A House of Cards producer and an exonerated ex-convict discussed justice reform during an innovative and compelling forum last week at the National Press Club.

John Mankiewicz, an executive producer and screenwriter for the hit television series House of Cards about a ruthless U.S. president, described why he became fascinated with ordeal of Jerry Miller, a Chicago man exonerated by DNA evidence from a kidnap-rape conviction in 2007. Miller had spent nearly 25 years in prison. Miller's 1982 sentence was for a 1981 crime committed by another man whom Miller did not know.

Against the current background of a real-life president whose new administration is cracking down on defendants' rights and other civil liberties, Miller underscored the challenges he experienced even after release and exoneration.

Miller said that authorities needlessly shamed and scarred him on parole as a "sex offender" and otherwise. It was so bad, he said, that he felt even after his release to his welcoming family, “This is harder than being in jail.”

Miller and Mankiewicz (shown at far left and left, respectively in the photo below) spoke on March 1 at the press club to discuss their collaboration on a new book, Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted. Editors for the anthology paired 14 victims (as established by post-conviction evidence) each with a well-known thriller or mystery author.

Speaking also on the panel was the book’s co-editor Laura Caldwell, a best-selling novelist, attorney and the founder/director of the Life After Innocence project at the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago. The moderator was Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou. He is shown with Caldwell at the right of the adjoining photo, which was taken at the panel by the Justice Integrity Project. The collection was co-edited by novelist Leslie Klinger.

The anthology includes a previously unpublished essay by the late playwright Arthur Miller. He led a campaign in Connecticut nearly four decades ago to free Peter Reilly, who had been coerced by state police when he was teenager into falsely confessing that he had murdered his mother. That controversy provoked bitter struggles within the law enforcement community and at one point pitted a reform-minded chief state's attorney against the politically powerful state police union, some of whose members had extracted the teenager's confession and wanted him kept imprisoned.

Those problems are widespread and still with us, as illustrated by the other case studies. One focused on a California law student, Gloria Killian, who served 17 years on a murder conspiracy charge before discovery that the murderer had bargained for a reduced sentence from authorities by falsely claiming that she was the murder mastermind.

As a reminder also of the high stakes nationally, the Trump Administration's new attorney general, Jeff Sessions (shown in an official photo) last month ordered the Justice Department to shut down its forensic science committee. That closure, reported by the Washington Post here, prompted concern by last week's forum panelists. So did such other Sessions initiatives as his order for the department to resume use of private prisons, cut 95% of funding for the department's office of drug control, and staff the justice department with those who have fought against its use of civil rights law to monitor abuses in states and localities.

Yet careful collection of evidence can remedy at least some problems, as shown by Anatomy of Innocence. The anthology uses the talents of well-known authors to showcase injustices in a U.S. penal system that currently incarcerates some 2.2 million persons. That is more than any other major country's total or as measured by the percentage of population.

How many of these might be held for bogus reasons? That's a timely question, especially as the new Trump administration ramps up efforts to implement its law-and-order campaign rhetoric. The analysis below provides both conventional analysis to that question, and also provides tools to understand corruption and cover-up at high levels of the justice system.

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Many independent experts on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy dispute the key claims in a new Time Magazine feature story published on April 25 that puffs up History channel's launch that evening of a new series purporting to shed new light on the killing.

Instead, Time's coverage of the six-part series "JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald" continues the magazine's shameful tradition of misleading its readers regarding a pivotal event in the nation's history.

John F. Kennedy side profile

History channel, despite its name and its past under different ownership featuring historical documentaries, now focuses on "reality" shows. That means scripted fakery for purely entertainment purposes and likely, in this instance, for propaganda purposes.

So, the notion that a "reality show" should be taken seriously by a major publication like Time even if a series is mislabeled as "history" is preposterous on its face unless the enterprise were part of larger public relations scheme, as this seems to be.

The specifics here are worth examining because they help illustrate how Time, its corporate affiliates like CNN, and most other mainstream media deliberately confuse the public on the most vital public affairs issues in collaboration with intelligence agencies even as they claim to oppose "fake news" and alternative media.

