Justice Integrity Project

Press, Civil Rights Groups Struggle Against Federal Surveillance, Secrets

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 29, 2015

Free press and other civil rights advocates have encountered setbacks during recent days that included a federal appeals court decision that leaves in place continued mass electronic surveillance of the public.

Separately, the Associated Press (AP) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sued the FBI Aug. 27 seeking records on FBI impersonation of journalists and warrantless surveillance.

FBI logoToday’s column summarizes the importance of these court battles and the separate recent reverses in the news industry's ability to serve as watchdog over government.

For example, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) this week published a column describing how digital media increasingly bear the burden of fighting the government for release of information under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law. A separate CJR column reported  the demise of the University of Maryland-based American Journalism Review (AJR).

This editor spoke about these developments at a meeting of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) Aug. 28 at the National Press Club and also the previous evening during a cablecast news interview by RT. News reports relevant to these themes are appended to this column.

After Edward Snowden's whistleblowing in 2013 about abuses against the public by the National Security Agency (NSA) we published Backgrounder on Obama's Big Data Domestic Spying System.

Joseph  Nacchio at NPCLast month, we published Feds Crushed Telecom CEO Who Protected Customer Data from NSA Snoops…But He’s Back, Protesting New Reform Law. This was a report on two courageous and chilling speeches in the nation's capitol by former Qwest Communications Chairman and CEO Joseph Nacchio.

Nacchio argued that the USA Freedom Act, "reform" legislation signed into law in June, will not protect the public against pervasive electronic surveillance by the federal government. In a photo by freelancer Noel St. John used with permission, Nacchio is shown delivering remarks at the National Press Club July 27 in a news conference the Justice Integrity Project helped arrange.

He asserted that abuse by the government poses a greater threat to the American public than does terrorism.

More specifically, he cited evidence that the Bush and Obama administrations misuse their new surveillance tools to prosecute for political reasons innocent people regarded as impediments to the state.

Nacchio's expertise includes running one of the nation's largest providers of telecom and IT services for the federal government. In recognition, President George W. Bush (shown in an official photo) and his new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell appointed Nacchio in 2001 to chair two national advisory commissions on telecom infrastructure.

George W. Bush

With that warning in mind, we can focus on the surveillance case: A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled Aug. 28 that a trial judge exceeded his authority by enjoining the NSA in 2013 from spying on large segments of the public without probable cause.  

NSA Official LogoAn all-Republican panel ruled that plaintiffs in Klayman v. Obama had not proven they were monitored. So, the plaintiffs were denied legal standing for relief against rights violations because they cannot prove the government spied upon them personally in harmful and illegal ways.

The judges ruled 2-1 that plaintiffs should be permitted to try to prove their standing in future proceedings in advance of the ultimate argument on whether the spying is unconstitutional.

Yet the ruling acknowledged also a potentially unsolvable bureaucratic problem for the plaintiffs (sometimes referenced elsewhere as a Catch 22, derived from a novel by that name): The government has created a “State Secrets” protection preventing citizens from pursuing discovery to learn about arguably illegal spying against them.

Therefore, anyone's practical ability to enforce privacy rights under the tight legal "standing" requirements becomes almost impossible, except for an occasional inadvertent disclosure via such means as investigative reporting with leaks by whistleblowers who are being ruthlessly tracked down and imprisoned with the new tools of electronic surveillance.

Biden Boomlet Is Strictly Insider Game For Now

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 28, 2015


As pundits try to rev up excitement over a potential Biden presidential campaign, most in the public should save time by focusing on more pressing matters.

Joe BidenVice President Joe Biden is an establishment corporate Democrat whose entry into the 2016 would not appreciably change much except to provide Democrats an alternative for Hillary Clinton in case her campaign implodes. Barring some as-yet unknown crisis in health, however, her track record suggests she would never withdraw until the end of the primary season no matter what is thrown at her.

Moreover, campaign pundits typically over-praise a candidate pondering a race and then lower the boom soon after entry with harshly negative reporting.

Biden has provided through the decades plenty of cause for criticism. So, he knows better than most that a third run for the presidency is likely to bring out the skeletons, including viciously unfair treatments in the past.

Biden, for example, has been deeply involved in foreign policy decisions that have created vast tactical, strategic and moral reverses, with a few exceptions. In a White House photo Aug. 30, 2013, for example, Biden sits at the president's far right on one of their many high-level meetings in the Situation Room regarding the U.S.-led attempt to overthrow Syria's government. Barack Obama and National Security Staff 8-31-13Almost never reported is that U.S. smuggling of arms and fighters from Benhazi in Libya to Syria — with CIA and State Department assistance — was part of the hidden history of that region.

Clinton has also help lead this decision-making. One of its tenets is that that United States leaders have the right to order bombings and government overthrow almost anywhere in the world so long as humanitarian or democratic reasons are cited.

