Two DC Media Ceremonies Contrast Courage, Comfort

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on April 30, 2013

The annual Ridenhour Prize luncheon for courageous journalism contrasted sharply last week with the yearly White House Correspondents Dinner gala for corporate-run news organizations, top political figures, other celebrities, and their financial backers.

The Ridenhour Prizes, named for the Vietnam War veteran who revealed the My Lai Massacre, celebrates an ideal of the journalist struggling against odds to document an important story that may prove highly unpopular. Its 10th awards luncheon April 24 at the National Press Club honored four more winners in that tradition -- which is an inspiring ideal for some, but one unlikely to lead to lucrative or secure employment.

The much larger Correspondents Dinner is a century-old event held April 27 at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The capital's largest ballroom was filled to capacity to accommodate VIPs and would-be VIPs listening to President Obama deliver a joke-filled speech that showcased his speaking skills and lighter side.  

To be sure, the events shared some common ground. Organizers and patrons of the Ridenhour awards succeeded in bestowing glamour upon their ceremony with a nicely appointed luncheon, table ornaments comprised of the honorees' work -- and eloquent speeches by all concerned.

Speakers at the Correspondents dinner including Obama repeatedly emphasized the mission of the free press and the dinner's fund-raising goal of providing scholarships to college journalism students. The President, First Lady, and other head table participants greeted each of the scholarship winners.

Aside from those similarities, the two events exemplified different aspects of high-level Washington journalism: Those who challenge authority with their questions and commentaries -- and those who maintain access by going along with government rituals for those most part.

This column expands on that theme, and lists the Ridenhour awardees.

Ridenhour Master of Ceremonies Danielle Brian and former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson used the occasion in their column, For whistleblowers, fraying protection, to argue why serious journalism is now endangered, especially on national security issues.

Brian is the director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). Wilson received the Ridenhour "Truth-telling Award" in the event's first year because he dared anger the Bush-Cheney White House in 2003 by failing to justify the Iraq War with unsupported claims that Saddam Hussein sought materials from the Sudan for Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

Brian and Wilson argued in their column that the Obama administration represents an even greater threat to whistle blowers and the media on national security issues than Bush-Cheney.

In a similar vein, OpEd News columnist Michael Collins headlined a column, What's so funny Mr. President? Collins continued:

The president will never be asked that question. But if just one of those White House correspondents hosting the event had the courage, the answer would be in two parts. How can the president and the press get together and yuck it up when we're in such a dreadful state of affairs? 

The Ridenhour Prizes are named for the late Ron Ridenhour, who died in 1998 at the age of 52. This years's awards went to: Climate Change Scientist James Hansen; Immigration Activist Jose Antonio Vargas; Author Seth Rosenfeld (Subversives); and the film The Invisible War. The event is organized by The Fertel Foundation and The Nation Institute. Their winners' achievements were as follows, with photos by Jon Black. 

The organizers stated: The 2013 Ridenhour Prize winners each present a portrait in courage: A man who has warned against the disastrous effects of global warming for decades (Hansen); a successful reporter who sparked a national debate by revealing himself to be an undocumented immigrant (Vargas); a deeply reported book by an investigative journalist who spent 27 years and fought five FOIA lawsuits to expose FBI surveillance in the 60s (Rosenfeld); and an Academy Award-nominated film that has shed light on the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and its broken justice system (The Invisible War by filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering).

“At a moment when a debate is raging about the treatment of whistleblowers, The Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who put their lives on the line to challenge the status quo,” said Randy Fertel, Founder of the Fertel Foundation, which co-sponsors the Prizes. “The 2013 winners represent voices who have come forward to speak truth on the most defining issues of our time.”

“Throughout the last decade, these awards have brought to life Ron Ridenhour’s legacy of courage and a commitment to the truth,” said Taya Kitman, Director of The Nation Institute, which co-sponsors the Prizes. “Each year, we are humbled by the remarkable men and women who join the Ridenhour family. Looking back at the past ten years, we continue to be inspired by the winners’ courageous stories, and their collective work to shine light in the dark corners of our society.”



 

 

 

James Hansen: The Ridenhour Courage Prize

For more than two decades, NASA scientist and climatologist James Hansen, right, has been one of the most outspoken voices in the scientific community on the growing threat of global warming. Dr. James Hansen, the 2013 recipient of The Ridenhour Courage Prize, was recognized for bravely and urgently telling the truth about climate change, even when the Bush administration tried to silence and penalize him as director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Rather than giving in, or giving up, Dr. Hansen—one of the world’s most tireless and articulate activists—has courageously and continuously led the fight to save the planet ever since.  

