Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on May 26, 2014

 

CNN and Newsweek recently launched dubious tirades against what they called "conspiracy theories." 

Dag HammarskjoldMeanwhile, the Wall Street Journal published U.N. Considers Reopening Probe into 1961 Crash that Killed Dag Hammarskjöld, a report that broached the possibility that the United States may have been involved in the death of the secretary-general, who is shown in a file photo.

As a way to understand such varied messages, I urge readers to evaluate evidence with an open mind -- and regard with special suspicion those commentators who slant their coverage with the loaded smear words "conspiracy theory" without citing specific evidence.

No one has time to investigate everything without preconceptions. For efficiency, we rely in part on slanted commentary by our favorite sources. But if the stakes are high and we want to be honest we should admit (at least to ourselves) that our preliminary conclusions should be subject to change based on new data. 

My suggestions follow the spirit of the Justice Integrity Project's JFK Assassination "Readers Guide" last fall. That 11-part series began with a catalog of books, archives, reports and videos. Then it proceeded to assess various theories of President Kennedy's 1963 murder.

By now, we know from declassified documents that the CIA undertook a massive secret campaign to smear critics of the Warren Commission with the label "conspiracy theorist."

The campaign used members of mainstream media friendly to the CIA, for example, to discredit New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, shown below in a photo by Lynn Pelham. Garrison was prosecuting New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw in what Garrison alleged was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy. Shaw, an OSS liaison to high-ranking British officials during World War II, founded a major regional trade mart in New Orleans shortly after the war. Garrison alleged that Shaw met with rightist opponents of JFK to plan the death.

Jim GarrisonA 50-page CIA memo, known as "CIA Dispatch 1035-960," instructed agents to contact their media contacts and disparage those, like Garrison, criticizing the Warren Commission findings that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and acted alone. The 1967 document is here in the original, and here in reformatted text of its summary.

Minutes of CIA meeting that same year indicated fear that Garrison would win a conviction.

But a jury promptly acquitted Shaw following more than a dozen deaths (including suicide) of potential witnesses and an intense smear campaign against Garrison by the national media. NBC News hired former high-ranking Justice Department official Walter Sheridan, who had been an early recruit to the super-secret NSA in the 1950s. Publicly an investigative reporter, Sheridan was involved also in operational efforts to undermine Garrison.

More generally, Operation Mockingbird was the CIA's secret program to plant stories in the nation's most prestigious news outlets.  

"With this [CIA] memo and the CIA’s influence in the media," author Peter Janney wrote in a guest column on our site last fall, "the concept of 'conspiracy theorist' was engendered and infused into our political lexicon and became what it is today: a term to smear, denounce, ridicule, and defame anyone who dares to speak about any crime committed by the state, military or intelligence services."

Janney, whose late father Wistar Janney had been a high-ranking CIA executive, continued: "People who want to pretend that conspiracies don’t exist -- when in fact they are among the most common modus operandi of significant historical change throughout the world and in our country -- become furious when their naive illusion is challenged."

After that background, let's look at more recent uses of the term by the mainstream media to discredit those who suggest government complicity in notorious events. 

CNN, Newsweek Lash Out Against Government Critics

Last week, CNN's Jake Tapper engaged in little more than name-calling in his segment 'Truthers' to protest 9/11 Museum. Tapper brought in a like-minded guest, Slate columnist Emily Bazelon, who relied on the same kind of seat-of-the-pants speculation to denounce protesters. 

Another example of selective analysis was a Newsweek cover story May 15, The Plots to Destroy America, written by Kurt Eichenwald. Oddly, Newsweek's sensationalistic title itself implied a conspiracy -- that the diverse government critics on the right and left whom the magazine attacked intended to "destroy" the nation with their "plots."

I recognized the pattern. Three years ago, I hosted author Jonathan Kay on my weekly public affair radio show, Washington Update. Kay, a Canadian newspaper editor and law school graduate, had authored Among the Truthers, a 340-page book. Upon reading it, however, I saw that it raised alarm and mocked critics of 9/11 official accounts but did not analyze their arguments.

Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein White House Photo

Similarly, Eichenwald cited as authority a handful of establishment "experts" who mocked those who criticize government or other establishment institutions.

Among the experts the Newsweek author repeatedly quoted was Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor, author of the recent book Conspiracy Theories, and a former high-ranking Obama administration official. During the Obama first term, Sunstein in effect oversaw all federal regulation at the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

A White House photo shows Sunstein wiith his wife, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, when Vice President Joe Biden swore her into office last summer. Her appointment followed her high-level work in national security at the White House and State Department during Obama's first term. As noted in my book, Presidential Puppetry, she is a leading proponent for regime change and military intervention globally on the grounds of humanitarian principles.

Also last summer, Obama appointed Sunstein along with four others to the president's review commission for a response to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations of massive illegal spying on the American public.

Eichenwald glosses over this heavy national security background and the rhetoric needed to foster public support for global interventions.

Even more relevant is that Eichenwald failed to note that Sunstein co-authored in 2008 what has become a notorious paper advocating propaganda techniques.

In the paper "Conspiracy Theories," Sunstein advocated that the government secretly hire academics and journalists to thwart the dissemination of what federal authorities might regard as dangerous beliefs held by millions of voters, such as suggestion that officials were complicit in 9/11 or a cover-up.

Sunstein's own proposal sounds, in other words, like the kind of plot government critics most fear as a violation of constitutional rights by an Orwellian, Big Brother state.

Yet Eichenwald argued that "not a scintilla of evidence" exists for the theories he disparaged. He called them "unsubstantiated nonsense." But he failed, like most with his mind-set, to refute the best arguments of his targets.

Instead, he repeatedly cited well-credential experts, who applauded government officials for the most part and trivialized the concerns of complainers.

Such elitist, slanted reporting by Newsweek and CNN suggests why their audiences are plunging and the outlets find themselves focused on half-truths important to someone, but not audiences. The Internet provides alternative news sources.

In 2010, the Washington Post sold Newsweek for just $1 and assumption of debts. The Post announced that it wanted to place the publication into the hands of a like-minded publisher. This was Sidney Harman, the husband of Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), a Harvard Law grad and prominent advocate of the intelligence-military complex. Newsweek, much like CNN, retains only a shell of its former clout and has twice been sold since Sidney Harman died.

Joe LauriaThat said, most of us still rely heavily on the mainstream media to complement our information from other sources.

A striking example last week was a bold, exclusive report by Joe Lauria, the Wall Street Journal's United Nations correspondent.

Lauria (shown in a file photo) drew on his years on the beat to report for the Journal that the United Nations may reactivate on the basis of new evidence its dormant inquiry on whether its late leader, Hammarskjöld, was intentionally killed during his 1961 peace-keeping mission.

As a former stringer for the Journal for two years earlier in my career, I can imagine how much research the reporter must have produced before such a story would make it into print. His achievement is especially striking at a Murdoch-owned paper, whose owner is better known for benefiting from high-level intrigues than exposing them.

And what if the United Nations proceeds -- and finds that the secretary-general died from foul play?

For one thing, that would not be good news for those who deny conspiracies. But they would surely find a way to avoid in-depth reporting.

 

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Updated

OpEdNews, Rethinking Conspiracy, Shawn Hamilton, Sept. 14, 2014. The terms "conspiracy theorist" and "conspiracy nut" are used frequently to discredit a perceived adversary using emotional, rather than logical, appeals. Too many people smugly chide "conspiracy theories" as if they imagine that such a derisive characterization reflects superior intellect--whether or not they know anything about the issue in question. It's a pitiful display of ego inflation and intellectual dishonesty, yet it appears to be a common approach preferred by those short on information and critical thinking skills. Here are a few examples of past "conspiracy theories" that were commonly derided at the time of their occurrence but were later determined to be credible.

National Archives via YouTube, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas, Lecture by Cass R. Sunstein, Sept. 8, 2014 (video: 1 hour, six miinutes). Cass Susntein is a Harvard Law Professor, former top White House staffer in the Obama Administration and author of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas. Sunstein served Obama as his administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Sunstein's wife is Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador at the United Nations.

As reported by longtime journalist Louis Wolf: Sunstein's largely vague but self-serving analysis of history and contemporary social thought revolves around his favorite recent subject -- conspiracy theories. He spoke briefly about some "true conspiracy theories" -- the ones he has had to accept as valid which he danced around largely without specifying which. Be sure to watch his eyes and his body language closely in the online video of the event. He built his conspiracy theories case on about what he called an "informational cascade" and an "reputational cascade."He then asserted that groups that have conspiracy theories "which are most dangerous and threatening to the United States" flow from these two 'cascades' [hear at: 28:35]. He said "we need to correct the record." This reference alludes to the mostly secret operations around the world of the National Endowment for Democracy. He also alluded to people he termed "conspiracy entrepreneurs." Louis Wolf's comments and Sunstein's answer can be heard at: 42:32-48:01 min. George Ripley's comments and Sunstein's answer at: 57:43-1:02:17. In the wake of the explosive disclosures by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Obama chose Sunstein to be part of a five-person advisory group of intelligence and legal experts, several of whom have long connections to Obama, Two other members are Richard A. Clarke, who served in the Clinton administration and both Bush administrations and has become an expert on digital conflict; Michael J. Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA.

Mission Statement Andrew Kreig JIP Director The Justice Integrity Project (JIP) researches official misconduct To stop scroller, please click it below Latest News jQuery.noConflict(); // code here jQuery(document).ready(function() { var opt = { direction: 'up', speed : 20, behavior: 'circle', mouseover: function(o){ o.stop(); o.css({cursor: 'pointer'}); }, mouseout: function(o){ o.start(); } } jQuery('.ScrollBoxPro161').mscroller(opt); }); div.ScrollBoxPro161{ position:relative; width:275px; display:block; overflow: hidden; padding:0; margin:0 auto; background-color:#FFFFFF; font-family: ''; font-size:12px; font-weight:normal; color:#000000; } #scrollPro > li { list-style: none outside none; margin: 0; padding: 0; } ul#scrollPro { padding: 5px; position: relative; } #scrollPro li a { display: inline!important; } .box-s{ height:800px; overflow:hidden; } Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative May 2015 news and views May 25 Arlington National Cemetery (Sebastian Fuss photo via flickr) Consortium News, How to Honor Memorial Day, Ray McGovern, May 24, 2015. Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars. But many pols and pundits can’t resist the opportunity, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes. War Is A Crime, Is Al Jazeera Trying to Be CNN or Fox? David Swanson, May 25, 2015. Some weeks back, I got a call from Al Jazeera wanting me to be on a show, but insisting that I couldn't do it from a local studio via satellite or from my computer via Skype. "This week, we are producing a debate on whether or not the 'American empire is on decline', and I would love to have you on the show to share your thoughts on the issue on this very exciting debate," wrote a woman who turned out to be one of many producers, in an initial email. We exchanged emails and spoke by phone. I provided brief responses on several subtopics.... I asked them about paying my "per diem" and they weaseled out of it with a claim that they would only pay for food and cabs with receipts....What good was this show if nobody saw it? I asked where the clip was online and got no response. Some days later I found a website for the show. Here it is: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html The show is called The Third Rail, but it's not exactly electrifying. It's the same old, same old, with Judith Miller and Alan Dershowitz and such types. The guests fit with the attitude I picked up on in the studio of wanting to be CNN. Politico, Why the last of the JFK files could embarrass the CIA, Bryan Bender, May 25. 2015. Among the 40,000 documents are roughly 3,600 that have never been seen by the public. Shortly after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who oversaw the first official inquiry, was asked by a reporter if the full record would be made public. “Yes, there will come a time,” the chairman of the Warren Commission responded. “But it might not be in your lifetime.” It will soon be in ours — that is, unless the CIA, FBI or other agencies still holding on to thousands of secret documents from a series of related probes convince the next occupant of the White House otherwise. A special team of seven archivists and technicians with top-secret security clearances has been set up at the National Archives and Records Administration to process all or portions of 40,000 documents that constitute the final collection of known federal records that might shed light on the events surrounding JFK’s murder, POLITICO has learned — files that according to law must be made public by October 2017. May 24 Zero Hedge, Secret Pentagon Report Reveals US "Created" ISIS As A "Tool" To Overthrow Syria's President Assad, Tyler Durden, May 24, 2015. A declassified secret US government document obtained by the public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. According to investigative reporter Nafeez Ahmed in Medium, the "leaked document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, despite anticipating that doing so could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). According to the newly declassified U.S. document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of the strategy, but described this outcome as a strategic opportunity to “isolate the Syrian regime.” And not just that: as we reported last week, now that ISIS is running around the Middle East, cutting people's heads of in 1080p quality and Hollywood-quality (perhaps literally) video, the U.S. has a credible justification to sell billions worth of modern, sophisticated weapons in the region in order to "modernize" and "replenish" the weapons of such U.S. allies as Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iraq. Among the batch of documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a federal lawsuit and released earlier this week is a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document then classified as “secret,” dated 12th August 2012. The DIA provides military intelligence in support of planners, policymakers and operations for the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence community. So far, media reporting has focused on the evidence that the Obama administration knew of arms supplies from a Libyan terrorist stronghold to rebels in Syria. Washington Post, Defense chief: Iraqis showed ‘no will to fight,’ Vanessa Williams, May 24, 2015. Ashton Carter, in an interview with CNN and shown in a file photo, rejected calls for sending U.S. ground troops into Iraq to fight Islamic State militants. He also said U.S.-led airstrikes have been effective. Iraqis regain ground from ISIS. OpEdNews, Snowden's Brilliant Answer to Those Who Say They Don't Need Privacy Right Because They Have Nothing To Hide, Rob Kall, May 24, 2015. Next time someone tells you they don't care about privacy rights because they don't have anything to hide, use this response from American hero Edward Snowden, which he gave in a recent interview with the Guardian. "People who say they don't care about privacy because they have got nothing to hide have not thought too deeply about these issues. What they are really saying is I do not care about this right. When you say I don't care about the right to privacy because I have nothing to hide, that is no different than saying I don't care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say or freedom of the press because I have nothing to write." Washington Post, GOP 2016 nomination fight likely to drag on and on, Chris Cillizza, May 24, 2015. A crowded field and the rise of super PACs could combine to keep the Republican primary season active until late spring, and maybe later. May 23 Radio WhoWhatWhy, What the Boston Jury Never Heard But America Must, Peter Collins and Russ Baker, May 23, 2015 (radio: 51.26 min.). In this post-trial discussion with radio host Peter B. Collins, WhoWhatWhy Editor in Chief Russ Baker discusses the amazing and consequential elements of this terror mystery that never got aired in court. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole, the trial judge in Boston, is shown in a photo. Radio WhoWhatWhy, Tsarnaev Case Judge: FBI Interview Reports Are Unreliable — And Cast in Stone, James Henry, May 20, 2015. In allowing FBI interview reports to be read in court in lieu of witness testimony, US District Court Judge George O’Toole inadvertently highlighted an insidious tactic used by the FBI to manipulate witness statements. Anyone who gets a knock at the door from an FBI agent would be well advised to invite an attorney over before opening the door—or your mouth. AP via Huffington Post, Michael Brelo, Cleveland Patrolman, Found Not Guilty In Deaths Of 2 Unarmed Suspects, Staff report, May 23, 2015. A patrolman charged in the shooting deaths of two unarmed suspects during a 137-shot barrage of gunfire was acquitted Saturday in a case that helped prompt the U.S. Department of Justice determine the city police department had a history of using excessive force and violating civil rights. Michael Brelo, 31, faced as many as 22 years in prison had the judge convicted him on two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Before issuing his verdict, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell said he would not "sacrifice" Brelo if the evidence did not merit a conviction. Brelo put his head in his hands as O'Donnell finished a nearly hour-long summation of his conclusion, an involved explanation of the decision that involved mannequins marked with the gunshot wounds that the two motorists suffered. Brelo is white, the two motorists were black. Community and city leaders braced for the possibility of unrest in response to the verdict. {source}

