Justice Integrity Project

Was Senate Torture Report A Political Turning Point?

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on December 15, 2014

 

The Senate's revelations last week of CIA torture abuses should anger the public and prompt action against the higher-ups responsible for such disgraceful policies and cover-up.

Dianne FeinsteinBut the report is unlikely to do so despite its documentation of horrors.

The Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence deserve some credit for approving the report on a party-line, 10-8 vote. Republicans dissented in a 167-page document.

Even so, Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), right, and President Obama provided lax oversight for years. They enabled crimes to go unreported for the most part during the five years of the investigation, and for many outrageous practices to continue at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and in secret prisons the CIA funded in allied nations with vast payoffs to complicit officials.

Abu GhraibThe Senate report shows far worse crimes than those exposed in the 2003 Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. Revelations from the prison in Iraq's capital prompted punishment that included a 10-year prison sentence for guard Charles Graner. He is shown standing above a mound of seven naked prisoners in a personal photo at left, which the Associated Press later distributed.

Yet Graner and all but one of the others punished were low-level guards with little relevant training. One convict was Graner's colleague and lover Lynndie England, shown in the photo. England, a West Virginia high school junior when she enlisted in the Army Reserves, was scapegoated with a three-year prison sentence.

No American leader dares take the next step of seeking censure much less prosecution for those at higher levels. We can now say with confidence they were criminally responsible for the more serious and widespread actions that the Senate documented in the 500-page summary of the still-classified 6,700-page report.

The actions reported on the basis of confidential CIA documents are forbidden by U.S. treaty and the morality of all civilized nations. Once upon a time, the United States opposed and punished torture, most famously during the post-World War II Nuremberg trials that resulted in execution of war criminals.

Far from seeking accountability regarding the torture as United Nations officials last week demanded, few American leaders are willing to connect the torture issue to other institutional lapses. These include last week's other major government disgrace -- rushed passage by a lame-duck Congress of a $1.1 trillion annual federal budget bill. Few members could have read the bill. It had been devised largely in secret in negotiations with leadership and lobbyists, not the "regular order" of hearings.

The bill creates giveaways to bankers and other wealthy, elite "one-percenters."

Obama plans to sign the bill, which raises campaign finance limits to $1.5 million for an individual donor to a party ($3 million for a couple), a ten-fold increase in the current limit.

Among its many dubious provisions, the bill enables funding cutbacks for pension recipients who had more than one employer and reduces Pell grants from college students, many of them minorities. Those groups are among those who will pay for last week's largesse to banks, defense and intelligence contractors, and others who possess enough clout to attract the goodwill of DC lawmakers.

More generally, torture will resonate as a moral and political issue only if the public understands how it stems from our misguided pro-war culture, which has been destroying the middle class. In various ways, that's where funding has been come from to fund overseas military adventures and the surveillance/police state, including the torture sector.

Elizabeth WarrenMassachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), left, promoted her reputation among liberals by objecting to bank-friendly and reputedly bank-drafted provisions. These mandate that taxpayers automatically bail out banks whose profiteering leads them into risky investments, as in the 2007-2008 financial crisis and before the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation.

John McCainBut Warren and other senators failed to filibuster the budget bill. Neither do they appear ready to fight against separate legislation to enable the CIA and its allies in a Republican-led Congress to initiate new wars in the Mideast and Ukraine with scant legislative control.

In the new Congress beginning in January, key Senate committees will be led by the body's most ardent interventionists, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), right, on the Armed Services Committee.

Democrats emerged from the weekend with a few crumbs, including the likelihood of a few patronage confirmation votes early this week.

One nomination catching our eye was that of Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña to become assistant Homeland Security Secretary, thereby running the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had opposed her on the grounds that she would be a rubber stamp for the president's claim he had the power to shield from deportation five million people in the country illegally. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) planned to put her nomination to a vote early this week. Ironically, Cruz's tactics over the weekend provided a tactical opening for a confirmation vote.

Cruz's attack carries special resonance to those who saw Saldaña moderate a panel last year broadcast by C-SPAN entitled, JFK Assassination: Warren Commission Findings. "Rubber stamp" and "glad-handing careerist" describe her fatuous role in giving unreserved endorsement to the Warren Commission staffers and their dubious findings voiced on the panel.