Jose Antonio Vargas: The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling

An immigrant to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 12, Jose Antonio Vargas became a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post. But for over a decade, Vargas lived under a constant cloud of fear that the truth about his immigration status would be revealed. Vargas is receiving the 2013 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling because he, like Ron Ridenhour, had a choice: to remain silent and safe or reveal his truth and risk sanctions. For Vargas those risks included the loss of a promising career and deportation. When he came forward to tell his story in a groundbreaking essay that chronicled his life as an undocumented immigrant, it catalyzed the movement around immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Shortly after coming forward, Vargas founded “Define American” to elevate the conversation around immigration issues.

Seth Rosenfeld: The Ridenhour Book Prize

Seth Rosenfeld was awarded the 2013 Ridenhour Book Prize for Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Rosenfeld tells the gripping story of FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories, poison-pen letters, and secret detention lists that dominated the government agency for decades and laid the foundation for the Reagan era. Rosenfeld has won the Ridenhour Book Prize for his masterful and seamless braiding of investigative research and storytelling dexterity to depict an American government that used its vast resources for partisan political gain under the cloak of protecting the nation from a nebulous external threat.

The Invisible War: The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize

Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering were awarded the 2013 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize for The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary into the troubling epidemic of rape in the US military. Focusing on the powerful stories of rape victims, The Invisible War is a moving indictment of the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes. It chronicles the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice and reveals the devastating consequences of the reliance on chain of command in military life.

A live stream of the proceedings is available here. I'll post edited video of the speeches, each eloquent in its own way, later this week once it is posted by The Nation Institute. On Friday, my radio co-host Scott Draughon and I will host Survivor author Seth Rosenfeld on MTL Washington Update, our weekly public affairs radio show at noon (EDT).

Immediately following the awards luncheon, a panel on whistleblowers featured former winners Thomas Drake, Nick Turse, and Matthew Hoh, and former director of the ISOO J. William Leonard. Former CBS-TV producer Roberta Baskin moderated the panel.

Their themes echoed those of commentators Brian and Wilson in their MSNBC decrying a government crackdown on whistleblowers. Drake, a former top official at the National Security Agency, was especially eloquent in describing how he was informed that President Obama personally made the decision to try to imprison Drake on spy charges for informing a newspaper reporter of a billion dollars in government waste on a surveillance program. 

In their MSNBC column, Brian and Wilson concluded:

A new documentary, War on Whistleblowers, details the lengths to which the government has gone to silence whistleblowers and the journalists who try to aid them. Investigative reporter Tim Shorrock reported earlier this month on the crackdown on four NSA employees, who were driven by their conscience to come forward in an effort to end millions of dollars in waste at the agency. And a report from the Constitution Project on torture reveals a disturbing penchant for secrecy.

In February, NPR argued that the Obama administration is slowly improving conditions for whistleblowers. That is true in some regards, but this argument is overly simplistic. The Obama administration has supported stronger protections for federal workers outside the national security arena, and created new rights for those inside it. But at the same time, the administration has pursued a gaping loophole to those protections in court.

The secrecy that Ridenhour sought to expose still shrouds our democracy: engaging in war based on lies. Torturing detainees. Holding enemy combatants without due process. Keeping secret the interpretations of law that justify targeted killings. Few people are willing to come forward to stop these unconstitutional acts. Given the risks, can we blame them?

As we look to the next decade, it is the duty of all of us to demand meaningful protections for national security and intelligence whistleblowers so that they can safely follow in the steps of Ron Ridenhour. Then we will have truly honored his bravery.
 

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

Related News Coverage

Ridenhour and Correspondents Events

MSNBC, For whistleblowers, fraying protection, Joseph Wilson and Danielle Brian, April 24, 2013. Ten years ago this week, advocates, funders, journalists and citizens gathered in an effort to champion the rights of whistleblowers, people who come forward with information about alleged dishonest or illegal activities. It seemed like protection for whistleblowers was nearing a turning point: only the year before, Time magazine had heralded whistleblowers on their cover as “Person of the Year.” In short, we saw a brighter future for truth-tellers, and genuine progress on an issue central to American democracy. But sadly, ten years later, we fear that we may have, in fact, lost ground. Arguably, national security whistleblowers face greater personal risk now than at the height of the Bush administration. The secrecy that Ridenhour sought to expose still shrouds our democracy: engaging in war based on lies. Torturing detainees. Holding enemy combatants without due process. Keeping secret the interpretations of law that justify targeted killings. Few people are willing to come forward to stop these unconstitutional acts. Given the risks, can we blame them?

