organizations, particularly the relatively few that still have a strong commitment to international news.
Yet even in this instance, the elite media (largely concentrated in Washington and New York City) timidly avoided mentioning facts that would have underscored major implications of the secret U.S. government effort to use social media and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in a botched and expensive effort to overthrow another government.
For one thing, the government plot illustrated why governments in many parts of the world increasingly distrust U.S.-control of the Internet and funding of "democracy-building" initiatives in nation's whose leaders might be thrown out by similar U.S. intelligence operations.
Also, the AP story failed to note that President Obama's mother had worked in the 1960s following a coup in Indonesia for precisely the same government contractor, Development Alternatives, Inc., identified by AP in the Cuba story. In the CIA-orchestrated coup, whose history we now know from declassified documents and books, Indonesia's founding president Sukarno (1949 to 1966) was overthrown in favor of a pro-West leader, Suharto.
That factoid becomes even more interesting when one learns, as first Madsen and then I have documented, that President Obama's first job out of college was with Business International Corp., a CIA front company. Business International had been involved in a CIA-orchestrated coup against Australia's left-leaning prime minister, Gough Whitlam in the mid-1975 to install a pro-CIA leader.
Presidential Puppetry lays out the details in a century of history, documented with more than 1,100 endnotes. True, all of that may be subject to rationales or even revision further analysis.
But my larger point is that very few have any incentive to do so even though the nation has vast numbers of quasi-academic think tanks and actual universities that are supposed to be undertaking such work, in theory, after investigative reporters break the story. But clearly there is little money or other career incentive for such study, and the public loses out.
During recent weeks, we have been publishing numerous columns reporting the apathy if not cowardice of most in the mainstream media on vital issues. This overview would not be complete without noting that the CIA issues a $600 million contract last year to Amazon.com to handle its advanced computing needs.
Amazon.com is the source of the fortune of the Washington Post's new owner, Jeffrey Bezos.
Defenders of the arrangement note that Amazon.com and the Post are separate companies, and that intelligence agencies have often worked closely with the Post and other major media. Frank Wisner, the CIA's propaganda chief during the 1950s and early 1960s, had weekly dinners with Post owners Philip and Katherine Graham. Insiders have described how Wisner coined the phrase "A Mighty Wurlitzer" to describe for fellow insiders on a confidential basis the spy agency's ability to generate major news stories on topics of its choice, and stifle others.
As a new development, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, right, announced on Fox News her resignation from the network in March after two decades in journalism. She described "unprecedented" restrictions that journalists face under the Obama administration.
Full details of her dispute are not public. Her comments suggest, however, that her differences involve timid treatment by the media of powerful news subjects, as reflected in such decisions as assignments, sourcing, editing and air-time. She is hardly the first to have such disputes. Edward R. Morrow and Dan Rather were among of her prominent predecessors forced out from CBS.
Yet academic studies and anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is getting worse. Her situation is especially interesting because CBS News President Andrew Rhodes is the brother of White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. That relationship is far from unique, and illustrates the tight, overlapping circles in Washington between government and the media.
In sum, prominent journalists have been warning that many stories in Washington are off-limits to vigorous news coverage.
Update: Director of National Intelligence announced April 21, 2014 that anyone in the government's intelligence sector who talks to the media, broadly defined, even about unclassified intelligence matters may be fired, reprimanded or lose security clearance. FireDogLake published a news report, Clapper Clamps Down.
New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, a Pulitizer winner, spoke at a major conference last year run by the National Press Club and Overseas Press Club to analyze the impact on the public of the Obama administration's crackdown on leaks to reporters from government and former government employees, especially on matters involving intelligence, war and diplomacy. I covered the event in Press Probes 'Obama's War On Leaks.
“The fundamental issue,” said Risen, “is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive reporting. I don’t think you can.”