The federal prosecutor's remarks showed that she regarded her role as an opportunity to ingratiate herself with attendees, not to raise substantial points. The locale was her alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, coincidentally the home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The site exemplified the unity of both political parties, academia and the justice system behind deeply flawed if not corrupt Warren Commission findings, as described in our 22-part Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination.

All panelists in the two SMU sessions (including faculty) and all members of the audience expressed support for the Warren Commission's findings. Also, Dallas authorities used an advance ticket system to prevent any critics of the Warren Commission from attending an open-air memorial at Dealey Plaza to commemorate the nation's most important and controversial murder of the century.

In sum, Saldaña used the unique occasion of the 50th anniversary of the president's death and an unprecedented panel of surviving investigators to bestow the prestige of federal law enforcement on a biased program, feathering her own nest in the process. She helped ensured that no one would be offended and no one would learn anything substantial. That is the kind of official the system promotes to higher office.

Why Does the Public Keep Losing?

Let's take a step back to reflect on why the military hawks, banks, mega-donors, and craven public officials always seem to win, as do cover-up artists and careerists.

Very few Americans knowingly voted last November for new wars in the Ukraine against Syria's government at enormous cost. In the case of arming the Ukraine, historically part of Russia, the neo-conservatives and their neo-liberal/corporate Democrat allies dominating today's foreign affairs establishment in both parties are obtaining their long-sought confrontation with Russia to shatter its power -- but one that has the potential for armed conflict against a nuclear power.

Obama Played PR Word Games On Immigration Order

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on December 13, 2014

 

A commentator caught the Obama White House playing public relations word games regarding the president's so-called "Executive Order" changing immigration law last month.

Barack Obama speaks on immigration Nov. 20, 2014 White House video screen shotAuthor and World Net Daily (WND) senior reporter Jerome R. Corsi reported Dec. 3 that the White House never issued an "order" despite widespread news coverage repeating the term that President Obama had used Nov. 20 to announce his plan.

Jerome Corsi

The president's legal advisers and many reporters who seek friendly access to the White House have avoided the story. Why? To shield the Obama White House from embarrassment and legal and political accountability, according to Corsi, right, a best-selling author with conservative viewpoints.

The situation is worth exploring. It exemplifies the public relations shenanigans, constitutional brinkmanship, secretive decision-making, and lapdog reporting that pervade Washington.

These factors were especially apparent this month. Major issues have been crammed into a lame-duck, post-election period. Elected officials are thus avoiding much of the accountability to the public that the lawmakers should face for their last-minute decision-making and do-nothing performance much of the rest of the year.

This week the House rapidly approved of the nation's one trillion dollar budget. The House cobbled together the bill in secret for the most part. The budget kowtows to bankers, militarists and multi-million-dollar campaign donors. The bill reinstates in advance a federal bailout if large banks return to speculation and face ruin if their bets fail. Among those hurt by the budget, at least in the short term, are pension recipients who had more than one employer during their working years and college students dependent on Pell grants. Dec. 13 Update: Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill, Joining House.

The bill does not make a major financial issue out of the president's immigration initiative. That battle was postponed for another day.

Corsi described his views to me in a meeting Tuesday at the National Press Club after Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report had echoed his scoop earlier this week.

We spoke also about how independent reporters, as in this instance, frequently scoop the "beat reporters" from mainstream news organizations regarding information embarrassing to officials on sensitive topics. For example, Corsi is the author of a bold and insightful new e-book on President Kennedy's assassination, Who Killed John F. Kennedy?

Regarding the immigration order, my check of White House websites and clippings confirmed the basics of Corsi's allegation. The White House site contains separately an Obama "memorandum" on immigration Nov. 21,"Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century."

Senate Panel Finds CIA Torture Ineffective, 'Damaging' To U.S. Interests

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on December 9, 2014

 

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued on Dec. 9 a long report describing the CIA’s Bush-era torture program as not "effective" and damaging to U.S. interests.

The inquiry begun in 2009 made 20 key findings about the program launched during the Bush-Cheney administration, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. President George W. Bush (2001-2009) is shown in his official photo.