Huffington Post, Obama's 'Muslim Socialist' Joke Draws Big Laughs (VIDEO), Chris Gentilviso, April 27, 2013.  President Barack Obama slid in a shoutout during his 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner speech to conspiracists who wonder about both his religion and economic preferences. "These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit," Obama said. "I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be." Past polls have seen large chunks of Americans incorrectly identify the Christian Obama as a Muslim. During the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign, a May PPP survey found that 52 percent of 656 likely GOP primary voters classified the president under that religion.

Washington Post, White House Correspondents’ Association dinner isn’t costly, but the parties are, Paul Farhi, April 26, 2013. Figure on paying big time for a semi-glamorous locale; an embassy will do (but only one for a major country). Then, add in food and booze — about $100 a head. Plus entertainment, security, cleanup, insurance. Valet parking for a few hundred could cost roughly $6,000. Want a celebrity at your event? Of course you do. First-class flight to Washington, a hotel suite and limo for the weekend: Count on $4,500 or so more per glamourpuss, not including his or her posse, which you may have to include. When all is said and paid for after all the parties surrounding the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this weekend, some media organizations will drop as much as $200,000 each to entertain an elite list of guests.

OpEd News, What's so funny Mr. President? Michael Collins, April 29, 2013. The president and the mainstream media, along with the capital in-crowd, celebrate their wonderfulness each year at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. The format consists of an invited comedian who pokes fun at the president and press with some shtick from the current leader of the free world. The event is by invitation only, no common folk allowed.

Huffington Post, My Racist Encounter at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Seema Jilani, May 7, 2013. The faux red carpet had been laid out for the famous and the wannabe-famous. Politicians and journalists arrived at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, bedazzled in the hopes of basking in a few fleeting moments of fame, even if only by osmosis from proximity to celebrities. New to the Washington scene, I was to experience the spectacle with my husband, a journalist, and enjoy an evening out. Or at least an hour out. You see, as a spouse I was not allowed into the actual dinner. Those of us who are not participating in the hideous schmooze-fest that is this evening are relegated to attending the cocktail hour only, if that. Our guest was the extraordinarily brilliant Oscar-nominated director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin. Mr. Zeitlin's unassuming demeanor was a refreshing taste of humility in a sea of pretentious politicians reeking of narcissism.

News Media Trends and Breaking News

FireDogLake, In First Amendment Case Over Afghan War Memoir, Justice Department Asks Judge to End Lawsuit, Kevin Gosztola, May 1, 2013.The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to conclude that a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer “has no First Amendment right to publish the information at issue” in a memoir he penned at on his service in the war in Afghanistan. They maintain information the officer wants to publish is “properly classified” and the government is “entitled to substantial deference” that its publication would result in harm from disclosure. The case involves Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an officer with twenty-five years of field experience, who wrote Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory.

BLT/Legal Times, Breaking Tradition, Obama Taps Non-Lawyer to Head FCC, David Brown, May 1, 2013. There's something a bit different about Tom Wheeler, nominated today by President Barack Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission. It’s not his work as a lobbyist or venture capitalist - rather, it's that unlike practically every other chairman in the agency's 79-year history, Wheeler is not a lawyer. To be sure, Wheeler by all accounts knows the industry well, heading two major trade groups for years. As Obama put it today in remarks at the White House, "Tom is the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame. So he’s like the Jim Brown of telecom… Tom knows this stuff inside and out."

Huffington Post, Howard Kurtz Indignantly Accuses Jason Collins Of Not Disclosing Thing He Actually Totally Disclosed, Jason Linkins, May 1, 2013.  

Bill Moyers, Six Whistleblowers Charged Under the Espionage Act, John Light and Lauren Feeney, April 26, 2013. The Obama administration has been carrying out an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, particularly on those who have divulged information that relates to national security. The Espionage Act, enacted during the first World War to punish Americans who aided the enemy, had only been used three times in its history to try government officials accused of leaking classified information — until the Obama administration. Since 2009, the administration has used the act to prosecute six government officials. Meet the whistleblowers.

Paul Craig Roberts.org / Institute for Political Economy, You Are The Hope, May 1, 2013. Dear Readers: If there is hope, you are it. You are motivated to find truth. You can think outside the box. You can see through propaganda. You are the remnant with the common sense that once was a common American virtue.