 

FireDogLake, Judge bizarrely acquits Cleveland police officer of voluntary manslaughter, Frederick Leatherman, May 23, 2015. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Officer Michael Brelo of two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased and gunned down by police after the vehicle in which they were riding accidentally backfired as they were driving past police headquarters. They were unarmed. 62 police vehicles participated in the ensuing 22 mile chase that reached speeds over 100 mph. Thirteen officers, including Brelo, fired 137 shots into the vehicle. Russell had 23 bullet wounds and Williams had 24. Prosecutors said they only charged Brelo because he jumped up on the hood of the vehicle after it stopped and fired 15 shots through the windscreen into their bodies after they were no longer a threat, but still alive.

Middle East Eye, Obama’s fail on Saudi-Qatari aid to al-Qaeda affiliate, Gareth Porter, May 23, 2015. A source in the Saudi royal family has told Middle East Eye that Riyadh and Doha are funding an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria.
News media coverage of the Camp David summit between President Barack Obama and Gulf Cooperation Council members has focused largely on Obama’s success in getting the GCC States to go along with the negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran. But the much more consequential story of the summit is Obama’s decision not to confront Saudi Arabia and Qatar about their financing of an al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria that has made the most dramatic gains in the jihadist war against the Assad regime.

May 22

Motorcycle gangs (ATF photo)

 

The Intercept, Leaked Report Profiles Military, Police Members of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Jana Winter and Jordan Smith, May 22, 2015. Nuclear power plant technicians, senior military officers, FBI contractors and an employee of “a highly-secretive Department of Defense agency” with a Top Secret clearance. Those are just a few of the more than 100 people with sensitive military and government connections that law enforcement is tracking because they are linked to “outlaw motorcycle gangs.” A year before the deadly Texas shootout that killed nine people on May 17, a lengthy report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detailed the involvement of U.S. military personnel and government employees in outlaw motorcycle gangs, or OMGs. A copy of the report was obtained by The Intercept. The report lays out, in detail, the extent to which OMG members are represented in nearly every part of the military, and in federal and local government, from police and fire departments to state utility agencies. Specific examples from the report include dozens of Defense Department contractors with Secret or Top Secret clearances; multiple FBI contractors; radiological technicians with security clearances; U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees; Army, Navy and Air Force active-duty personnel, including from the special operations force community; and police officers. Comment: the National Rifle Association has for years sought to hamstring the federal ATF agency monitoring the gangs.

LewRockwell.com, The Hidden Government Group, Peter Dale Scott, May 22, 2015. Peter Dale Scott, shown in a file photo is an author and retired diplomat and professor. For some time now, I have been analyzing American history in the light of what I have Peter Dale Scottcalled structural deep events: events, like the JFK assassination, the Watergate break-in, Iran-Contra, or 9/11, which repeatedly involve law-breaking or violence, are mysterious to begin with, are embedded in ongoing covert processes, have political consequences that enlarge covert government, and are subsequently covered up by systematic falsifications in the mainstream media and internal government records. The more I study these deep events, the more I see suggestive similarities between them, increasing the possibility that they are not unrelated external intrusions on American history, but parts of an endemic process, sharing to some degree or other a common source. For example, one factor linking Dallas, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11, has been the involvement in all four deep events of personnel involved in America’s highest-level emergency planning, known since the 1950s as Continuity of Government (COG) planning, or more colloquially inside the Pentagon as “the Doomsday Project.” A few of these actors may have been located at the top, as overseers of the secret COG system. Others  were located further down in its secret communications network.

I see this planning group as one among many in what I have chosen to call the American deep state, along with agencies like the CIA and NSA, the private groups like Booz Allen Hamilton to which more than half of the US intelligence budget is outsourced, and finally the powerful banks and corporations whose views are well represented in the CIA and NSA. But if only one group among many, the COG planning group is also special, because of its control of and access to a communications channel, not under government control, that can reach deeply into the US social structure. I discuss these matters at some length in my book, The American Deep State, published in November. Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig speaks on this topic Sunday, May 31 at The Left Forum at John Jay College at the City University of New York (CUNY). The panel including authors Russ Baker and David MacDonald and moderated by Cheryl Curtiss originally included Professor Scott, who dropped off because of a time conflict.

Washington Post, State Dept. releases Clinton e-mails on Libya and Benghazi attacks, Karen DeYoung, May 22, 2015. The State Department on Friday released nearly 900 pages of e-mails on Libya and the Benghazi attacks from the private Hillary Clintonaccount Hillary Rodham Clinton used while she was secretary of state. The messages have been turned over to a select House committee investigating the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, in which the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed. Few of the e-mails deal directly with events leading up to the attacks or their aftermath, according to those who have seen them. Many contain administrative details, press accounts, speech drafts and other information exchanged between Clinton and her senior aides. But the messages, some of which were published this week by the New York Times, capture the concerns of Clinton and other officials about the political chaos that engulfed Libya during and following the 2011 NATO air attacks that facilitated the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi later that year.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project published in March a three-part series disclosing some of the more explosive emails and concerns about their suppression:

  • Arms Smuggling: The Obama-Clinton-Petraeus 'Iran-Contra' Scandal: Part I here
  • GOP Pre-Election 2012 Benghazi Plot With Petraeus? Hillary's Email, Part II here
  • Conflict of Interest In Clinton Foundation Funding? Hillary's Email, Part III here

 

 

University of the District of Columbia Clarke School of Law, Video of Code Red: Computerized Election Fraud Panel, produced by Joe Libertelli, May 22, 2015 (video: 179 mins.). On May 20, 2015, the UDC Clarke School of Law hosted a book Jonathan Simon "Code Red"talk on CODE RED: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century  by Jonathan Simon, a Boston-based attorney and co-founder and director of the Election Defense Alliance. The program was kicked off by Andrea Miller, Director of  People Demanding Action, who provided a brief history of politics and methods used to suppress votes and voters starting with slavery. She is shown at left in the photo. Simon spoke not only on the facts and history of computerized election fraud -- which he described as a "rolling coup" -- but also on the difficult challenge of maintaining optimism in the face of the massive inertia that he and other election integrity activists have faced.  He spoke of the clear need for a mass movement in protection of democracy against the forces of anti-democracy. After Simon's frank and sobering talk, Virginia Martin, Co-Election Commissioner of Columbia County, NY, described her own very positive experience, working with a Republican co-commissioner, to assure 100% hand-counted, completely transparent, observable audits of voted ballots since optical-scan voting machines were introduced in her county, providing a national model for optical-scan using jurisdictions nationwide. All three speakers then responded to numerous questions from the audience.  Of particular interest was the potential for the use of Ms. Martin's auditing technique nationally and the enormous potential to ally "traditional" groups working against voter suppression with the election integrity movement. Unfortunately, University of Pennsylvania professor and researcher Steve Freeman, author of Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen: Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count was unable to participate.

May 21

Washington Post, Sidney Blumenthal says he will cooperate with Benghazi panel, Karen Tumulty, May 21, 2015. Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime adviser who sent then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton more than two dozen Sidney Blumenthal 2006 Wikipediaback-channel reports about unrest in Libya, said on Thursday night that he provided it "as a private citizen and friend," and that it was merely information "I thought she might find interesting or helpful." Those messages, sent at a time when Blumenthal (shown in a file photo) was working for the Clinton family foundation and with entrepreneurs who hoped to do business in Libya, have drawn the interest of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the 2012 attack in which U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American officials were killed. The panel subpoenaed Blumenthal to testify, and he said in the statement, issued through his lawyer James M. Cole, that he "will cooperate with its inquiry and look forward to answering the Committee's questions." Blumenthal's e-mails were among 300 that have been turned over to the panel by the State Department, and were published Thursday by the New York Times. They had been sent to Clinton via a personal e-mail address that she used while at the State Department. Her use of the private account violated White House guidelines at the time, which stipulated using government e-mail for official business when possible. Clinton passed along the information from Blumenthal down the chain to other State Department officials, who reportedly were skeptical of much of it. The Obama White House had previously blocked Clinton's efforts to appoint Blumenthal to a position in the State Department because the president's team believed he was unreliable.

Huffington Post, Senate Debate Reveals Absurd Level Of Trade Deal Secrecy, Michael McAuliff and Ryan Grim, May 21, 2015. A revealing conversation on the Senate floor Thursday showed precisely how secretive Elizabeth WarrenPresident Barack Obama's pending trade deals are, and the absurdity of arguments to the contrary. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sponsored a bill that would have required the administration to post a "scrubbed" copy of the trade deals well before Congress gives the president fast-track authority to jam them easily through Congress. However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) objected to bringing the bill forward. In response, Manchin and Warren made a few telling observations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the vast trade agreement the U.S. is currently negotiating with 11 other nations.

Washington Post, Clinton charity reveals millions more in funds, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, May 21, 2015. As much as $26.4 million from major corporations, foreign sources and others was collected as fees from speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and was tallied as “revenue” rather than donations

Washington Post, What these banks did is an outrage, but criminal charges won't hurt them, Allan Sloan, May 21, 2015. The government's settlement with five major banks for manipulating interest rates was all show. My prediction: The charges, which the banks all settled Wednesday, will ultimately mean absolutely nothing. They give the Justice Department talking points — but talk is cheap, especially in Washington. I don’t think this criminal stuff will make any serious difference to any of the five firms. 

Washington Post, Bill O’Reilly’s denial problem, Erik Wemple, May 21, 2015. In February, the host of Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” attempted to swat away reports concluding that he had told some tall tales about his years reporting Bill O'Reilly 2010from foreign and domestic hotspots, starting with a Mother Jones piece citing the host’s recollections of his Falklands War coverage that didn’t withstand scrutiny. After several weeks of rest, the O’Reilly denial mill is churning again. On Wednesday, Gawker released partial transcripts from a custody trial with ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy. In testimony from last year, a forensic examiner appointed by the court testified that O’Reilly’s daughter told him that she’d seen O’Reilly “choking her mom” in grabbing her neck as he “dragged her down some stairs.” Also according to these records, the daughter told the forensic examiner that O’Reilly told her that her mother is an “adulterer.” The testimony also alleged that O’Reilly “struggles to control his rage around his family” and that he has been an “absentee father.” O’Reilly responded via his attorney Fred Newman: “All allegations against me in these circumstances are 100% false. I am going to respect the court-mandated confidentiality put in place to protect my children and will not comment any further.”

