Justice Integrity Project
What questions should reporters ask 2016 candidates?
The social media site “Linked in for Journalists” is posing that question to its 30,000 members about presidential candidates, but the concept is readily applicable to candidates seeking lower-level federal posts.
This exercise is worthwhile even though front-running candidates tend to avoid meaningful responses, especially given the ridicule prompted by the recent responses by Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to inquiries about their views on Iraq.
Yet it’s useful for the rest of us to identify the best questions. We can then see, if nothing else, the gap between the typical campaign coverage and what really matters.
Bush and University of Nevada college student Ivy Ziedrich are shown after she challenged him during a campaign appearance in Reno last week. She made worldwide headlines by asking him about Iraq policy in ways few reporters have the gumption or opportunity to do.
My list below of suggested questions includes the usual core basics on jobs, health, war, and taxes.
Also, we should explore deeper historical and personal secrets, including those regarding a candidate’s taxes, health, religion, and money-making — all topics that candidates increasingly declare off-limits.
But with the stakes so high for the public, no one should be trusted who keeps secrets. Their silence becomes in effect a pledge of allegiance to their puppet masters — and not to voters.
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh continued his assault on the Obama administration's veracity this week with a 10,000-word column in the London Review of Books disputing major White House claims about a 2011 raid in Pakistan that purportedly killed Osama bin Laden.
The 42-month sentence imposed this week on former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a New York Times reporter helps thwart public information about the powerful agency in a precedent extending beyond the CIA.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, VA imposed the sentence May 11 on Sterling, 47, who was convicted at trial earlier this year of leaking information to reporter and author James Risen about the CIA plan "Operation Merlin" to send flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran. Sterling has denied leaking the information. The government won nine convictions at trial on a circumstantial case without Risen's testimony.
The Obama administration fought for years to convict Sterling of a spy charge. With convictions that included one for espionage, Sterling faced total potential penalties of nearly three centuries in prison, with the government urging a harsh sentence to deter future leakers. Realistically, the sentence would not likely have been more than twenty years at worst under sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender but prosecutors urged that Sterling's acts be considered multiple offenses.
Sterling's first public interview on the case can be seen in a video interview organized by Norman Solomon, executive director of ExposeFacts.org, entitled, The Invisible Man: Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Whistleblower.
With seven spy prosecutions of officials and former officials who leaked to journalists, the administration has now indicted approximately double the number of leakers under the World War I-era law than all previous administrations combined, depending on whether the count begins with a World War II-era prosecution or, as most commentators calculate, with the prosecution of Vietnam War-era leaker Daniel Ellsberg. The difference, according to a Tampa Bay Times count, is 11 total prosecutions or 10, as reported here in CNN's Tapper: Obama has used Espionage Act more than all previous administrations.
Shown below is a round-up of news coverage and commentary.
Vietnam War protesters convened May 1 to 2 in the U.S. capital for what TV talk show pioneer Phil Donahue described as an "unprecedented" gathering of leaders sharing lessons for today's civic problems.
“There has never been a gathering like this,” Donahue, 79 and shown in a file photo, said in welcoming the 300-person audience gathered in a church near the White House. “We were going in too many different directions. Now, we’re together for the first time.”
The opening keynoter was former California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of either the House or the Senate in 2001 to oppose the post-9/11 authorization for war in the Mideast. The Oakland Democrat, shown in an official photo, feared the resolution was too open-ended and would allow presidents to create new wars, not simply retaliate against 9/11 perpetrators. A similar debate is preventing congressional approval of force against the Islamic State group, ISIS. The group did not exist during 9/11 but the Obama administration is fighting them anyway.
“True peace,” she quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as saying in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, “is not just the ‘absence of tension’ but ‘the presence of justice.’” She further quoted King as saying during the Vietnam era that America was “a society gone mad on war.”
“Today your country needs you again,” she told the audience at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. “During the Vietnam War, you raised your voices in protest and the nation listened.”
“We know that the billions spent on drone attacks could be used to educate the next generation,” she continued. “We must repeal this blank check for endless war.”
The conference, entitled Vietnam: The Power of Protest, was one of a four this editor attended in downtown Washington during recent days. Today’s column surveys the viewpoints we encountered and does not try to cover any of them in depth. Video teams filmed most of the proceedings,
Most notable among our other events were the annual Ridenhour Awards luncheon and an lecture organized by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce featuring GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, the junior U.S. senator representing Texas. Both were at the National Press Club April 30.
The Ridenhour Awards are named for the late Vietnam War veteran, My Lai Massacre whistleblower, and investigative reporter Ron Ridenhour. The awards recognize those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society.
Those receiving them this year were:
Ancient scrolls and tablets sometimes have missing text called lacunae that create mystery about hard-to-reconstruct messages.
Missing material also thwarts consumers of modern newspapers and broadcasts, whose gaps we must overcome to understand the crises harming so many communities and families.