In JFK Declassified: Fallback to the Original Phase One Cover Story, longtime JFK researcher William Kelly provided this review: "The much-ballyhooed History channel six-part “documentary," JFK Declassified, is a slick but unconvincing piece of propaganda, a classic case of disinformation that mixes some truth with total falsehoods to promote the original Phase One cover-story for the Dealey Plaza Operation: that the Cuban Castro Communists were behind it."

More generally, the Kennedy assassination provides a Rosetta Stone to understanding media coverage of more recent sensitive events involving intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Young people, especially those who might be inclined to regard the 196Os deaths of JFK and numerous witnesses as a pointless obsession by old-timers and complainers, should reflect on the continuing importance: Few can see documentary evidence of what's really happening in Middle East wars or investigations of Russian influence on U.S. public officials, advisors and elections, for example. For the most part, we know only what reporters and government experts choose to tell us. But, largely ignored by the media, courageous eye-witnesses have told their JFK murder stories and dedicated researchers have mined some four million pages of declassified JFK documents and found compelling evidence disproving the official story still foisted upon the public by the corporate-controlled media. 

Shaping the JFK Narrative

Kennedy's 100th birthday is on May 29. So the History channel's six-week series helps shape public attention for an iconic presidency that ended with his slaying in broad daylight in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Almost immediately after JFK's death, authorities pronounced the case as solved when JFK's accused slayer Lee Harvey Oswald (shown on a 1964 Time cover) was killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on live television in a Dallas police station two days later.

Then as now, the corporate-controlled news media typified by Time worked closely with authorities to deliver a mixture of news and public relations to a shocked nation. The public received little in-depth reporting about the murder; instead, it got blanket coverage of the ceremonies and transition to the administration of a successor president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Although the American public has been repeatedly deceived by top officials and their media allies about basic facts regarding Kennedy's death, the official account is so incredible for so many reasons that public opinion polls for decades have shown that large majorities do not believe the central finding of the Warren Commission: The blue-ribbon panel led by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and including former CIA Director Allen Dulles found that Oswald killed Kennedy while acting alone.

Wild Goose Chase?

Coverage this week by Time magazine (and apparently History channel) appears to accept the Commission's findings as core truth. The TV series apparently goes on to distract the public with essentially a wild goose chase speculating about the meaning of Oswald's activities. Thus, the video series first segment on April 25, Former CIA Operative Argues Lee Harvey Oswald's Cuba Connections Went Deep, explored a long-discredited thesis that Oswald's travels help suggest potential sympathy for him from Cuban and Soviet Communist leaders, thus potentially linking them to his death.

Lee Harvey Oswald militaryThis diverts public attention from compelling evidence that Oswald, a former Marine trusted with involvement in the ultra-secret U-2 spy plane operation, had been acting as a low-level U.S. government asset with ties to the CIA, FBI and military intelligence before the assassination. Compare Oswald's Marine photo at left with Time's portrayal to get a sense of the propaganda techniques in play. Which photo looks more like an anti-American deranged killer?

By this interpretation, Oswald's ostensibly suspicious activities were his cover to ingratiate himself with Communists to help his U.S. superiors advance their anti-Communist agendas — and all of his work could be conveniently  transformed into making Oswald into a patsy, or fall guy, for assassination if needed.

Allen Dulles

A declassified transcript of a 1964 Warren Commission executive committee meeting shows Dulles (shown in a file photo) urging his fellow commissioners to help squelch public reports at the time that Oswald had been a government agent.

Outraged over the CIA's Bay of Pigs debacle and other out-of-control activities, JFK had forced the resignation of Dulles in 1962 along with the director's two top aides. One was Gen. Charles Cabell (shown below left), whose brother Earle Cabell was the mayor of Dallas during the killing. Those are not the kind of connections Time Magazine and its peers like to pursue.

Charles CabellBut we shall, with an in-depth look below at Time's close historical connection with the nation's propaganda apparatus at the highest levels.