London Review of Books, The Red Line and the Rat Line, Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels, April 4, 2014. In 2010, Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons. Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
London Review of Books, Whose Sarin? Seymour M. Hersh, Dec. 8, 2013. Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Obama caved under last-minute pressure from Dempsey, Sept. 1, 2013 (Subscription required). Wayne Madsen was a Navy intelligence officer for 14 years, including a year on detail to the National Security Agency. On the evening of Friday, August 29, President Obama was on track to launch a sustained 72-hour cruise missile and drone attack on pre-selected air defense and other strategic military targets in Syria. Obama had been convinced by his national security adviser Susan Rice, UN ambassador Samantha Power, and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, all "Responsibility to Protect" advocates, that he could trump congressional approval for his attack by claiming that humanitarian operations do not require approval under the War Powers Resolution or Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Many of Washington's insiders went to bed Friday night firmly convinced that Obama would give the final order to attack Syria sometime during the early Saturday morning hours of August 30. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, made a hurried trip to the White House during the early morning hours of Saturday to make one last final plea to hold off on any attack. WMR has learned from White House sources that Dempsey told Obama that the president's plan would not work: If you do this, the plan will fail and you'll get in deeper. And without congressional approval, you'll be screwed, Dempsey told Obama.
Wayne Madsen Report, USAID: a history of front companies acting on behalf of the CIA, Wayne Madsen, April 4, 2014. The recent disclosure by the Associated Press that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a notorious nexus for contract fraud within the State Department, contracted out a project to develop a rival to Twitter in order to foment rebellion in Cuba has refocused attention on USAID's long history of acting as a contract vehicle for various CIA covert activities. The setting up of the Cuban Twitter-like system, called ZunZuneo, was contracted to Creative Associates, Inc. (CAI), which conducted most of its out-of-Cuba operations in Costa Rica. The contract to CAI was awarded as part of the State Department's "Civil Society Support Program," the same program that has been used by the CIA to foment rebellions in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iran, and other countries.
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Petraeus affair known as early as 2004, Feb. 8, 2013. WMR has learned from U.S. intelligence sources that the National Security Agency (NSA) carried out electronic surveillance of the personal and official phone calls of then-Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq (MNSTC-I) commander General David Petraeus as early as 2004. In addition, NSA maintained surveillance of the personal phone calls of Petraeus's wife Holly. The NSA discovered in 2004 that Petraeus was having an affair with Paula Broadwell, the rising Army officer star who was a specialist on counter-terrorism and the Middle East. Broadwell insists she first met Petraeus in 2006 at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University but 2004 NSA intercepts of her and Petraeus's phone calls and emails reveal something much different, according to our NSA sources who routinely read transcripts of phone calls between Petraeus and Broadwell. Broadwell began her studies at the Kennedy School in 2006, the year she claims she first met Petraeus. The Obama White House had access to the Petraeus-Broadwell intercepts that began in 2004 and used the information to force Petraeus to step down as CIA director shortly after Obama's re-election.
Justice Integrity Project, Learn the Truth About Benghazi Before Syria Vote! Andrew Kreig, Sept. 3, 2013 The public deserves to know the facts about the Benghazi massacre in 2012 before approving the bombing of Syria sought by President Obama. Persistent reports suggest the CIA was using Benghazi last year as a base to smuggle arms and foreign fighters to overthrow Syria’s government. Iraq and Vietnam are previous examples of war based on false evidence: WMDs in 2003; the false claim in 1989 that Saddam Hussein’s forces had killed babies in Kuwait; and the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing Vietnam escalation.
Justice Integrity Project, Hersh Attacks Government, DC Media, Andrew Kreig, Sept. 28, 2013 (subscription required). New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh harshly attacked President Obama and fellow journalists in an interview reported Sept. 27. Hersh said of official accounts about the death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It’s one big lie, not one word of it is true.’' The White House released a now-iconic photo at right showing Obama and cabinet reaction to a video of the 2011 raid. Hersh also said during his outspoken interview with Guardian reporter Lisa O'Carroll that most network broadcasters should be immediately fired to improve news coverage. The acerbic Hersh, born in 1937, is best known for breaking the story of the My Lai Massacre by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. Editor's Note: Hersh later told the Justice Integrity Project that the Guardian reporter, presented as an interview, was drawn for the most part from a Hersh speech during the summer.
