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.

Supported Event AARC Conference “The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: A Half Century of Significant Disclosures.” September 25-28, 2014 learn more here Please click on scroller below to stop Latest News jQuery.noConflict(); // code here jQuery(document).ready(function() { var opt = { direction: 'up', speed : 17, 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 September 2014 news in our monthly roundup Sept. 16 OpEdNews, CIA and the National Archives Thwart The JFK Act and Obstruct Democratic Accountability, Jim Lesar (shown in file photo), Sept. 16, 2014. All records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ("JFK") are already supposed to be public. That's what Congress intended when it unanimously passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 ("JFK Act"). It hasn't happened. The National Archives and the CIA are still withholding thousands of pages of JFK Act records in their entirety, even though it has been more than a half century since the Warren Commission issued its Report on the murder of the President. NARA's actions violate the law and its intent, and severely erode the principle of democratic accountability, on which America's government is based. This violation directly raises the issue of who writes the law, who rules in the United States: the elected representatives of the people in Congress or the intelligence agencies? Over 1,100 CIA files dealing with the John F. Kennedy assassination remain classified in apparent defiance of the JFK Records Act, which requires them to be speedily reviewed and made public. Sept. 14 Dothan Eagle, Our view: Impeach Mark Fuller, Editorial board, Sept. 14, 2014. Over the last week, Americans have been inundated with opportunities to watch a video clip of a professional football player punching out his then-girlfriend – now wife – in an elevator, then dragging her limp body halfway out elevator car like a rag doll. The resulting outrage caused the NFL to ostracize former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice from the game. We say former player, because the Ravens released Rice. Never mind that he was just suspended for a couple of games after he reported the incident; in the backlash following the release of footage showing the brutality of a man striking his mate, Rice was seen as unfit for a sport built on brutality. The Rice incident makes us wonder: If there were video footage of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room, would he still get the kid-glove treatment he received in court last week? 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. Sept. 12 McClatchy, New sparks fly between CIA, Senate Intelligence Committee, Ali Watkins, Sept. 12, 2014. Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan, shown in a file photo, refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program. The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill. After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress. “I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant," continued Levin, shown in an official photo. "I think it’s unacceptable.” Huffington Post, ISIS Strikes Deal With Moderate Syrian Rebels: Reports, Akbar Shahid and Ryan Grim, Sept. 12, 2014. As the United States begins to deepen ties with moderate Syrian rebels to combat the extremist group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, a key component of its coalition appears to have struck a non-aggression pact with the group. According to Agence France-Presse, ISIS and a number of moderate and hard-line rebel groups have agreed not to fight each other so that they can focus on taking down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Other sources say the signatories include a major U.S. ally linked to the Free Syrian Army. The deal between ISIS and the moderate Syrian groups casts doubt over President Barack Obama's freshly announced strategy to arm and train the groups against ISIS. Washington Post, Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce, Dana Milbank, Sept. 12, 2014. What happened in Ferguson, Mo., last month was a tragedy. What’s on course to happen there next month will be a farce. October is when a grand jury is expected to decide whether to indict the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed an unarmed black teenager by firing at least six bullets into him. It’s a good bet the grand jurors won’t charge him, because all signs indicate that the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, doesn’t want them to. The latest evidence that the fix is in came this week from The Post’s Kimberly Kindy and Carol Leonnig, who discovered that McCulloch’s office has declined so far to recommend any charges to the grand jury. Instead, McCulloch’s prosecutors handling the case are taking the highly unusual course of dumping all evidence on the jurors and leaving them to make sense of it. Sept. 11 Washington Post, U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data, Craig Timberg Sept. 11, 2014. The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand for user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA’s controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first companies to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. “The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” said company General Counsel Ron Bell in a Tumblr post published Thursday afternoon. Editor's Note: The news item below helps illustrate the themes of the book Presidential Puppetry. Zero Hedge, Meet The Puppetmasters: Here Are The 25 Most Politically Influential Billionaires In The US, Tyler Durden, Sept. 11, 2014. It has been said, correctly, if