Where today is moral awareness as Washington bombs civilian populations around the globe? Where is the moral conscience of the the civil rights movement as the First Black President, the first member of the oppressed class to sit in the Oval Office, validates the Bush Regime’s assertion of the right of the unaccountable executive to ignore habeas corpus and due process? Not satisfied with this crime, Obama asserted the right of the executive branch to murder any citizen suspected, without proof being offered to a court, of undefined “support of terrorism.” Today all Americans have fewer rights than blacks had prior to the Civil Rights Act. Anything, including a column critical of war and the police state, can be declared to be “in support of terrorism.” As the tyrant Bush put it: “You are with us, or you are against us.” The print and TV media and many Internet sites got the message: Serve Washington’s agenda, and will you will prosper. Advertisers and the CIA will pump money into your coffers. Challenge us and you will be demonized. 

SFGate, Worst job in America: Newspaper reporter, Staff report, April 23, 2013. After declining dramatically during the recession, newspapers are expected to continue losing jobs at a rate of 6 percent per year through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CareerCast said the job's grim outlook, shrinking budgets, stressful deadlines, lack of income growth and low pay made this the worst job in America. Median salary is $36,000.

New York Times, Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers, Amy Chozick, April 20, 2013. Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes. The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media. Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion. Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas.

American Free Press, James P. Tucker, Jr., ‘Bilderberg Hound,’ Dies at 78, Michael Collins Piper, April 27, 2013. James P. Tucker, Jr. (1934 – 2013), right, famed Bilderberg Hound, author of Jim Tucker’s Bilderberg Diary, passed away yesterday due to complications he suffered following a fall. A proper tribute to Tucker will rendered next week when the front page of American Free Press newspaper will be dedicated to Jim. Please read his obituary below and listen to the last interview Tucker gave AFP prior to his passing.

Huffington Post, Michael Calderone and Matt Sledge, Obama Whistleblower Prosecutions Lead To Chilling Effect On Press, April 16, 2013. On April 9, McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay reported that the Obama administration has “targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified ‘other’ militants” in drone strikes, a revelation that contradicts previous administration claims of pursuing only senior-level operatives who pose an imminent threat to the United States. It was an investigative story clearly in the public interest, shedding new light on the government’s long-running targeted-killing program in Pakistan. But now Landay, a veteran national security reporter for the McClatchy newspaper chain, is concerned that the Obama administration could next investigate him in hopes of finding the sources for “top-secret U.S. intelligence reports” cited in the story. “Do I think that they could come after me?” Landay asked, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Yes.” “I can tell you that people who normally would meet with me, sort of in a more relaxed atmosphere, are on pins and needles,” Landay said of the reporting climate during the Obama years, a period of unprecedented whistleblower prosecutions. The crackdown on leaks, he added, seems “deliberately intended to have a chilling effect.” Landay isn’t alone in that assessment, as several investigative journalists attest in War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State, a timely documentary directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation that premieres this week in New York and Washington. The film details the ordeals of four whistleblowers who turned to the press in order to expose waste or illegality.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Boston Marathon Bombings

New Yorker, The Culprits, David Remnick, April 29, 2013. Anzor Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who lived much of his life in Kyrgyzstan, emigrated a decade ago to the Boston area with his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Despite arthritic fingers, he made his living as an auto mechanic. Members of the family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook. Anzor’s elder son, Tamerlan, left, appeared never to connect fully with American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” Tamerlan told a photographer named Johannes Hirn, who asked to take pictures of him training as a boxer. “I don’t understand them.” He studied, indifferently, at Bunker Hill Community College, for an engineering degree. He described himself as “very religious”; he didn’t smoke or drink. Twenty-six and around two hundred pounds, he boxed regularly at Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts. He loved “Borat” (“even though some of the jokes are a bit too much”). He had a daughter, but scant stability. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. (“In America, you can’t touch a woman,” Anzor told the Times.)