Fast forward to the present: The History channel show's host is Robert Baer, a former CIA officer who purports to act as an independent expert. But Baer's conclusions appear to parrot the 1964 Warren Commission report and obscure questions about the CIA's apparent multiple roles in the JFK death and investigation. Those ties run extremely deep, according to some four million pages of documents pertaining to the assassination that have been declassified since the commission's report was published, with many of the most revealing documents published in recent years because of public pressure through Congress and litigation.

Experience has shown that financial and other career rewards tend to be far richer for JFK assassination researchers like Baer who endorse the official findings rather than interview the many dissenters, who publish books that are rarely reviewed and convene at packed-to-capacity conferences that rarely include a reporter from a mainstream news organization.

This editor attends such conferences and knows that people are still living who knew Oswald as a friend, including as a fellow U.S. Marine — and who doubt his intention or ability to kill Kennedy. Even if one discounts such personal testimonials, compelling scientific evidence suggests that Oswald could not have killed Kennedy from the rear because the fatal shot came from the president's right front.

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Two cable news stars broadcast a repulsive but revealing display of self-promotion Aug. 10 when MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell credited fellow anchor Rachel Maddow for coverage prompting the resignation of Alabama's scandal-ridden governor earlier in the day. "You alone," he told her, covered the scandal.

Roger ShulerBut credit belongs not to the heavily promoted Maddow (shown in a file photo) but to the courageous Alabama blogger Roger Shuler. He has been financially ruined, beaten and jailed for his relentless investigations of top state officials, including the just-departed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Shuler broke the story of the scandals arising from Bentley's affair with a highly paid state aide, Rebekah Caldwell Masonl (shown with Bentley below). Shuler began with a column Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley engaged in extramarital affair that prompted First Lady's divorce complaint on Aug. 31, 2015. He followed with two more such columns over the next two days. The updates keep coming, as in his report that Mason apparently faces no sanction:  Finding of "no probable cause" against Rebekah Mason suggests ethics commission is part of scheme to oust Bentley but keep greater wrongdoing under cover.

The story of his scoop is particularly apt now because of the awful price that Shuler and his wife Carol have paid for such work. Also, the mainstream media are waging a heavy-handed public relations campaign against bloggers, alternative media and those falling under the smear of "fake news" and "conspiracy theory."

This is the first of several columns we plan about those developments, which are prominent this week in part because of the annual announcement of Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzers were dominated as usual by winners from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal in major categories. It's fine that they were able to achieve recognition, and in that spirit we cite winners here and below.

But there's much more to journalism than the big outlets. Grassroots practitioners like Shuler across the country do not and cannot spend their scarce income much on application fees to compete in such contests, even in the unlikely event their work would receive serious consideration from the corporate-controlled media that control such recognition.

So, we focus for now on the brave and largely unreported tale of how Shuler, an impoverished blogger in flight with his wife from autocratic Alabama judges managed to bring down his state's governor in the kind of mind-boggling sex, legal and financial scandal whose revelation has become commonplace recently in that state.

The Tips and Tape That Torpedoed a Governor

Bentley's resignation means the leadership of all three branches of Alabama's state government has been ousted in less than a year because of scandal, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (permanently suspended for refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on gay rights that conflict with his understanding of The Bible) and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, arguably the most powerful state official and convicted last June of 12 felonies involving massive graft.

Roger Shuler

Shuler is shown puffy-faced in a county jail mug shot taken after he was arrested at his home, beaten, and jailed for six months on a contempt of court charge in October 2014 arising from his coverage of what he regarded as other sex scandals involving prominent Alabama lawyers.

The irony is that Shuler gets virtually nothing for it — hardly any money and very little recognition, and probably many more legal hassles to come — whereas the MSNBC anchors are reported to receive multi-million-dollar annual salaries.

Neither Maddow nor O'Donnell (shown in screenshots) did original reporting that broke this case as Shuler did. Nor do they risk anything by their commentary to a largely liberal audience, except the possibility of one day being phased out for new faces. The Shulers, by contrast, have long lived in Red State country, where threats of violence against liberals are a frequent occurrence, especially for them.