Related News Coverage
Global Research, Cracking The 'Conspiracy Theories’ Psycholinguistic Code: The Witch Hunt against Independent Research and Analysis, James F. Tracy, May 21, 2014. A new crusade appears to be underway to target independent research and analysis available via alternative news media. This March saw the release of “cognitive infiltration” advocate Cass Sunstein’s new book, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas. In April, the confirmed federal intelligence-gathering arm, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), released a new report, “Agenda 21: The UN, Sustainability, and Right Wing Conspiracy Theory.” Most recently, Newsweek magazine carried a cover story, titled, “The Plots to Destroy America: Conspiracy Theories Are a Clear and Present Danger.” As its discourse suggests, this propaganda campaign is using the now familiar “conspiracy theory” label, as outlined in Central Intelligence Agency Document 1035-960, the 1967 memo laying out a strategy for CIA “media assets” to counter criticism of the Warren Commission and attack independent investigators of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. At that time the targets included attorney Mark Lane and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who were routinely defamed and lampooned in major US news outlets. Declassified government documents have proven Lane and Garrison’s allegations of CIA-involvement in the assassination largely accurate. Nevertheless, the prospect of being subject to the conspiracy theorist smear remains a potent weapon for intimidating authors, journalists, and scholars from interrogating complex events, policies, and other potentially controversial subject matter.
Los Angeles Review of Books, A Dangerous Method: Syria, Sy Hersh, and Art of Mass-crime Revisionism, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, June 1, 2014. No one expects a literary journal to possess the capacity to judge technical claims, but every journalistic enterprise has to meet minimal standards. The use of anonymous sources is not problematic per se. But it is common practice among serious editors to find a second, named source to corroborate information obtained from an anonymous one. Hersh’s damning allegations are all attributed to a single source. There is no independent corroboration.
Associated Press via Fox News, Weakened rebels in last stand for Homs, capital of Syrian revolution, as Assad forces advance, April 22, 2014. Weakened Syrian rebels are making their last desperate stand in Homs, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launch their harshest assault yet to expel them from the central city, once known as the capital of the revolution. Some among the hundreds of rebels remaining in the city talk of surrender, according to opposition activists there. Others have lashed back against the siege with suicide car bombings in districts under government control. Some fighters are turning on comrades they suspect want to desert, pushing them into battle. "We expect Homs to fall," said an activist who uses the name Thaer Khalidiya in an online interview with the Associated Press. "In the next few days, it could be under the regime's control."
Positive Commentaries on Hersh Columns
Consortium News via OpEdNews, Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack? Robert Parry, April 6, 2014. Journalist Seymour Hersh has unearthed information implicating Turkish intelligence in last summer’s Sarin attack near Damascus that almost pushed President Obama into a war to topple Syria’s government and open a path for an al-Qaeda victory, writes Robert Parry. Last August, the Obama administration lurched to the brink of invading Syria after blaming a Sarin gas attack outside Damascus on President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Democracy Now! Seymour Hersh Interview, via YouTube, Amy Goodman, April 7, 2014.
Global Research, Media Manipulation: Seymour Hersh Unearths More Lies on Syria, Jonathan Cook, April 6, 2014. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a second fascinating essay that rewrites the official record of the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, near Damascus, in August last year. As usual, Hersh uses his sources in the US security establishment to throw light on what really took place. The bottom line: Turkey was almost certainly the party responsible for the attack, hoping it would force Obama to honor his threatened “red line” if Assad used chemical weapons. Was the Assad regime to be brought down by a US military campaign, Turkey assumed it would be able to turn Syria into a client state. Like the earlier article, this one will probably gain very little attention.