Washington Post, Portrait of a Faded American Dream, Marc Fisher with 11 colleagues reporting, April 28, 2013 (print edition). America, the golden door, had already welcomed two of his brothers when Anzor Tsarnaev crossed the ocean with his family in 2002. Anzor’s brother Ruslan, who had immigrated just a few years earlier, already had a law degree and was on his way to an executive job and a six-figure salary. And at first, Anzor, his wife, Zubeidat, and their two sons, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, seemed as energetic and brimming with initiative as their relatives had been. Anzor, a mechanic, fixed up cars. His wife turned a cut-rate apartment in affluent Cambridge into an improvised salon, offering facials at attractive prices. The boys — who authorities believe are the Boston Marathon bombers, responsible for killing four people and injuring more than 250 — took to their new home with gusto. The older one, Tamerlan, was sociable, even showy, dressing sharply, honing his body to become an Olympic boxer. He married an American WASP, daughter of a well-to-do Rhode Island family.

Gawker, Ex-CIA Agent Denies Rumors of Ties to Ruslan, Staff report, April 28, 2013. Graham Fuller, a retired CIA officer whose daughter was briefly married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Uncle Ruslan), has come out and flatly denied any CIA connection to the Tsarnaev's, calling the allegations “absurd.” Fuller's daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan from the mid-to-late 1990's, before divorcing. Ruslan lived with the retired CIA officer in Maryland for a year, but Fuller saw no interest in politics, policy, or the CIA, from Ruslan. "Like all Chechens, Ruslan was very concerned about his native land, but I saw no particular involvement in politics," Fuller wrote in an email to Al-Monitor. “I doubt he even had much to say of intelligence value other than talking about his own family’s sad tale of deportation from Chechnya by Stalin to Central Asia,” Fuller wrote. “Every Chechen family has such stories.” The story of the Tsarnaev family, which is still being hashed out through media and family interviews (as well as government reports and suspicions about the family), is an especially complicated one that bridges the immediately post-Soviet era to the present-day "War on Terror." Juan Cole traces the Tsarnaevs flight from Russia to the fact that Anzor Tsarnaev (the father of the alleged bombers) had been a prosecutor for the Soviet prosecutor's office — an unpopular position among ethnic Chechens.

Al-Monitor, Former CIA officer: ‘Absurd’ to link uncle of Boston suspects, Agency, Laura Rozen, April 27, 2013. Retired CIA officer Graham Fuller, left, confirmed to Al-Monitor Saturday that his daughter was previously married to an uncle of the suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, but called rumors of any links between the uncle and the Agency “absurd.” Graham Fuller’s daughter, Samantha A. Fuller, was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (now Tsarni) in the mid-1990s, and divorced in 1999, according to North Carolina public records. The elder Fuller had retired from the agency almost a decade before the brief marriage. “Samantha was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Tsarni) for 3-4 years, and they lived in Bishkek for one year where Samantha was working for Price Waterhouse on privatization projects,” Fulller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. Fuller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. “They also lived in our house in [Maryland] for a year or so and they were divorced in 1999, I believe....I, of course, retired from CIA in 1987 and had moved on to working as a senior political scientist for RAND,” Fuller continued.

Al-Monitor, Former CIA officer: ‘Absurd’ to link uncle of Boston suspects, Agency, Laura Rozen, April 27, 2013. Retired CIA officer Graham Fuller, left, confirmed to Al-Monitor Saturday that his daughter was previously married to an uncle of the suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, but called rumors of any links between the uncle and the Agency “absurd.” Graham Fuller’s daughter, Samantha A. Fuller, was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (now Tsarni) in the mid-1990s, and divorced in 1999, according to North Carolina public records. The elder Fuller had retired from the agency almost a decade before the brief marriage. “Samantha was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Tsarni) for 3-4 years, and they lived in Bishkek for one year where Samantha was working for Price Waterhouse on privatization projects,” Fulller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. Fuller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. “They also lived in our house in [Maryland] for a year or so and they were divorced in 1999, I believe....I, of course, retired from CIA in 1987 and had moved on to working as a senior political scientist for RAND,” Fuller continued.

Gawker, Ex-CIA Agent Denies Rumors of Ties to Ruslan, Staff report, April 28, 2013. Graham Fuller, a retired CIA officer whose daughter was briefly married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Uncle Ruslan), has come out and flatly denied any CIA connection to the Tsarnaev's, calling the allegations “absurd.” Fuller's daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan from the mid-to-late 1990's, before divorcing. Ruslan lived with the retired CIA officer in Maryland for a year, but Fuller saw no interest in politics, policy, or the CIA, from Ruslan. "Like all Chechens, Ruslan was very concerned about his native land, but I saw no particular involvement in politics," Fuller wrote in an email to Al-Monitor. “I doubt he even had much to say of intelligence value other than talking about his own family’s sad tale of deportation from Chechnya by Stalin to Central Asia,” Fuller wrote. “Every Chechen family has such stories.” The story of the Tsarnaev family, which is still being hashed out through media and family interviews (as well as government reports and suspicions about the family), is an especially complicated one that bridges the immediately post-Soviet era to the present-day "War on Terror." Juan Cole traces the Tsarnaevs flight from Russia to the fact that Anzor Tsarnaev (the father of the alleged bombers) had been a prosecutor for the Soviet prosecutor's office — an unpopular position among ethnic Chechens.