What's most important about this, however, is not who gets the credit for this particular story. The vital point instead should be greater public awareness that a healthy society depends on the different strengths that independent blogging and mainstream news bring to civic awareness.

Here's the inside story of the Alabama scandals that we developed from Justice Integrity Project sources in Alabama fostered in part over many years of following that state's courageous bloggers like Shuler and their dwindling core whistleblower sources who dare fight entrenched corruption in a state where drastic reprisals against dissidents are not uncommon.      

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The fight by Senate Democrats against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that concluded Friday has ripped the phony veneer off the court's non-political image and convoluted plots by conservatives to install their puppets to implement radical agendas.

Neil GorsuchGorsuch, 49, and shown in an official photo, received confirmation April 7 with a 54-45 vote. That was one of the slimmest margins in modern history — and he prevailed only because his backers discarded the Senate's traditional requirement of 60 votes.

But margins and traditions meant little to his backers in comparison to the decades of Gorsuch rulings they envision on the court to implement their agendas. High on the list of radical change for the nation's political structure via the courts is vastly reduced regulation of business and voting rights for Democratic-leaning populations, and the likely abolition of a constitutional right to abortion and other pivotal privacy rights.

As his backers well knew, that agenda energizes social conservatives but primarily serves the ultra-rich, including the unknown donors who contributed millions of dollars of dark money for pro-Gorsuch television ads touting his fairness. 

A Democratic base furious with Republican propaganda and conniving strategies surrounding the court roused Democratic senators into a rare use of their filibuster power in order to protest Gorsuch. Democrats had failed to invoke filibuster even to stop the scandal-plagued 1991 nomination of Clarence Thomas. The Senate confirmed Thomas to the court by a 52-48 margin despite the testimony of his former staffer Anita Hill claiming sexual harassment in nationally televised hearings. 

As wider context, most commentators have parroted the conventional wisdom: that the Democrats' strategy of opposing Gorsuch was doomed to failure on the vote count and also self-defeating longer term because opposing such a well-educated and well-spoken nominee as Gorsuch makes the Democrats seem overly partisan and otherwise diminishes their clout in a GOP-controlled Senate.

Our take is different: Democrats, Independents and indeed all Americans needed to see via this confirmation process that the Supreme Court, like much of the so-called justice system, is already highly partisan, especially when the stakes are high and insiders think they can get away with rigging the outcomes to provide a facade of fairness under the so-called "rule of law."

The Justice Integrity Project was founded to report flagrant Justice Department and similar courtroom abuses stemming from sophisticated officials like Gorsuch and his backers who abuse their authority to get ahead and/or provide favorable legal outcomes for their cronies and patrons. The project broadened its scope over time to document Democratic abuses in the Obama-Holder Justice Department and elsewhere in government corruption. As a personal initiative, this editor went on to research and write the 2013 book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.

The book showed how presidents are far more controlled by their backers than the public realizes. That truth extends also to Supreme Court justices like Gorsuch as we report today based on extensive research about hidden elements in the biographies, backers and jurisprudence of court personnel. 

In these ways, the analysis below stems from our mission. But we advise also that we have not seen it articulated widely elsewhere in such specific terms, at least by the senators weighing these two nominations. Decide for yourselves.

The Big Picture

Insiders already know that the "rule of law" at the Supreme Court level is in many ways a myth when the stakes get high, as in the 2000 Supreme Court vote in Bush v. Gore for the Republican majority in effect to award the presidency to their preferred candidate George W. Bush in a case they said had no precedential value for any future litigation — a clear tip-off that it was result-oriented jurisprudence that, among other benefits, would help relatives of three of the five justices prosper in political posts.

With many such outrages in the court's recent history and many more likely to come under the radical decision-making Gorsuch is poised to deliver, it's high time the rest of the public better understood the process. That's because so many vital interests are being sold out, both by the justices and by litigants -- including those from the Justice Department, which groomed Gorsuch like many others to pretend they are undertaking a noble mission that just happens to secure the future of themselves and their patrons.