only by those who see beyond the false "left-right" paradigm, that those who call the shots in US politics, and thus American socio-economics, are not so much America's lobbying corporations, but the people behind the corporations -- i.e., those who have the money... all of it. Obviously, nobody has more money than America's billionaires. So who are the true puppetmasters who determine America's fate? For one answer we turn to Brookings Institution Governance Studies Director Darrell West in whose upcoming book Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust examines the political use of great wealth, including campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership, and behind the scenes influence. Most importantly, it ranks the 25 most influential American billionaires. So from the Koch Brothers, to Bloomberg, to Tom Steyer, all the way to Marc Andreesen, Donald Trump and Alice Walton, here they are: U.S. Billionaires Political Power Index. Consortium News via OpEdNews, Neocons Revive Syria "Regime Change" Plan, Robert Parry, Sept. 11, 2014. Official Washington's ever-influential neoconservatives and their "liberal interventionist" allies see President Barack Obama's decision to extend U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists into Syria as a new chance to achieve the long-treasured neocon goal of "regime change" in Damascus. On the surface, Obama's extraordinary plan to ignore Syrian sovereignty and attack across the border has been viewed as a unilateral U.S. action to strike at the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but it could easily evolve into a renewed effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government, ironically one of ISIS's principal goals. The most controversial part of Obama's speech was his open declaration to conduct cross-border attacks into Syria in clear violation of international law. He also vowed to increase military support for rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government. Sept. 10 New York Times, For Many Iranians, the ‘Evidence’ Is Clear: ISIS Is an American Invention, Thomas Erdbrink, Sept. 10, 2014. Iranians are as obsessed as Americans these days with the black-clad gangs roaming Iraq and Syria and killing Shiites and other “infidels” in the name of Sunni Islam. ithout elaborating. Ayatollah Khamenei reminded them that Al Qaeda — a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, Iran has said — and the Taliban were, in the eyes of Iranian intelligence, devised by the West as a counterweight to Iran. His words, echoed by many others in Iran, have been resonating on state television, which is the main tool for disseminating propaganda and is watched all over the country. On Wednesday it showed what it said were images of Senator John McCain, the hawkish Arizona Republican, at a meeting with the current caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to McCain's left in the 2013 photo. Washington Post, The president who set out to end wars now tries to justify a new one, David Nakamura, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama’s escalation of airstrikes and the use of U.S. personnel to help “destroy” the Sunni group represent a major setback for the commander in chief. McClatchy DC, Misconduct at Justice Department isn’t always prosecuted, Marisa Taylor and Michael Doyle, Sept. 10, 2014. Dozens of Justice Department officials, ranging from FBI special agents and prison wardens to high-level federal prosecutors, have escaped prosecution or firing in recent years despite findings of misconduct by the department’s own internal watchdog. Most of the names of the investigated officials, even the highest-ranking, remain under wraps. But documents McClatchy obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time a startling array of alleged transgressions uncovered by the department’s inspector general. These include: Investigators concluded an assistant U.S. attorney “lacked candor” when interviewed by FBI agents investigating her husband’s “embezzlement activity.” Sept. 9 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with bicameral leadership of Congress regarding foreign policy, in the Oval Office, Sept. 9, 2014. Participants include: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) New York Times, White House Faces Series of Hurdles for Military Operations in Syria, Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman, Sept. 9, 2014. The White House is wrestling with a series of challenges in preparation for potential airstrikes in Syria, including how to train and equip a viable ground force and intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad. As President Obama cobbles together a coalition of countries to fight the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he is also encountering tensions from would-be partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are reluctant to battle ISIS too publicly. In a prime-time address on Wednesday evening, Mr. Obama is to explain to Americans his strategy for “degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist group,” the White House said in a statement. The people briefed on the president’s plans described a long-term campaign far more complex than the targeted strikes the United States has used against Al Qaeda in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. Executive Intelligence Review, Capitol Hill Press Conference Slams Obama as a 9/11 Liar, Staff report, Sept. 9, 2014 (video). Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Thomas Massie (R-KY) joined seven family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks in a powerful Capitol Hill press conference today, reiterating the demand that President Obama fulfill his promise and declassify the 28 pages from the original 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry exposing the role of the Saudi kingdom in supporting the terrorist attack. The three Members of Congress are all co-sponsors of HR 428, which calls on President Obama to release the secret 28 pages, and on all Members of the House and Senate to read the hidden chapter. Jones opened the press conference referring to CNN's 15-minute coverage the day before by Jake Tapper, revealing the fight to have President Obama release the 28 pages and detailing the evidence of Saudi involvement in the attacks. Rep. Jones attacked the U.S. Senate, especially the Senators from New England, New York, and Northern Virginia, saying that they owe this to their constituents. Sept. 8 AL.com, It's a matter of trust -- Mark Fuller should resign, Editorial Board, Sept. 8, 2014. We don't need public officials to be perfect human beings. And that brings us to U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller. Again. We have said before that Fuller should quit. He didn't. But every subsequent event since he was arrested for striking his wife in an alcohol-aided incident on Aug. 9 suggests he can't stay and retain respect. And so, once again, we ask him to step aside. He accepted an Atlanta Magistrate Court plea deal to multiple levels of mandatory counseling that will allow his arrest to be expunged from his record. That's the kind of judicial lenience normally offered to teens in hopes they can straighten out their lives with a second chance. For a 56-year-old judge who insists through his lawyer that he has no drinking or drug problems, it's a preposterous charade. AL.com, Superstar Ray Rice cut from team; will 'superstar' judge Mark Fuller get to play on? John Archibald, Sept. 8, 2014. If you haven't seen the TMZ video of used-to-be Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice decking his wife on that elevator, don't. It'll make you sick. Like watching a punk kid child torture his pet. It's grainy and gritty, but it might as well be clear as Windex. Janay Rice says something and walks toward Ray, and – BAM! It's like lightning. Daily Mail, CIA 'took top al-Qaeda suspects to the brink of death in water-filled baths in the years after September 11 attacks,' Amanda Williams, Sept. 8, 2014. A top security source has revealed that torture techniques used by the CIA on at least two leading al-Qaeda suspects, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, went far beyond just waterboarding or 'simulated drowning.' It comes as the White House is set to release a lengthy intelligence report on CIA interrogation techniques. People who have read the full report say it shows that the CIA interrogation program was far more brutal than previously understood, and that agency officials repeatedly misled Congress and the Justice Department about what was being done to al-Qaeda detainees. President Barack Obama talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to congratulate him and the Iraqi people on the approval of a new Iraqi government during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 8, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Sept. 6 New York Times, Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks, Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore, Sept. 6, 2014. More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research. The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks. Washington Post, Aggressive police tactics, thousands of cash seizures, Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Steven Rich Sept. 6, 2014. The motorists were stopped for a minor traffic violation, and instead of just getting a ticket, they had their money confiscated by police. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken without warrants from people not charged with crimes. Stop and Seize: In recent years, thousands of people have had cash confiscated by police without being charged with crimes. The Post looks at the police culture behind the seizures and the people who were forced to fight the government to get their money back. Part 2: One training firm started a private intelligence-sharing network and helped shape law enforcement nationwide. (Coming Monday) Part 3: Motorists caught up in the seizures talk about the experience and the legal battles that sometimes took more than a year. (Coming Tuesday) Washington Post, Legal memos released on Bush-era justification for warrantless wiretapping, Ellen Nakashima, Sept. 6, 2014. The Justice Department released two decade-old memos Friday night, offering the fullest public airing to date of the Bush administration’s legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails — a program that began in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The broad outlines of the argument — that the president has inherent constitutional power to monitor Americans’ communications without a warrant in a time of war — were known, but the sweep of the reasoning becomes even clearer in the memos written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who was head of President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel. The program, code-named Stellar Wind, enabled the NSA to collect communications on U.S. soil when at least one party was believed to be a member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate, and at least one end of the communication was overseas. President Obama speaks at the CIA (File photo from White House). American Conservative via OpEdNews, Does the CIA Believe Obama? Philip Giraldi, Sept. 6, 2014. Intelligence pros are far more skeptical of government claims than their bosses let on. As a former intelligence