Opposing Views, Daughter of Ex-CIA Agent Graham Fuller Once Married to Tsarnaev Brothers' Uncle, Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, April 28, 2013.  Ex-CIA agent Graham Fuller denied any connections between the CIA and the Boston bombing suspects after reports surfaced about his daughter once being married to the suspects’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni. Fuller confirmed that his daughter, Samantha A. Fuller, was married to Ruslan for three to four years in the 1990s, when his surname was then spelled Tsarnaev.

Washington Post, Overseer of victim compensation funds in US tragedies says work wrenching but his way to help, Associated Press, April 27, 2013. His work has immersed him in events that read like a roster of recent catastrophes, from 9/11 to the Gulf oil spill. Now, Kenneth Feinberg is adding the Boston Marathon bombings to that list. The Massachusetts native and attorney is managing the payouts from The One Fund, which was established to help victims of the explosions that killed three and injured 260. Feinberg handled victims’ compensation after 9/11, the BP oil spill, the Virginia Tech shootings and the Colorado movie theater shootings, among other calamities. He’s now advising a panel distributing money after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and mediating Penn State’s settlement discussions with the sex abuse victims of former football coach Jerry Sandusky. Lawyers, meanwhile, scoffed at his vigorous declarations of independence from BP, which he still makes. “The spin was that he was independent, but he was working for BP, that’s just the way it is,” said attorney Anthony Tarricone, now of the Boston firm Kreindler & Kreindler, who represented both BP and 9/11 families.

Guardian, The Same Motive for Anti-US 'Terrorism' Is Cited Over and Over, Ignoring the role played by US actions is dangerously self-flattering and self-delusional, Glenn Greenwald, April 24, 2013. It is vital to understand why there are so many people who want to attack the US as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan, or Portugal. It's vital for two separate reasons. First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. There seems to be this pervasive belief in the US that we can invade, bomb, drone, kill, occupy, and tyrannize whomever we want, and that they will never respond. That isn't how human affairs function and it never has been.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Bipartisan Federal Attack on Social Safety Net To Impose Austerity

Huffington Post, Paul Krugman Responds To Critics: 'Maybe I Actually Am Right,' Staff report, April 28, 2013. Paul Krugman’s got it right when it comes to the economic crisis, says Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist responded in a blog post Sunday to his countless critics who claim he’s choosing specific facts and ignoring others to make his case that budget-tightening policies are hurting economies around the world. His comments come as debate rages in Washington and in Europe over whether slashing spending -- which has led to high unemployment and slowed immediate economic growth in some places -- is the best way to boost economies in the long term. “Maybe I actually am right, and maybe the other side actually does contain a remarkable number of knaves and fools,” Krugman wrote in the post Sunday. Krugman faces a chorus of detractors on a regular basis. The latest criticism came from Ken Langone, the CEO of investment bank Invemed Associates and co-founder of Home Depot, who argued on Bloomberg TV that Krugman’s push against focusing on closing the deficit is at odds with the realities businesses face. Langone joins the company of the Prime Minister of Latvia, conservative Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and an entire website with the URL krugmaniswrong.com in accusing Krugman of having his facts mixed up on deficit reduction and economic growth.

Huffington Post, Bi-Partisanship We Don't Need: The President Offers to Cut Social Security and Republicans Agree, Robert Reich, April 10, 2013. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it's politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement released Friday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed. He said on CNBC he didn't understand "why we just don't see the White House come forward and do the things that we agree on" such as cutting Social Security, without additional tax increases. Get it? The Republican leadership is already salivating over the president's proposed Social Security cut. They've been wanting to cut Social Security for years. But they won't agree to close tax loopholes for the rich. They're already characterizing the president's plan as a way to "save" Social Security -- even though the cuts would undermine it -- and they're embracing it as an act of "bi-partisanship."

Huffington Post, Elizabeth Warren 'Shocked' At White House Plan To Cut Social Security With Chained CPI, Jason Linkins, April 10, 2013. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all. Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote.