Update:  UN officials demand prosecutions for US torture, as reported by the Associated Press.

George W. BushThe program, the senate oversight panel said, was:

1 “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence”
2 “rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness”
3 “brutal and far worse than the CIA represented”
4 “conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher”
5 “repeatedly provided inaccurate information”
6 “actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight”
7 “impeded effective White House oversight”
8 “complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions”
9 “impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General”
10 “coordinated the release of classified information to the media”
11 “unprepared as it began operating”
12 “deeply flawed throughout the program's duration”
13 “overwhelmingly outsourced operations”
14 “coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved”
15 “did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained”
16 “failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness”
17 “rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable”
18 “ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections”
19 “inherently unsustainable”
20 “damaged the United States' standing in the world”

Our CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on December 1, 2014


The CIA's obstruction of all three major government probes of President Kennedy's 1963 assassination helps explain the agency's success thus far in blocking Senate oversight of CIA-run torture.

CIA Logo

The agency this fall is fighting publication of a Senate report on torture while it also avoids for the most part adverse news coverage and government inquiry regarding Kennedy's death.

Update: The Senate released on Dec. 9 its findings, summarized by the Washington Post in 20 key findings about CIA interrogations.

The CIA has sought on national security grounds major edits in the Senate probe of agency torture of terror suspects.

The agency's delaying tactics would lack credibility if not for previous cover-ups of alleged CIA crimes. This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission’s dubious claim that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill JFK. Serious questions remain about the agency's role in the cover-up and the killing.

The CIA-friendly Obama White House is deferring to the agency in a torture scandal that began during the Bush administration, and prompted a Senate probe beginning in 2009.

“Continued White House foot-dragging on the declassification of a much-anticipated Senate torture report is raising concerns that the administration is holding out until Republicans take over the chamber and kill the report themselves,” according to Dan Froomkin, writing “Is Obama Stalling Until Republicans Can Bury the CIA Torture Report?” for First Look / Intercept. “Senator Dianne Feinstein’s intelligence committee sent a 480-page executive summary of its extensive report on the CIA’s abuse of detainees to the White House for declassification more than six months ago.”

Dianne FeinsteinFroomkin’s analysis might puzzle those who believe in conventional wisdom about Obama: That he and his White House operate far to the left of the CIA-friendly Feinstein, the California Democrat shown at right. She chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The senator and her staffers became angry earlier this year because CIA Director John Brennan initially refused to apologize after his team was caught spying on agency staff, who represent the elected senators who ostensibly oversee the agency. McClatchy reported the reasons in CIA admits it broke into Senate computers; senators call for spy chief’s ouster.

Brennan, a well-connected career CIA officer who was a White House advisor during Obama's first term, is shown below at far right in an official photo of his nomination ceremony Jan. 7, 2013. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was nominated at the same time to become secretary of defense. In the photo, he is shown at the left, not to the president.

Barack Obama nominates Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, Jan. 7, 2013 (White House photo)My opinion column below, the 22nd segment in the Justice Integrity Project's “JFK Assassination Readers Guide” series, amplifies my recent lecture carried on C-SPAN3's American History TV, The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters.

Many of the previous segments in our series provided updated research tools regarding JFK-focused books, films and archives. But the historian at some point needs to provide also conclusions, as my Cornell professor Alan Bloom taught long ago in assigning his class Friedrich Nietzsche's Use and Abuse of History

In this instance, the torture issue is one of the better-documented of the inherently secret power struggles within the intelligence/defense communities. Another recent example is the forced resignation of last week of Hagel, a Republican, for unexplained reasons we shall illuminate in a separate column.

The torture report is particularly important. It centers on core values of United States democracy.One is the ability of elected leaders to oversee a hidden government represented by the CIA, as reported in previous segments of this series.

Moreover, rendition and torture of suspects -- often without the protections of a criminal process or prisoner-of-war status -- undermines both the morality and effectiveness of United States war-making that the CIA increasingly undertakes in covert operations.

Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their MastersWith that background, we examine three big secrets that decipher the Senate-CIA-White House impasse:

Secret number One:  Obama is a product of the intelligence community's centrist wing, but also fears it. The CIA's allied organizations include the Ford Foundation when it was run by Lyndon Johnson's former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. They fostered the careers of both of Obama's parents and the young Obama. The future president's first job after college graduation in 1983 was with the CIA front company Business International Corp. My book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters documented this family background in part by citing pioneering researchers whose findings are ignored by the mainstream media.

Second, Obama, like his White House predecessors, is undoubtedly aware that the Warren Commission’s account of the Kennedy killing was a cover-up. Similarly, he as a black man and his top advisors surely know the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s ostensible killer, Jame Earl Ray, was a patsy imprisoned in a set-up scenario similar to Oswald's. Our JFK Readers Guide has documented that the CIA acts at times on behalf of a “High Cabal” of private sector potentates, and has been implicated in the Warren Commission whitewash if not the killing. It is now well-documented that government personnel who opposed JFK's policies relied on the mob, Cuban exile community and government allies on a need-to-know basis to deliver government control to the president's CIA-friendly Vice President Johnson, whom some best-selling authors now allege to have helped plan JFK's murder.

JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on November 28, 2014

 

Today’s 21st segment in the Justice Integrity Project's “JFK Assassination Readers Guide” reports on major events since the summer of 2013.

The listings begin with this fall's events about the 51st anniversary of the murder on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. This fall marked also the 50th anniversary of the controversial 1964 Warren Commission finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy and did so with three rifle shots fired from his position behind the presidential motorcade.

JFK Lancer 2014 adMajor events this year have included two conferences in Dallas last weekend. One organized by JFK Lancer Productions and Publications featured best-selling author Jim Marrs and San Francisco attorney Bill Simpich, among others.

Simpich previewed his views in an OpEdNews column, How the Warren Commission Covered Up JFK's Murder, and sought also among attendees new ideas on how to win better government cooperation for the JFK research community.

A separate conference organized in part by the publishing house TrineDay and its author Judyth Baker included Marrs along with such other best-selling authors as Roger Stone and Dr. Jerome Corsi, as well as former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), and noted forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.

Also, the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) held a moment of silence at the site of JFK's killing in what may be COPA's final event following the sudden death last spring of its leader, John Judge. COPA does maintain an archival website. TrineDay JFK Conference Nov. 22-24, 2014

Earlier in the fall, this editor assisted a conference Sept. 26-28 sponsored by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) in Bethesda, MD. We obtained C-SPAN coverage for the event's major revelations, summarized in The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage.

The JFK Historical Group organized a separate conference on the same Sept. 26-28 dates, The Warren Report 50 Years Later: A Critical Examination, held in Alexandria, VA.

An appendix below lists significant recent news, opinion and video treatments of relevant JFK and Warren report issues. The listings of events and other materials are intended to include diverse viewpoints of Warren Commission critics and defenders.

AARC adIn general, the major media continued to advocate the accuracy of findings by the seven-member Warren Commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

University of Virginia professor and author Larry J. Sabato, for example, argued in Politico that no recent revelations have been significant.

Author and longtime Warren Commission defender Max Holland wrote a cover story for Newsweek, The Truth Behind JFK's Assassination, in which he conceded that the commission's treatment of the shooting was too skimpy. But Holland failed to find major flaws disturbing the commission's fundamental conclusions. 

By contrast, the vast majority of speakers at the AARC, TrineDay, JFK Lancer and JFK Historical events reported scandalous cover-ups of evidence by investigators, including the chief justice, fellow commissioner Allen Dulles, and various other CIA, Secret Service and FBI personnel, among others.

The JFK Murder Cover-up Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on November 12, 2014

 

Why does the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy remain important?

That was the question I posed to help open this year's major conference about the 50th anniversary of the murder investigation’s findings. C-SPAN's American History TV cablecast my talk this month, along with other event lectures linked below.

My answer to the question:

Our major institutions and their leaders, to their shame, still support the murder investigation's official findings in the Warren Commission report issued in the fall of 1964.