The key evidence in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and several other progressive leaders in the 1960s constitute lacunae in modern times, but also a Rosetta Stone to understanding current affairs, including the Obama administration and the 2016 election campaign.
Our media are filled with tributes to Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and other fallen heroes, but with scant context on who killed them, why -- and with what consequence.
That was my message April 23 at a University of Hartford lecture in central Connecticut, along with a cable television interview earlier in the day.
The occasion was gratifying because of dialog with such well-informed moderators and their audience of fellow-researchers finding answers to current public affairs issues by studying the past.
My main goal was to start the discussion by revealing facts the mainstream media are reluctant to share about those deaths.
Also, the audience explored how these gaps in our knowledge prevent an informed public from addressing current events, including selection of candidates for the 2016 presidential election. In a dialog for more than two hours, we focused on front-running (so far) prospective nominees Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
Setting the tone were the capable and courageous organizers of the event, Cheryl Curtiss and Mike DeRosa, each a broadcaster focused heavily on otherwise neglected if not suppressed topics.
My contribution's overall framework was drawn from my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters and a century-long history of ruthless domestic power plays that include the 1963 assassination of Kennedy.
The lecture tracked part of the column here last month, Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You.
That report showed the how the Fox News host has been caught lying in his best-selling Killing Kennedy book about his presence at the death of George de Mohrenschildt, a friend and likely CIA handler for accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. O'Reilly's lie helps expose a longstanding pattern of CIA-orchestrated media cover-up for the perpetrators of a crime that has shaped American history to the present in ways largely unreported by the corporate media.
In the face of this crime and its cover-up (shown by a 24-part “Readers Guide” to the assassination linked below), Americans face the frightening conclusion that no president can feel safe so long as the news media protect the killers of a president, the patsy Oswald, and witnesses.
The University of Hartford event was part of the monthly series "Progressive Movie Night" held in Hillyer Hall at Auerbach on the campus in West Hartford near its border with the state capital, Hartford.
Although the specific audience is progressive the material and our dialog was drawn from sources across the political spectrum. The lacunae metaphor that began this column, for example, comes from a recent column by Ron Unz, former publisher of The American Conservative and a onetime guest on my radio show, Washington Update.
The Justice Integrity Project delivered an update on Capitol Hill streamed live April 21 regarding the notorious and continuing imprisonment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman for fundraising in 1999.
People Demanding Action Executive Director Andrea Miller introduced this editor to speak about the case to her group during its monthly roundtable held at the Cannon House Office Building. The talk portraying the case was for 15 minutes beginning 36 minutes into the event.
The talk began with thanks to the group conveyed to the group from the state's last Democratic governor, whose term was 1999 to 2003. Siegelman continues to be imprisoned in Louisiana on federal corruption charges primarily stemming from his 1999 request to one of Alabama's then richest businessmen, HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, to donate to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation. The purpose was to help retire its debt for its ongoing advocacy campaign for a referendum to improve funding for K-12 schools with proceeds from a proposed state lottery.
To recap, courts have consistently upheld Siegelman's convictions following two trials even though an unprecedented coalition of 113 former state attorneys general -- the chief law enforcers in more than 40 states -- have argued that his actions did not constitute a bribe or other corruption crime.
I summarized his defense at the Capital Hill discussion, and then requested that listeners visit the DonSiegelman.org website to sign a petition for a presidential pardon.
My overview noted the worldwide notoriety of the case in human rights circles and the enormous burden on the state's one-time leading Democrat. I added these updates:
- Scrushy, shown in a file photo with his son during his seven-year imprisonment on corruption charges from the donation, has underscored following his release that the figure of a $500,000 used at trial and in news accounts since then is completely bogus and needlessly sinister-sounding. Scrushy says the donation was a $250,000 corporate donation, much like other major companies provided to the Alabama Education Foundation and many other causes; and
- U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) this month has asked the federal appeals court in Atlanta supervising Alabama, Florida and Georgia federal cases for a status update on Siegelman's disgraced trial judge, Mark Fuller of Montgomery. Fuller, chief U.S. district judge during Siegelman's second trial after the first judge pressured prosecutors for more evidence, has been stripped of his caseload after being arrested in Atlanta in August on a misdemeanor charge of beating his wife.
The former governor, now 68, has been continually investigated by political opponents since he took office in 1999. Among other reprisals, authorities have targeted with prosecutions and other reprisals a number of whistleblowers and bloggers who have risen to his defense through the years. Siegelman is not scheduled for release until mid-2018, and would be under court supervision even after that for three years.
Siegelman, given his vulnerable circumstances in prison in the courts as he awaits the results from another appeal to what have proven to be hostile courts, makes merely mainstream requests of his audience, as always: Learn about such cases as his, sign the petition, consider support for a film documentary about his case entitled "Killing Atticus Finch," and support for prison reform efforts affecting others.