Justice Integrity Project
On the eve of a major Whistleblower Summit in the nation's capital, a federal judge issued a shocking pro-CIA ruling that has the effect of discouraging disclosure about the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, shown at right in a file photo, denied attorneys fees under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to fact-seekers whose decade-long litigation against the CIA unearthed one of the most important disclosures during recent years in the murder investigation.
One revelation from the litigation was that a CIA psychological warfare expert, George Joannides, apparently met accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before the killing -- and then failed to disclose that fact in the 1970s to congressional investigators reexamining the case. Joannides was the CIA's official liaison to the congressional investigators for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which in 1979 issued a re-evaluation of 1960s official accounts of the assassinations of President Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The CIA honored Joannides with a career service medal in 1981 recognizing his 28 years, the litigation disclosed.
Leon has issued three previous pro-CIA rulings, all reversed by the federal appellate court. His pattern of pro-agency rulings helps underscore the importance of the annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights, which begins Monday for three days at several locations in Washington, DC. Details are here.
At the Summit, I plan to examine Leon's role during my 3 p.m. panel discussion on FOIA litigation July 28 after doing so earlier during the day in a radio interview by Gloria Minott of WPFW-FM, syndicated nationally by the Pacifica Network and locally at 89.3 FM.
She is the main moderator of the Summit, which features also U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, who are each receiving awards.
Nacchio was imprisoned on dubious financial fraud charges after he refused a Bush-Cheney administration demand before 9/11 to help the NSA undertake illegal surveillance of Qwest customers. My information from expert sources is that Nacchio was targeted by prosecutors as reprisal for being the only major telco CEO to refuse the government's then-illegal spying orders.
More generally, my advice to whistleblowers during my panel and radio interview is that Leon's decision helps illustrate how whistleblowers can face hidden obstacles that motivate judges and other supposedly independent watchdogs to fight disclosure at all costs.
Truth-seekers should nonetheless press forward with litigation and other tactics, but should be prepared also to fight in the court of public opinion.
In the JFK case:
CIA reluctantly disclosed during the litigation that Joannides had secretly met accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before the killing -- and then Joannides served (without disclosing that relationship) as the CIA's liaison to the 1970s House Select Committee on Assassinations committee re-examining the Warren Commission's finding that Oswald killed Kennedy, acting alone. The CIA later awarded a medal to Joannides, shown in a file photo.
The judge, a Harvard Law School graduate who earned his prominence in part via the bitter partisan investigative of years past, decided that the decade of litigation work of non-profit groups disclosing the scandal was not important enough to merit fees under the law.
Unless overturned, Leon's ruling represents a harsh blow to two small non-profit public service organizations and their leaders. They have helped lead the fight to uncover the facts of one the most important murder mysteries in American history, and in this instance achieved major discoveries.
JFKFacts.org founder Jefferson Morley and his attorney, James Lesar, brought FOIA lawsuit Morley v. CIA seeking release of long-secret JFK records. Lesar is a longtime specialist in FOIA law who also leads the Assassination Archive and Records Center (AARC).
Morley is a former Washington Post reporter who left the paper after it proved reluctant in his view to pursue leads in the JFK murder case.
He published his view of Leon's decision in a July 25 column, Fifty one years later, federal judge upholds the CIA’s right to keep JFK secrets.
"The decision," Morley wrote, "exemplifies the extraordinary deference that the CIA enjoys in the federal courts. Leon dismissed extensive newspaper coverage of the lawsuit and ignored the coverage of a key document it uncovered. He affirmed that the CIA’s conduct in keeping JFK assassination-related records secrets in 2014 was “reasonable.” Morley continued regarding Leon:
His narrow decision studiously avoids grappling with the untold story of CIA operations around accused presidential assassin Lee Oswald in the summer of 1963 and the agency’s subsequent obstruction of a congressional investigation in 1978. The story of the late George Joannides [a CIA liaison to congressional investigators who failed to disclose that he had worked with Oswald prior to the assassination] is obviously relevant to the JFK story.
Members of 9/11 Commission this week leveraged the 10th anniversary of their report to announce a dozen recommendations focused primarily on fanning fears of foreign terrorism. The former commissioners urged strong spending on counter-terrorism intelligence and far fewer congressional oversight committees.
News coverage arising from the announcement and related congressional testimony avoided mysteries and ongoing disputes.