President Trump, Judge Neil Gorsuch, wife Louise Gorsuch (NBC News)

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Federal Judge John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), headlined an expert faculty this month in the nation’s capital advocating for compliance with the JFK Assassination Records Act’s deadline of release of President Kennedy’s death records.

John F. Kennedy side profile

The law, approved unanimously by Congress in 1992, mandates the release by Oct. 26 of all U.S. government records related to President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Experts at the March 16 forum at the National Press Club organized by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) estimated that some 3,600 documents remain secret, largely because of objections, obstruction or confusion by various agencies.

Judge Tunheim, now chief federal judge for Minnesota, keynoted a news conference at the forum’s beginning. He outlined the challenges his presidentially appointed commission overcame in reviewing and releasing some four million pages of assassination-related material in the 1990s. See: Transcript of Judge John Tunheim’s Remarks.

The complete conference aside from the opening welcome by this editor is available on a video by independent film maker Randolph Benson, producer/director also The Searchers and a speaker at the forum.

Part I (1:31:44 mins.) is here. That segment showed Forum and CAPA Chairman Dr. Cyril H. Wecht introducing Tunheim, as shown below.

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Part II of Series: Did Trump Labor Pick Protect Trump, Rich Rapists, Tax Cheats, Crooked Bankers?

The Trump administration should not be able to hide evidence of abusive practices and cover-up by President Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Labor just because

alexander-acosta-fiu.jpg

the administration is also facing an unprecedented FBI probe into its allegedly corrupt complicity with Russian operatives to win last November's elections.

A hold stopping the nomination of Alexander Acosta is necessary unless the senators obtain enough evidence to clear Acosta of allegations stemming from his previous career. This includes the time when he was the Bush administration U.S. attorney in Miami and implemented many dubious if not outrageous prosecutorial decisions.

Acosta faces a confirmation hearing Wednesday. Senators must place a "hold" on his nomination and not just subject him to questions or get distracted by the other extraordinary events in the nation's capital, such as the House Intelligence Committee hearings or Supreme Court nomination hearing.

A hold would create conditions for senators to obtain enough evidence to clear Acosta of allegations stemming from his previous career. Acosta was one of the 84 or so U.S. attorneys allowed to keep their jobs during the 2006 U.S. attorney firing scandal when nine of his colleagues were fired for failing to base their law enforcement judgments on political goals of the White House.

Acosta's dubious decisions include a wrist-slap plea deal for the billionaire pervert Jeffrey Epstein, who was alleged in a federal lawsuit last year to have inflicted multiple rapes upon a 13-year-old in 1994 along with his friend Donald Trump.

The 2008 plea deal's most notorious aspect was that it forbade authorities from investigating others in Epstein's circle, who included Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom, plus those who helped implement Epstein's depradations on many underage girls.

A demand for a senate "hold" is our opinion at the Justice Integrity Project. This is a rare editorial by us based on our reporting condensed in last week's column Did Trump Labor Pick Protect Trump, Rich Rapists, Tax Cheats, Crooked Bankers? Do We Find Out Wednesday? 

That column and this editorial are part of a multipart series that will continue to examine Acosta's career.

But the cascade of important news — including revelations before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI is investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — threaten to push Acosta's confirmation out of the spotlight where it deserves to be.

Patty MurrayThat's especially true given the widespread nature of Acosta's alleged failings and the president's own potential complicity as a direct beneficiary of Acosta's failure to pursue Epstein's sex ring, which a lawsuit filed last year claimed involved his friend and neighbor Trump in raping and threatening a 13-year-old in 1994. The lawsuit filed by a "Jane Doe," later identified as a Katie Johnson, was dropped last November after the plaintiff's attorney said anonymous death threats intimidated the plaintiffs.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State (shown in an official photo), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has promised to grill Acosta on the Epstein prosecution. Acosta-led federal prosecutors agreed with their state counterparts in Florida to let the well-connected billionaire Epstein plead to misdemeanor charges in 2008 even though police had accummulated evidence of his enticement of scores of high school and junior high school girls for sex at his West Palm Beach mansion alone.

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