Huffington Post, A Tale of Two Constituencies, Mike Lux, April 12, 2013. The president had been elected and re-elected on not only a progressive platform, but arguably with the most populist rhetoric in 40 years. He had run his campaigns on fighting for the middle class, protecting the vulnerable from harm, taxing the wealthy, and taking on the wealthy special interests who were harming our economy. His re-election campaign had bragged about taking on Wall Street, and harshly criticized the vulture capitalist business practices of his opponent. And because of running these kinds of campaign, this president won two decisive victories in a row, becoming the first president of his center-left party to win a clear majority of the votes more than once since the 1930s. But in the bizarre and troubled land of black magic and twisted morality I describe, the ..most widely reviled constituency, Wall Street executives, have not been prosecuted for their crimes, have not had their Too Big To Fail banks broken up, have had any regulations against them so watered down as to hardly impact on the way they do business, and have just as much access to the halls of government today as they did before the financial collapse. Meanwhile, that massive and beloved constituency, America's grandparents, are having their Social Security and Medicare benefits cut in that president's budget, the one who ran that populist progressive campaign.

Buzzfeed, Howard Dean: Obama Might Drive Me Out Of The Democratic Party, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Andrew Kaczynski, April 15, 2013. “What the hell are they thinking?” the former DNC chair asks about Obama's proposed budget. The Democrats' civil war? Howard Dean, right, has had it with President Obama's budget proposal, saying the plan put forward by the White House might just drive him from the Democratic Party he once led as DNC chair. On Sunday night, Dean tweeted that the restoration of some defense sequestration cuts contained in Obama's budget proposal were a step too far when coupled with the president's entitlement cut proposal that progressives like Dean are already livid about. "If this is true I may have to become an independant [sic]," Dean wrote, before linking to an April 10 article by Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Josh Green.  Dean doubled down on his threat to leave the part in an interview with BuzzFeed Monday. The White House did not respond directly, but an official did push back Monday on the thrust of Dean's attacks. "I just think that's unacceptable," Dean said. "If this passed I would have to reevaluate if I belong in the Democratic Party. If this were passed with Democratic votes, I think it would be impossible to be Democrat."

Economic 'Austerity' Study Scandal

PR Watch, Reinhart and Rogoff surely knew the purposes for which their work was being cited, Staff report, April 12, 2013. It will come as no surprise that Reinhart and Rogoff have ties to Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, a big fan of their work. Peterson has been advocating cuts to Social Security and Medicare for decades in order to prevent a debt crisis he warns will spike interest rates and collapse the economy. (Peterson failed to warn of the actual crisis building on Wall Street during his time at the Blackstone Group.)  As the Center for Media and Democracy detailed in the online report, “The Peterson Pyramid,” the Blackstone billionaire turned philanthropist has spent half a billion dollars to promote this chorus of calamity. Through the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Peterson has funded practically every think tank and non-profit that works on deficit- and debt-related issues, including his latest astroturf supergroup, “Fix the Debt,” which has set a July 4, 2013 deadline for securing an austerity budget. Reinhart, described glowingly by the New York Times as “the most influential female economist in the world,” was a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics founded, chaired, and funded by Peterson. Reinhart is listed as participating in many Peterson Institute events, such as their 2012 fiscal summit along with Paul Ryan, Alan Simpson, and Tim Geithner, and numerous other Peterson lectures and events available on YouTube. She is married to economist and author Vincent Reinhart, who does similar work for the American Enterprise Institute, also funded by the Peterson Foundation. Kenneth Rogoff is listed on the Advisory Board of the Peterson Institute. The Peterson Institute bankrolled and published a 2011 Rogoff-Reinhart book-length collaboration, “A Decade of Debt,” where the authors apparently used the same flawed data to reach many of the same conclusions and warn ominously of a “debt burden” stretching into 2017 that “will weigh heavily on the public policy agenda of numerous advanced economies and global financial markets for some time to come.”

Military Commentary

Washington Post, U.S. military should put religious freedom at the front; What must stop is the concept that America needs to conquer the world for Christ, Sally Quinn, April 26, 2013. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is worried about the Pentagon budget, but there are much more serious issues he must deal with. Religious proselytizing and sexual assault are at the top of the list. “The armed forces are on the verge of falling apart,” Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told me in an interview. Aside from proselytizing, he said, other problems include “sexual assault, suicides, lowering entrance standards and war weariness. They are in trouble, and the leadership is oblivious.” Sexual assault and proselytizing, according to Wilkerson, “are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.” Wilkerson was speaking to me in an interview with former ambassador Joe Wilson and the head of the private Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein. They were on their way to a meeting at the Pentagon on April 23 where they would discuss religious issues in a group that included several generals and a military chaplain. The chaplain’s role, according to Wilson, “is to minister to spiritual needs. You don’t proselytize. It’s a workplace violation.” Weinstein told me after the Pentagon meeting that military leaders need to understand that “there is systematic misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the military.” He said it is all part of the same culture.