There is little room for distinction between Clinton and Biden regarding the carnage. One exception is that Clinton left the Obama administration in January 2013 before many of the worst results of the Bush-Obama foreign policy became so obvious in terms of costs to the United States and the world. As Democratic front runner, however, has borne the full brunt of partisan attacks over the deaths of four U.S. personnel in Benghazi and claims she violated State Department rules by using a private email server.

The pattern of recent expensive, illegal and inhuman foreign policy horrors includes the U.S.-led war against Libya and the ongoing carnage in Syria, the Ukraine, and Yemen. Particularly shameful has been the war profiteering by Biden's son Hunter in the Ukraine. The younger Biden was appointed as a director in a major energy company following the U.S.-led coup against Ukraine's government in February 2014.

State Department personnel were caught on tape plotting the coup and a role for the vice president in February 2014. So, Hunter Biden's  appointment and that of a former top fund-raiser for current Secretary of State John Kerry convey the appearance of a payoff to American leaders to help support the coup government with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

On the pirated tape of coup planners, the speakers included U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Victoria Nuland (shown in an official photo). She is a prominent neo-con holdover from the Bush administration. Her arrogant language described Biden as if he were a mere Victoria Nulandstooge for the neo-cons controlling U.S. policy. Details: U.S. diplomat apologizes for profane remarks on E.U. in leaked phone call.

More generally, this editor's take is based on politics watching beginning with coverage in Chicago of the iconic 1968 Democratic National Convention. Like next year's election, the 1968 campaign was for an election with no incumbent running. In 1968, incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson resigned in March because of opposition to his Vietnam War policies. New York Senator and presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated under still-mysterious circumstances in June on the same evening he won the California Democratic primary.

Our more recent research has included attendance at Clinton's last two major events during her 2008 presidential campaign, at the Mayflower Hotel and National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Each event involved her concessions to Obama in June when the numbers simply did not stack up for her continuance. However, her loyalists did make a dramatic but essentially hopeless effort later in the summer to fight the Obama steam-roller by securing the seating of her delegates from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention.

Understanding Hollywood-Style Presidential Propaganda From JFK To Trump

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 18, 2015


Deceptive mass media portrayals of President John F. Kennedy’s life and death help us understand the pervasive hokum in the 2016 presidential campaign in ways far beyond Donald Trump’s nostrums.

Trump’s stunning recent success on the campaign trail using strategies inspired by show business has forced some of his competitors to try to copy him as best they can.

But every concerned voter should understand that the spectacle goes far beyond entertainment. Instead, the campaign represents a brazen escalation of domestic propaganda efforts undertaken jointly by media and military-intelligence operations from the World War II era to the present.

JFK the Smoking Gun 2013 Colin McLarenThat’s the topic of this column, which was inspired by an invitation by the bold and independent-minded Connecticut radio personality Phil Mikan to join him Aug. 18 to discuss a controversial Hollywood portrayal of Kennedy's death, JFK: The Smoking Gun. On Aug. 19, we next discuss the current state of the 2016 presidential campaign. The Phil Mikan Show is carried on WLIS-AM and WMRD-AM in Middletown and Old Saybrook, and archived here.

His invitation crystallized important themes of our recent Justice Integrity Project research showing how government propaganda experts acting on behalf of Wall Street and other elite interests have secretly funded many national media outlets, thereby distorting voter perceptions regarding presidents and candidates alike through the decades.

Kennedy’s “Camelot” glory, marriage, death, and scandal revelations, for example, provide a vivid case history of such the image-making, including suppression of scandal when our information gatekeepers thought it best for the public not to know about vice in high places.

But the pendulum has shifted. Wild and sometimes true charges of scandal -- issued on a high-selective based in part on feuds, religion and ideologies -- are now shaping what is GOP Presidential Debaters Aug. 6, 2015likely to be one of the most important, deceptive, entertaining and controversial races in history. The 2016 GOP candidates are portrayed at their first debate Aug. 6.

We start with JFK: The Smoking Gun, a well-publicized supposed “documentary” released in 2013 that argued that the federal government has suppressed news that the late Secret Service officer George Hickey accidentally killed the president while riding in the Dallas motorcade -- and that law enforcers have been so embarrassed since that they have covered up the facts with the complicity of most media.

That theme has always been absurd. Both common sense and evidence amplified below demonstrate why. The History Channel, the original outlet, rejected distribution after fact-checking. That enabled bottom-feeders at the Reelz Channel to buy up rights on the cheap.

Nonetheless, the film received significant and fairly positive media coverage that distracted attention during the 50th anniversary of the killing in 2013 from credible evidence of how the murder occurred and why a cover-up has been maintained.