The Hill, Romney looks strong for 2016, Brent Budowsky, May 21, 2015.  Shortly after 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney withdrew from the presidential campaign of 2016, I suggested that he was probably pursuing a brilliant strategy intended to let the other Republican candidates wear each other down while the media investigated them all, paving the way for Romney to step in as the savior of the party. My Mitt RomneyMachiavellian theory early this year is starting to look pretty good today! We have seen the soap opera of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and his various positions on the Iraq War; the incoherence of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) trying to explain his position on the Iraq War; the comic opera of Carly Fiorina (R) trying to explain why she is qualified for anything after being unceremoniously removed as CEO of Hewlett-Packard for a failed performance (after laying off thousands of workers). We have seen Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) trying to explain his statement about enrolling in ObamaCare. We have observed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) taking a crash course to study about military affairs and foreign policy while his fans propose his lack of a college degree may be an asset with GOP primary voters. For another way to look at this, check out the excellent column by my colleague A.B. Stoddard on the GOP debate problem — there are so many candidates that it will be hard to conduct serious presidential debates. Either excluded candidates and their supporters will be outraged, or included candidates will be so numerous that they will have little time to speak about the great issues.

On the other hand — if my early prediction of a revived Romney for president campaign is correct — Romney is tanned, rested, ready, prepared, well-financed if necessary and eminently qualified to be president. When you take out the popcorn to watch the Republican debates, remember the gentleman from Massachusetts who will not be there, ready to answer the call when the time is right.

Consortium News, Obama's Strategic Shift, Robert Parry, May 21, 2015. It's finally dawning on President Barack Obama the grave dangers that have been created for the American Republic by decades of neoconservative dominance of U.S. foreign policy, but his moves in response to this dire threat remain hesitant and indecisive. The only game-saving play open to Obama now -- in response to recent Saudi-backed escalation of Sunni extremism in Syria and Iraq as well the new right-wing racist government in Israel -- may be to forge an alliance with Iran and Russia as a counterforce in the Middle East that could save Syria's relatively secular regime and reverse gains by the Islamic State inside Iraq.That, however, would require Obama finally taking control of his foreign policy and throwing out or at least sidelining many of the neocons and "liberal interventionists" whom he has tolerated and promoted. It's difficult to see how the likes of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power would fall in line behind the necessary moves to build such a pragmatic alliance.

Guardian, How Yemen information minister's tweets broadcast the fall of Sana'a, May 21, 2015. Nadia al-Sakkaf went back to being a reporter rather than an official when the Houthis stormed the presidential palace and issued a media blackout, Nearly six months on, Sakkaf is living in exile at a Riyadh hotel, trying with other members of the internationally recognized Yemeni government to continue the fight against the Houthis and backing the Saudi-led military intervention to defeat them and to restore the President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. Sakkaf’s media instincts were well honed: she was the editor-in-chief of the respected Yemen Times newspaper and a champion of women’s empowerment until the day before she was appointed information minister in late 2014. Editor's note: The Guardian feature story extolling the pro-Saudi Arabian former Yemen government operative contrasts sharply with a score of initial reader comments criticizing the newspaper and its reporter for succumbing to the British government line on the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen to reinstall an ousted leader.

Legal Schnauzer, Eleventh Circuit panel uses cheat job on Richard Scrushy to justify its latest cheat job on Don Siegelman, Roger Shuler, May 21, 2015. In its ruling announced May 20 denying the appeal of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals virtually ignored perhaps the single most important issue -- that, under the law, the former governor is entitled to discovery on whether former U.S. attorney Leura Canary abided by her supposed recusal in the case. The panel used a fancy legal term called "law of the case." Is Siegelman out of options? Technically, the answer is no. He could seek an en banc hearing of the full Eleventh Circuit (minus Birmingham-based Bill Pryor, who has enough conflicts in the matter to sink the USS Missouri.) He also could seek review from the U.S. Supreme Court, which already has declined to hear the case once. A presidential pardon is not out of the question. But the grim truth is this: The federal judiciary and the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) are deeply invested in covering up scandalous actions in the Siegelman case, so it's hard to see help coming from either of them.

May 20

Associated Press via WFSA-TV (Montgomery), 11th Circuit upholds Siegelman conviction, sentence, Staff report, May 20, 2015. A federal appeals court has upheld the bribery conviction and prison sentence of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman [shown in a CBS "60 Minutes" show documenting how he has been framed for political reasons]. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Siegelman was not entitled to a new trial. The judges also upheld Siegelman's 78-month sentence. The ruling is the latest legal blow to Siegelman, who has been fighting to overturn his 2006 conviction in a government corruption case. A federal jury convicted Siegelman of appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a state board in exchange for campaign donations. Siegelman, a Democrat, had argued that a prosecutor with ties to GOP politics remained involved in his case despite her recusal. Federal judges said there was no evidence she influenced the prosecution team. Siegelman is projected to get out of prison in 2017.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The court ruling illustrates once again how, as often reported here and elsewhere, Siegelman has been framed by political forces so strong that neither ordinary exposure (as in the 2008 "60 Minutes" report) or legal procedures can bring him justice. His ordeal illustrates "The Deep State" at work. The Justice Integrity Project will have more to report on this soon, including ramped up revelations of new aspects of the intrigue  and suggestions for citizen action to support Siegelman and similar victims of malicious prosecution and biased judicial rulings. In related news, see also a report on Siegelman's trial judge, Mark Fuller, who is being investigated on a wife-beating charge but with larger, deeper issues in the background virtually unreported except by the alternative media: Montgomery Advertiser, Fuller probe moving swiftly, judge says, Mary Troyan, May 1, 2015.

Radio WhoWhatWhy, Tsarnaev Case Judge: FBI Interview Reports Are Unreliable — And Cast in Stone, James Henry, May 20, 2015. In allowing FBI interview reports to be read in court in lieu of witness testimony, US District Court Judge George O’Toole inadvertently highlighted an insidious tactic used by the FBI to manipulate witness statements. Anyone who gets a knock at the door from an FBI agent would be well advised to invite an attorney over before opening the door—or your mouth.
 
Washington Post, Five big banks agree to pay more than $5 billion to settle regulatory charges, Steven Mufson and Jonnelle Marte, May 20, 2015. U.S. and overseas financial firms were accused of interest rate and currency manipulation.
Many critics of the settlements said they would not change systemic or cultural factors that allow or even encourage criminal behavior. Yet the banks blamed a small number of traders. JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon said in a statement that “the lesson here is that the conduct of a small group of employees, or of even a single employee, can reflect badly on all of us.” Instead of competing with each other, traders conspired in a chat room called “Cartel” to fix the exchange rates that would be used to set prices for billions of dollars in currency trades, hurting other investors and manipulating consumer prices, according to officials.

Washington Post, Chomsky, Woodward and 9/11 conspiracy theories: Bin Laden’s English-language bookshelf, Swati Sharma, May 20, 2015. Noam Chomsky, Bob Woodward, U.S. foreign policy, Islam -- these are the names and topics that one would have stumbled upon if perusing Osama bin Laden's bookshelf in his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound. Four years after the bin Laden raid, the United States has declassified a list of 39 English-language books the former al-Qaeda leader had on display at his home. The non-fiction books include topics such as: U.S. conquests abroad: "America's Strategic Blunders," "America's 'War on Terrorism,'" "Obama’s Wars," "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II," "Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century," "Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower," "New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11"

May 19

Levant Report, 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime,”  Brad Hoff, May 19, 2015. On Monday, May 18, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a selection of formerly classified documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department through a federal lawsuit. While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.

The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others. The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset. While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.

Mother Jones, Jeb Bush says his brother was misled into war by faulty intelligence. That’s not what happened, David Corn, May 19, 2015. It is very important that the Bush cabal not be allowed to continue fooling the American public.
 "George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public."

Mother Jones, George W. Bush's CIA Briefer: Bush and Cheney Falsely Presented WMD Intelligence to Public, David Corn, May 19, 2015. On "Hardball," Michael Morell concedes the Bush administration misled the nation into the Iraq War. For a dozen years, the Bush-Cheney crowd have been trying to escape — or cover up — an essential fact of the W. years: President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants misled the American public about the WMD threat supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein in order to grease the way to the invasion of Iraq. For Bush, Cheney, and the rest, this endeavor is fundamental; it is necessary to protect the legitimacy of the Bush II presidency. But now there's a new witness who will make the Bush apologists' mission even more impossible: Michael Morell, a longtime CIA official who eventually became the agency's deputy director and acting director. During the pre-invasion period, he served as Bush's intelligence briefer. Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball on Tuesday night, Morell made it clear: The Bush-Cheney administration publicly misrepresented the intelligence related to Iraq's supposed WMD program and Saddam's alleged links to Al Qaeda. Host Chris Matthews asked Morell about a statement Cheney made in 2003: "We know he [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Here's the conversation that followed:

MATTHEWS: Was that true?

MORELL: That's not true.

There's the indictment, issued by the intelligence officer who briefed Bush and Cheney: The Bush White House made a "false presentation" on "some aspects" of the case for war. "That's a big deal," Matthews exclaimed. Morell replied, "It's a big deal." And there's more. Referring to the claims made by Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda, Morell noted, "What they were saying about the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda publicly was not what the intelligence community" had concluded. He added, "I think they were trying to make a stronger case for the war." That is, stronger than the truth would allow.

Washington Post, Fall of Ramadi raises new questions about U.S. strategy in Iraq, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, May 19, 2015. The fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State has raised new questions about the Obama administration’s Iraq strategy, including its efforts to resurrect Iraqi security forces and the focus of U.S. and Iraqi attention on retaking the city of Mosul by the end of this year. 

Bloomberg View, Nazis Triumph Over Communists in Ukraine, Leonid Bershidsky, May 19, 2015. It's goodbye Lenin, hello Nazi collaborators in Ukraine these days. Laws signed into effect by President Petro Poroshenko (shown in a file photo) require the renaming Petro Poroshenko w 2010of dozens of towns and hundreds of streets throughout the country to eliminate Soviet-era names. At the same time, Ukraine will begin to honor groups that helped Hitler exterminate Ukrainian Jews during World War II. Ukrainians' desire for a European identity and a break with the country's Soviet past is Poroshenko's biggest political asset, but these latest steps should worry the country's Western allies.

Reuters, Five big banks face criminal charges and $5 billion bill over FX rigging, Staff report, Eduardo Munoz, May 19, 2015. Five of the world's biggest banks are expected to be hit with a combined bill of more than $5 billion and criminal charges on Wednesday in a settlement with U.S. and British authorities over rigging of currency markets. It will mark another dark day for an industry trying to put past sins behind it and brings the total in penalties some big banks will pay for their traders allegedly manipulating the $5-trillion-a-day foreign exchange market to about $10 billion. U.S. banks JPMorgan and Citigroup and Britain's Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are expected to plead guilty to criminal charges with the U.S. Department of Justice related to forex manipulation, people familiar with the matter said. It would be unprecedented for the parent companies or main banking arms of so many major banks to plead guilty to criminal charges in a coordinated action. JPMorgan and Citigroup would be the first major U.S. banks to plead guilty to criminal charges in decades. Swiss bank UBS is expected to avoid a criminal charge after getting immunity for alerting authorities to a possible problem. But it faces a criminal charge over the rigging of benchmark (Libor) interest rates, two people familiar with the matter said.

National Press Club, State Department official commends Club for freedom of the press advocacy, Ken Dalecki, May 19, 2015. The State Department's assistant secretary for public affairs commended the Press Club and President John Douglas FrantzHughes for making press freedom a major theme this year and outlined steps the State Department is taking to protect journalists in increasingly hostile environments at a meeting of American Legion Post 20 on May 18.
Douglas Frantz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor before entering government service, said press freedom is an issue that is "professional and personal for me," after having covered conflicts from the first Gulf war to the fighting in Afghanistan. He said that for the first time journalists are being targeted rather than being killed or injured as collateral damage.

May 18

Fox News, Military intel predicted rise of ISIS in 2012, detailed arms shipments from Benghazi to Syria, Catherine Herridge, May 18, 2015. Seventeen months before President Obama dismissed the Islamic State as a "JV team," a Defense Intelligence Agency report predicted the rise of the terror group and likely establishment of a caliphate if its momentum was not reversed. While the report was circulated to the CIA, State Department and senior military leaders, among others, it's not known whether Obama was ever briefed on the document. The DIA report, which was reviewed by Fox News, was obtained through a federal lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. Documents from the lawsuit also reveal a host of new details about events leading up to the 2012 Benghazi terror attack -- and how the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria fueled the violence there. The report on the growing threat posed by what is now known as the Islamic State was sent on Aug. 5, 2012. The October 2012 report may also be problematic for Hillary Clinton, who likewise skirted the weapons issue during her only congressional testimony on Benghazi in January 2013. In an exchange with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is now a Republican candidate for president, the former secretary of state said, "I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody's ever raised that with me."

Huffington Post, How Trade Agreements Amount to a Secret Corporate Takeover, Joseph E. Stiglitz, May 18, 2015. Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called "free-trade agreements"; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the U.S. and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as "partnerships," as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But they are not partnerships of equals: the U.S. effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America's "partners" are becoming increasingly resistant. It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries' legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Washington Post, Obama restricts military-style gear for police, David Nakamura, May 18, 2015. Nine months after riot police dispelled protests in Ferguson, Mo., the president is banning the federal government from distributing some military-style equipment, including armored vehicles and firearms, to local law enforcement.  The banned items include tracked armored vehicles, bayonets and grenade launchers, according to a report released by a White House working group that made the recommendations. Other equipment, including tactical vehicles, explosives and riot equipment, will be transferred only if local police provide additional certification and assurances that the gear will be used responsibly, according to the report. Community members "have voiced concerns about what has been described as the 'militarization' of law enforcement due to the types of equipment" that is deployed, the report stated. The ban on items will take effect immediately, officials said, while the restrictions on other gear will be phased in so that local law enforcement agencies can be briefed about the new requirements.