AMY GOODMAN: Lay out your case for what it is that the Obama administration did or didn't tell us.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Actually, Amy, it's really not my case; it's the case of people in the administration who believe when they -- when they take the oath, they take the oath of office to the Constitution and not to their immediate general or admiral or not to the -- or not to the president even. It's about truth.... There's -- it's a real rebel war there, civil war. And the point was that at no time did the United States ever consider al-Nusra to be a potential target of investigation. They were simply excluded from the conversation. And the narrative was Bashar did it. And it was bought by the mainstream press, as we all know, and by most people in the world. And this is why, you know, creepy troublemakers like me stay in business.
FireDoglake, Seymour Hersh: Obama Administration Cherry-Picked Syria Intelligence, Avoided Al-Qaeda Connection, DS Wright, Dec. 9, 2013. In a piece that was rejected by both the New Yorker and Washington Post, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes that the Obama Administration cherry-picked Syria intelligence and that President Barack Obama misled the American public on the case that the Assad regime were the ones guilty of using sarin gas.
Global Research, Media Blackout over Syria, Brad Hoff, April 6, 2014. Brad Hoff served as a Marine from 2000-2004 at Headquarters Battalion, Quantico. After military service he lived, studied, and traveled throughout Syria off and on from 2004-2010. He currently teaches in Texas. Seymour Hersh continues to expose details surrounding the staged August 21 chemical attack incident in Syria, which apparently pretty much everyone in Washington’s intelligence bureaucracy suspected was carried out by the rebels as soon as it happened. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose 40+ years career includes the exposing of the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up, as well as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. His December 19 report, “Whose Sarin?” was his first report to expose the Syria chemical attack hoax based on close contact with US Intelligence officials. While “Whose Sarin” was originally prepared for the Washington Post, the newspaper rejected it and a media blackout followed in American press. Currently, Hersh’s newest investigative findings are going unacknowledged in mainstream US media.
Hersh’s report confirms the following:
• Obama’s push for attack on Syria was halted last minute when evidence that the Syrian government had nothing to do with the Aug. 21 chemical attack became too overwhelming
• It had been well known to US government officials throughout the summer of 2013 that Turkish PM Erdogan was supporting al-Nusra Front in attempts to manufacture Sarin
• US military knew of Turkish and Saudi program for bulk Sarin production inside Syria from the spring of 2013
• UN inspectors knew the rebels were using chemical weapons on the battlefield since the spring of 2013
• As a result of the staged chemical incident, the White House ordered readiness for a “monster strike” on Syria, which included “two B-22 air wings and two thousand pound bombs” and a target list, which included military and civilian infrastructure targets (Note: most of these are in densely populated civilian areas)
• Full military strike was set for September 2
• UK defense officials relayed to their American counterparts in the lead up to planned attack: “We’re being set up here.”
• CIA, MI6, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey set up a “rat line” back in 2012 to run Libyan weapons into Syria via Turkey, including MANPADS; the Benghazi consulate was headquarters for the operation
• Obama OK’ed Turkish-Iranian gold export scam (that went from March 2012 to July 2013) which erupted in a Turkish scandal that nearly brought down the Erdogan government
• US Intelligence community had immediate doubts about Syrian regime responsibility for Aug. 21 attack, yet “reluctant to contradict the president”
• US government will not expose continued Turkey support of terrorism simply because “they’re a NATO ally”
In addition, last Thursday freelance Middle East journalist Sara Elizabeth Williams broke the story of a CIA/US Military run training camp for Syrian rebels in the Jordanian desert. VICE UK ran her story, “I Learned to Fight Like an American at the FSA Training Camp in Jordan,” yet it too failed to make it across the Atlantic into American reporting. International Syria experts thought her story hugely significant, but it got little attention. Top Syria expert in the US, Joshua Landis, announced on his Twitter account Thursday: “Sara Williams gets the scoop on the top secret FSA Training Camp in Jordan.” This courageous young freelancer revealed, with photos, the ins and outs of this secretive facility. Yet the mainstream carefully shielded Americans from knowledge of the explosive report. In email conversation with her this weekend, Williams told me: “The access was tough to get, but I think it was worth the effort: to my mind, it’s important that people know what their government is doing in their name, with their tax dollars.”