Yet that report stands discredited. Revelations by courageous witnesses and four million pages of once-secret documents are now summarized in two thousand books and many prominent documentaries and news columns. Inspired in part by the dramatized version in Oliver Stone's JFK, the general public has moved from acceptance of the official findings, to questions, and now to legitimate disbelief. Gallup Polls have shown well over 70 percent in the public do not believe the key Warren Commission findings about accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. One of most recent and through polls in late 2013 showed public disbelief by a 2:1 margin.  Andrew Kreig C-SPAN Warren Commission Conference Sept. 26, 2014

That result regarding the crime of the century taints our current government and watchdog institutions.

Congress, for example, has failed to enforce its own JFK Act of 1992, which required that all relevant documents be declassified. The CIA and National Archives are withholding documents, supposedly until 2017. But no guarantee exists that documents would be released even then.

Most news outlets have stubbornly failed to pursue logical follow-up investigations probing the suspects and their institutions.

These failures inspire cynicism, apathy, fear or greed in ways that undermine democracy and sound public policies. The economy, elections, law enforcement, war and taxes are each affected by the cover-up, as readily shown by serious researchers.

That was the gist of my remarks helping open a research conference about the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission report. The commission led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren pinned the murder's blame exclusively on Oswald as a lone gunman who fired at the presidential motorcade from the rear.

Rare among mainstream news organizations, C-SPAN has covered recent developments in-depth. C-SPAN, for example, this month cablecast my remarks and those of more than a half-dozen other speakers at the conference organized by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a non-partisan non-profit founded in 1984. A photo above shows the opening.

The C-SPAN videos are below, along with links to 18 previous segments in our Justice Integrity Project "Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination." Our guide lists the most significant research materials in books, videos, documents, reports, events and research archives. The catalogs display substantial work regardless of viewpoint, and thus includes that of the Warren Commission and such defenders as Vincent Bugliosi, Howard Willens, Philip Shenon, James Swanson, and Gerald Posner during recent years. Included also are works by such authors as Fletcher Prouty, James Douglass, Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone alleging murder cover-up conspiracy reaching the highest levels both parties and agencies.

Other columns by our Project offer interpretation and extensive sourcing. My own recent book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, documents that high-level elected officials are often groomed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies before entering politics, and thus know and fear their power more than the average citizen.

In a similar serious manner, AARC organized its event around the theme: "The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: A Half Century of Significant Disclosures.”

Nearly 50 speakers and more than 200 attendees convened at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, MD from Sept. 26-28, 2014. Following editing, C-SPAN has begun cablecasting highlights during recent Sundays, with materials archived for view on demand for free as part of the cable industry-funded network's ongoing public service.

Dealey Plaza Picket Fence (Andrew Kreig Photo)The speakers at the AARC conference drew on their expertise in such varied fields as military intelligence, national security, history, medicine, and acoustical engineering.

These experts, most with decades of research experience and advanced degrees, cited evidence that the Warren report could not have been correct in casting all blame on Oswald because, among many other reasons, Kennedy was killed by a shot from the front.

Speakers focused heavily on motives for killers and their oft-unwitting accomplices. As a result, major security lapses occurred at the crucial time and place in Dallas, with no Secret Service, city or county police deployed in the killing zone of downtown Dealey Plaza.

Kennedy's approximate location at his death is shown on Elm Street in Dealey Plaza with an "X" in my photo last fall. Oswald's alleged "sniper's nest" described by the Warren Commission was near the top of the Texas Book Depository at JFK's rear.

But the book building's sixth floor was nearly three times the distance from the "X" as the picket fence visible on the so-called Grassy Knoll. Most witnesses identified the knoll or fence area as a source of gunfire -- evidence the commission ignored or simply dismissed as "not credible" for the most part. 

The commission led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren ostensibly conducted a thorough and unbiased investigation. Revelations since then have indicated its major purpose from the outset was to blame Oswald with merely a superficial look at contrary evidence and additional suspects.

Neglected on purpose, we now know, were investigative leads linking Oswald to military intelligence, the CIA, the FBI, organized crime and Cuban exiles in web that potentially led to the highest levels of government involving both parties and important private sector supporters.

Space does not permit treatment right here of those allegations and their evidence. This column's main focus is to recap why our Project's ongoing investigations of current corruption in Washington leads directly back to the JFK killing and its aftermath as a turning point in the nation's history.

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