ABA Journal, Foreclosure law firm closes doors; 700 workers lose jobs, are told there's no money to pay them, May 18, 2015. Martha Neil. A real estate law firm handling 60,000 mortgage foreclosure cases nationwide abruptly closed its doors last week. On May 14, as the day neared its end, 700 employees of Butler & Hosch heard that the 200-attorney firm is closing—and that it lacked the money to cover the payroll and issue scheduled paychecks at the end of that week. The firm has offices in three Florida cities, as well as six other southern states, Maryland and Dallas. Butler & Hosch CEO Bob Hosch said he was voluntarily stepping down. Hosch blamed the firm’s downfall on overexpansion. A number of Butler & Hosch attorneys are concerned that they could face legal ethics consequences if court dates are missed, the Daily Business Review reported. The firm didn’t send attorneys to several hearings scheduled Monday in St. Petersburg, said Matt Weidner, a foreclosure defense practitioner there.

Politico, How Jeb Bush Schooled the Florida Press, S.V. Dáte, May/June 2015. He’s always aimed to win and doesn’t like anyone getting in his way—especially the media. I had come to Tallahassee after covering NASA for four Jeb Bushyears, and I spent all of Bush’s eight years as governor covering his administration for the Palm Beach Post, from his winning 1998 campaign through the January afternoon in 2007 when he left office. I watched, listened and asked some questions he was happy to answer—and many more he didn’t have any use for. Over that time, I read thousands of email messages and government records and observed hundreds of hours of Bush answering thousands of questions in formal and informal settings. The word “relentless” doesn’t begin to explain this Bush. I’ve yet to encounter any other politician as smart, as driven, as self-disciplined, as organized, as single-minded about his goals—or as certain about his views. And when it came to dealing with the press corps, Bush wasn’t afraid to let that certainty shine through. He’s almost always the smartest guy in the room—and he made sure to remind us of that in news conference after news conference, eviscerating reporters who came unprepared or with wishy-washy questions. In politics, Bush has always seen the world starkly—you’re either with him or you’re against him. And the press, he was convinced, was usually against him. If, though, he wins the White House, where he can impose strict message discipline and dole out scoops to chosen reporters while protected and isolated inside a Secret Service bubble—well, that might finally provide the scrutiny-free work environment that he’s always seemed to crave.

Ken Jenkins YouTube Channel, Peter Dale Scott & David Talbot in conversation, published May 18, 2015 after discussion in February, 2015 (93-minute video). Author David Talbot interviews author Peter Dale Scott upon the publication of Scott's book The American Deep State.

AP via Huffington Post, State Dept. Won't Release Clinton's Emails Until 2016, Staff report, May 18, 2015. The State Department has proposed releasing portions of 55,000 pages of emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by next January. The department made the proposal in a federal court filing Monday night, in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Vice News. In the filing, John F. Hackett, who is responsible for the department's responses to FOIA requests, said that following a review of the emails, the department will post the releasable portions of the 55,000 pages on its website. He said the review will take until the end of the year — and asked the court to adopt a completion date of Jan. 15, 2016, to factor in the holidays. That's just a couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses and early state primaries that follow. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential election, has said she wants the department to release the emails as soon as possible. The disclosure that she conducted State Department business on a private email account has been a controversy from the very inception of her campaign this year. In Monday night's filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Hackett said the State Department received the 55,000 pages of emails from Clinton in paper form. He said he the department understands the considerable public interest in the records, but said the size of the collection, the nature of the emails and the interest of several agencies present challenges.

Washington Post, Clinton cashes in on Silicon Valley speaking circuit, Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman and Anu Narayanswamy, May 18, 2015. More than $3 million of the $11.7 million Hillary Clinton earned for speeches since January 2014 came from the tech sector that she is courting diligently after failing to lock up its top money players in 2008.

Washington Post, Marco Rubio’s claim that President Bush said he would not have invaded Iraq, Glenn Kessler, May 18, 2015. "Four Pinocchios." new explanation falls more in the realm of speculation (“I don’t think”) and also suggests that even if the president had pressed forward, he would not have received congressional approval. That may be correct. But Rubio’s initial claim was simply false. The former president has never suggested he would not have invaded Iraq if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction; instead, as recently as 2014, he has insisted his decision to invade was correct.

Charlie Rose: “If you look at the Iraq war, after finding out there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you, if you knew that, have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): “Well, not only would I not have been in favor of it. President Bush would not have been in favor of it, and he said so.”

— Exchange at the Council on Foreign Relations, May 13, 2015

Tampa Bay Times, Norman Braman charity Marco Rubio's wife works for wasn't very giving in 2013, Alex Leary, May 18, 2015. In a profile of Jeanette Rubio we reported how the charity she works for paid her at least $54,000 in Marco Rubio official2013. But another figure stands out: $250. That’s how much the Braman Family 2011 Charitable Foundation gave out that year, the most recent year for which form 990s are available. The charity reported assets worth more than $9 million, and its lone donation went to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in New York. In an interview last week, Debi Wechsler, who is Norman Braman’s daughter and works on the charity, said that was a time when her parents were doing more philanthropy on their own and that Mrs. Rubio was involved. (That was echoed by others familiar with the Braman operation.) We subsequently asked her for more information, and will update this blog when she replies. Despite little charitable giving in 2013, the foundation still reported $149,237 in “misc airplane trips for charitable purposes.” Braman’s relationship with the Rubios has gotten attention recently, in the pages of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times and the New York Times, which revealed Braman gave Florida International University $100,000 to fund a teaching job Rubio took here after leaving the state House in 2008.

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, PCJF and Federal Government reach $2.2 million settlement over 2002 mass arrests, Staff report, May 18, 2015. Settlement provides landmark reforms in U.S. Park Police practices and policies for demonstrations and protests. After more than 12 years of class-action litigation, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) has reached an unprecedented settlement with the Justice Department and the Department of the Interior that will significantly change the handling of mass protests. Presiding Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has issued preliminary approval for the settlement. This settlement is a major victory for First Amendment rights, and it comes at a time when the nation's attention is riveted on the issue of police misconduct and government responses to mass protests. The PCJF's litigation was brought on behalf of a class of nearly 400 people arrested in Pershing Park, Washington, D.C., in September 2002 and follows a major settlement reached in 2010 in this matter with the District of Columbia police department. “Although many media pundits and politicians have suggested that the social justice movement and the free speech and assembly rights of protesters have to be constricted for the sake of security and order, this settlement disproves that myth,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, PCJF Executive Director. “There is simply no basis by which any other jurisdiction’s police department can legitimately claim it cannot enact these procedural standards that conform to fundamental constitutional requirements.”

As part of the Settlement Agreement, the U.S. Park Police, which is responsible for the areas directly in front of the White House among other key security sites, has agreed to significant and substantive reforms in its policies and procedures in handling First Amendment activities.  “All the recent protest movements — the anti-globalization, anti-war, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements — have faced unconstitutional mass arrests. The reforms in this settlement take aim at the recurrent problem of police, without proper warning and notice, suddenly rounding up, trapping and arresting demonstration groups. If these reforms can be enacted here in the Nation's Capital, they can and should be implemented in cities across the nation,” said Carl Messineo, PCJF Legal Director.

The new policies include: generally prohibiting the use of police lines to encircle protesters and demonstrations; requiring particularized probable cause for any protester to be arrested; providing fair notice and at least three warnings to disperse assembled groups prior to any lawful arrests rather than engaging in group sweeps; identifying avenues of exit for protesters to comply with dispersal orders and ensuring that such warnings are clocked at least two minutes apart, and are audible throughout the crowd.

The Intercept, Hillary Clinton Paid by Jeb Bush’s Education Company, Lee Fang, May 18, 2015. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received nearly a quarter of a million dollars last year for a speaking engagement on Hillary Clintonbehalf of Academic Partnerships, a for-profit education company in which Jeb Bush held an ownership stake and on whose board he served. Clinton’s newly-filed personal financial disclosure shows that she was paid $225,500 on March 24, 2014 by Academic Partnerships. At the invitation-only event in Dallas, Texas, Clinton reportedly said, “today a student doesn’t need to travel to Cambridge, Mass., or Cambridge, England, to get a world-class education.” Academic Partnerships assists universities in converting their academic degree programs into online versions that can be taken by students around the world. In 2011, Bush joined Academic Partnerships as an investor and as a paid advisor. He helped the company host multiple conferences and has appeared in online videos encouraging others to consider the Academic Partnership business model. Though he did not share the stage with Clinton, Bush spoke at the same conference. Preparing for an expected bid for the Republican nomination for president, Bush resigned from Academic Partnerships.

Intercept, The Infernal Cocktail Party Corruption of Washington’s Elite Media, Dan Froomkin, May 18, 2015. Mike Allen’s obsequious, pay-to-play Playbook newsletter was once hailed by the New York Times as a must-read for Washington’s “elite set of political and news-media thrivers and strivers.” For me, it’s most useful as a shameless chronicle of what that elite group cares about — and how it lives. In particular, Allen frequently documents how intimately and seamlessly connected the members of the media aristocracy are with other members of Washington’s ruling elite, whether they come from the intelligence community, the super-wealthy, big banks, the lobbying community, or top levels of government. To the elite media itself, all this is just background noise. Allen had a canonical example in Sunday’s edition:

CHARLIE ROSE’S WASHINGTON: Charlie Rose, the man who’s always working, got to just enjoy himself last night – tieless, and rocking sneakers. D.C. friends walked down a red carpet to the elegant terrace of the rarely seen estate of Franco Nuschese, owner of Café Milano, who was honoring Charlie with a dinner celebration and garden party after he delivered the Georgetown commencement address and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. In a toast, Charlie said Franco is the best traveling companion in Italy – aside from two of the evening’s guests, CIA Director John Brennan and former deputy CIA director Michael Morell.

SPOTTED: Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Don Baer and Nancy Bard, Bret and Amy Baier, CIA Director John Brennan and Kathy Pokluda Brennan, Charlie Cook, Jan Crawford, Henry Davis, E.J. Dionne, Tom Donilon, Jim and Deb Fallows, Tom and Ann Friedman, Georgetown College Dean Chester Gillis, Tammy Haddad, Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff, Walter and Cathy Isaacson, Chris and Jennifer Isham, Vernon and Ann Jordan, Tommy Kaplan (sic), Jonathan Karl, Katty Kay, Samantha Kulok, Jennifer Lawson of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Margot McGinness, Frank Milwee, Michael Morell, Norah O’Donnell and Geoff Tracy, Roxanne Roberts, John F.W. Rogers, Sally Quinn, Hilary Rosen and Campbell Spencer, Chelsea Royal, David Sanger, Bob and Pat Schieffer, Justin Smith, Ellen Tauscher, George Tenet and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, Yvette Vega, Chitra Wadhwani and more.

If it were me, I’d go right up to Brennan and call him a goddamned liar, ask him why he won’t own up to the CIA’s role in torture, what he’s got on Obama, and why he doesn’t resign immediately in shame. Of course, that’s probably one of the many reasons why I’m not invited in the first place.

May 17

Daily Mail, Shocking photos of mankind's destruction of the planet, Staff report, May 17, 2015. Global warming isn't the only thing to worry about. Overpopulation, pollution, poaching and mining are just a few of mankind's other harms that are leaving the Earth scorched and ruined.

Fox News, Former Sen. Graham says Saudis funded 9/11 and FBI knows and is covering it up, Shepard Smith, May 17, 2015. Editor's note: Former Sen. Bob Graham (shown in an official photo from his time as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman) says Saudis funded 9/11 and FBI knows and is covering it up. He says it's in 28 pages of the 9/11 Report Bob Grahamwithheld by Presidents Bush and Obama. Seymour Hersh says Saudis funded bin Laden from 2003 in Pakistan. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in memo leaked by Wikileaks that Saudis fund terrorists in the region. Is a pattern starting to emerge?

BBC, Yemen conflict: Saudi-led air strikes resume as truce ends, Staff report, May 17, 2015. A Saudi-led coalition has resumed its air strikes against Yemen's rebels after the end of a ceasefire, Yemeni military officials and witnesses say. They say the strikes targeted Houthi rebel positions in the southern port of Aden after the five-day humanitarian truce expired at 20:00 GMT. In Saudi Arabia, Yemeni political parties earlier began negotiations on how to resolve the crisis. But Shia rebels stayed away from the talks in the capital Riyadh. Editor's Note: An EPA press agency photo shows the destruction wreaked on Yemen by nearly two months of Saudi-led bombing, with the United States providing logistical coordination and helping sustain an embargo against the populace while encouraging the allied Gulf monarchies not to kill too many Yemen civilians in the ongoing human rights disaster.