For example, former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, in Re-Open the 9/11 Investigation Now, and former 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland, who left the commission before its final report in 2004, have each called for renewed formal investigations of 9/11. Their perspectives were almost entirely missing from the forum and mainstream news coverage.
"The fix is in," former Bush Administration counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke recalled telling a White House colleague in early 2003.
Clarke is best known for apologizing to 9/11 families and other Americans for the tragedy to begin his 2004 testimony before the Commission. He told a biographer he made the "fix" remark upon hearing news that the 9/11 Commission had hired as its executive director Philip Zelikow. Zelikow, part of the Bush administration transition team, was a close ally of the administration and a fierce opponent of Clarke, a National Security Council staffer who had unsuccessfully warned about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks.
Such talk was not part of last week's forum convened July 22 by the Bipartisan Policy Center in downtown Washington, DC.
"Many Americans," they said, "think that the terrorist threat is waning -- that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong. The threat remains grave and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction."
The speakers said the public should fear terrorism and support vigorous counter-terrorism measures. A photo above via Creative Commons portrays the attack on New York's World Trade Center.
Counter-terrorism contractors and their allies in government, Wall Street and the media fear budget cutbacks in an era of austerity, especially when relatively few foreign terrorism threats have been discovered. Many of plots exposed have revealed deep involvement by undercover federal agents pretending to support a plot. That evidence could mean that counter-terrorism investments are working -- or conversely that few plots exist aside from those observed if not fostered by agents until the time of arrest.
This column explores the financial and career incentives that shaped the 9/11 Commission's work and shows that an effort for consensus has taken the commission far away from its core responsibility to determine why the 9/11 tragedy occurred. This column is organized in the following manner:
- This Week's News
- A Necessary Flashback
- The Short-Lived 'Kissinger Commission'
- Unfinished Business
- The Final Word?
- Links To Sources
Three columns in the Washington Post's July 20 Sunday print edition raise red flags as potential examples of government propaganda disguised as news.
The Post presented them as the most prominent articles on its front page, its weekly Outlook opinion section, and its Sunday magazine.
The placement strongly implied endorsement by the newspaper, which remains Washington's most influential news organization.
But closer examination raises serious questions. You be the judge regarding these Post articles and their presentation:
- The front-page lead story with a five-column headline was Russia supplied missile launchers to separatists, U.S. official says. Problem: Traditional journalistic practice has been to identify by name the top officials who make major announcements. The Post did not name the official here, thereby granting a pass if the opinion proves wrong.
- The lead right-hand column in the Sunday Outlook section was Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans. Potential Problem: The column by a former State Department employee, John Napier Tye, appears to make a whistle-blower style disclosure in the public interest against President Reagan and his administration's National Security Agency (NSA), a super-secret unit within the Department of Defense. However, the column's circumstances raise the possibility that the article is part of an intelligence operation to channel dissent into controlled organizations such as Tye's new employer, Avaaz, a global website for citizen activists.
- The magazine cover story was Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Lonely Crusade. Problem: The article flatly stated without attribution or qualification that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered President John F. Kennedy in 1963. That finding by the Warren Commission in 1964 remains highly controversial among experts and the public. This week's Post coverage continued the paper's practice of avoiding or trivializing evidence disputing the commission or implicating other players.
The problems go beyond what are (at least arguably) lapses in basic journalistic rules typically used for news, features and analysis stories (although not necessarily for editorials or blogs).
Each matter involves a major controversy in which the nation's intelligence agencies and the Washington Post have shared agendas and other secret ties that extend back decades to the earliest years of CIA and its Wall Street allies, according to the findings of my research and that of many others. As we have previously reported here, the CIA strengthened those ties last fall by awarding a $600 million contract to Amazon.com, the wealth source for the Post's new owner, Jeffrey Bezos.
We have recently published here several columns about scandals and other shortcomings in the mainstream media failings. Those columns are cited in an appendix below. So, I was reluctant to focus here once again on the Post. Many other national and global issues require attention.
But the stakes are high and the Post's performance is vital not simply for its readers, but for its influence on politics, books, television and other thought-leadership, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. And so we proceed with the questions here, well knowing that the analysis is necessarily a snapshot in time because new information is constantly arising -- in newspaper news sections and elsewhere.
Washington's watchdog institutions -- including its timid, corporate-controlled media -- are failing to protect the public.
That was my lecture theme July 11 at the National Press Club as I presented reasons why mainstream news organizations under-report or ignore certain major stories about domestic and foreign affairs.