The disinformation techniques constitute the dark side of the overly-glamorized coverage of Kennedy during his lifetime and the anniversary, which was heavily shaped at the outset by such friends and admirers as the late Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Ben Bradlee.

All of this is a long way around the mountain to get to the 2016 presidential race. But kindly bear with us. We shall try to make this overview productive and entertaining, even if sinister figures repeatedly appear.

Mike Gravel: Sanders Could Win Despite Campaign Financing Systemic Corruption

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 16, 2015


Mike GravelThe 2008 presidential candidate and former Alaskan senator Mike Gravel criticized the current campaign finance system as a corruption of democracy but nonetheless foresaw a victory path to the presidency for Vermont’s junior Democratic senator.

“The most interesting campaign is that of Bernie Sanders,” Gravel told the Justice Integrity Project in an interview Aug. 15. Gravel, now 85 and shown at right in an official photo from his 2008 campaign, made his comments by phone from his home in California. Our project sought his opinion on the under-reported story of how campaign finance regulations are affecting the race, especially regarding public financing of long-shot candidates.

The two-term Democratic senator (1969-1981), a hero of the Pentagon Papers transparency battle in the 1970s, said of Sanders: “He’s got a very viable shot at winning the primary and the presidency. He’s capturing the sense of economic outrage. He may have jumped in just when people are fed up enough to nominate and elect him.”

Sanders is shown below in a photo taken by the Justice Integrity Project March 9 at the National Press Club. Sanders told the audience he was trying to decide then whether he could gather enough financial Bernie Sanders National Press Club JIP Photosupport for a viable race, which he entered six weeks later.

Gravel's critique follows former President Jimmy Carter's comment last month that The U.S. Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery," and the rise of insurgents Sanders and Donald Trump in polling for the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively.

Gravel described the current financing system as a mess, especially after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed a non-profit corporation to spend for independent political campaigns. A Republican majority decided the case on First Amendment case grounds. The holding was extended to enable donations supposedly "independent" of campaigns to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

The decision was on a 5-4 party line vote on its most important provisions. It has enabled what some predict to be a 2016 contest that will cost $4 billion total for Democrats and Republicans.

The essential fifth vote for the Republican decision was provided by Justice Clarence Thomas. Yet he ruled with a major conflict of interest. The litigant Citizens Union had provided him with massive public relations support two Clarence Thomasdecades previously in its lobbying campaign urging Senate confirmation despite the notorious sexual misconduct allegations raised against Thomas by such former Thomas staffers as Anita Hill.

Shortly before the Citizens United decision was announced, Virginia Lamp Thomas, the justice's wife and a longtime Republican lobbyist and advocate, incorporated a consulting business in late 2010 with the help of one of the couple's longtime wealthy financial backers in order to take early advantage of the vast business opportunities that would become available for political consultants under the decision. Our Justice Integrity Project reported that story in multiple columns in 2011 after the Los Angeles Times learned that Thomas had failed for years to report his wife's income, as required under his sworn financial statements,

In sum, and as illustrated by Common Cause Files Against Justice Thomas's Wife's Group, a greedy and conflicted justice helped change the nation's laws in a scheme with his puppet masters to profit personally with a minimum of oversight by other legal authorities and the mainstream media.

Research Trip Probing Political Corruption Strikes Paydirt

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 11, 2015

The Justice Integrity Project’s research trip to Ohio and Chicago last week developed promising new angles on federal abuses, especially regarding high-level political corruption investigations involving famed figures. Names include Obama, Emanuel, Jarrett, Hastert, Kirk, Blagojevich.

The trip was a joint effort with the investigative reporter and author Wayne Madsen, who generously shared sources and undertook joint radio interviews in Ohio and Illinois about our preliminary findings. The editor of the Wayne Madsen Report, an online subscription news service.

Shown in a file photo, Madsen is a former Naval intelligence officer and NSA analyst. His often-controversial muckraking has been vindicated many times, including by a federal indictment in May of more than three million dollars in blackmail payments allegedly paid by former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a former "Family Values" congressman from Illinois shown at right during a C-SPAN appearance.

Dennis Hastert C-SPANBeginning in September 2006, Madsen reported in a four-part 2006 series that Hastert — then third in succession for the presidency behind President Bush and Vice President Cheney — was a gay pedophile subject to blackmail by powerful interests who knew his secret. Hastert has pleaded not guilty in the complex case, which centers on violations of banking laws not the alleged underlying reasons. Details: Here's how the "breaking" story of Dennis Hastert's taste for young wrestlers actually broke nine years ago.

Much of our research during our trip dealt with similar still-hidden sexual, financial, and political scandals that can help sway political races and public policy in law enforcement, civil rights, the justice system, budgets, foreign policy, and almost anything else in the nation's capital.