May 16

Washington Post, How the IRS seized a man's life savings without ever charging him with a crime, Christopher Ingraham, May 16, 2015. In the summer of 2014 the IRS emptied Lyndon McLellan's bank account without charging him with any wrongdoing. "It took me 13 years to save that much money, and 13 seconds for the government to take it away."  McLellan has owned and operated L&M Convenience Mart in rural Fairmont, N.C., for more than 10 years, according to the Institute for Justice. The institute is a national civil liberties law firm that advocates for asset forfeiture reform, and it represented McLellan pro bono in court. One day last July, a group of state and federal officers showed up at his store to inform him that they had emptied his entire bank account -- all $107,702.66 of it. Like many small retail operations, McLellan conducts much of his business in cash. But the Internal Revenue Service didn't like the way he deposited it in his bank account. On the advice of a bank teller, McLellan made most of his cash deposits in chunks of $10,000 dollars or less. Had IRS officials spoken with McLellan before raiding his account, they probably would have realized right away that he had nothing to hide. But the IRS didn't speak with him, and instead went directly to a federal judge to obtain a seizure warrant. The Washington Post ran a six-part series last summer on asset forfeitures on the nation's highways, where local police seize drivers' cash and goods, sometimes on as small a pretext as a broken taillight and an empty energy drink can. And last fall, the New York Times highlighted the IRS practice that Lyndon McLellan fell victim to. Had IRS officials spoken with McLellan before raiding his account, they probably would have realized right away that he had nothing to hide. But the IRS didn't speak with him, and instead went directly to a federal judge to obtain a seizure warrant.

May 15

Columbia Journalism Review, The media’s reaction to Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden scoop has been disgraceful, Trevor Timm, May 15, 2015. Seymour Hersh has done the public a great service by breathing life into questions surrounding the official narrative of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yet instead of trying to build off the details of his story, or to disprove his assertions with additional reporting, journalists have largely attempted to tear down the messenger. Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public. Hersh has attempted to force the media to ask questions about its role in covering a world-shaping event — but it’s clear the media has trouble asking such questions if the answers are not the ones they want to hear. Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and defends journalism dedicated to transparency and accountability.

Wired via Huffinton Post, Feds Say That Banned Researcher Commandeered a Plane, Kim Zetter, May 15, 2015. A security researcher kicked off a United Airlines flight last month after tweeting about security vulnerabilities in its system had previously taken control of an airplane and caused it to briefly fly sideways, according to an application for a search warrant filed by an FBI agent. Chris Roberts, a security researcher with One World Labs, told the FBI agent during an interview in February that he had hacked the in-flight entertainment system, or IFE, on an airplane and overwrote code on the plane’s Thrust Management Computer while aboard the flight. He was able to issue a climb command and make the plane briefly change course, the document states. “He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights,” FBI Special Agent Mark Hurley wrote in his warrant application. “He also stated that he used Vortex software after comprising/exploiting or ‘hacking’ the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.”

From left, Dick Cheney, George Tenant, President George W. Bush, and Andy CardPresident George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo.)

Consortium News, The Phony "Bad Intel" Defense on Iraq, Ray McGovern (shown in file photo), May 15, 2015. Presidential aspirant Jeb Bush this week may have damaged his chances by flubbing the answer to an entirely predictable question about Ray McGovernhis big brother's decision to attack Iraq. It was then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz -- together with his boss Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and a string of neocon advisers -- who exploited the tragedy of 9/11 to make war on Iraq, which they had been itching for since the 1990s. They tried mightily (and transparently) to link Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks. Following their lead, the fawning corporate media played up this bum rap with such success that, before the attack on Iraq, polls showed that almost 70 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein played some kind of role in 9/11. Not so, said honest intelligence analysts who, try as they might, could find no persuasive evidence for Hussein's guilt other than the synthetic kind in Wolfowitz's purposively twisted imagination. Yet the pressure on the analysts to conform was intense. CIA's ombudsman commented publicly that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such "hammering" on CIA analysts to reconsider their judgments and state that there were operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

AP via Huffington Post, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Sentenced To Death, Michael McLaughlin, May 15, 2015. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for committing the Boston Marathon bombing, one of the worst acts of terrorism to take place on U.S. soil. The same seven-woman, five-man jury that found the 21-year-old naturalized American citizen guilty in the April 15, 2013 attack reached the verdict after deliberating for more than 14 hours Dzhokhar Tsaraevover three days. The only alternative sentence was life without parole. A death sentence required a unanimous vote from the jury members, but if they had failed to agree on it, the life sentence would have been imposed automatically.

District Court Judge George O'Toole said Tsarnaev "comported himself with composure and propriety" throughout the trial. Tsarnaev was then released into the custody of U.S. marshals and will be formally sentenced this summer, at which point he'll have the opportunity to address the court. The sentence punishes the defendant for the two homemade pressure cooker bombs packed with nails and BBs that he and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, detonated near the marathon's finish line. The bombing killed three people -- Martin Richard, 8, Lingzi Lu, 23, and Krystle Campbell, 29 -- and injured 264 others, more than a dozen of whom lost legs.

On April 18, the brothers assassinated a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, Sean Collier, in his patrol car in a botched attempt to steal his gun. Tamerlan died during a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, four days after the bombings. Dzhokhar was captured hours later. The defense admitted to Tsarnaev's involvement in the attack from the very beginning of the trial. His lawyers' strategy has been to soften his image by portraying his older brother as the radicalized mastermind. Tsarnaev's lawyers mounted a mild defense during the guilt phase. They reserved their energy instead for the sentencing stage, when they portrayed their client as a good kid led astray by his older brother and his mother, who had become immersed in an intolerant form of Islam.

See also, Huffington Post, Why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev May Never Make It To The Death Chamber, Washington Post, Boston Marathon bomber sentenced to death despite appeals for mercy, and WhoWhatWhy, Boston Bomber’s Deafening Silence: What Would Tsarnaev Reveal?

New York Times, Clintons reportedly earned $30 million in last 16 months, Maggie Haberman and Steve Eder, May 15, 2015. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton got most of their income from speaking engagements, a campaign aide said. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday. The sum, which makes Mrs. Clinton among the wealthiest of the 2016 presidential candidates, could create challenges for the former secretary of state as she tries to cast herself as a champion of everyday Americans in an era of income inequality. The $25 million in speaking fees since the beginning of last year continue a lucrative trend for the Clintons: They have now earned more than $125 million on the circuit since leaving the White House in 2001. In addition, the report shows, Mrs. Clinton reported income exceeding $5 million from her memoir of her time as secretary of state, Hard Choices. The Clintons’ riches have already become a subject of political attacks, and her campaign has been eager to showcase Mrs. Clinton as a more down-to-earth figure. Her only declared Democratic opponent at this point, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is an avowed socialist, while Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have considerably more modest means.

OpEd News, Is Washington Coming To Its Senses? Paul Craig Roberts, May 15, 2015. There is much speculation about US Secretary of State John Kerry's rush visit to Russia in the wake of Russia's successful Victory Day celebration on May 9. On May 11, Kerry, who was snubbing Russia on the 9th, was on his way to Russia, and Putin consented to see him on May 12. A possible explanation is that Washington is coming to its senses. If you watched the 1 hour 20 minute video of the Victory Day Parade, you are aware that the celebration sent a powerful message. Russia is a first class military power, and Russia is backed by China and India, whose soldiers marched with Russia's in the parade. So, the three largest countries in the world were present, united. Russia has the largest land mass, and China and India, also large land masses, have the world's largest populations. The celebration in Moscow made it clear that Washington has failed miserably to isolate Russia. What Washington has done is to make the BRICS more unified.

Washington Post, The ever-iconoclastic, never-to-be-ignored, muckraking Seymour Hersh, Paul Farhi, May 15, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has unearthed some of the most consequential and controversial news stories of the past half-century. Was bin Laden living in secrecy in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when Navy SEALs stormed his compound and killed him? Hersh’s latest blockbuster story aims to debunk the official narrative of the 2011 killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. No, writes Hersh; Pakistan’s intelligence service had captured the ­al-Qaeda leader years earlier and was holding him as a bargaining chip, with Saudi Arabia’s support. Did the United States find bin Laden through dogged intelligence work and by tracking his courier? No again, Hersh says; a Pakistani military official tipped off the Americans in exchange for a piece of the $25 million reward. The raid itself, he writes, was not some daring mission out of “Zero Dark Thirty”; the Pakistanis effectively stage-managed it. And bin Laden’s burial at sea? Didn’t happen, Hersh says. Instead, the SEALs tossed chunks of the terrorist leader’s body, which was obliterated by gunfire in the raid, out of their Black Hawk helicopter as they flew out of Pakistan. Hersh’s complex and somewhat disjointed weaving of all the alleged lies and deceptions — supposedly engineered by three governments and perhaps hundreds of individuals — met with swift denials. Within hours Monday, the White House, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency all dismissed his account, which is based largely on information from anonymous sources.

Judith MillerStorify, Judy Miller Produces Self Parody, David Swanson, May 15, 2015. Annotated video compilation by antiwar proponent David Swanson of former New York Times reporter and Iraq War advocate Judy Miller (shown in a file photo) interviewed by ultra-right provocateur and faux journalist James O'Keefe.

Huffington Post, Stewart To Jeb Bush: 'Thank You. Was That So Hard?'  Ed Mazza, May 15, 2015. Jeb Bush has finally come out and said he wouldn't have invaded Iraq if he had all the information we have today. "Thank you," Jon Stewart said on "The Daily Show" on Thursday night. "Was that so hard?" As Stewart pointed out, it took a while for Bush to acknowledge this publicly, having been asked several times about whether he would have invaded Iraq if he knew what we know today. Bush first said he would have invaded Iraq, then later said he had misheard the question, but still refused to admit whether or not he would have sent in the U.S. military. At another point, Bush said speculating was disrespectful to the soldiers who died in the war. Then, speaking on Sean Hannity's radio show, Bush admitted that "mistakes were made" in Iraq.

Washington Post, D.C. rabbi sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison on voyeurism charges, Keith L. Alexander and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, May 15, 2015. Barry Freundel, the once-influential Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping dozens of women as they prepared for a ritual bath, was sentenced Friday to 6 1/2 years in prison. His punishment came at the conclusion of an hours-long hearing in D.C. Superior Court, where some of the victims spoke to Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin about the impact of Freundel's crimes on their lives. Alprin also ordered Freundel, 63, to pay more than $2,000 in fines. Freundel was arrested in October on charges that he videotaped six women in the nude while he was at Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown. Prosecutors said a review of his computer equipment revealed that many more women had been recorded by Freundel as they prepared for the bath known as a mikvah — used as part of a purification ritual

May 14

FireDogLake, Senate Democrats Fold, Obama To Get Fast-Track On TPP, DS Wright, May 14, 2015. For a brief shining moment it looked like Senate Democrats might actually stand up for their own constituents and oppose a terrible so-called “trade deal.” But now comes the seemingly inevitable capitulation with Senate Democrats agreeing to give President Obama fast-track authority to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The cosmetic concessions offered to the weak-kneed Democrats included some empty votes on currency manipulation and an extension of an African trade agreement – in short, nothing. Senate Democrats have set themselves up to get rolled when TPP comes up for a final vote and voting no means scuttling an agreement all their donors will be demanding they approve. Then again, maybe that was the plan all along – offer token opposition to appease the base, cave, then say your hands are tied because the fast-track has made the vote on TPP so binary you have to vote yes.

Barack Obama and congressional leaders Jan. 13, 2015

President Obama talks with, from left, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Sen. Charles "Chuck" Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Minority Whip; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; after meeting with bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Jan. 13, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Kansas City Star, Missouri House Speaker John Diehl admits sexually charged relationship with intern, Jason Hancock, May 13, 2015. Text messages obtained by The Star reveal a sexually charged relationship between House Speaker John Diehl (R) and a college freshman in a Missouri Capitol internship program that shut down abruptly last month. The conversations unveil a flirty rapport and suggest an intimacy between arguably the state’s most influential lawmaker and a young woman taking some pleasure in a secret association. Update: Diehl, regarded as Missouri's second most important official aside from the governor, resigned his seat and House speaker position May 14. The messages revealed that the college student had been

Reuters, Vladimir Putin calls Ukraine fascist and country’s new law helps make his case, Josh Cohen, May 14, 2015. As Ukraine continues its battle against separatists, corruption and a collapsing economy, it has taken a dangerous step that could further tear the country apart: Ukraine’s parliament, the Supreme Rada, passed a draft law last month honoring organizations involved in mass ethnic cleansing during World War Two. The draft law — which is now on President Petro Poroshenko’s desk awaiting his signature — recognizes a series of Ukrainian political and military organizations as “fighters for Ukrainian independence in the 20th century” and bans the criticism of these groups and their members. 

President Barack Obama shakes hands with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders prepare to have a group photo with the President outside of the Laurel Cabin at the conclusion of a summit meeting at Camp David, Md., May 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama shakes hands with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders prepare to have a group photo with the President outside of the Laurel Cabin at the conclusion of a summit meeting at Camp David, Md., May 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Washington Examiner, Watch: Obama's embarrassing mistake as he greets Saudi princes, Barbara Boland, May 14, 2015. Yesterday, two Saudi crown princes arrived to meet with President Obama at the Oval Office, after King Salman refused to meet Obama at the Gulf summit or at the White House. White House officials should have been careful to make sure everything with the two top Saudi officials went smoothly — but instead, Obama flubbed on the deputy crown prince's name and the name of the king who forged America's relationship with Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. The prince sat stony-faced as Obama makes the error.

May 13

Slate, Hersh: “I Am Not Backing Off Anything I Said,” An interview with Seymour Hersh by Isaac Chotiner, May 13, 2015. In a phone interview this week, Seymour Hersh spoke bluntly in defending his blockbuster 10,000-word story for the London Review of Books. Here are excerpts condensed from the full interview:

Seymour Hersh: You probably don’t know that NBC reported, and now they have reported it on one of these dopey afternoon shows with that woman, what’s her name, the NBC woman who claims to have some knowledge of foreign policy, married to Alan Greenspan.