Former CBS and NBC news editor John Kelly organized the invitation-only dinner lecture, which focused on recent developments illustrating themes from my book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. The book reveals and documents via 1,100 endnotes Wall Street's use of the CIA and NSA to influence elections and government extending back decades and affecting all Americans.
Among other examples, I described prominent government officials in the Obama administration, including President Obama, who have successfully hidden key parts of their past. Suppressed information protects and empowers "puppet masters" in the private sector.
They profit from -- if not orchestrate -- elections, revolts and financial panics, as well as their more routine fare of looting the treasury via lucrative government contracts and plutocrat-friendly tax laws and regulations.
Profiteers operate via minions in government and the media, most of whom are so ambitious that they rarely inquire into sensitive areas.
A lifelong exception to the go-along, get-along spirit is John Kelly, shown in a file photo. He is the last surviving reporter who reported 1960 election results from the Hyannis Port family compound of winner John F. Kennedy.
Kelly's impressive career includes service as a CIA officer, stepping forward to Jack Anderson as a taxpayer advocate. Anderson quoted him as saying that the leading American victims of the war were GIs and taxpayers. Kelly then returned to journalism, and covered Watergate for CBS News. Kelly is a founding director of the Justice Integrity Project, which operates the non-partisan investigative service you are reading here.
In introducing me last week to a dinner audience, Kelly spoke of the harm to the public that occurs when slanted or entertainment news squeezes out hard news. He said those newscasters who began their careers in public relations often drive agendas to "soft" news that pleases the powerful and foster advancement for amenable journalists, their organizations and affiliated companies.
The topic remains in this news this week in multiple ways, including Glenn Greenwald's report today, NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children. The fatal crash of a Malaysian airline in the Ukraine represents another reporting challenge to overcome bias and intrigue, as indicted by a July 17 forum by the think tank CSIS and moderated by CBS News Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
Appended below to this column are previous columns on these themes. They quote other experienced journalists, public officials and other commentators who decry the loss of a free press, and related rights such as free speech, privacy and due process.
In Press Probes 'Obama's War On Leaks,' for example, I reported in 2012 how the nation’s two leading press clubs convened experts on national security for a gripping, historically important assessment of the Obama administration’s shocking prosecutions of government news sources.
One panelist was New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jailing for refusing to reveal his government sources.
“The fundamental issue,” said Risen, author of the path-breaking 2006 book, State of War, “is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive reporting. I don’t think you can.”
In my remarks July 11, I noted that Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a consummate insider, that morning had described Obama national security aide Benjamin Rhodes as in effect the president's "chief strategist." Rhodes is shown at the president's immediate left during a staff meeting two months ago in the Oval Office.
Ignatius failed to mention that the aide's brother, David Rhodes, is president of CBS News.
This is one of a vast number of such conflicts and omissions harming public discourse. Such omissions enable powerful private sector players to impose their agendas with little scrutiny from government or other supposedly independent watchdogs. Many of those watchdogs in the media, politics, courts and elsewhere are mere faithful servants for the powerful, not protectors of the public.
What follows is a summary of last week's discussion, which was covered also by an interview in the New Cambridge Observer in 'Presidential Puppetry,' New Book on Intelligence/Media Ties.
The mainstream media have kept the American public ignorant of vital news in deference to top political and military-intelligence officials, according to former CIA analyst Raymond L. McGovern.
McGovern, shown below, spoke July 2 to the Sarah McClendon News Group at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
"Never has it been so bad in the 50 years I've been in this town," said McGovern, 74, a peace advocate following a quarter century in the military and CIA, including five years overseas and daily briefing duties for White House staff of two presidents.
"There's one change that dwarfs all the others," he continued at the dinner lecture. "We no longer have a free media. That's big. It does not get any bigger than that."
Among his examples were self-censorship on what could have been significant stories by the Washington Post, its former subsidiary Newsweek, and the New York Times.
McGovern's appraisal matches that of other media critics. The factors he described prompted me to found the Justice Integrity Project, for example, and then assemble a narrative of unreported and under-reported major stories into my recent book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.
On June 24, longtime DC-based investigative editor Charles Lewis described a similar journey at CBS News in his memoir 935 Lies. Lewis said that "lying" by government officials has become standard operating procedure tolerated by many timid reporters and their bosses. Lewis, a former network news producer, resigned from CBS 60 Minutes in 1989 over disappointment from watered-down coverage he saw. He founded the non-profit Center for Public Integrity and launched his book at the center's 25th anniversary last month, as we reported here two weeks ago.
