Justice Integrity Project
Whistle Blower Summit In DC Features Senators, Free Film Screening, Book Signing, Awards Starting July 29
Among the special events at the annual Whistle Blowers Summit July 29-31 will be awards presentations, a free film screening of Kill the Messenger, and author book-signings July 30 at the Busboys & Poets flagship store in Washington, DC.
In addition to the panels that are the core of the free program, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden are scheduled to speak July 30 on Capitol Hill. Both are longtime supporters of accountability in government, co-founders of the Senate Whistleblower Caucus, and previous winner's of the Summit's "Pillar Award."
Grassley (shown in a file photo) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Wyden is the ranking Democrat on the Joint Senate-House Committee on Taxation, and has been especially active on the Select Committee on Intelligence in advocating greater public awareness of excesses in electronic surveillance.
Beginning in May 2007, whistleblowers have convened annually for education and advocacy at a free conference in Washington, DC. The theme for this year’s Summit is “Black Lives Matter — This Is the Movement!” See: Summit schedule.
Two of the major organizers for years have been Arkansas-based attorney and CPA Michael McCray and DC-area whistleblower Marcel Reid, a former ACORN National Director, chair of DC ACORN, and one of a three-member Interim Management Committee to reorganize ACORN after the discovery of a major embezzlement. They collaborated on the book ACORN 8: Race, Power & Politics that they will sign at the event.
The Pillar Journalism Awards for Human Rights recognize those activists whose talent and courage make them "Pillars" of democracy. This year's winners are:
- For print: Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch.
- For broadcast: Abby Martin, independent journalist and formerly with RTV, and Dennis Bernstein, host of Flashpoint Radio on KPFA.
- For documentaries: Kristina Borjesson, producer/director/writer of TWA Flight 800, a documentary featuring six investigators-turned whistleblowers. Also, she is scheduled guest this week on "From a Woman’s Point of View," a show broadcast and available online via the 70,000-watt non-commercial station WMNF-FM (88.5) in Tampa.
- For activism: Dr. Riki Ott, an activist, speaker and author who is a trained marine toxicologist and former commercial fisher woman. She has written books on oil spill impacts to ecosystems, people, and communities and starred in Black Wave, an award-winning feature film. This week, she will also be a guest on the WMNF-FM, whose programming is available online.
Also, former Qwest Communications International Chairman and CEO Joseph Nacchio receives in person before his 4 p.m. presentation July 29 a Pillar "Corporate Courage" award designated last year for his opposition in 2001 to Bush administration requests in early 2001 without a warrant for bulk access to Qwest electronic records of customers.
The film screening and book signing session will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m on July 30. It will include a free screening of Kill The Messenger about the late San Jose Mercury investigative reporter and Dark Alliance author Gary Webb, who died despondent after a firestorm of criticism for his 1990s work alleging official complicity in the crack epidemic plaguing inner cities. The screening may include another of the following films nominated for the Summit’s Pillar Award: A2-B-C ; Silenced; The Hidden Enemy; and TWA Flight 800.
The special event is sponsored by Sharyl Attkisson (shown in a file photo) from the proceeds of her best-selling 2014 memoir of her two decades as a CBS News reporter: Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. The locale is Busboys and Poets at 2021 14th Street, NW, near V Street.
Feds Crushed Telecom CEO Who Protected Customer Data from NSA Snoops…But He’s Back, Protesting New Reform Law
Long before 9/11 in 2001 or the reformist surveillance law signed last month, one of the nation’s top telecom executives reminded federal officials they needed court approval before his company could hand over en masse private customer data to the National Security Agency (NSA).
Qwest Chairman and CEO Joseph P. Nacchio, shown at right, thus followed traditional business and legal principles regarding government requests for electronic data. He chaired two national telecom advisory commissions under the then-new Bush administration after 26 years with AT&T. So, he was an expert even though Qwest (a fiber company that acquired US West) was best known in the Western states it primarily served as one of the nation's four regional Bell carriers during that era.
But Nacchio then endured a long nightmare of reprisal that is relevant to the supposed protections of the USA Freedom Act signed last month.
President Obama and other backers of the new law say it protects the public by keeping data with private companies except upon valid request from authorities.
That protection is questionable in the real world, however, especially after the reported compliance of all telecom companies in 2001 except Nacchio to the NSA warrantless requests -- and the brutal, little-known reprisal against Nacchio, the holdout.
Nacchio will speak of these factors July 29 10 a.m. at the National Press Club and then at a 4 p.m. panel on political prosecutions as a threat to democracy at the Whistle Blowers Summit in Washington, DC.