Isaac Chotiner: Andrea Mitchell.

Hersh: She’s comical. On her show, the administration is acknowledging walk-ins but saying the walk-ins aren’t necessarily linked to Bin Laden.

Chotiner: Are you hoping with this piece to say that you made no mistakes, or that OK there were mistakes because I am getting the ball rolling?....I just want to talk to you about your piece and journalism.

Hersh: What difference does it make what the fuck I think about journalism? I don’t think much of the journalism that I see. If you think I write stories where it is all right to just be good enough, are you kidding? You think I have a cavalier attitude on throwing stuff out? Are you kidding? I am not cavalier about what I do for a living.

Chotiner: I don’t think you are cavalier. That was not my question.

Hersh: Whatever it is, it’s an impossible question. It’s almost like you are asking me to say that there are flaws in everybody. Yes. Do I acknowledge that not everybody can be perfect? But I am not backing off anything I said.

Reuters via Huffington Post, House Approves Bill That Would End NSA Bulk Data Collection, Patricia Zengerle, May 13, 2015. The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that would end spy agencies' bulk NSA Official Logocollections of Americans' telephone data, setting up a potential showdown with the U.S. Senate over the program that expires on June 1. As voting continued, the House overwhelmingly backed the USA Freedom Act, which would end the bulk collection program and instead give intelligence agencies access to telephone data and other records only when a court finds there is reasonable suspicion about a link to international terrorism. The bill's fate is much less certain in the Senate, where many key lawmakers would rather reauthorize the existing bulk data collection program than approve the Freedom Act.

Mother Jones, Berkeley Votes to Warn Cellphone Buyers of Health Risks, Josh Harkinson, May 13, 2015. If you carry your device close to your body, you may be exceeding radiation exposure limits,The City Council of Berkeley, California last night unanimously voted to require electronics retailers to warn customers about the potential health risks associated with radio-frequency (RF) radiation emitted by cellphones, setting itself up to become the first city in the country to implement a cellphone "right to know" law.

Washington Post, Report: U.S. lawmakers had trip funded by Azerbaijan, Scott Higham, Steven Rich, Alice Crites and Katie Park, May 13, 2015. The state-owned oil company of Azerbaijan secretly funded an all-expenses-paid trip to a conference in Baku for 10 members of Congress and some of their spouses in 2013, according to a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Lawmakers received a number of gifts, but only one lawmaker reported them on his financial disclosure form. The lawmakers said they were unaware of the oil company's involvement and thought the gifts did not meet the reporting threshold.

NBC News, Death, or Life in Prison? Jury Begins Deciding Tsarnaev's Fate, Tom Winter, Andy Thibault and Jon Schuppe, May 13, 2015. A jury began deliberating Wednesday whether to impose the death penalty on convicted Dzhokhar TsaraevBoston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (shown in a file photo) after hearing closing statements from a prosecutor who called him a "terrorist" and a defense lawyer who said execution would not balance the scales of justice. The arguments began with Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Mellin, who argued that Tsarnaev chose a huge public event held on a holiday marking the Revolutionary War, to make a political statement.

JFK Countercoup, Is the JFK Assassination Relevant Today?  William Kelly, May 13, 2015. If what happened at Dealey Plaza is ancient history and not relevant today, then why are so many JFK assassination records still being withheld by the government for reasons of national security? Why does our nation’s security depend on the government keeping the American public from knowing what information is contained in over 3,000 documents -– 30,000 pages of records? John Newman, whose new book Where Angels Tread Lightly deals with what we have learned from the release of these records so far, had said that not only Dealey Plaza, but the Archives II is a crime scene, as it has possession of most of the evidence in the murder as well as the relevantg government documents that would give us a pretty good picture of what happened at Dealey Plaza if they would only let us read them.

Washington Post, Senate reaches deal to move fast track trade authority, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, May 13, 2015. Senate leaders announced Wednesday that they reached an agreement to consider and likely approve fast-track authority for President Obama to reach trade deals, a day after an unusual filibuster by Democrats of their party’s presidential agenda.

May 12

New York Times, Push to End Prison Rapes Loses Momentum, Deborah Sontag, May 12, 2105. After decades of societal indifference, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003. But the urgency behind that consensus has dissipated; Mentally Ill Inmates Are Routinely Physically Abused, Study Says. After decades of societal indifference to prison rape, Congress, in a rare show of support for inmates’ rights, unanimously passed the George W. BushPrison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and Mr. Perry’s predecessor as governor, President George W. Bush (shown in a file photo), signed it into law. “The emerging consensus was that ‘Don’t drop the soap’ jokes were no longer funny, and that rape is not a penalty we assign in sentencing,” said Jael Humphrey, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, a national group that represents Ms. Star in a federal lawsuit alleging that Texas officials failed to protect her from sexual victimization despite her persistent, well-documented pleas for help. But over 12 years, even as reported sexual victimization in prisons remained high, the urgency behind that consensus dissipated. It took almost a decade for the Justice Department to issue the final standards on how to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in custody. And it took a couple of years more before governors were required to report to Washington, which revealed that only New Jersey and New Hampshire were ready to certify full compliance.

Washington Post, Jeb Bush’s Iraq quagmire is just getting started, Paul Waldman, May 12, 2015. Last night Fox News aired an interview in which Jeb Bush was asked the question about Iraq that every major politician should have answered by now. Somehow it seemed to catch Bush less than completely prepared. His answer generated the expected attacks from Democrats, but even some Republicans were critical. GOP consultant Ana Navarro now says Bush confided to her that he “misheard the question,” which suggests he’ll be clarifying what he really thinks soon. This was bound to come up before long. The way it’s now playing suggests that Bush — along with many other Republicans — can’t quite figure out how to answer a question that for most people is pretty straightforward. Because of who his brother is, it was to be expected that Bush would be the first to confront this question. But now that it has happened, all the candidates are likely to be asked — including Hillary Clinton. There was no more damaging issue to Clinton in 2008 than her vote to authorize the war.

Washington Post, Senate Democrats vote to block Obama on trade, Mike DeBonis, May 12, 2015. President Obama’s fellow Democrats derailed one of his major second-term priorities Tuesday, voting to hold up consideration of “fast track” trade authority unless related measures are guaranteed to proceed alongside it. The trade legislation failed an afternoon test vote, 52 to 45. Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals. Ahead of the vote, Democrats — including the handful who have supported Obama’s trade push — said they were not inclined to move forward with debate unless Republican leaders provided assurances that the various pieces would move in tandem. See also: 

  • Washington Post, Feud with Warren breaks open amid ‘fast track’ vote, Paul Kane, May 12, 2015. In a battle few saw coming three years ago, President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are locked in an increasingly personal feud over a global trade deal that the president is trying to finalize in his last years in the White House. The clash has become a defining battle for Democrats, as Obama seeks — and Warren resists — “fast-track ­authority” from Congress that would give him a freer hand to cut trade deals.
  • Washington Post, Clinton hedge on trade leaves Obama without political cover in Warren feud, David Nakamura, May 12, 2015. With President Obama making a desperate final push to complete that 12-nation pact, his former partner and most effective global advocate for the deal has gone quiet. As the president has scoured Capitol Hill for elusive Democratic support in recent weeks, Hillary Clinton has said virtually nothing about the Trans Pacific Partnership PP, other than to point out areas of the deal with which she has concerns.

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with their teams at Sochi, May 12, 2015 AFPSecretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with their teams at Sochi, May 12, 2015  (AFP Photo)

BBC, Ukraine crisis: Kerry has 'frank' meeting with Putin, Staff report, May 12, 2105. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he held a "frank meeting" with President Vladimir Putin during his first visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began in early 2014. Both sides say that eight hours of talks between Mr Kerry and the Russian leadership were a welcome development. It is the highest-level trip by a US official to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began.

New York Times Magazine, The Detail in Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Story That Rings True, Carlotta Gallway, May 12, 2015. The tale of how Osama bin Laden met his death in a Pakistani hill town in May 2011 has been a changeable feast. The latest contribution is the journalist Seymour Hersh’s 10,000-word article in The London Review of Books, which attempts to punch yet more holes — very big ones — in both the Obama administration’s Osama Bin Laden in screen shot from purported Al Qaeda videonarrative and the Pakistani government’s narrative. Among other things, Hersh contends that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s military-intelligence agency, held Bin Laden prisoner in the Abbottabad compound since 2006, and that “the C.I.A. did not learn of Bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S.” On this count, my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s.

Osama Bin Laden is shown in a screen shot from a purported Al Qaeda video.

ExposeFacts, Sterling Verdict Another Measure of Declining Government Credibility on Secrets, Marcy Wheeler, May 12, 2015. Yesterday, Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced Jeffrey Sterling to 42 months in prison for leaking information about a dubious CIA plot to deal nuclear blueprints to Iran to New York Times journalist James Risen. Given how circumstantial the case against Sterling was — consisting largely of metadata — not to mention the hand slap David Petraeus got weeks ago for leaking far more sensitive information and then lying about it to the FBI, that’s a tough sentence. But given the government’s call, in sentencing memoranda, that Sterling spend up to 24 years in prison, it was, as Government Accountability Project lawyer Jesselyn Raddack said, the least worst outcome. The sentence should also be seen as a rebuke to the government and its frenzied claims about secrecy, most notably the claim they made in this case that leaking information to a journalist is worse than leaking it directly to our adversaries. The sentencing “guidelines are too high,” Judge Brinkema told Sterling and his lawyers yesterday. She then proceeded to sentence Sterling along the same lines she did former CIA officer John Kiriakou — 3 years for leaking an officer or asset’s identity — plus 6 months in Sterling’s case because he did not admit guilt. In doing so, Brinkema treated this as one discrete leak and not the 7 incidences of espionage that the government charged it as.  Indeed, Brinkema’s sentence seemed to accept an argument Sterling’s lawyers had made in their own sentencing memorandum, that the Espionage Act was never meant to cover leaks to journalists. The government’s insistence that whistleblowing and accountability equate to spying is coming under increasing scrutiny, even mockery.

Vimeo via Huffington Post, Finally -- CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Can Be Seen and Heard, Right here, Norman Solomon, May 12, 2015. For more than four years -- ever since his indictment on Espionage Act charges -- the public could not hear the voice of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. Until now. 

FireDogLake, First Interview, CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Says Congressional Staffer Urged Him to Flee, Kevin Gosztola, May 12, 2015: Democracy Now, Interview with Norman Soloman, Amy Goodman, May 12, 2015 (58.56.min.). In his first interview since he was charged with leaking details of a botched CIA operation to New York Times reporter James Risen, CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling says that he had a meeting with a staffer for Congressman William Lacy Clay and was urged to flee the United States. Sterling, who worked as an African American case officer, was found guilty by a jury of committing multiple Espionage Act offenses when he exposed information about “Operation Merlin,” which involved passing flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran in order to get the country to work on building a nuclear weapon that would never function. He left the CIA in 2002 and brought a claim against the CIA alleging racial discrimination. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 2005. However, the government successfully had the case thrown out by invoking the “state secrets” privilege. The government has maintained that he leaked details about Operation Merlin in revenge for his discrimination lawsuit being dismissed.

May 11

Jeffrey Sterling Consortium NewsWashington Post, Ex-CIA officer convicted in leak case gets 3½ years, Matt Zapotosky, May 11, 2014. Jeffrey Sterling (shown in a file photo) gave a journalist classified information about an effort to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions. See also, First Look/Intercept, CIA’s Jeffrey Sterling Sentenced to 42 Months for Leaking to New York Times Journalist, Peter Maass, May 11, 2015.

Washington Post, How judges have punished other leakers, Matt Zapotosky May 11, 2015. Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Monday for leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter. Prosecutors asked that he face a severe penalty, while defense attorneys wanted his punishment to be in line with other recently convicted leakers. Here is a look at the sentences some of them have faced, and how their cases are similar to — or different from — Sterling’s.

NBC News, Pakistanis Knew Where Osama Bin Laden Was, U.S. Sources Say, Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Robert Windrem and Andrea Mitchell, May 11, 2015. Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a "walk in" asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding - and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew Barack Obama, Bin Laden killing photo at White Housewhere bin Laden was hiding all along. The U.S. government has always characterized the heroic raid by Seal Team Six that killed bin Laden as a unilateral U.S. operation, and has maintained that the CIA found him by tracking couriers to his walled complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The new revelations do not necessarily cast doubt on the overall narrative that the White House began circulating within hours of the May 2011 operation. The official story about how bin Laden was found was constructed in a way that protected the identity and existence of the asset, who also knew who inside the Pakistani government was aware of the Pakistani intelligence agency's operation to hide bin Laden, according to a special operations officer with prior knowledge of the bin Laden mission. The official story focused on a long hunt for bin Laden's presumed courier, Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. While NBC News has long been pursuing leads about a "walk in" and about what Pakistani intelligence knew, both assertions were made public in a London Review of Books article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Hersh's story, published over the weekend, raises numerous questions about the White House account of the SEAL operation. It has been strongly disputed both on and off the record by the Obama administration and current and former national security officials.

Washington Post, ‘Utter nonsense’: CIA, White House blast explosive bin Laden raid story, Dan Lamothe, May 11, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the U.S. and Pakistan collaborated closely.