McGovern came to Washington in 1962 as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then served as a CIA analyst from the administration of John F. Kennedy until 1990, that of George H. W. Bush. His CIA duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President's Daily Briefing, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan's most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985.
Among McGovern's examples of suppressed stories:
Former Bush administration NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden last October joked during a forum organized by the Washington Post that President Obama should put Snowden on President Obama's "kill list" of those to be assassinated by presidential order, McGovern said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) concurred. McGovern noted that the Post failed to report the Mafia-style repartee at its own newsmaker forum.
More generally, McGovern said the media are keeping the public in the dark about central facts regarding recent deaths and fighting in Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine.
McGovern said that only Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey's last-minute intercession with President Obama prevented the United States from launching bombing attacks on Syria based on bogus claims that Syria President Bashar Al-Assad had used chemical weapons to kill more than a thousand persons Aug. 21 in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
Secretary of State John Kerry said 35 times, "We know" that Assad's government killed the victims, McGovern continued. "He [Kerry] didn't know. He was lying through his teeth."
"It was the rebels who did it," McGovern said of the sarin killings, whose victims included many children. "They wanted to mousetrap us into a war."
Former Navy Intelligence officer Wayne Madsen and I broke that story separately last September. Madsen published it on Sept. 1 in, Obama caved under last-minute pressure from Dempsey.
Based on similar sourcing, I published two days later Did America's Top General Save Nation From Open-Ended War in Syria? Also, my Presidential Puppetry reported Dempsey's role in persuading Obama to over-rule White House and State Department advisors urging a bombing attack without congressional approval.
As the United States celebrated on July 4 its 1776 independence movement, terrified residents of the world's current trouble spots struggled to survive war and misery.
The picnic-like atmosphere on the Washington Mall before a huge evening fireworks display contrasted sharply with the horrors of a new war in the Ukraine between separatists and the United States-backed new government.
From the rooftop of my office on Pennsylvania Avenue, I took the photo at left of the capital city's elaborate fireworks display. The Washington Monument is faintly visible at the left of the display, which the federal government organizes annually to commemorate the colonists' Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The Washington Post headlined part of its July 5 print edition "Capital knows how to party" to capture the festive mood on the mall.
Meanwhile, the United States and its onetime enemy, the United Kingdom, have been closely allied in fostering revolutions against existing governments worldwide, including the Mideast, Africa and South America.
Most prominent recently is the two nations' alliance via NATO in the Ukraine. They and Western powers orchestrated the overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government in February following U.S-supported riots in the capital city of Kiev. The regime-change preparations became most visible via a leaked cable from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Victoria Nuland, as recounted in Top U.S. Diplomat Caught On Tape In Profane Plot.
Then the West backed the new government against separatists who arose in the industrial eastern region, which is largely comprised of ethnic Russians.
On July 1, the recently elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko halted a 10-day ceasefire in the country’s east and ordered the Ukrainian National Guard to resume fighting rebels, who sought to create during the spring to create an independent country aligned with Russia.
The photo at right is from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which reported that Ukraine's central government attacked on July 2 civilians in the village of Luganskaya and nearby.
Such images should be part of Western news accounts even if debate can occur, as often in a war zone, regarding the specific circumstances.
The Russian news agency asserted that the damage came from Kiev-backed artillery shelling of civilian targets. But the agency also quoted Kiev authorities as denying they caused the damage. Kiev officials attributed the horrors to self-inflicted harm by rebels, an assertion disputed by some of the civilians interviewed in the bombing zone.
Most United States mainstream media have ignored the photos, attributed to RIA's Valeriy Melnikov. Suppression helps keep news coverage focused on story lines advocated by the State Department, CIA and White House and those of like-minded news managers in other nations.
My recent book, Presidential Puppetry, argues that powerful entities exercise hidden controls over the media and government. The Washington Post, for example, has long had a close working relationship with the CIA and its Wall Street allies. The Post's new owner, Amazon.com founder Jeffrey Bezos, illustrated that relationship last fall when Amazon.com won a $600 million contract from the CIA to handle the agency's cloud computing.
Fortunately, independent journalists are providing alternative information. What follows on the next page is a snapshot of such coverage involving the Ukraine. As a warning, at least one photo is too graphic for comfortable viewing.