Authorities cancelled hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for Qwest to provide services for federal agencies. The company’s stock price spiraled down from $38 to $2 amid the general decline in telecom in 2001 and factors specific to Qwest.
Even worse for Nacchio, he then received a six-year prison sentence on questionable federal convictions for his sales during a trading window in April 2001. His prison term came with a $19 million fine and an additional $44 million in forfeiture penalties.
The punishment appears to have been reprisal via a political prosecution of a kind rare in U.S. securities law history. Today's column focuses primarily on Nacchio's perspective on the viability of the USA Freedom Act. Details of his court cases are for another day except for a brief overview:
Authorities convicted Nacchio of insider trading for selling stock during April 2001, a designated window when he was permitted by the company to sell stock. This followed internal discussions that Qwest (later acquired by CenturyLink in 2011) had income that would not continue.
Nacchio has unsuccessfully argued in filings extending to the U.S. Supreme Court that CEOs frequently hear both good and bad internal predictions that do not arise to "material" information whose disclosure to the stock-trading public is required to avoid liability under securities law. Thus, he argued, he remained optimistic about the company's prospects and forbade his broker from selling his shares if prices dipped below $38. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others, endorsed his legal position in briefs to the Supreme Court in Nacchio v. United States.
An additional obstacle for him, as for other litigants protesting "political" prosecution when authorities ignore similar acts, is that legal rules prevented Nacchio from arguing during his criminal case that he had been the victim of "selective" prosecution. But he did argue reprisal more recently in tax litigation before the U.S. Court of Claims.
During the criminal trial, Chief U.S. District Judge George Nottingham of Denver made many pro-prosecution rulings.
As it turned out, the married judge was also hiding a secret sex scandal. This raises the additional question -- relevant to ordinary citizens also who might have reason to fear electronic surveillance -- of whether the married judge was under pressure from his shame of being a big spender on prostitutes and strippers.
Whatever the answer on that, Nottingham (shown in a file photo and now off the bench in disgrace after his wife blew the whistle) denied Nacchio some basic fair trial safeguards.
For example, Nottingham forbade University of Chicago law professor Daniel Fischel, Nacchio’s main defense witness, from testifying about industry-wide norms for CEOs handling confidential information and trading shares. Stock was Nacchio’s main form of compensation following his three decades in telecom. A divided appellate court later sustained Nottingham's ruling.
Although a jury is supposed to be neutral, Nacchio faced also a popularity problem in Qwest's home region because the savings of many retirees were locked into a pension plan. Nonetheless, many telecom companies went bankrupt outright during "The Tech Wreck" of 2001 on the stock market and only a few of their CEOs were indicted for making optimistic comments typical for the job.
Businessman, Siegelman Co-Defendant, DOJ Victim Richard Scrushy To Provide Litigation Lessons For Whistleblowers In DC July 29
Richard Scrushy, the founder and former CEO of the multi-billion-dollar HealthSouth, Inc. and co-defendant in one of the most widely condemned federal prosecutions in recent U.S. history, will share his hard-won insights July 29 on Capitol Hill and at the National Press Club.
Scrushy, still an entrepreneur and now also an author and motivational speaker, speaks at 4 p.m. on the opening day of the annual Whistle Blowers Summit to advise others on coping with the legal hardships that many whistleblowers must endure. At 6:30 p.m., he talks to the National Press Club’s McClendon Group at an informal dinner open to the press and public.
Along with advice, Scrushy provides his take on the long prison terms he and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman have endured on corruption charges stemming from 1999 actions despite gross courtroom irregularities and unprecedented nationwide protests by legal experts. Siegelman is scheduled for release in mid-2017.
Scrushy was convicted solely for what he describes as a $250,000 HealthSouth donation much like that of several other big Alabama companies. It was to defray the costs of a failed 1998 referendum to increase state funding for K-12 schools with state lottery proceeds. He says prosecutors won their case by exaggerating the donation’s size, source, destination, and purpose – and pressuring their star witness Nick Bailey into a false testimony motivated by the serious charges Bailey faced in another case.
Scrushy received a 78-month term from federal trial judge Mark Fuller, who has since become so scandal-ridden that he resigns his lifetime post Aug. 1 after a wife-beating arrest last year. Our project has covered the judge (shown in a file photo) in depth for years, as in our column last month: Wife-Beating Siegelman Judge Resigns, Ends Horrid Career With Civic Lesson.
Many whistleblowers and other critics have documented irregularities of the federal Siegelman-Scrushy prosecution.