Observer, The man who knows too much, Rachel Cooke, Oct. 18, 2008, He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib... No wonder the Republicans describe Seymour Hersh as 'the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.' Rachel Cooke meets the most-feared investigative reporter in Washington. He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.Negative Comments on Hersh Columns
Daily Beast, Seymour Hersh Gasses Turkey, Thomas Seibert, April 9, 2014. The veteran reporter blames Ankara for a horrific Syria chemical weapons attack. That’s unlikely—but he’s right that Turkey is increasingly frustrated at Western foot-dragging on Assad. Analysts and diplomats in Turkey may doubt that Ankara orchestrated the deadly August poison gas attack near Damascus, as Seymour Hersh claims, but they insist that at least one important aspect of the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter’s new article is true.
War In Syria
Washington Post, Syrian opposition fighters obtain U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles, Karen DeYoung, April 16, 2014. Syria’s opposition fighters have been supplied with U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles, the first time a major American weapons system has appeared in rebel hands. It is unclear how the rebels obtained the wire-guided missiles, which are capable of penetrating heavy armor and fortifications and are standard in the U.S. military arsenal. The United States has sold them in the past to Turkey, among other countries, and the Pentagon approved the sale of 15,000 of the weapons to Saudi Arabia in December.
Foreign Policy, Saudi Arabia Replaces Intelligence Chief, April 16, 2014. Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree Tuesday appointing a new intelligence chief after removing Prince Bandar bin Sultan "at his own request." He has been replaced by his deputy General Youssef al-Idrissi. Bandar, shown in a file photo at left and nicknamed "Bandar Bush" because of his close ties to the Bush family, was formerly ambassador to the United States and had control of Saudi Arabia's Syria file. He had criticized Washington for not conducting a military intervention into Syria. However, some analysts have said the prince had been disengaged from Syria policy for months, and that the file had been predominantly taken over by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Bandar recently returned to Riyadh after spending about two-months abroad for medical treatment.
AP via USA Today, Grisly torture photos from Syria stun U.N. officials, Peter James Spielmann, April 15, 2014. The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France's ambassador said. The pictures showed people who were emaciated, with their bones protruding, and some bearing the marks of strangulation and repeated beatings, and eyes having been gouged out.
Congressman Frank Wolf, 'Create Benghazi Select Committee Investigating the Benghazi Terrorist Attack. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Northern Virginia's 10th District, has called for creation of a special committee to investigate American deaths in Benghazi in 2012. His district contains CIA headquarters, and his committees are as follows: House Committee on Appropriations, Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Vice Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; Member, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. His statement is below:
I believe the only way the American people will ever really find out what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 is through an investigation led by a single, bipartisan panel that can cut across jurisdictional barriers in Congress, hold public hearings and subpoena witnesses, including senior staff at the Defense Department, State Department, CIA and the White House....Over the past year, I have repeatedly approached House Leadership about bringing H. Res. 36 to the floor for a vote. I have spoken on the House floor numerous times and remain in constant contact with my colleagues seeking additional co-sponsors to H. Res. 36. (Click here for the full list of co-sponsors) I also remain in close contact with a number of groups of the Hill who want to find out what happened that night. This isn't about politics nor is it a vendetta. It's about the legislative branch conducting its most basic responsibility: strong oversight. To date, I do not believe anyone can honestly say Congress has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility with regard to Benghazi.Ukraine Crisis
Update: OpEdNews, The US Plan for the Ukraine -- a hypothesis by The Saker, Michael Collins, April 24, 2014. Does the Obama administration want the coup-installed government of Ukraine to initiate military action against their citizens in the Eastern Ukraine? That's an important question, one that blogger, The Saker, seeks to answer. His blog, The Vineyard of the Saker, has rocketed in popularity going from 1,000 hits a day to 20,000 a day since the start of the crisis. His analysis takes us to depths that are not even hinted at in the New York Times and other U.S. media. The corporate media coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine is in perfect lockstep with the Obama administration and its neoconservative operatives and supporters. The so-called left wing of the Democratic Party refuses to unfurl its antiwar banners, choosing instead to make this situation a battle of personalities: Obama versus Putin.