Claims of U.S. Torture and Crackdowns on Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks

Huffington Post, New Torture Reports Blames Obama and the Media for Not Confronting the Truth, Dan Froomkin, April 17, 2013. Notifications  By this point, there really should be no doubt in anyone's mind that torture was widely used during the last administration -- and that nothing like that should ever happen again. The new, comprehensive report out today from an august, bipartisan commission goes a long way toward making that abundantly, authoritatively clear, laying the blame fully at the feet of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other top officials. But the reality is: That's old news. What's new and disturbing and important about the report from the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment is how it calls attention to the absurd reality that we, as a country, are actually still actually arguing about any of this. And for that, the report lays the blame fully at the feet of the current administration, for covering up what happened and stifling any sort of national conversation on the topic -- and the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious argument made by torture regime's architects that what occurred should be defined as something other than what it so obviously was.

Huffington Post, Bradley Manning Trial Secrecy Upheld By Military Court, Lawyers May Appeal, Matt Sledge, April 18, 2013. Lawyers may appeal a ruling made by the military's highest court that they say slams the door on transparency in the Bradley Manning court-martial. The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces found in a 3-2 decision on Tuesday that media organizations and the public have no right to access court documents, like transcripts and court orders, in the high-profile trial of Bradley Manning, the Army private who admitted to sending sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. The court said it lacked jurisdiction to force Judge Denise Lind to release files to the public. But two dissenting judges wrote that the court's ruling threatened to undermine the public's trust in military law. Senior Judge Walter T. Cox wrote that "a military judge has the jurisdiction, indeed the responsibility, to insure that a military court-martial is conducted so that the military accused and the public enjoy the same rights to a fair and public hearing as is envisioned in the Bill of Rights."

FireDogLake, Countries Subject to US Intervention Become Executioners & Impose Death Penalty, Kevin Gosztola, April 12, 2013. Amnesty International released its annual review of death sentences and executions around the world. The review found the five biggest executors in 2012 were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the USA. It also found that the number of countries that abolished the death penalty rose to 97 and progress toward abolition of the death penalty was made in “all regions of the world.” The human rights organization reported, “In the Americas, the USA remains the only country to carry out executions.” A total number of 43 executions—the same in 2011, occurred. Though, “Only nine states executed in 2012, compared to 13 in 2011.”  And, ”Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November.”

Government Accountability

Think Progress, Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators, Igor Volsky, April 18, 2013. “Shame on you!” Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas yelled in rapid succession at the 46 senators who had just voted to kill a compromise amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or online. The women were sitting in the gallery with a large group of gun violence victims as the Senate responded to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by defeating the measure advocates and law enforcement officials consider crucial to keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The pair has first-hand experience with the consequences of the broken system. In 2011, Maisch was hailed as a hero for disarming Tucson shooter Jared Loughner by preventing him from reloading a fresh magazine. Haas’ daughter Emily was shot twice during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and survived, leading her to become a proponent of stronger gun regulations. But on Wednesday afternoon, the two women faced tighter scrutiny for interrupting a Senate proceeding than many individuals seeking to purchase guns.

FireDogLake, As Obama Dumps Transparency Former Staffers Cash In on 'Public Service,” DSWright, April 18, 2013. As President Obama quietly signed a bill to dump further disclosure requirements for congressional and senior executive branch staffers, his former staffers were looking to ring the cash register. Leveraging their access to the Obama Administration, these Corporate Democrats have found a way to triangulate some loot – buckraking. Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. In other words, influence peddling. It seems for most of the Obama Team “public service” was just a pretext for private payoffs. Take Robert Wolf, a former U.S. chairman of the investment bank UBS and an early Obama fund-raiser, who has served as an all-purpose (and highly visible) “first buddy” throughout the presidency. Last year, Wolf dreamed up the idea for a firm called 32 Advisors, which would instruct clients here and abroad on a variety of business transactions, such as how to secure U.S. government financing for export deals.

 

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