In 2008, CBS “60 Minutes” presented Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson, shown at left. She said Scrushy, a Republican, was a fall guy targeted in a political plot to end the career of Siegelman, Alabama’s state’s most popular Democrat.
In an unprecedented filing to the U.S. Supreme Court, 113 former state attorneys general — former chief law enforcers of more than 40 states — protested the legal basis of the prosecution. Conservative syndicated columnist George Will is among those who wrote that there was no basis for Scrushy's imprisonment, and Fox News host Neal Cavuto is among those who have hosted the defendant following his release in highly sympathetic interviews.
Yet courts have consistently rejected the defendants’ major appeals while dismissing some of the charges and slightly reducing the original sentences.
Among many rejected appeals was Scrushy’s argument that the trial judge Fuller should have recused himself instead of hiding secret ownership of up to 44 percent of Doss Aviation, Inc.
Unknown to defendants, Doss received $300 million in no-bid federal contracts for such purposes as training U.S. and Saudi Air Force pilots, and refueling Air Force planes, including the presidential Air Force One.
Underscoring bizarre military undercurrents of the prosecution, an Air Force Reserves colonel served as one of the top prosecutors. At great expense, a special joint federal-state task force was created also at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery for the purpose of investigating Siegelman.
The secret procedures continue. Siegelman and Scrushy have been denied materials supposed to be delivered to defendants before their trials under Supreme Court rules. CBS showed, for example, that authorities coached and threatened their witness Bailey up to 70 times without required pre-trial disclosure to defendants. Post-trial investigation by defendants indicated that authorities threatened the witness with up to ten years in prison for his separate offenses and warned that he would likely be raped during such a long sentence.
Abraham Bolden, the first African American to serve on the White House detail guarding a president, has a secret to share July 29 in Washington, DC: Gross security lapses enabled President John F. Kennedy's murder in 1963.
Bolden will break the persistent media silence about those JFK-era security shortfalls at the annual Whistle Blowers Summit beginning July 29 on Capitol Hill. The free event, themed “Black Lives Matter,” is from July 29-31.
This editor will introduce Bolden and set the context of a media landscape that seeks, in general, to bury the facts of Kennedy's murder with the transparently false claim that the president was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, with no accomplices.
In 2008, Bolden published The Echo from Dealey Plaza, a memoir documenting major security lapses. Major newspapers and leading researchers favorably treated his book. But they have largely since ignored it and him even during the 50th anniversaries of the murder and Warren Commission investigation and Secret Service breakdown in the White House loomed so serious that the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for covering them.
Part of the reason surely must be that Bolden's recollections undercut conventional wisdom about JFK's killing. As recently as July 18, a Washington Post news story drawn in relevant part from one in the Dallas Morning News flatly stated without any attribution that the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository "is the vantage point from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired at Kennedy." That statement is open to expert challenge on several grounds. But the newspaper editors used a formulation that denied to readers any clue of the controversies.
Similarly, Bolden challenges key elements of conventional accounts regarding JFK security and follow-up investigations.
He raises, for example, the animosity some agents held for the president. "The bastard should be killed!" he quoted his boss, the Secret Service special agent in charge of its Chicago office, as blurting out after 1961 news reports of one of the president's civil rights initiatives.
More generally, Bolden believes, “No one could have killed our President without the shots of omission fired by the Secret Service.” He thus describes JFK problems far more serious than recent ones that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for Washington Post reporter Carol Leonig, who exposed dangers to President Obama from Secret Service flaws.
In another anecdote Bolden shared with author Vincent Palamara, Bolden said discovery of a likely assassination attempt in Chicago deterred the president's planned trip there on Nov. 2, 1963. The trip was cancelled the morning of JFK's departure from Washington, ostensibly because the president had a cold and the distraction of the assassination of the president of South Vietnam. Bolden and Palamara describe, however, discovery of a suspected assassination via sniper fire along an 11-mile Chicago parade route, much like what occurred later at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
Such points are necessarily based on fragmentary and often suppressed evidence. More tellingly, Bolden documents the abusive frame-up he endured on corruption charges in 1964 after he made known to colleagues his plan to warn the Warren Commission in May of security problems among Secret Service colleagues, along with racist and anti-Kennedy attitudes some of them held.
Ample reasons exist beyond Donald Trump’s July 18 comments to criticize GOP Senator John McCain’s war and related professional records, which have made the Arizona senator the favorite mouthpiece for the nation’s hawks who dominate both political parties and the nation’s prestige media.
The Justice Integrity Project posed a question to former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell this spring, for example, about whether McCain had met future ISIS leaders on his controversial trip to drum up more U.S. support for overthrowing the incumbent Assad government.