Washington Post, Agreement reached in Geneva talks on defusing Ukraine crisis, Karen DeYoung, April 17, 2014. Top diplomats meeting here on the Ukraine crisis Thursday agreed that all parties, including separatists and their Russian backers, would refrain from “violence, intimidation, or provocative actions” and that all “illegal armed groups will be disarmed.” The apparent breakthrough, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred to as “a compromise, of sorts,” came after more than six hours of meetings among Lavrov, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Washington Post, Ukrainian troop defections escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, Anthony Faiola, April 16, 2014. Tensions escalated in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, with pro-Russian gunmen storming City Hall in the sprawling city of Donetsk and a cluster of Ukrainian troops meant to be restoring order in the region apparently defecting to the side of separatists. The events suggested the challenge ahead for the pro-Western Ukrainian government on the second day of a campaign to quell the restive east, and came as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine was on the verge “of a civil war.”
Washington Post, Russian PM says Ukraine on brink of civil war, Anthony Faiola, Isabel Gorst and Will Englund, April 15, 2014. The Ukrainian government says it has launched a counteroffensive to reclaim control of its east, but its forces have not yet engaged pro-Russian separatists.
Washington Post, Slow Motion Invasion: Russia Moves Forward While Mr. Obama Blusters and Dithers, Editorial Board, April 13, 2014. It may be too late to prevent war in eastern Ukraine. But the United States must quickly take the measures promised by Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, or lose what little credibility it retains on Ukraine. If Sunday’s combat continues, it should also reconsider Kiev’s request for non-lethal supplies and small arms for its forces. If Ukrainians are forced to fight for their country, they should be helped.
AP via Washington Post, U.S. secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest on communist island, Alberto Arce, Desmond Butler and Jack Gillum, April 2, 2014. The social network was meant to be a tool to organize demonstrations that might trigger a Cuban Spring. In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government. McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government. McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid. Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
FireDogLake, USAID’s Response to AP’s Story on ‘Cuban Twitter’: What Isn’t Denied & What’s Striking About It, Kevin Gosztola, April 8, 2014. It is “important that the good work” of the US Agency for International Development “not be falsely characterized,” the agency wrote in a blog post responding to the Associated Press’ story on “Cuban Twitter.” The response outlined eight “inaccuracies” and eight “facts” to show key flaws in the story. The only problem is the rebuttal did not really disprove any of the most damning aspects of the AP story. In fact, the problem the agency seems to have is not that AP got its facts wrong but that it did not characterize documents it had on “Cuban Twitter” in the ideological manner, which USAID would favor. On April 3, the AP reported, based off “more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development” and interview with individuals who were involved that USAID had planned to “a bare-bones ‘Cuban Twitter,’ using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.”
President Barack Obama walks along the South Lawn Drive of the White House with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and John Podesta, Counselor to the President, April 8, 2014. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.