Our take is that the recent support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders stems partly from voter resentment over the results of corruption, even if the media only rarely share specifics.  

Details will follow in future columns here and in my revised and updated book, Presidential Puppetry 2016: The Candidate Charade Continues, which derives in part from Madsen's The Manufacturing of a President, one of his dozen books. Madsen has already published several columns.

Unfortunately, the trip revealed also widespread disillusionment with the mainstream media from sources in finance, politics, law, policing, and other governmental operations. Several sources criticized local reporters as cowardly, incurious about new evidence, and otherwise unwilling to research complicated or controversial issues while they instead devote themselves to celebrity and other personality-focused stories.

For such reasons, the trip represented an evocative if not bittersweet homecoming for this Washington-based editor, who was born on Chicago’s South Side and whose first big story was covering the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention in the city during the reign of “The Boss,” former Mayor Richard Daley. My late mother, Margaret Kreig, had been a crusading freelance magazine writer and author, and my first journalism compensation came from tiny stringer’s checks from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Daily News.

That was enough to foster the notion journalism can be a high calling despite the demonstrably low tactics and methods of some of its most famous practitioners, both in Hollywood portrayals and in real life.

Adolph Menjou in "The Front Page" (Directed by Howard Hughes, 1931)Ben Hecht, who began his Chicago newspaper career as a “picture-snatcher” stealing family photos of crime victims a century ago to sensationalize the news, co-authored the iconic and comedic love-letter to journalism in The Front Page.

The photo at left is from the play's 1931 adaptation to film by director Howard Hughes, the aviation pioneer and tycoon. In this scene, Adolphe Menjou at center portrays the scheming editor "Walter Burns" (modeled on Chicago American Managing Editor Walter Howey, who ran the paper on behalf of William Randolph Hearst, "The Chief").

Burns is shown protecting a scoop in the press room of the Cook County Criminal Courts building by ordering one of his thugs to kidnap his reporter’s prospective mother-in-law to get her out of the way. Meanwhile, the affianced reporter at left timidly apologizes to her on the grounds that the story was important. It wasn't, of course, and instead was pure hokum.

The movie scene and many like it glamorized headline-hungry journalists who puffed up a murder case against a hapless defendant whom officials wanted to smear and then hang promptly on a new gallows outside the press room to boost their popularity before elections.

That’s part of the tradition, in a sense. So are the countless and usually prosaic daily efforts of journalists working with civic-minded sources to put important information before the public.

Frances O. Kelsey receives medal from President Kennedy FDA photoA stellar example last week was the inspiring obituary of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researcher Frances Kelsey, who held both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. She is shown at right receiving from President Kennedy in 1962 the nation's top annual award for distinguished service by a civilian federal employee.

Against profiteers and bureaucrats, Kelsey had fought against marketing of the dangerous morning-sickness drug Thalidomide, which caused severe birth defects. The Washington Post's obituary was headlined Heroine of thalidomide tragedy kept the drug off U.S. market. 

Margaret KreigKelsey had also been a source and friend to my mother, a former medical editor of Parent’s Magazine shown at left in a National Science Foundation photo. Her globe-trotting investigative work took her to the Amazon jungle and then-Communist China for pioneering research on natural remedies, and to Congress to expose mob-produced counterfeit medicine. For the latter, she was the much-praised star witness in June 1967 before the Government Operations Committee, which was then holding a major hearing to reveal the Mafia's varied threats to the nation.

Below at right is a surveillance photo of her working undercover for the FDA to help it obtain evidence for convictions — and also exclusive material for her courageous 1967 book Black Market Medicine. She was pretending to be a madam seeking illegal prescription drugs for “my girls.” The context is provided by a 2011 column on this site, Learning from Heroes Who Fought the Mafia.

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Whistleblower Summit Provided Powerful Investigative Fare On NSA Snooping

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 2, 2015

Joseph  Nacchio at NPC

The annual Whistle Blower Summit provided shocking and inspirational material three days last week for anyone concerned about the nation's future.

Highlights on the positive side during the conference beginning July 29 in the nation's capital included an unprecedented commitment by U.S. senators to speak of their commitment to create a Whistleblower Caucus. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was the leader on that. Additionally, the event saw an outstanding array of courageous and expert speakers share their insights. Details are in our previous columns, to be updated soon.

 Joseph P. Nacchio, former chairman/CEO of Qwest Communications, spoke at a Summit panel denouncing the new USA Freedom Act passed in June as providing merely the illusion of protection for the from illegal electronic surveillance and police state prosecution tactics.

He is shown at right at a related event arranged by the Justice Integrity Project at the National Press Club July 29 on NSA reform. Journalist Mike Smith (seated) of the Newsmakers Committee moderated the event. Photo/Image: Noel St. John.

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