Justice Integrity Project
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.
Connecticut's tradition of vigorous civic institutions remains intact as a force for reform, as I saw during my lecture tour there last week.
This is good news for the rest of the country. Given the decline of the nation's watchdog institutions located in the capital, remedial action can only come "bottom up" from grassroots. Grassroots volunteerism is different from the phony "grasstop" organizations that special interests in Washington create whereby pseudo-populist groups manipulate public opinion.
My Connecticut trip June 18-20 was to discuss Presidential Puppetry, the first book about the Obama administration's second term. The strong civic institutions I saw and their reaction revealed positive signs amid discouraging news about national officials and the mainstream media.
In a message similar to my own these days, the prominent investigative editor Charles Lewis, for example, told a National Press Club audience June 24 in Washington, DC that "lying" by government officials has become standard operating procedure.
Lewis was announcing his memoir 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Integrity at the 25th anniversary of the Center for Public Integrity. In 1989, he founded the pioneering (and now Pulitzer-winning) non-partisan, non-profit group in a spare room of his house after he resigned in frustration from hidden corporate pressures he had experienced as a producer for the top-rated CBS News show "60 Minutes."
Asked about the "commonalities" he has observed since then as a reporter and journalism professor, Lewis, shown at left, responded, "Not to be glib, but the commonalities are that if you were listening to government officials they were usually lying, or at least being non-responsive and kicking the problem down the road."
My column today compares his expert observations over his three decades with what I observed in Connecticut, where I began my reporting career in 1970 with 14 years at the Hartford Courant, the state's largest newspaper.
I started by observing the annual awards luncheon of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information (CCFOI) and hearing how civic volunteers are fighting secrecy in government. I wanted to hear especially the award presentation for columnist Andy Thibault, a fierce fighter against injustice who also kindly volunteered to arrange my lectures.
Next, I participated in the process by lectures and interviews that drew from Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. The subtitle reflects its focus on what the mainstream media has missed about power brokers and such Republican officials as the Romney and Bush families, not just Democrats.
From these experiences, I share recommended measures for reform, as well as traps for the unwary. Some of these obstacles arise from masters of political intrigue who undertake despicable deeds with impunity because they can be confident that few are exposing their corruption in ways noticed by the public.
The work of the freedom of information council, CCFOI, is a great place to start our discussion.
Council Chairman James Herbert Smith, a longtime editor at the Courant and several other Connecticut newspapers, is shown at right presenting to Thibault the group's annual award to a journalist whose work best fostered open government during the previous year.
Revolutionary-era Gov. Oliver Wolcott and open government advocate Andy Thibault are two Connecticut patriots who inspired me as I prepared for a series of hard-hitting lectures this week in the state where I began my reporting career.
Wolcott was a Yale College graduate, judge and militia commander who lived from 1726 to 1797. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the state's congressional representative and governor. Curiously, his father had been the British crown's governor of Connecticut during colonial times.
So, it took commitment and courage for the younger Wolcott to lead fledgling revolutionaries, who were guaranteed neither success, popularity -- nor their lives and family welfare.
Fast forward to the present. Thibault is an enormously talented, fearless, and civic-minded journalist and author. The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, honored him June 18 with its annual "open government" award for his recent work, which builds on a lifetime of achievement.
His work includes syndicated newspaper columns, collected on his blog site Cool Justice and in his 2002 book Law and Justice In Everyday Life. These help fill a gap in downsized newspaper coverage of the nuts-and-bolts of community life. In an oft-uncaring world, he exposes injustice afflicting ordinary citizens in the courts, police departments and regulatory bodies.
One example has been his relentless search on behalf of a Westchester, NY family for a long-missing member, a businessman who journeyed to New Orleans decades ago. From such efforts overlapping our work here, I got better acquainted with his passion for justice after a gap of several decades from our first encounter, when I covered courts for the Hartford Courant.
Five months ago, he reviewed my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters in three Connecticut newspapers with an uncompromising appraisal under the bold headline, Road map to master manipulators.
Then he volunteered to use his considerable contacts in Connecticut to line up speaking engagements for me to discuss the book's findings.
The first was an invitation-only gathering at the prestigious Hartford Club June 18 in the state capital's downtown. Then at 7 p.m. on June 19, I spoke at the Oliver Wolcott Library in rural Litchfield.
Thibault lives in this historic community, which was also Wolcott's base for his many civic leadership posts.
But it is more than the Litchfield connection that paired Wolcott and Thibault in my mind. My lecture theme in Hartford was, "Protecting Connecticut’s Civic Culture from the National Surveillance State." The topic in Litchfield was a more general call for reform of disgraceful Washington-based activities hurting the nation.