New Yorker Magazine, Why Seymour Hersh’s ‘Alternative’ bin Laden History Did Not Appear in The New Yorker, Gabriel Sherman, May 11, 2015. Yesterday, the London Review of Books published one of the most mind-bending pieces of national-security journalism in recent memory: Seymour Hersh’s alternative history of the Osama bin Laden assassination. Over more than 10,000 words, the legendary investigative reporter and longtime New Yorker contributor un-spooled a remarkable narrative that accuses the Obama White House of concocting a “blatant lie” to hide Pakistan’s involvement in the SEAL Team Six raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Not surprisingly, the pushback has been ferocious. One of the most interesting sub-dramas of Hersh’s exposé has to do with the article’s appearance in the LRB. Why, many people are wondering, did Hersh’s account not appear in The New Yorker, where Hersh has been a contributor since 1971? In fact, the article’s stunning claims put Hersh on the wrong side of his longtime journalistic home.

OpEdNews, Seymour Hersh Succumbs To Disinformation, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in file photo), May 11, 2105. Washington's disinformation agencies have finally managed to deceive Seymour Hersh with a concocted "inside story" that saves Paul Craig RobertsWashington's claim of having murdered bin Laden by proving that the US government is an extraordinary liar and violator of law.  Seymour Hersh has published a long account of the homicide of Osama bin Laden. Hersh concludes that the Obama regime's account of the killing of bin Laden is a total fabrication except for the fact that bin Laden was killed. I do not believe Hersh's story for three reasons. One reason is that bin Laden was suffering from disease that no one can survive for a decade. His death was widely reported in 2001. He exposes lies within lies, indecision within decision, payoffs within payoffs, and reports such a huge number of people with advance knowledge of the raid that it cannot possibly have been kept a secret. In my opinion, Washington's disinformation agencies have finally managed to deceive Seymour Hersh with a concocted "inside story" that saves Washington's claim of having murdered bin Laden by proving that the US government is an extraordinary liar and violator of law. Hersh's story does prove that the US government is a liar, but it does not prove that a SEAL team murdered Osama bin Laden.

First Look/Intercept, Sy Hersh’s bin Laden Story First Reported in 2011 — With Seemingly Different Sources, Jon Schwarz and Ryan Devereaux, May 11, 2015. R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times, made the same main assertions in 2011 about the death of Osama bin Laden as Seymour Hersh’s new story in the London Review of Books — apparently based on different sources than those used by Hersh. Bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Three months later, on August 7, Hillhouse posted a story on her blog “The Spy Who Billed Me” stating that (1) the U.S. did not learn about bin Laden’s location from tracking an al Qaeda courier, but from a member of the Pakistani intelligence service who wanted to collect the $25 million reward the U.S. had offered for bin Laden; (2) Saudi Arabia was paying Pakistan to keep bin Laden under the equivalent of house arrest; (3) Pakistan was pressured by the U.S. to stand down its military to allow the U.S. raid to proceed unhindered; and (4) the U.S. had planned to claim that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but was forced to abandon this when one of the Navy SEAL helicopters crashed. Hersh’s article makes the same key claims about the bin Laden raid.

More background and opinions:

VOX, The many problems with Seymour Hersh's Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory, Max Fisher, May 11, 2015. On Sunday, the legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh finally released a story that he has been rumored to have been working on for years: the truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies. See also, Truthout, Exclusive Investigation: The Truth Behind the Official Story of Finding Bin Laden, Gareth Porter, May 3, 2012. A few days after US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a "senior intelligence official" briefing reporters on the materials seized from bin Laden's compound said the materials revealed that bin Laden had, "continued to direct even tactical details of the group's management." Bin Laden was, "not just a strategic thinker for the group," said the official. "He was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions." Such was the official line at the time. But none of it was true. It is now clear that CIA officials were blatantly misrepresenting both bin Laden's role in al-Qaeda when he was killed and how the agency came to focus on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In fact, during his six years in Abbottabad, bin Laden was not the functioning head of al-Qaeda at all, but an isolated figurehead who had become irrelevant to the actual operations of the organization. The real story, told here for the first time, is that bin Laden was in the compound in Abbottabad because he had been forced into exile by the al-Qaeda leadership.

May 10

London Review of Books, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Seymour M. Hersh, May 10, dated May 21, 2015. Seymour Hersh, shown in a file photo, is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals Seymour Hershassassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said. The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014.

OpEdNews, How?  Marta Steele, May 10, 2015. The well-known legacy activist and writer Victoria Collier, a veteran election-integrity movement leader, asked this question last night at a leadership conference held at the University of DC Law School by Progressive Democrats of America, now also People Demanding Action. Collier wanted to know where the movement should go if we haven't yet succeeded in convincing the people, all the people, that without the vote there can be no democracy, that their vote counts. Even the MSM made a Hollywood film back in 2008, Swing Vote. Unfortunately, it was a comedy. People went away laughing about one vote making such a huge difference. And that's just the beginning. There are so many ways to purge voter roles of the "underclasses," including people of color, victims of poverty, youth, disabled people, and felons who have served their terms and want to rejoin mainstream society, voting as well as paying taxes, which they are always obliged to. These are enough of the people who vote Democratic swept under the rug to assure GOP sweeps.

May 9

New York Times, Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally, Michael Barbaro and Steve Eder, May 9, 2015. As Marco Rubio has ascended in the ranks of Republican politics, an auto dealer named Norman Braman has Mario Rubio and Norman Braman emerged as a remarkable and unusual patron. He has bankrolled Mr. Rubio’s campaigns. He has financed Mr. Rubio’s legislative agenda. And, at the same time, he has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s personal finances, as the rising politician and his wife grappled with heavy debt and big swings in their income. Now, with Mr. Rubio vaulting ahead of much of the Republican presidential field, Mr. Braman is poised to play an even larger part and become Mr. Rubio’s single biggest campaign donor, with an expected outlay of approximately $10 million for the senator’s pursuit of the White House. A detailed review of their relationship shows that Mr. Braman, 82, has left few corners of Mr. Rubio’s world untouched. He hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family’s philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane. The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman’s favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor. The two are shown together in a photo illustrating the New York Times story.

WhoWhatWhy, FBI Spy Planes over Baltimore, Klaus Marre, May 9, 2015. The FBI has denied any wrongdoing involving its secret surveillance planes that flew over Baltimore this year. But doesn’t “secret surveillance” imply a violation of civil liberties? Baltimore residents noticed a light airplane circling the skies above their tottering city at the same time that it was swept by protests and acts of civil unrest over Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. They then saw another, also flying in a distinct pattern. It gradually became clear that the planes were part of a secret spying operation—and that operation has now been revealed to involve the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The ACLU has made Freedom of Information Act requests for legal justification of the FBI’s secret surveillance of Baltimore.

​RT, 70 for Victory: Armata tanks, nuclear bombers, intl boots in Moscow for V-Day, Staff report, May 9, 2015 (91 mins.). Ceremonial unit soldiers at the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. On Saturday, Russia is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War II. The biggest part is the military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, a grand event involving newest hardware at the army’s disposal. The parade opened with solemn carrying of two flags, that of Russia and the historic banner that was raised over the Reichstag building back in 1945 to declare that it was taken by the Red Army. Troops from all arms of the service were lined up on Red Square. Those include young cadets from Suvorov military school and visiting foreign troops from 10 countries. Inspecting the ranks, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armed forces, that the troops are ready for the parade to start. “Wherever veterans of the WWII live now, they must know that here in Russia we value greatly their courage, resolve and loyalty to the frontline brotherhood,” Putin said in a congratulatory speech. Putin praised the many peoples of Soviet Union, allies from Europe, across the Atlantic and Asia, which fought on one side against the Axis powers during the war.


Washington Post, One thing is missing from Russia’s WWII remembrance — the Allies, Michael Birnbaum, May 9, 2015. Russia’s vast celebrations Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany had nearly everything: 16,000 marching soldiers, medal-bedecked veterans and families carrying photographs of those who died long ago. But conspicuously absent from the memorial of the Soviet Union’s joint victory with the West were the leaders of those wartime allied nations. In brief remarks on Red Square, Vladimir Putin said: “We are grateful to the people of the United Kingdom and France, and the United States of America for their contribution to this victory.”

New York Times, Battle Tested, Ukraine Troops Now Get U.S. Basic Training, Andrew E. Kramer, May 9, 2015. Ukrainian soldiers were drilled by American military trainers in Yavoriv, in the country’s west. A course on cutting wire is one of 63 classes of remedial military instruction being provided by 300 United States Army trainers in three consecutive two-month courses. They are far from the fighting, and their job is to instill some basic military know-how in Ukrainian soldiers, who the trainers have discovered are woefully unprepared. The largely unschooled troops are learning such basic skills as how to use an encrypted walkie-talkie; how to break open a door with a sledgehammer and a crowbar; and how to drag a wounded colleague across a field while holding a rifle at the ready. When the war began a year ago, the Ukrainian Army was all but worthless — rife with corruption and Russian spies, and made up largely of “skeleton” battalions of officers with just a few men. About 1 percent of the equipment was manufactured in the past decade.

Lee Harvey Oswald with Minsk radio factory friends

Lee Harvey Oswald, whom authorities claim killed President Kennedy in 1963, is shown at center with sunglasses smiling and relaxing with fellow radio factory workers in Minsk in the Soviet Republic of Belorussia.

Me and Lee, Lee Harvey Oswald did not have Aspergers: Correcting an Armchair Diagnosis, Judyth Vary Baker, May 9, 2015. Greg Parker, an Australian blogger with a long interest in the Kennedy assassination, conducted an armchair diagnosis on Lee Harvey Oswald.  He decided that Oswald had Aspergers, a neurobiological disorder linked to autism. He's wrong.​...I was astonished to see one more accusation: that Lee was no good at just about Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald National Archivesanything having to do with being a sociable person. We should never confuse Lee's reluctance to make friends when he returned to the US with the need for him to keep nosy people from discovering his covert tasks. I am a living witness to the fact that Lee forged strong friendships with Dr. Mary Sherman and David Ferrie in New Orleans. See my books Me & Lee (608 pages, incl. photos and documents) and David Ferrie: Mafia Pilot (over 500 pages, the first biography ever published on Ferrie). But the number one way to prove that Lee did not have Aspergers is the fact that he tenderly loved little Junie and baby Rachel and was a good father. Greg Parker has done a disservice to the research community by propagating his ill-researched theory. Oswald is shown with his wife, Marina.

May 8

David CameronBritain's Conservative Party won a bare majority in May 7 elections, thereby returning to office incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron (shown in a file photo).

Washington Post, 4 ways the British elections have changed everything, Adam Taylor, May 8, 2015. Britain's election was supposed to be a nail-biter, an inconclusive election that would leave the country's political future unclear. Instead, it's anything but. The results make it remarkably clear who are the winners, and the losers, of this election. As the dust settles on Friday, it's worth thinking about what this election means for the future of Britain. This was always going to be an important election for Britain, but it didn't exactly turn out important in the ways that many people suspected it would. Here's how the 2015 British election will change the country.

May 7

New York Times, British Exit Poll Projects Gains for Conservatives, Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle, May 7, 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party was projected by a national exit poll to have done well in the British general election on Thursday, but the nation still faced the likelihood that there would be no outright winner. The Conservatives were projected by the exit polls to have won 316 seats, more than pre-election polls had suggested and up nine seats from 2010. But that outcome would still be 10 seats short of the 326 necessary to win an outright majority and seven short of the minimum necessary to have a day-to-day working majority. The Liberal Democrats, Mr. Cameron’s current coalition partner, were projected to win only 10 seats, a loss of 47 seats from 2010, but enough to put the two parties together right on the edge of being able to form the next government. The Conservatives might also win support from two smaller parties, the Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland and the U.K. Independence Party.

Washington Post, NSA program on phone records is illegal, court says, Ellen Nakashima, May 7, 2015. The appellate court ruling, which finds the bulk collection of data is not authorized by the Patriot Act, comes as Congress NSA Official Logoweighs whether to allow the program to continue. A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that the National Security Agency’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records violates the Patriot Act, the first appeals court to weigh in on a controversial surveillance program that has divided Congress and ignited a national debate over the proper scope of the government’s spy powers. The NSA’s gathering of phone records for counterterrorism purposes — launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — was revealed by former agency contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013. The revelation sparked outrage but also steadfast assertions by the Obama administration that the program was authorized by statute and deemed legal by a series of federal surveillance court judges. But the judicial rulings had taken place in secret, until the Snowden leaks forced disclosure of once-classified opinions.

In its decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, based in New York, determined that the government stretched the meaning of the statute to enable the vast collection of Americans’ data from U.S. phone companies on a daily basis without a warrant. The NSA is collecting “metadata” — or records of times, dates and durations of calls — but not call content. The 97-page ruling comes as Congress faces a June 1 deadline to reauthorize the statute that underpins the NSA program or let it lapse. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate is seeking to renew the statute with modifications that supporters say will enable the NSA to get access to the records it needs while protecting Americans’ privacy.

Dallas Observer, Dallas Wants JFK Conspiracy Theorist to Remove "Grassy Knoll" Sign From Grassy Knoll, Amy Silverstein, May 7, 2015. You may or may not believe the popular theory that a second gunman targeted John F. Kennedy behind the grassy knoll, but it's clear that another conspiracy has been brewing at Dealey Plaza. Robert Groden is the popular conspiracy-theorist author who brought the Zapruder film public in the '70s and testified at the Rockefeller Commission on the assassination. Now he spends weekends discussing his research and hawking his literature at the grassy knoll. In his years doing that, he has received 81 tickets from city police for selling his magazines and books. Every one of those tickets was tossed by municipal judges, who found that Groden has every right to sell his merchandise at Dealey Plaza. Groden was never charged with a crime. The Dallas Police Department even arrested Groden and deprived him of his meds while in jail in 2010, but they still couldn't come up with charges that would stick. Groden later filed lawsuits accusing the city of violating his civil rights and maliciously targeting him. The court proceedings and Jim Schutze's extensive reporting on Groden uncovered how the Sixth Floor Museum and the city encouraged the harassment of Groden. So why would a bunch of official people keep going after a JFK conspiracy theorist? The official Schutze theory was that the old people in power here are still ashamed over JFK's death and don't like how Groden attracts so much attention to it.

New York Daily News, Jeb Bush, as Fla. gov, invested state's cash in porn: report, Adam Edelman, May 7, 2015. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush invested more than $1 million from the Florida state pension fund in pornography while Jeb Bushhe was governor, a new bombshell report alleges. The former Florida governor, while in office, invested $1.3 million from the fund into Movie Gallery, a publicly traded video rental giant that offered a wide selection of pornographic films along with mainstream movies, the International Business Times reported. Bush, who as governor was a trustee on the board overseeing the state's $149 billion pension system, purchased more than 47,000 shares in the company in 2005, the Times reported, citing emails it obtained from Bush's tenure in office.

Huffington Post, Former Bush Official With Ties To CIA Torture Program Now Advises Obama Interrogators, Ali Watkins, May 7, 2015. A government psychologist who helped craft policies central to the CIA’s torture program is now advising an FBI-led interrogation project, according to a series of emails revealed in a new independent report. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group is the Obama administration’s response to the now-defunct CIA effort. Its members are dispatched to question terror suspects. Dr. Susan Brandon leads the HIG’s research committee, which studies and recommends the most effective methods of noncoercive interrogation. But as a Bush White House official, the new report says, Brandon helped that administration base the legality of the CIA’s interrogation techniques -- now widely denounced as torture -- on the assessments of psychologists present during the interrogations.

Washington Post, Mitt Romney convenes 2016 contenders, donors for Utah retreat, Robert Costa, May 7, 2015. Mitt Romney, who earlier this year decided against a third presidential bid after briefly flirting with a run, will jump Mitt Romneyback into the national political scene next month when he hosts GOP presidential hopefuls and some of the party’s biggest donors in Utah. Romney’s 2015 E2 Summit will take place June 11-13 in Deer Valley, a ski resort east of Salt Lake City. Confirmed speakers from the likely 2016 Republican field include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.). Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, long seen as a Romney rival due to tensions between their camps, was invited but will not attend, per a Romney ally. The summer affair is Romney’s fourth annual summit. The events began as a way for him to personally connect with the power brokers and financiers backing his political operation. The theme of this year’s gathering is the “strength and future of American leadership.”

Huffington Post, Ferguson Defends Arrest Of Man Who Was Filming Police, Ryan J. Reilly May 7, 2015. City officials in Ferguson, Missouri, are defending the arrest of an observer who was filming an arrest during a protest last month, telling a federal court that the city should not be held in contempt for violating an earlier order intended to protect the rights of journalists and citizens to record in public places. Scott Kampas was filming the police response to a small protest outside the Ferguson Police Department in the early evening hours of April 14. When one protester was taken into custody, Kampas took a step into the street, which had already been blocked off by the police, and was immediately taken into custody.

May 6

President Obama, Joe Biden, May 6, 2015President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk in the Oval Office before their weekly lunch, May 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

Politico, House Oversight Committee asks for FOIA horror stories, The House Oversight Committee is reaching out to reporters, asking them to relay some of their Freedom of Information Act horror stories in preparation for a hearing next month on how to improve the FOIA process. "Over the years I have heard from many of you that the FOIA process is broken," House Oversight Committee spokesperson Melissa Subbotin Sillin wrote in an email to reporters. "Many requests go unaddressed, come back heavily redacted for no apparent reason, or are ignored altogether. Both majority and minority committee members are coming together to do a deep analysis to find where the problems exist and what fixes need to be made. In order to do so, we need your help." Sillin said she hoped that through this process, the committee can help get some of their requests answered. Issues with the FOIA process are longstanding. On Wednesday, the Associated Press' general counsel Karen Kaiser testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the FOIA Improvement Act, outlining how much more difficult the FOIA process has become.

Boston Globe, Politics as usual often isn’t a crime, Harvey Silverglate (shown in file photo), May 6, 2015. Recent developments show a judicial rebellion might be brewing against federal Department of Justice overreach in its prosecution of state Harvey Silverglatepolitical figures. These courts are questioning whether activities that are part of accepted state political culture should — or even can — be prosecuted under vague federal prohibitions against, for example, officials depriving their states of “honest services.” State government officials in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Illinois are currently embroiled in appeals against the Department of Justice. A common question runs through all three cases – whether the officials’ conduct constitutes fraud or merely common (even if sometimes tawdry) state politics. Significantly, defendants in recent “corruption” convictions have been freed on bail pending their appeals.

 

May 5

WhoWhatWhy, Boston Bomber’s Deafening Silence: What Would Tsarnaev Reveal?  Lara Turner, May 5, 2015. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has not yet spoken in his own defense may be less about national security and more about muzzling the truth. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was raised to take the direction of the most powerful adult in his life, his attorneys say — and now all those powerful adults seem to be telling the 21-year-old to sit down and shut up. And to make sure he shuts up, they have been holding him under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) that severely restrict any contact with the outside world. This is presumably to prevent him from communicating to the outside world any plans that could result in death or bodily harm. But is muzzling the defendant really in the interest of national security — or in the interest of the national security apparatuses? For the two years since the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombings, WhoWhatWhy has documented the myriad ways that arms of the US government have contradicted its claim that the two Tsarnaev brothers were “lone wolves” motivated by ideology, with the feds consistently seeking to suppress information that could shed light on the bombings. This includes keeping the defendant totally mute. To date, we have not heard a word from him — and now, even after he was convicted, we still have not heard a peep.

May 4

WhoWhatWhy, Is US-Russian Spy Intrigue Behind Boston Bombing? James Henry, May 4, 2015. The strange ability of Tamerlan Tsarnaev to slip through airports without delay in both New York and Moscow — despite being on security watch-lists — raises questions about both American and Russian security agencies. In the penalty phase of the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the shadow of his dead elder brother Tamerlan looms lDzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaevarge. The defense team’s effort to avoid the death penalty hinges on the claim that Tamerlan was the lead player in the plot and heavily influenced his impressionable younger brother. We will soon learn if this strategy succeeds in saving Dzhokhar’s life — at the price of incarceration without chance of parole at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” But one thing that the trial will not do is open a window onto the whole back story of the bombing itself, the motivations of the perpetrators, and the many signs that there may be more to it. WhoWhatWhy has provided more investigative coverage of this story than any news organization in the United States, or the world. That’s because we see the singularity of the event, the tremendous resources brought to bear on it, and the clampdown on various rights and liberties, including the government’s first-time ability to make Americans stay in their houses until told they may leave. Nowhere do we see more of a hint of something amiss than in the US national security apparatus’ seeming lack of interest in the international travels of Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the Boston Marathon bombing—even after the authorities were explicitly warned to watch him as a threat.

Baltimore Police Charged Six Suspects KTLAMay 1

Washington Post, Six Baltimore officers charged in Gray’s death; five in custody, Lynh Bui, Arelis Hernández and Matt Zapotosky May 1, 2015. Six Baltimore police officers face charges ranging from assault to second-degree Marilyn Mosbymurder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Friday. The officers placed a shackled Gray on the floor of a transport van, head-first and on his stomach, and ignored his complaints that he couldn’t breathe, the prosecutor said. List of charges against the officers What is depraved-heart murder? Mosby, in a mid-morning announcement from the steps of the War Memorial Building, delivered a stunning narrative alleging lethal indifference and cruelty on the part of officers who arrested and transported Gray on April 12. Mosby, shown in a file photo, said Gray suffered a severe neck injury after being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and allowed to careen unrestrained inside the Baltimore police wagon. After four intervening stops, including one to complete paperwork and another to pick up an additional prisoner, Gray was in cardiac arrest when the van arrived at the Western District police station. He died on April 19.

Freddie Gray Baltimore family photoWashington Post, Findings indicate Gray got head injuries in van, Lynh Bui, Dana Hedgpeth and Bill Turque, May 1, 2015. Investigators believe Freddie Gray suffered serious head injuries while he was in a police transport van, although they have not concluded how the injuries occurred, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. One wound occurred when Gray, shown in a file photo, struck his head on a bolt that jutted out in the van, the official said, but that was not Gray’s only head injury. And the injuries overall are consistent with what medical examiners often see in car collisions, the official said. The findings, which have not been publicly released, are part of an investigation into Gray’s death that Baltimore police handed over to prosecutors Thursday.

New York Post, Former crony willing to testify Christie lied about Bridgegate, Joshua Saul and Bruce Golding, May 1, 2015. A former crony of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pleaded guilty Friday in the David Wildstein and Bridgett Kelly“Bridgegate” scandal — and is willing to testify that the fading GOP star knew about crippling lane closures as they were happening, his lawyer said afterward. David Wildstein, who scored a $150,000-a-year Port Authority job through his Christie connections, entered into a cooperation deal with prosecutors and admitted scheming to snarl traffic near the George Washington Bridge as part of a political payback scheme. Two other ex-officials with ties to Christie (shown in an official photo) were also indicted on charges they plotted with Wildstein to take revenge against Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie’s 2013 re-election, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. Chris ChristieBill Baroni, former executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, were slapped with multiple counts, including conspiring to misuse property of an organization receiving federal benefits and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (Wildstein and Kelly are shown in file photos.) “Public officials must use government resources for proper government purposes,” Fishman said in a statement. “The indictment alleges, and Wildstein admitted, that the three defendants used Port Authority resources to exact political retribution … and concocted and promoted a bogus cover story to execute their plan and cover their tracks.”

White House Blog, On College Signing Day, First Lady Michelle Obama Asks Students to Reach Higher, Eric Waldo, May 1, 2015. First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama wear their college gear for #CollegeSigningDay. Each year, the nation rallies behind promising athletes as they decide where they will take President and Mrs. Obama in college tshirts, May 1, 2015their prodigious talents. Families gather around the TV to watch the draft, commentators speculate on this prospect or the other and where they’ll play college football the next year, and fans daydream about what will become of their teams. First Lady Michelle Obama believes that every student who has worked hard to achieve the monumental milestone of going to college should receive that same enthusiastic support, and that our country should celebrate college going with the same fervor. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sport their college t-shirts in support of the First Lady's “Reach Higher” initiative on College Signing Day, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Marcus EcholsMarcus Echols Show, Interview with Andrew Kreig on Alabama Prison Reform, May 4, 2015 (radio interview for 100 minutes). 

Montgomery Advertiser, Fuller probe moving swiftly, judge says, Mary Troyan, May 1, 2015. The federal judiciary’s investigation into the domestic violence case against U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is “progressing swiftly,” according to the judge leading the probe. U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat provided the update to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a recent letter. Fuller, whose office is based in Montgomery, has been suspended with pay for more than eight months while other federal judges decide whether additional discipline is needed. Fuller was charged with misdemeanor battery in August after his then-wife called 911 from an Atlanta hotel room and asked for help. He completed a pretrial diversion program involving counseling for domestic violence, and the charge was dropped in April. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Congress still have a say in whether Fuller should return to the bench. Several members of Congress from both parties have said the incident jeopardizes the integrity of the court and asked Fuller to resign. Fuller’s fellow judges could recommend impeachment, and the House Judiciary Committee already has requested a budget increase in case Congress pursues that option.

 

 

 

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The Justice Integrity Project urges readers to sign the petition to President Obama for clemency for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003), whom our research indicates was unjustly convicted in 2006 on politically motivated corruption charges. The petition is here. Siegelman is shown above with his wife (at center), son and daughter. He was re-imprisoned at age 67 in September 2012 in Louisiana.

The Project has extensively documented injustice here. For background, see the official site by his supporters and our recent column.

November 14, 2013

This is one of the most serious, detailed public interest books I have ever read, and I do read quite a bit.

I am in Afghanistan, with very little time to myself, and regret I have not been able to sit down with this book and give it the double read that it merits. As with any book that I consider a potential blockbuster, I started with the index, notes, and bibliography. All three are deep. This book is both a citizen's primer, and a reference work that will stand the test of time in helping future generations of students. It is a starting point for truth in the public interest.

I am one of those very few non-fiction reviewers that is also a former CIA clandestine case officer and a career intelligence officer. My reviews of over 300 books on intelligence are easily found (each review leading back to their Amazon home page) are easily found by searching for < Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most)> without the brackets.

Imagine my astonishment, then, when I get through the first part of the book and discover that Obama may be CIA's second wholly-owned president. Obama's parents appear clearly documented as non-official cover CIA officers (officers spy, agents are the people they recruit) responsible for spotting, assessing, and recruiting among the Islamic up and comers. This section alone makes this book priceless. Read More...

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