officer, I am often asked how the people who work for the State Department, CIA, and DIA feel. I know of no former or current intelligence official who believes that the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe was a good idea, that toppling Bashar al-Assad would bring anything but chaos, or that bombing ISIS will actually accomplish anything. Given the current national security environment, a solid majority of lower and mid-level employees would regard the administration responses to the ongoing series of crises, including both Ukraine and ISIS, as poorly conceived and executed. To be sure, there are many in the national security community who continue to believe that destroying terrorism justifies massive global devastation. But those numbers are surely diminishing as people examine the results of 13 years of trying to make Manichean solutions work in an increasingly complex world. Truthout, Exclusive: Israel's Video Justifying Destruction of a Gaza Hospital Was From 2009, Gareth Porter, Sept. 6, 2014. A video distributed by the Israeli military in July suggesting that Palestinian fighters had fired from the Al Wafa Rehabilitation and Geriatric Hospital in Gaza City was not shot during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza, and both audio and video clips were manipulated to cover up the fact that they were from entirely different incidents, a Truthout investigation has revealed. The video, released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on July 23, the same day Israeli airstrikes destroyed Al Wafa, was widely reported by pro-Israeli publications and websites as proving that the hospital was destroyed because Hamas had turned the hospital into a military facility. But the video clip showing apparent firing from an annex to the hospital was actually shot during Israel's 2008-09 "Operation Cast Lead," and the audio clip accompanying it was from an incident unrelated to Al Wafa. Sept. 5 Reuters, Alabama federal judge resolves wife-beating charge with court program, Letitia Stein, Sept. 5, 2014. An Alabama federal district court judge facing accusations he beat his wife agreed on Friday to attend a 24-week program on family and domestic violence and undergo a substance abuse assessment to resolve the charges, his attorney said. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller, 55, was arrested last month and charged with a misdemeanor count of battery after his wife called police from an Atlanta hotel room to say he had hit her. "This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court," Fuller said in a statement in which he also expressed regret that his decision to accept a pre-trial diversion offer would likely prevent the full facts about what happened from coming out. Fuller has already begun voluntary treatment and counseling, and the court program was offered and approved with the support of Fuller's wife, according to his attorney, Barry Ragsdale. Fuller has already been tested for substance abuse and no issues were found, Ragsdale said. Fuller is shown during an Aug. 11 court appearance. Brookings Institution, Cuba and the Summits of the Americas, Richard Feinberg, Sept. 5, 2014. If the U.S. wants to keep the Summit of the Americas process on track and regain some measure of influence in the hemisphere, it will have to change its Cuba policy, pronto. Reframing our policy and saving the Summit process isn’t as tough as it seems; it just takes leadership. In coming months, the United States is going to face a tough choice: either alter its policy toward Cuba or face the virtual collapse of its diplomacy toward Latin America. The upcoming Summit of the Americas, the seventh meeting of democratically elected heads of state throughout the Americas, due to convene in April 2015 in Panama, will force the Obama administration to choose between its instincts to reset Cuba policy to coincide more closely with hemispheric opinion and its fears of a domestic political backlash. Brookings Institution, U.S. Billionaires Political Power Index, Darrell M. West, Sept. 5, 2014. Darrell West's U.S. Billionaires Political Power Index is a ranking of the top U.S. billionaires in terms of overall political power. There are a number of existing rankings that rate the net worth of billionaires, but no one has assessed their overall political influence. In his forthcoming Brookings Institution Press book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust, Darrell West examines the political use of great wealth, including campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership, and behind the scenes influence. 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. {source}

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Call to Action

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. The goal is 100,000 signatures, with more than 50,000 already. Siegelman is shown above with his wife (at center), son and daughter. He was re-imprisoned at age 67 in September 2012 for nearly six more years in Louisiana.

The Project has extensively documented injustice in the case. An unprecedented coalition of former law enforcers, scholars, and others has denounced the prosecution as selective punishment for a non-crime: As governor in 1999, Siegelman reappointed to an unpaid state board a donor to a non-profit foundation, with Siegelman receiving no money. For this, authorities destroyed his life with more than a dozen years of investigations costing taxpayers vast amounts. For background, see the official site by his supporters and our recent column.

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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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