FireDogLake, Clapper Clamps Down, Kevin Gosztola, April 21, 2014. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has issued a directive that prohibits all employees of the intelligence community from speaking to the press. Signed on March 20, it establishes a policy on “contact with the media.” It does not differentiate between classified and unclassified information. Any detail pertaining to an “intelligence-related” matter, if disclosed to a member of the media, is “covered” by the policy. However, the policy apparently does not “apply to contact with the media in connection with civil, criminal or administrative proceedings.” Anyone who violates the policy can be subject to “administrative action that may include revocation of security clearance” or being fired. Intelligence employees can talk to other fellow citizens, like family or friends who are not members of the press, about unclassified intelligence-related matters. Yet, apparently, if those family or friends are part of the media, they cannot talk about these matters at all. For the purposes of criminalizing speech by intelligence employees, the policy adopts a broad definition of “media.” It is any person who engages in the “collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form, which includes, print, broadcast, film or Internet” or to a person who disseminates information “related to topics of national security.” The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which handles credentialing for Capitol Hill as well as political conventions and the inauguration, might want to consider adopting this inclusive definition.
Justice Integrity Project, Press Probes 'Obama's War On Leaks,' Andrew Kreig, May 2, 2012. The nation’s two leading press clubs convened experts on national security May 1 in Washington for a gripping, historically important assessment of the Obama administration’s shocking prosecutions of government news sources. The administration took office on promises to protect whistle-blowers. But it has since repeatedly cracked down on leakers, citing the Espionage Act in six recent cases as a basis for criminal prosecution. New York Times reporter James Risen, who has broken some of the most important national security stories of the decade, was one of the panelists at the National Press Club, which organized the forum at its headquarters in cooperation with the New York-based Overseas Press Club.
Center for Public Integrity, The Center for Public Integrity's response to ABC News, Bill Buzenberg, April 16, 2014. On April 14, 2014, Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his investigation detailing controversial denials of black lung benefits to coal miners. On April 15, ABC News President Ben Sherwood sent a letter to the Center's Executive Director William Buzenberg calling on the Center to ask the Pulitzer committee to add the names of two ABC journalists to the award. Sherwood's letter has been shared with members of the press and the Center's board. This is our response to Mr. Sherwood.
Lawfare,The Washington Post and Guardian Pulitzers: I Dissent, Ben Wittes, April 14, 2014. For whatever it’s worth (not much) and to whomever, I dissent from the Pulitzer Committee’s decision to give its public service award to either the Guardian or the Washington Post. The Pulitzer Board’s citation to these two organizations has a faintly comic air. The Post the board congratulates not merely for “its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency” but for “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.” For the Guardian, by contrast, the board rather conspicuously omits any reference to authority or to insight, noting only that the paper had “help[ed] through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.” The latter is at least true. The commendation to the Post, by contrast, involves an assertion of fact that is, at a minimum, highly contestable.
Observer/Guardian, Is the LRB the best magazine in the world? The London Review of Books has become the most successful – and controversial – literary publication in Europe. Just what is Mary-Kay Wilmers, its 75-year-old editor, getting so right? The LRB's editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers retains both an insatiable curiosity about people (the nurses) and a healthy disregard for received opinion (the church). Both qualities course through the pages of the London Review of Books which, under her 22-year editorship, has become a highly regarded publication with an influence that extends far beyond the rarefied world of small-circulation literary magazines.
OpEdNews, Obama Issues Threats To Russia And NATO, Paul Craig Roberts, April 7, 2014. The Obama regime has issued simultaneous threats to the enemy it is making out of Russia and to its European NATO allies on which Washington is relying to support sanctions on Russia. This cannot end well. As even Americans living in a controlled media environment are aware, Europeans, South Americans, and Chinese are infuriated that the National Stasi Agency is spying on their communications. In Washington mumbo-jumbo from the executive branch about "national security" suffices to negate statutory law and Constitutional requirements. Western Europe, seeing that the White House, Congress and the Federal Courts are impotent and unable to rein-in the Stasi Police State, has decided to create a European communication system that excludes US companies in order to protect the privacy of European citizens and government communications from the Washington. The Obama regime, desperate that no individual and no country escape its spy net, denounced Western Europe's intention to protect the privacy of its communications as "a violation of trade laws." So there you have it. The agreements are not about trade. The purpose of these "trade agreements" is to establish the hegemony of Washington and US corporations over other countries.