Morell, shown at right in a photo we shot at his press conference, is now a CBS News analyst promoting his memoir The Great War of Our Time that touts his expertise at the CIA on Middle East wars. He responded that he did not know whom McCain, the ranking member (and now chairman) of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had met on McCain's highly promoted trip in 2013.
Critics claim the photos like the one at left show McCain meeting the future leader of ISIS, Abu-Bakr Al Bagdadi, at center. McCain has responded that the photos are phony. They include shots featuring his Senate aide who made the arrangements. But McCain has provided scant detail, in part because few besides Trump dare question him in any depth about such sensitive matters.
On July 20, Ron Unz, former publisher of the American Conservative magazine and now a software entrepreneur, reminded his followers about two hard-hitting investigations he has published examining McCain’s war record and policy shortcomings.
The web-based Unz Review published in March John McCain: When "Tokyo Rose" Ran for President. It claimed that McCain was treated well by his Vietnamese captors because he cooperated in their propaganda efforts, similar to the notorious "Tokyo Rose" Japanese radio propagandist during World War II.
In 2010, the American Conservative Magazine (whose founding editor was the conservative commentator Pat Buchanan) published an 8,100-word piece by former New York Times columnist Sydney Schanberg McCain and the POW Cover-Up: The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
In a cover note July 20, Unz praised "Schanberg's massively documented expose about McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up." The publisher summarized the "cover up" here and its scanty follow up by major media:
In 1993 the front page of the New York Times broke the story that a Politburo transcript found in the Kremlin archives fully confirmed the existence of the additional POWs, and when interviewed on the PBS Newshour former National Security Advisors Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that the document was very likely correct and that hundreds of America’s Vietnam POWs had indeed been left behind.
In my opinion, the reality of Schanberg’s POW story is now about as solidly established as anything can be that has not yet received an official blessing from the American mainstream media.
And the total dishonesty of that media regarding both the POW story and McCain’s leading role in the later cover up soon made me very suspicious of all those other claims regarding John McCain’s supposedly heroic war record. Our American Pravda is simply not to be trusted on any “touchy” topics.
The last remark Unz above, which he reiterated in an email July 21 republishing the Schanberg column, serves as an apt warning that the establishment media are prone to sabotaging on dubious grounds presidential campaigns, not just Trump's. Orchestrated attacks are disguised as ordinary news and commentary.
Precisely how the system works is a topic for another day here in a process others also describe. But the upshot is the vast majority of reporters and editors are just trying to do their jobs on deadline. They (doubtless well over 90 percent even of Washington political journalists) are probably unaware of the accusations below, much less whether any might be true.
Yet one thing the Trump insults and others' documentation help clarify: For all the righteous indignation directed against Trump for insulting McCain, few if any of the businessman's critics have dared even mention -- much less investigate -- these kinds of accusations.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last week authorized an intensified probe of the suspicious 1961 airplane crash that killed his peace-keeping predecessor Dag Hammarskjold.
The UN's leader moved forward after preliminary inquiries raised additional questions over whether Western powers colluded to kill the Swedish diplomat, who had been working with emerging former colonies in Africa and elsewhere.
The initiative by Ban, shown in a file photo, comes after claims of Belgian and U.S. complicity in the plane crash over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), which authorities announced at the time as an accident.
Ban, regarded as highly supportive of U.S. policies in general, nonetheless advanced this inquiry. He said in a statement that a new investigation would "finally establish the facts."
Hammarskjold, shown at his desk, died while engaged in diplomatic efforts regarding the former Belgian colony of the Congo. The secretary-general planned to see Moise Tsombe, a pro-West leader of the province of Katanga that had broken-away from the central government led by the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
The CIA has acknowledged complicity in Lumumba's kidnapping, torture, and assassination along with two aides. Katangan forces that seized them after just 12 weeks of his leadership.
News coverage of the UN investigation of Hammarskjold's death, including of last week's announcement, has varied widely according to the editorial perspective of the outlet.
CNN's story by Richard Roth, for example, buried suspicions of U.S. complicity in the bottom of its report, U.N. urges new look at 1961 plane crash that killed secretary-general .
Independent researchers experienced in studying 1960s assassinations promptly recognized the importance of Ban's decision last week. The Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), for example, is posting on its website previous reporting by researcher Lisa Pease, some of which is excerpted here in her 2013 column for Consortium News,The Mysterious Death of a UN Hero, and below.
Another of her columns was published in 1999 by Probe Magazine, Midnight in the Congo: The Assassination of Lumumba and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjold.