December 2014 News Reports
Happy New Year!
The Justice Integrity Project thanks our readers for your interest and inputs.
We share our hopes for a happy holiday season and a New Year of health and happiness in a just, prosperous and peaceful society.
Editor's Choice: Scroll below for December 2014 news in our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views
President Reagan meets with publisher Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, lawyers Roy Cohn and Thomas Bolan in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library.)
Consortium News, Murdoch, Scaife and CIA Propaganda, Robert Parry, Dec. 31, 2014. Special Report: The rapid expansion of America’s right-wing media began in the 1980s as the Reagan administration coordinated foreign policy initiatives with conservative media executives, including Rupert Murdoch, and then cleared away regulatory hurdles. The Reagan administration pulled right-wing media executives Rupert Murdoch and Richard Mellon Scaife into a CIA-organized “perception management” operation which aimed Cold War-style propaganda at the American people in the 1980s, according to declassified U.S. government records. Although some records relating to Murdoch remain classified, several documents that have been released indicate that he and billionaire Scaife were considered sources of financial and other support for President Ronald Reagan’s hard-line Central American policies, including the CIA’s covert war in Nicaragua.
AP via Aljazeera America, Senators seek answers on FBI phone tracking, Staff report, Dec. 31, 2014. Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know about use of surveillance technology to gather basic cellphone data. Leaders of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday they were seeking answers from the Obama administration about federal law enforcement's use of surveillance technology that sweeps up basic cellphone data. In a bipartisan letter to the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Sens. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican, described a recent policy change by the FBI that they said had left them with additional questions about how the equipment was used and about what privacy protections were in place.
New York Post, New evidence Sony hack was ‘inside’ job, not North Korea, Staff report, Dec. 30, 2014. U.S. cybersecurity experts say they have solid evidence that a former employee helped hack Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer system — and that it was not masterminded by North Korean cyberterrorists. One leading cybersecurity firm, Norse Corp., said Monday it has narrowed its list of suspects to a group of six people — including at least one Sony veteran with the necessary technical background to carry out the attack, according to reports. The investigation of the Sony hacking by the private companies stands in stark contrast to the finding of the FBI, which said Dec. 19 its probe traced the hacking — which ended up foiling the planned wide release of the Hollywood studio’s “The Interview” — to North Korea.
RT via OpEdNews, Florida congressman barred from seeing classified sections of 9/11 inquiry, Staff report, Dec. 30, 2014. A request by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson to access a portion of a 2002 congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was denied by the House Intelligence Committee based on political reasons, the Florida Democrat said. Grayson's request pertains to 28 pages of Congress' Joint Inquiry that were ordered to be redacted by then-President George W. Bush. The congressman said his search stemmed from proposed legislation in the House that seeks to release the classified section to the public. Grayson, shown in a file photo, told BrowardBulldog.org that the House Intelligence Committee's vote to block his access of the classified sections amounted to a political attack.
Washington Post,The story of one of the Cold War’s greatest unsolved mysteries — and the new effort to solve it, Ishaan Tharoor, Dec. 30, 2014. Around midnight on Sept. 18, 1961, a plane carrying U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold crashed nine miles from its intended destination, the town of Ndola in Northern Rhodesia, now the independent republic of Zambia. The 56-year-old Swede and 15 other people aboard the aircraft perished. On Monday, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a motion asking current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent panel of experts to investigate new evidence that has come to light regarding the 1961 plane crash.
The Hill, Incoming Oversight chairman ponders information technology, Mario Trujillo, Dec. 18, 2014. The incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee announced the creation of a new information technology subpanel. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) vowed to reorganize the entire subcommittee structure when he takes over the gavel from current Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) next year. The information technology subcommittee with focus on cybersecurity, intellectual property, energy technologies, IT infrastructure and federal IT procurement. GOP Rep.-elect Will Hurd (Texas), a former CIA officer, was picked to lead the IT panel. According to his biography, Hurd worked for the cybersecurity firm Fusion X for the past four years, focusing on issues related to manufactures, financial institutions, retailers and infrastructure.
AP via Yahoo! Protests erupt after Putin foe found guilty, Nataliya Vasilyeva, Dec. 30, 2014. President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
Hollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone on Ukraine Protests: "The Truth Is Not Being Aired in the West," Ryan Gajewski, Dec. 30, 2014. The Savages director wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that the Central Intelligence Agency contributed to the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovych, whom Stone recently interviewed for the documentary he's directing about Russian president Vladimir Putin.
New York Times, When New York City Police Walk Off the Job, Editorial Board, Dec. 30, 2014. Many members of the New York Police Department are furious at Mayor Bill de Blasio and, by extension, the city that elected him. But now they seem to have taken their bitterness to a new and dangerous level — by walking off the job.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown in a 2013 campaign photo via Creative Commons.
AlterNet, Emails and Racist Chats Show How Cops and GOP Are Teaming Up to Undermine de Blasio, Max Blumenthal, Dec. 29, 2014. When hundreds of cops from around the country and as far away as Canada turned their backs on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, the NYPD officer shot to death alongside his partner Wenjian Liu by a deranged gunman, they fired the first salvo in a carefully coordinated political operation aimed at discrediting the liberal mayor and shattering the ongoing anti-police brutality protest movement. AlterNet has obtained emails revealing plans to organize a series of anti-de Blasio protests around the city until the summer of 2015. Billed as a non-partisan movement in support of “the men and women of the NYPD,” the protests are being orchestrated by a cast of NYPD union bosses and local Republican activists allied with Rudy Giuliani, right, the former mayor who recently called on de Blasio to “say you’re sorry to [NYPD officers] for having created a false impression of them.” The first rally is planned to take place at Queens Borough Hall at noon on January 13.
See also, Politico, The Police Are Still Out of Control; I should know, Frank Serpico, Oct. 23, 2014. Former New York City police detective Frank Serpico's heroic story as a corruption-fighting policeman was documented by the 1973 Hollywood film Serpico starring Al Pacino (shown in a poster) based on a best-selling biography by the late Peter Maas. Serpico, now 78, refused to take bribes and then battled with corrupt and complacent superiors.
OpEdNews, The Outlook for the New Year, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 29, 2014. Today the Russian government no longer has any illusion that Europe is capable of an independent foreign policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated publicly that Russia has learned that diplomacy with Europe is pointless, because European politicians represent Washington's interest, not Europe's.
Washington Post, Report says 120 Islamic State fighters executed — by Islamic State, Adam Taylor, Dec. 29, 2014. According to a new report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, at least 120 members of the Islamic State have been "executed" since the group proclaimed its caliphate in June. The purported number killed is large even when compared with reports of other executions carried out by the Islamic State. In total, SOHR says it documented at least 1878 executions by the Islamic State in the past six months. The vast majority of those killed were civilians, the group said, while 502 were soldiers of the Syrian regime and 81 were members of other rebel or Islamist groups.
This photo released via social media purportedly shows ISIS warriors in the Syrian city of Raqqa near the border of Iraq on Jan. 14, 2014.
Huffington Post, Charles Koch Wants To Change America's Criminal Justice System, Mollie Reilly, Dec. 28, 2014. Charles Koch, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Koch Industries and leading conservative mega-donor, has set his sights on a new goal: reforming America's criminal justice system. In an interview with the Wichita Eagle published Saturday, Koch said his own experiences in courts -- including the time a federal grand jury indicted Koch Industries on 97 counts of environmental crimes in 2000 -- prompted him to study the justice system at both the state and federal level. Koch pointed to sentencing as an area in desperate need of reform, arguing that sentences should be "more appropriate to the crime that has been committed." His new mission has precipitated some unlikely alliances.
AP via MSN, Police outside cop funeral turn backs on NY mayor, Jonathan Lemire and Mike Balsame, Dec. 27, 2014. Hundreds of officers outside the church where a funeral was held for a policeman killed along with his partner in an ambush shooting turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke during Saturday's service. The reaction from officers watching Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral on giant TV screens followed comments from police union officials who had said Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust that contributed to the killings of the two officers. Inside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, however, mourners gave de Blasio polite applause before and after his speech. The mayor said hearts citywide were aching after the Dec. 20 shootings that left Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, dead. Police union officials have blamed de Blasio for fostering anti-police sentiment for his support of protesters angry that no charges will be filed in the police deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. At a hospital after the officers' slayings, the police union's president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on de Blasio in a sign of disrespect. Lynch said the mayor had "blood on his hands." The mayor followed Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the roster of speakers eulogizing Ramos on Saturday.
National Press Club, More lowlights than highlights for press freedom in 2014, John M. Donnelly, Dec. 27, 2014. Press freedom and government transparency in 2014 regressed more than it progressed, according according to a year-end review by the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee. "While December saw flickers of progress for press freedom, the year mostly saw backsliding worldwide," NPC President Myron Belkind said. "Let's hope 2015 brings more respect for human rights in general and in particular for the right of the press to report freely on what people everywhere need to know."
On the plus side, the U.S. Department of Justice decided in December to end its long campaign to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal a confidential source. That same month, an appellate court overturned a lower court ruling that would have forced Joseph Hosey, a Patch.com reporter in Illinois, to identify an anonymous source.
The Hill, Secret Service allows unpaid volunteers to drive in president's motorcade, Meghashyam Mali, Dec. 27, 2014. The Secret Service regularly relies on unpaid, volunteers to drive vehicles in the president's motorcade, a practice critics warn posses a serious safety threat. The bulletproof vehicles at the front of the motorcade are staffed with Secret Service agents and the convoy is followed by local law enforcement and an ambulance. But the New York Times reported Friday that the motorcade vans used to transport staffers and reporters are often driven by young volunteers who lack any specialized training. The Secret Service defended the use of volunteer drivers, saying it has been practice since the 1980s. The drivers are "briefed by the Secret Service agent responsible for the motorcade prior to any movements," a spokesman told the paper.
Washington Post, Critical decisions after 9/11 led to slow, steady decline in quality for Secret Service, Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 27, 2014. The Secret Service began struggling to carry out its most basic duties after Congress and the George W. Bush administration expanded the elite law enforcement agency’s mission in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The recent string of security lapses at the White House resulted from a combination of tight budgets, bureaucratic battles and rapidly growing demands on the agency that have persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations in the 13 years since the attacks. The agency assumed new responsibilities monitoring crowds at an increasing number of major sporting events and other large gatherings seen as potential targets for terrorists.
New York Times, Christie Roams, and Popularity Suffers at Home, Kate Zernike, Dec. 27, 2014. With Governor Christie again considering a run for president, his constituents appear to be tiring of the whole routine. Christie’s favorability is at its lowest point, with more voters disapproving than approving of his job performance. New Jersey residents think he is making decisions with an eye on his national standing rather than on what is good for their state. They do not think he should run for president — they are, as the slogan goes, ready for Hillary — but most expect he will, and want him to resign if he does. Christie has begun living a life that is strikingly apart from the state he governs. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association over the last year, he spent 152 days, or 42 percent of his time, outside New Jersey.
Editor's Note: A White House photo in 2012 shows President Obama with then-aide and now CIA Director John O. Brennan. At the White House, Brennan managed the “kill lists” for drone strikes. Brennan was a career CIA officer and then head of a defense contractors association before becoming Obama's top national security advisor during the 2008 campaign. Given Obama's background documented in the book "Presidential Puppetry," Brennan might be regarded as a presidential "control officer" or "handler" as much as an "advisor."
After Scrutiny, C.I.A. Mandate Is Untouched, Mark Mazzzetti, Dec. 26, 2014. The scathing report the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered this month is unlikely to significantly change the role the C.I.A. now plays in running America’s secret wars. A number of factors — from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations — ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished, either during his waning years in the White House or for some time after that. The Church Committee’s revelations [in the mid 1970s] about the abuses committed by the intelligence community — and a parallel House investigation led by Representative Otis G. Pike of New York — came at the end of America’s wrenching military involvement in Vietnam, and during a period of détente with the Soviet Union. The disclosures of C.I.A. assassination schemes and spying on Vietnam War protesters fueled a post-Watergate fury among many Americans who had grown cynical about secret plots hatched in Washington. By contrast, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on C.I.A. excesses since the Sept. 11 attacks arrived in the midst of renewed fears of global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic State and grisly beheading videos of American hostages. A CBS News poll released last week found that though 69 percent of those asked consider waterboarding to be torture, 49 percent think that brutal interrogation methods are sometimes justified. More than half, 57 percent, believe that the tactics are at least sometimes effective in producing valuable intelligence to help stop terrorist attacks.
Washington Post, The movie ‘Selma’ has a glaring flaw, Joseph A. Califano Jr. Dec. 26, 2014. Joseph A. Califano Jr. was President Lyndon Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969. The makers of the new movie “Selma” apparently just couldn’t resist taking dramatic, trumped-up license with a true story that didn’t need any embellishment to work as a big-screen historical drama. As a result, the film falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself. In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him.
Huffington Post, NSA Fesses Up To Improper Surveillance Of U.S. Citizens, Igor Bobic, Dec. 26, 2014. The National Security Agency released hundreds of pages of heavily redacted documents Christmas Eve detailing instances of improper surveillance on U.S. citizens in the last 12 years. The batch of documents, stretching from the fourth quarter of 2001 to the second quarter of 2013, was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The reports shed more light on instances in which NSA employees either intentionally or unintentionally violated the law and collected the private data of American citizens.
Justice Integrity Project response comment to news media:
Advocates of due process and other freedoms should applaud NSA’s admissions of privacy violations while remembering also that spy agencies have long traditions of minimizing such admissions. “Limited hang-out” is the term they use. Courageous and well-qualified whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have described electronic surveillance and retrieval capabilities vastly greater than NSA has ever admitted. No oversight body has dared address the evidence in a public and thorough manner. Retrieval and reprisal are especially insidious tools since they can be used against anyone, including judges, legislators, and businesses, in ways almost undetectable by victims. In sum, piecemeal disclosures are better than nothing. But that is only a part of the story.
Washington Post, Obama hopes to enlist GOP in push for trade pact despite Democratic resistance, David Nakamura, Dec. 26, 2014. President Obama is preparing a major push on a vast free-trade zone that seeks to enlist Republicans as partners and test his premise that Washington can still find common ground on major initiatives. It also will test his willingness to buck his own party in pursuit of a legacy-burnishing achievement.
Bloomberg, China Steps In as World's New Bank, William Pesek, Dec. 25, 2014. Beijing's move to bail out Russia, on top of its recent aid for Venezuela and Argentina marks the beginning of the end for America's linchpin role in the global economy and Japan's influence in Asia. China stepping up its role as lender of last resort upends an economic development game that's been decades in the making. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank are bloated, change-adverse institutions. Chinese President Xi Jinping's government cares about loyalty. The quid pro quo: For our generous assistance we expect your full support on everything.
AP via Yahoo News, Americans appear comfortable with political dynasties, Nancy Benac, Dec. 25, 2014. Again? Really? What If It's Bush-Clinton in 2016? The possibility of a Bush-Clinton matchup in 2016 is increasingly plausible. After months of hints and speculation, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he's actively exploring a bid for the Republican nomination. Hillary Rodham Clinton is seen as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. Between them, the two potential rivals have three presidents and a U.S. senator in the branches of their family trees. And three governors, as well. A Sept. 8, 2014, file photo shows former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as they laugh together during the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program Launch at The Newseum in Washington.
FactCheck.org via Huffington Post, Here's The Part Of Alan Gross' Story That Obama Hasn't Been Talking About, Robert Farley, Dec. 24, 2014. In accounts from both sides of the aisle, recently-freed Alan Gross has been portrayed as a humanitarian simply trying to bring Internet access to Cuba’s small Jewish community. But there’s more to the story than that shorthand suggests. Although Gross entered Cuba on a handful of occasions on a tourist visa and purported to be a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, Gross (shown in a White House photo) was actually doing work as a subcontractor for a pro-democracy program funded by the U.S. government, work for which Gross was being paid about a half million dollars. Reporting by the Associated Press revealed that Gross was covertly bringing in technology known to be illegal in Cuba — equipment such as satellite phones and a chip that allows Internet use without detection. Reports obtained by the AP also revealed that Gross knew what he was doing was “very risky business” and that detection of the equipment would be “catastrophic.” For those unfamiliar with the full story, comments by Sen. Marco Rubio and President Barack Obama might suggest a purely innocuous purpose to Gross’ mission.
Al.com, Obama refuses to pardon Siegelman for acts less egregious than the president's, John Farmer, Dec. 24, 2014. John J. Farmer, Rutgers Law School, shown in a photo at left, is a professor of law at Rutgers University, and a former attorney general for the state of New Jersey. President Obama has acted like every one of his predecessors in rewarding his biggest political contributors. But if this time-honored tradition of appointing ambassadors and other officials based largely on political support is so obviously permissible, the question that should trouble the president's conscience is why, if he is willing to make such appointments, he is also content to leave people like [former Alabama Gov.] Don Siegelman in prison. A bipartisan and nonpartisan group of over 100 former state attorneys general -- myself among them -- participated as friends of the court in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the federal appeals court and U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Siegelman's conviction. More recently, as Dean of the Rutgers School of Law, I worked with law students from the Constitutional Litigation Clinic to look at every federal official corruption prosecution over the prior decade. The students' conclusion, as stated nearly two years ago in a Jan. 7, 2013, letter to Obama and the pardon attorney seeking a commutation of Siegelman's sentence, was stark: "the Siegelman conviction is readily distinguishable from every other contemporaneous corruption prosecution .... 'No charges have been brought against a politician where the quid pro quo is as far attenuated as in the present case.'"
Editor's Note: Siegelman is shown in a file photo at right. One the nation's best-known political prisoners was kept in prison garb and shackled during his appellate hearing this month, in which his attorney, former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig, argued unsuccessfully that Siegelman should be granted appeal bond while courts weigh his request for a new trial . He is serving a 78-month prison sentence largely for a 1999 appointment to a state board a donor to a non-profit. The one-term governor from 1999 to 2003, his state's most prominent Democrat, has been continuously investigated and prosecuted since 1999, resulting in convictions in 2006 and his 78-month prison sentence.
OpEdNews, Those Who Protect Bad Cops Have Blood on Their Hands, Perpetrate Criminal Cop Culture, Rob Kall, Dec. 23, 2014. For the culture that supports and defends criminality among police to change, the elements that maintain the culture must change. That means that the head of the "snake" -- Pat Lynch has to go. Unions with mentalities that back up criminal police officers have to go. Pat Lynch, the head of the largest NY Police union -- PBA -- has blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Attorney General Eric Holder for the killings of two police officers, saying their blood is on de Blasio's hands. It ends up that Lynch has attacked every one of the past six mayors of NYC. Lynch is an attack dog. Lynch is a huge part of the problem with police who kill. As leader of a large union, that makes the union a major part of the problem.
Salon, Elizabeth Warren’s real beef with Antonio Weiss: What her fight against him is actually about, David Dayen, Dec. 23, 2014. The Senate adjourned last week without dealing with the nomination of Antonio Weiss, shown in a photo, for Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance, the No. 3 position in the agency. Weiss’ nomination has sparked a backlash among progressive Democrats, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren, largely because of his two-decade career making international merger deals at the boutique investment bank Lazard. The nomination has become a proxy fight for a battle inside the Democratic Party over how to handle the financial industry. The common theme around Weiss’ work is that he engages in deals that reward top executives, while rank-and-file workers get the shaft.
Strategic Culture Foundation, Pre-Emptive U.S. Cyber-Attack on North Korea Will Have Far-Reaching Consequences, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 23 2014. Author and political commentator Wayne Madsen is a former Navy intelligence officer and vice president for a major defense contractor. The United States used the flimsiest of evidence to justify a massive attack on the rudimentary Internet servicing the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea. By launching what amounts to a pre-emptive cyber-attack on North Korea, a nuclear-armed power, the Obama administration has, once again, shown that it is as apt to use force over diplomacy and bluster over reasoning.
President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and (from left) Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenant (sitting), Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pose in a White House photo in December 2001.
New York Times, Prosecute Torturers, Editorial Board, Dec. 22, 2014 print edition. Since the day President Obama took office, he has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects — an official government program conceived and carried out in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed. Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down. These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture. So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.
Any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
Raw Story, New York Times calls for Cheney, Bush officials to be investigated and prosecuted for torture, Tom Boggioni, Dec. 22. 2014. In a blistering editorial published in the Monday edition of the New York Times, the editorial page editors are calling upon the Justice Department to open an investigation into the torture practices committed during the administration of President George W. Bush with an eye towards prosecuting those who “committed torture and other serious crimes,” along with former Vice President Dick Cheney and other major administration officials.
Roll Call, Six Degrees of Terri Sewell, Abby Livingston, Dec. 22, 2014. Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell of Alabama is one of only a handful of people who can say she knew Barack and Michelle Obama before they knew even each other. Her friendship with Kirsten Gillibrand goes back so far that Sewell calls New York’s junior senator by an old nickname: “Tina.” Sewell’s youthful encounters with future prominent leaders are notable, even for the standards of the Ivy League schools she attended. But the self-described “little girl from Selma” says a greater force was at work.
See also, Birmingham News, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell calls for (Don Siegelman judge) Mark Fuller's impeachment, Nov. 13, 2014. Embattled U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is still in office, leading U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell to urge ranking House Judiciary members to investigate the possibility of his impeachment.
Legal Schnauzer, Courts continue to deny discovery on Leura Canary's 'recusal,' pointing to a cover-up in Siegelman case, Roger Shuler, Dec. 22, 2014. The primary thrust of last week's Don Siegelman story, on the surface, was whether the former Alabama governor would be released from federal prison, pending an appeal before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit in January. New judge Clay Land (shown in a photo), on the case in the wake of the Mark Fuller wife-beating scandal, denied Siegelman's request for release--and that was at the heart of almost all news coverage. Beneath the surface, and somewhat buried in Land's 31-page opinion, was an issue that is much darker and potentially explosive. In fact, it points to a cover-up of criminal behavior that, if fully exposed, could rock our democracy. We're talking about discovery, specifically an inquiry into the supposed recusal of Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney over the Middle District of Alabama, where the Siegelman case was held. On page 3 of his order, Land states that discovery on the Canary recusal is one of three issues Siegelman raises on appeal--then the judge waits until the final four pages to address it, stating that "the Court leaves the most difficult issue for last." Siegelman presented evidence that Leura Canary had a financial interest in his case. Thanks to whistleblower Tamarah Grimes, he presented evidence that Canary did not abide by her announced recusal. Part of Siegelman's case before Land was a request to conduct formal discovery on the issue of Canary and her failure to fully recuse. By my unofficial count, Land became the sixth judge to deny such discovery.
Cornell Ezra Update, Alumna's 'Ithaca Diaries' recounts transformative times, H. Roger Segelken, Dec. 22, 2014. Whenever they went to college, most everyone thinks their undergraduate years were a noteworthy epoch of personal and societal transformation. Not everyone was at Cornell between 1966 and 1970, though, and even fewer kept detailed, heartfelt journals during that turbulent period. Beginning a few years ago, Anita M. Harris '70 reread her journals, which had been stashed in cardboard boxes for more than four decades, and wrote Ithaca Diaries: Coming of Age in the 1960s (Cambridge Common Press, 2014, shown at right).
Huffington Post, MH370 Was Hacked And Shot Down By American Air Force Says Airline Boss Marc Dugain, Ryan Barrell, Dec. 22, 2014. Doomed flight MH370 was shot down by the United States after being remotely hacked, a former airline boss has claimed. Ex-Proteus Airlines head Marc Dugain has added to mountains of conspiracy theories surrounding the missing aircraft by suggesting the US Air Force blew the plane out of the sky. Fearing a 9/11 style terror attack, the USA took action from the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia after learning hackers had taken control of the Malaysia Airlines plane, Dugain claims.
Associated Press, AP poll: Police killings of blacks voted top story of 2014, David Crary, Dec. 22, 2014. The police killings of unarmed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere — and the investigations and tumultuous protests they inspired — was the top news story of 2014, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors. In a year crowded with dramatic and often wrenching news developments around the world, the No. 2 story was the devastating outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, followed by the conflict in Iraq and Syria fueled by the brutal actions of Islamic State militants. Among the 85 voters casting ballots, first-place votes were spread among 15 different stories. The Ferguson entry received 22 first-place votes, Ebola 11 and the Islamic State.
OpEdNews, The JFK Case: The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend; (Part 11: The Paines Carry the Weight), Bill Simpich, Dec. 21, 2014. The premise of this series is that Oswald had twelve people who built his legend. Many people still believe the legend about Oswald being "a loner." As this series shows, Oswald was many things, but a loner was not one of them. His ability to provoke people and work both sides of the political spectrum had the intelligence agencies viewing him as an asset. Let's turn to a liberal couple that moved to the Dallas suburb of Irving in 1959 -- during the same week that Oswald came to visit his mother in Irving before he left for the USSR. When Oswald came back to the area in 1962, the Paines were still there. It was like they had been waiting for him. Michael Paine was legend maker #12 for Lee Oswald, while his wife Ruth Paine (shown in a file photo) focused on taking care of Marina Oswald and the children. Like most of the legend makers, I think the Paines were manipulated as much as the Oswalds were. We have seen two CIA officers as legend makers -- Richard Snyder and Anne Goodpasture -- who I think had a pretty good idea of how they were being used to massage the Oswald legend. The Paines appear to be confused right up to 11/22/63. Although the Paines appear to be government assets rather than agents, I suspect that they knew about the government's need to keep an eye on Oswald. They probably thought that they were helping out the CIA, the State Department, or Bob Odum at the local FBI office. I do not believe that they played any role in planning the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Washington Post, The FAA gave six filmmakers permission to fly drones; After pressure from Hollywood, safety inspectors’ drone fears are overruled, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 21 2014. Senior FAA officials did not heed objections from some of its safety inspectors, who said after a formal review that the filmmakers’ plans were too risky. The warning turned out to be prescient. Several FAA employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation or losing their jobs, said supervisors are pressuring analysts to rubber-stamp the applications without a rigorous safety review.
AP via Al.com, Former candidate calls for new party leadership, Phillip Rawls, Dec. 21, 2013. The Democratic nominee for governor, Parker Griffith, is calling for new leadership in his party after losing by the largest margin since Alabama became a two-party state. The former congressman from Huntsville said his party is divided into factions that don't work together and can't raise money.
Washingtonian, How David Gregory Lost His Job, Luke Mullins, Dec. 21, 2014. Last summer, David Gregory was let go from his gig as host of "Meet the Press." Here's an inside look at his fall from the top—and what it says about the state of TV news. From the start, it was clear the Comcast regime was going to take a more hands-on approach with NBC than GE had. The innocent, even positive, explanation for this is that Comcast knew more about making good television than its industrial predecessor did. The more worrying interpretation—especially to some in the news division—was that the company saw the Washington bureau as a way to win goodwill among the Beltway powers who might green-light its continued expansion. The Comcast/NBC deal faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators who worried that this kind of industry consolidation and vertical integration would squelch competition. Minority advocates weren’t thrilled about the idea, either. They were concerned the merger might reduce diversity throughout the industry. To rally political support for the merger, Comcast’s political-action committee handed out campaign cash, and super-connected political fixer named David L.Cohen worked to head off the concerns over diversity. Between 2008 and 2010, Comcast’s corporate foundation donated more than $3 million to 39 minority groups that wrote letters to federal regulators in support of the NBC deal. Comcast and NBC Universal also worked out an agreement with advocacy groups guaranteeing increased “minority participation in news and public affairs programming”—so long as the deal went through. And in 2009 and 2010, Comcast gave $155,000 to an organization founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton, who ended up endorsing the merger.
Lancaster (PA) Online, Shoppers and security watch as nearly 100 stage ‘die-in’ at center court, Jeff Hawkes, Dec. 21, 2014. Saying black lives matter, nearly 100 protesters staged a short, nondisruptive die-in Saturday in the middle of bustling Park City Center in Lancaster. Amid festive decorations, holiday shoppers watched respectfully as protesters lay in a compact cluster for four minutes and 30 seconds, one minute for each hour the body of Michael Brown lay on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. The Aug. 9 shooting of the black, unarmed teen by a white police officer has prompted protests around the country.
Strategic Culture Foundation, How the CIA Launched the "Financial Pearl Harbor" Attacks on Russia and Venezuela, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 20, 2014. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan's long familiarity with Saudi Arabia has paid off. It is owing to the time he spent there as the CIA station chief in Riyadh in the 1990s and his knowledge of Saudi oil operations. The Saudis, who are not known for their hands-on knowledge of their nation’s own oil industry, agreed to what became an oil pricing catastrophe that would affect Saudi Arabia and oil-producing nations around the world from Russia and Venezuela to Nigeria and Indonesia.
AP via Washington Post, Report: FBI’s anthrax investigation was flawed, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2014. This undated image attached to an email sent Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001 by Bruce Ivins shows Ivins handling “cultures of the now infamous ‘Ames’ strain of Bacillus anthracis” at his lab according to the text of the message. The Government Accountability Office says the science the FBI used to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks was flawed. The GAO released a report Friday on its findings. The agency didn’t take a position on the FBI’s conclusion that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins acted alone in making and sending the powdered spores that killed five people and sickened 17 others. The report adds fuel to the debate among experts, including many of Ivins’ co-workers at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, over whether Ivins, shown in a photo, could have made and mailed the anthrax-filled envelopes. (Associated Press)
The FBI used flawed scientific methods to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, federal auditors said Friday in a report sure to fuel skepticism over the FBI’s conclusion that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator. The 77-page report from the Government Accountability Office says the FBI’s research, including novel microbial forensic tests, did not provide a full understanding of how bacteria change in their natural environment and in a laboratory. This failure to grasp the reason for genetic mutations that were used to differentiate between samples of anthrax bacteria was a “key scientific gap” in the investigation, the report says.
See also: The 2001 Anthrax Deception: The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy by Graeme MacQueen. But see, for contrary view, Los Angeles Times, The anthrax killings: A troubled mind, David Willman, May 29, 2011. Bruce Ivins, who became a respected Army scientist and an authority on the laboratory use of anthrax, had a penchant for vendettas, especially against women.
Washington Spectator, Jeb Bush’s Ethical Blind Spot, Lou Dubose, Dec. 19, 2014. Did the Republican hopeful help a Miami hustler defraud his shareholders? The collapse of InnoVida Holdings LLC in 2011 didn’t get much traction in the media. In South Florida, a small group of investors lost more than $40 million on a scheme to market hurricane and earthquake-resistant homes assembled from prefabricated plastic panels. The story resurfaced in the New York Times in April because it involved former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, shown at right, a director and a marketing consultant for InnoVida. A criminal investigation sent its two top executives to jail. He had returned to the private sector with a modest net worth of $1.3 million, lagging behind his brothers. George W. made $14 million on the sale of his partial ownership of the Texas Rangers while he was governor of Texas. Jeb had earned $3.2 million since leaving office. The InnoVida scam wiped out every dime of shareholder wealth.
HuffPost Live, For a Media That Worships Power, Bush vs. Clinton Is a Dream Matchup, Alyona Minkovski, Dec. 19, 2014. A Clinton-Bush matchup in 2016 is looking more likely by the day. The prospect of becoming president seems increasingly reserved for those who have a husband, brother, or father who has previously held the position. American Democracy is now controlled by political dynasties. All the more disturbing are the recent reports describing the close bond the two families have developed. I'm not saying they shouldn't be friends, but a tight knit ruling class breaks down the illusion of the great partisan divide. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald told me on HuffPost Live this week, Wall Street is giddy about the option of either candidate. While technically we're still dealing with the hypothetical, the speculation-obsessed media doesn't seem all that bothered by the prospect either. That's what happens when we treat politicians like celebrities and exchange paychecks for access.
USA Today, CIA official to become deputy national security adviser, David Jackson, Dec. 19, 2014. Avril Haines, 43, a former legal adviser to the National Security Council who moved to the number two slot at the CIA, is returning to the White House as deputy national security adviser. The 2001 graduate of Georgetown's law school was the highest-ranking woman in the CIA's history. See also, New York Daily News, New CIA deputy Avril Haines hosted erotica readings in the ’90s, Adam Edelman, June 13, 2013.
Al.com, Clemency for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman overwhelmingly favored by AL.com readers, Jim Stinson, Dec. 19, 2014. When it comes to former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his transgressions, AL.com readers are in a forgiving mood. By a margin of almost 50 points, AL.com readers believe Siegelman should have his sentence commuted. The readers' poll found 70.8 percent, or 897 respondents, believe Siegelman should get a commutation.
Washington Post, The worst Congress ever, Dana Milbank, Dec. 19, 2014. A historically dysfunctional session. The 113th Congress was responsible for the 16-day government shutdown in 2013. The legislative term also saw the criminal indictment of one House Republican on tax-evasion charges (he was reelected), the resignation of another after a cocaine arrest and the defeat of a third who was caught on film kissing a staffer. Perhaps that’s because they had so little work to do: A Politico count found that the Senate was in session 141 days per year on average in this Congress, and the House 147 days. Lawmakers passed into law not a single one of the 12 annual appropriations bills this year and no budget resolution. The House voted on seven of the spending bills, and the Senate didn’t vote on a single one. Instead, they passed a series of continuing resolutions that left government spending on autopilot — further squeezing domestic programs and the military while doing little to curb entitlement programs that threaten the nation’s finances.
Washington Post, Rein in the SEC, Mark Cuban and Thomas Melsheimer, Dec. 19, 2014. The commission is rigging the game.
Executive Intelligence Review, Oil Plunge Can Trigger ‘Subprime’ Debt Crash, Paul Gallagher, Dec. 19, 2014. What began as a British-Saudi financial warfare weapon against Russia and Iran — the so-called “oil sanction” — is turning into an unpredictably bouncing hand grenade which may blow out a large debt bubble over the bankrupt U.S. economy. Is it a coincidence that Republican leaders in Congress are in a strong push, with Wall Street, to pass legislation to allow commodity derivatives, among other types of these financial weapons of mass destruction, to be put under FDIC insurance?
Judiciary, How the Nuclear Option Changed the Judiciary, Niels Lesniewski, Dec. 19, 2014. A little more than a year after Senate Democrats deployed the “nuclear option” to effectively change the Senate rules on nominations with a simple majority, Democrats up and down Pennsylvania Avenue generally seem happy with the changes, even as the Senate shifts to Republican control for 2015. White House Counsel Neil Eggleston on Wednesday highlighted the 134 judges confirmed in the 113th Congress alone, saying that was 44 percent of the total confirmed during President Barack Obama’s tenure. That number included 132 federal district and circuit judges, according to Senate Democrats.
OpEdNews, Regime Change In Cuba, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in photo), Dec. 19, 2014. Before the American left and the Cuban government find happiness in the normalization, they should consider that with normalization comes American money and a US Embassy. The American money will take over the Cuban economy. The embassy will be a home for CIA operatives to subvert the Cuban government. The embassy will provide a base from which the US can establish NGOs whose gullible members can be called to street protest at the right time, as in Kiev, and the embassy will make it possible for Washington to groom a new set of political leaders. In short, normalization of relations means regime change in Cuba. Soon Cuba will be another of Washington's vassal states.
New York Times, Panel to Advise Against Penalty for C.I.A.’s Computer Search, Matt Apuzzo and Mark Mazzetti, Dec. 20, 2014. A panel investigating the agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.'s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone, officials said.
New Yorker, The Unidentified Queen of Torture, Jane Mayer, Dec. 18, 2014. For the past eight months, there has been a furious battle raging behind closed doors at the White House, the C.I.A., and in Congress. The question has been whether the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence would be allowed to use pseudonyms as a means of identifying characters in the devastating report it released last week on the C.I.A.’s abusive interrogation and detention program. Ultimately, the committee was not allowed to, and now we know one reason why. The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together a remarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman whom he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.
Montgomery Advertiser, Don Siegelman denied motion for release from prison, Brian Lyman, Dec. 18, 2014. A federal judge Thursday denied former Gov. Don Siegelman release from prison while an appeal of his 2006 conviction on corruption charges goes forward. In a 30-page decision, U.S. District Judge Clay Land, shown in a file photo, wrote that while he believed the record contained evidence that might support the former governor's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, previous rulings by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals made it unlikely that Siegelman's motion for a new trial would succeed.
FireDogLake, To Improve Assassination Operations, CIA Studies Failures of Colonial Powers to Combat Resistance, Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 18, 2014. WikiLeaks has released a copy of a secret CIA analysis, which reviewed the success of “High Value Target” (HVT) assassination programs used by governments to combat insurgencies. The review shows the CIA is learning lessons from colonial powers that have failed to suppress revolutions and also demonstrates that relying on lethal strikes to combat insurgencies has often failed to succeed. It is dated July 7, 2009, which means it was put together before President Barack Obama escalated use of drones to kill leaders of insurgent groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Alan Gross talks on the phone with President Barack Obama onboard a government plane during the flight from Cuba to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Dec. 17, 2014. Gross was released after five years in a Cuban prison. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson.)
Washington Post, Obama moves to normalize relations with Cuba as American is released by Havana, Karen DeYoung and Brian Murphy, Dec. 17, 2014. President Obama announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy with Cuba on Wednesday, moving to normalize relations with the island nation and tear down the last remaining pillar of the Cold War. Under the new measures, the United States plans to reopen its embassy in Havana and significantly ease restrictions on travel and commerce within the next several weeks and months, Obama said. Speaking from the White House, he declared that a half-century of isolation of the communist country “has not worked.” Cuba agreed to release Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor imprisoned for five years, on humanitarian grounds. The Cubans also released an unnamed U.S. intelligence asset held for two decades, and in exchange U.S. officials released three Cuban nationals convicted of spying in 2001.
Truthout, How the CIA Covered Up Its Lie on Torture and bin Laden, Gareth Porter, Dec. 17, 2014. A report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Dec. 9, 2014 discredits the often-repeated notion that the torture of detainees was instrumental in locating Osama bin Laden. The report presents detailed evidence based on reviewing millions of pages of CIA documents that the identification of bin Laden's courier who was eventually found to be living with the al-Qaeda leader in the Abbottabad compound had nothing to do with the CIA torture program.
White House photo of President Obama
White House, Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes, President Obama, Dec. 17, 2014. "Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas." (White House photo.)
See also AP via Huffington Post, U.S., Cuba Seek To Normalize Relations, Staff report, Dec. 17, 2014.
Washington Post, Cuba deal opens front for U.S. political clashes, Karen Tumulty and Anne Gearan, Dec. 17, 2014. GOP critics denounced Obama’s move as overreaching and naive, but there’s growing public support to end the divide. Obama acts to reestablish ties In 15 minutes, Obama showcases entire foreign policy philosophy.
Washington Post, Cuba frees American Alan Gross after 5 years detention on spy charges, Brian Murphy, Dec. 17, 2014. Cuba has freed American Alan Gross after five years in custody as part of a deal that also included the release of three Cubans jailed in the United States, a senior Obama administration official and news reports said. The exchange also could open the way for political openings between Washington and Havana, which has been under U.S. sanctions for more than four decades.
Daily Beast, Exclusive: Sony Emails Say State Department Blessed Kim Jong-Un Assassination in ‘The Interview,’ William Boot, Dec. 17, 2014. CEO Michael Lynton showed a rough cut of the movie to U.S. officials before moving ahead. Now hackers are threatening to bomb any theater that shows it. The Daily Beast has unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing. The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime. Back on June 20, the first threat lobbed by North Korean officials against the holiday blockbuster seemed as empty as a North Korean villager’s lunch box. The Seth Rogen/James Franco-starrer centers on a TV host and his producer being tasked by the CIA with assassinating North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un.
Washington Post, Jeb Bush’s decision to explore presidential bid scrambles the 2016 GOP field, Matea Gold and Philip Rucker, Dec. 16, 2014. Jeb Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he is actively exploring a 2016 presidential run scrambles the large Republican field, thrusting him to the front of the pack and locking up a huge swath of longtime party fundraisers being wooed by other candidates. Bush, the 61-year-old son of one president and the brother of another, declared in a Facebook post Tuesday that he intends to set up a leadership PAC in January to “discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation.”
Truthdig via Information Clearing House, Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking, Dennis Kucinich, Dec. 16, 2014. Former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich, shown in an official photo, served 16 years in the House as a Democrat. Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a far-reaching Russia sanctions bill, a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict. The second provocative anti-Russian legislation in a week, it further polarizes our relations with Russia, helping to cement a Russia-China alliance against Western hegemony, and undermines long-term America’s financial and physical security by handing the national treasury over to war profiteers. Here’s how the House’s touted “unanimity” was achieved: At 10:23:54 p.m. on Thursday, a member rose to ask “unanimous consent” for four committees to be relieved of a Russia sanctions bill. No one objected, because no one was watching for last-minute bills to be slipped through. The Congressional Record will show only three of 425 members were present. According to the clerk’s records, once the bill was considered, it was passed, at 10:23:55 p.m., without objection, in one recorded, time-stamped second, unanimously. Then the House adjourned. I discovered, in my 16 years in Congress, that many members seldom read the legislation on which they vote. On Oct. 24, 2001, House committees spent long hours debating the Patriot Act. At the last minute, the old bill was swapped out for a version with draconian provisions. I voted against that version of the Patriot Act, because I read it. The legislative process requires attention.
New York Times, C.I.A., on Path to Torture, Chose Haste Over Analysis, James Risen and Matt Apuzzo, Dec. 16, 2014. James Mitchell, a former Air Force trainer, designed, led and directed the interrogations along with a partner, and the two became the prime advocates for what is now widely considered to have been torture.
David Swanson.org, The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again, David Swanson, Dec. 16, 2014. Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads "Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama's executive order. It's time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban." Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain. Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies.
Washington Post, An abrupt end for the least productive Congress in modern history, Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan, Dec. 16, 2014. “Thank God it’s over,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said as he left the chamber after the final vote.
Truthout, Rev. Edward Pinkney Imprisoned for Fighting the Whirlpool Corporation, Victoria Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik, Dec. 16, 2014. On Dec. 15, Rev. Edward Pinkney, a leader in the struggle for social and economic justice for the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was sentenced to serve up to 10 years in prison, on the basis of thin circumstantial evidence that a few dates had been altered on a recall petition against the city's mayor, James Hightower. The recall was prompted by the mayor's continued support for tax evasion by the Whirlpool Corporation, the Fortune 500 company and $19 billion global appliance manufacturer, headquartered in Benton Harbor. The politically motivated prosecution against Pinkney killed the petition to recall Hightower, who many believe would have been ousted due to his ongoing protection of Whirlpool's interests at the expense of impoverished Benton Harbor, which is over 90 percent African-American. There was absolutely no evidence to convict Pinkney, and, legally, the altering of a petition document should have been a misdemeanor offense. Instead, they charged him with felony forgery -- though no signatures were forged and all signatories testified that they signed willingly on the correct day. A forensics expert for the prosecution testified that there was no way to determine who changed the handful of dates. Incredibly, the all-white jury was urged by the prosecutor to believe that direct evidence was not required; they only had to "believe" that Pinkney was motivated to cheat and that he "could" have changed the dates while circulating the petitions. Mary Alice Adams, a Benton Harbor commissioner stated, "Rev. Pinkney was accused of writing and changing my date on a petition when, in fact, I wrote my own date and changed it after realizing I had put the wrong date down." The jury at Pinkney's trial rejected Adams' testimony. Witness after witness stood up to the prosecutor who put not only Pinkney on trial, but also his community organization, BANCO. The prosecutor hounded the witnesses to "confess" that somehow the dates were altered, and questioned if they were card-holding members of the BANCO organization. The scene held shadows of a McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt.
Pinkney is shown in a family photo.
Washington Post, Elizabeth Warren was right: The links between Citigroup and government run deep, Matt O'Brien and Darla Cameron, Dec. 16, 2014. Elizabeth Warren made in a big speech last week, expressing anger that Citigroup and other big banks were able to weaken a key Wall Street regulation in the new government spending bill.
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is shown in a CBS News file photo form a 2008 60 Minutes segment presenting evidence he was prosecuted for political reasons.
AL.com, Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman could soon be released from prison, Jim Stinson, Dec. 15, 2014. Looking thin and dressed in a reddish jumpsuit with a chain around his waist, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman appeared on Monday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, asking for temporary release from prison as he awaits a new appeal. Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted by a federal court in 2006 on bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in connection for appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a place on a health planning board in return for a $500,000 donation to the governor's campaign for a statewide lottery. Scrushy also served prison time for the scheme, but was released in 2012. Siegelman is serving a 78-month term. Of that, he has served more than 35 months. Siegelman is to be released in 2017, but is seeking early release through appeal.
New York Times, Court to Rule on Freeing Don Siegelman, Ex-Governor of Alabama, Alan Blinder, Dec. 15, 2014. A federal judge said Monday that he expected to decide by the end of the week whether to order the release of Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, as he again appeals corruption convictions that sent him to prison and became a flash point in this state’s political scene. The judge, Clay D. Land, shown in a file photo, laid out his plan after hearing about an hour of oral arguments.
AP via Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Scalia and Kagan praise each other at Ole Miss, Jeff Amy, Dec. 15, 2014. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan were full of warm praise for each other Monday, saying that their common ground often overrides their ideological differences on the nation’s high court. “We have a really collegial court,” Kagan told an audience of about 900 people at a forum organized by the University of Mississippi School of Law. “Sometimes you like people you agree with and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you like people you disagree with and sometimes you don’t.” Scalia, as is his style, put a sharper point on it. “If you can’t disagree on the law without taking it personally, find another day job,” he said. “You shouldn’t be an appellate judge.”
Reuters, Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil, Mohamad Bazzi, Dec. 15, 2014. Today, Saudi Arabia is using its “oil weapon.” The kingdom has refused to cut its production. The consequences of Saudi policy are impossible to ignore. After two years of stable prices at around $105 to $110 a barrel, Brent blend, the international benchmark, fell from $112 a barrel in June to around $65 on Friday. The kingdom has two targets in its latest oil war: it is trying to squeeze U.S. shale oil—which requires higher prices to remain competitive with conventional production—out of the market. More broadly, the Saudis are also punishing two rivals, Russia and Iran, for their support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia is playing a dangerous game—there is little evidence that authoritarian regimes like Russia and Iran would change their behavior under economic pressure. Worse, the Saudi policy could backfire, making Russia and especially Iran more intransigent in countering Saudi influence in the Middle East.
BBC, Could Aleppo plan cut Syrian bloodshed? Lyse Doucet, Dec. 15, 2014. Four years into a punishing war, the West is still in search of a Syria strategy. Now the EU is trying to find its own voice on this deepening crisis as its foreign ministers sit down with their new foreign policy chief in Brussels.
Gallup, 2014 U.S. Approval of Congress Remains Near All-Time Low, Rebecca Riffkin, Dec. 15, 2014. Story Highlights: In 2014, an average of 15% of Americans approved of Congress: Yearly approval averages have not exceeded 20% for five years: and The same percentage (15%) of Republicans and Democrats approved. Americans' job approval rating for Congress averaged 15% in 2014, close to the record-low yearly average of 14% found last year. The highest yearly average was measured in 2001, at 56%. Yearly averages haven't exceeded 20% in the past five years, as well as in six of the past seven years.
FireDoglake, Making All the People Unhappy All the Time, Jon Walker, Dec. 15, 2014. Congress’s overall approval rating continues to remain extremely bad, but in their terribleness they have managed to achieve something that would be impressive if it wasn’t so depressing. Gallup found that disapproval with Congress is basically equal among all political groups. Regular Republicans, Democrats and Independents all have an almost identically bad opinion of Congress.
Paul Craig Roberts.org, Former UK Ambassador Describes What Happens to People with Integrity Who Have the Misfortune to End Up in Government Positions, Former British Ambassador To Uzbekistan Craig Murray (shown in a photo), Dec. 15, 2014. Put Blair and Straw on Trial For Torture. In the summer of 2004, I warned Tony Blair’s Foreign Office that Britain was using intelligence material which had been obtained by the CIA under torture. Two months later I was sacked as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan on the orders of Downing Street, bringing to an end my 20-year diplomatic career. My career had been destroyed by politicians who wanted to hide their complicity in human rights abuses. To complete the process, they then trashed my reputation with smears. It is a terrible indictment of our society that I was the only person in a position of authority who was trying to stop it. The British Government continues to cover up the truth even today. We should not forget that the climate of public and media opinion which made it possible for this US Senate report to be published at all was generated entirely by the work of whistleblowers.
Washington Spectator, Cheney’s Depraved Defense of Torture, Lou Debose, Dec. 15, 2014. The former vice president ignores the innocent victims. Dick Cheney was one of the architects of the torture program the CIA ran in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a functioning democracy, the former president and vice president, along with those all the way down the chain of command, would be prosecuted. First, torture is illegal. Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113C of the U.S. Code defines torture, declares it a crime, and proscribes punishment up to 20 years in prison—or the death penalty if torture causes the death of the victim. No exception allows torture of “a suspect,” or even the torture of someone who is proven guilty. Torture is also profoundly immoral and flies in the face of American values. Senator John McCain makes this point when he said the “CIA stained our national honor.” Cheney’s argument imakes the case for the pragmatic use of torture, then suggests that all the people tortured by the CIA were part of the Al Qaida plot. Cheney ignores the innocent victims of torture. Consider Murat Kurnaz.
President Obama with John O. Brennan in 2012. At the White House, Brennan managed the “kill lists” for drone strikes. White House Photo.
New York Times, Brennan Draws on Bond With Obama in Backing C.I.A., Peter Baker and Mark Mazzetti, Dec. 14, 2014. Just hours before he publicly responded last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee report accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of torture and deceit, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A.’s director, stopped by the White House to meet with President Obama. Ostensibly, he was there for an intelligence briefing. But the messages delivered later that day by the White House and Mr. Brennan were synchronized, even down to similar wording, and the larger import of the well-timed visit was hardly a classified secret: After six years of partnership, the president was standing by the embattled spy chief even as fellow Democrats called for his resignation.
Huffington Post, Dick Cheney Would Torture Again, Matt Sledge, Dec. 14, 2014. Dick Cheney gave an unflinching defense of he CIA's post-9/11 torture program on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, dismissing criticisms of the program's forced rectal feedings, waterboarding and deaths. "It worked. It absolutely did work," said Cheney, a driving force behind the George W. Bush administration's use of harsh tactics in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Senate report on the interrogation program details forced rectal feedings that were medically unnecessary. But on Sunday, Cheney said the feedings were done for "medical reasons." The former vice president showed little remorse for the dozens of prisoners who were found to have been wrongfully detained, for the man who died in the program, or for people like Khaled El-Masri -- a German citizen who was shipped off to Afghanistan and sodomized in a case of mistaken identity. "I'd do it again in a minute," said Cheney. He also spoke repeatedly of how the program was justified to get the "bastards" who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
Al.com, Former Governor Don Siegelman will be in court for Monday release hearing, Leada Gore, Dec. 14, 2014. Imprisoned former governor Don Siegelman will be appearing in U.S. District Court on Monday in as a judge decides if he can be released while appealing his case. Siegelman was convicted in 2006 on bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in connection for appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a place on a health planning board in return for a $500,000 donation to the governor's campaign for a statewide lottery. Scrushy also served prison time for the scheme but was released in 2012. Siegelman, who maintains his prosecution was politically motivated, is serving a 78-month sentence at the federal prison in Louisiana and is scheduled to be released in 2017. A previous ruling on the case meant Siegelman would have to remain behind bars during the appeal. However, the judge hearing the case, Mark Fuller, has been on leave since August after being arrested on domestic violence charges in connection to an Atlanta incident involving his wife. The new judge, Clay Land, scheduled the hearing on the appeal issue.
Huffington Post, Matt Ferner, Former Senator Mike Gravel To Run Marijuana Company, Dec. 30, 2014. Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) is the new CEO of a marijuana company that produces cannabis-infused products for both recreational and medical use, the company announced Tuesday. The Alaskan Democrat and 2008 presidential contender will lead KUSH, a subsidiary owned by Cannabis Sativa, Inc. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson serves as CEO of Cannabis Sativa, and Gravel is on that company's board of directors. KUSH will develop and market new marijuana-infused products under Gravel's leadership, the company said in a press release. In 1971, Gravel began an epic filibuster where he read the Pentagon Papers, first released by Daniel Ellsberg, during a meeting of his Senate Buildings and Grounds Subcommittee . Gravel was able to enter the remaining thousands of pages from the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record -- thereby ensuring they would be public before the Supreme Court could rule on whether or not the controversial documents could be published in the press.
New York Times, Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill, Joining House, Ashley Parker and Robert Pear, Dec. 13, 2014. After moments of high drama, dry process and acrimony, the Senate passed a sweeping $1.1 trillion spending package Saturday night, abruptly ending several days of chaotic legislative maneuvers and clearing the bill for President Obama to sign. The legislation, which will fund most of the government through the fiscal year that ends in September, passed in a bipartisan vote, 56 to 40, after a turbulent process — a fitting coda for a governing body that has often failed to govern. The vote concluded a long day of brinkmanship, spurred by a legislative challenge to Mr. Obama’s executive action on immigration by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who helped force the Senate into a weekend session. By the end of the day, Mr. Cruz found himself isolated even from members of his own party.
Middle East Eye, Why the CIA tortured, Gareth Porter, Dec. 13, 2014. Bureaucratic momentum, the desire to be 'important’, helped drive torture program to point where officials involved had too much to lose to call a halt. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page “executive summary” of the 6,700-page full report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program has completely shattered the official myth that the torture of al-Qaeda detainees somehow helped to thwart further terrorist attacks. After examining six million pages of official CIA documents, the committee staff refuted every one of the CIA’s claims that its torture programme generated the crucial intelligence that led to the disruption of plots and the apprehension of terrorist suspects. The committee’s case is documented in such mind-numbing detail, based on the CIA’s own internal documents, that the CIA was compelled to acknowledge in its responses in June 2013 to each specific case analysed that it had repeatedly “mischaracterized” the relationship between its detention and interrogation programme and the disruption or failure of various proposed terrorist actions. But the committee report leaves little doubt that the CIA was not simply mistaken about the issues involved; it had for years been systematically lying about virtually every aspect of the torture program.
Huffington Post, Here's A No-B.S. Translation Of John Brennan's Remarks On Torture, Paige Lavender, Dec. 12, 2014. CIA Director John Brennan spoke Thursday for the first time since the Senate Intelligence Committee released a damning report Tuesday about his agency's post-9/11 interrogation techniques. The report revealed horrifying details about the agency's torture program, including stories of detainees being subjected to "rectal rehydration," waterboarding, forced nudity and isolation, among other things. But Brennan never called the techniques "torture," often referring to them instead as "EITs" -- shorthand for "enhanced interrogation techniques." To help those who might be confused about the lexicon of Brennan's torture explanation, we've created this guide to deciphering his remarks:
- Brennan: "I'm not going to talk about any type of operational activity this agency is involved in currently. I'm just not going to do it."
- What he's really saying: The CIA might still be torturing people, but you won't hear anything about that from me.
Huffington Post, Ex-CIA Director: Treatment Of Detainees Would 'Improve' If CIA Was Global Model, Mollie Reilly, Dec. 9, 2014. Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden spoke to NBC's Brian Williams about the release of the Senate report on the CIA's post-9/11 torture program, arguing that the agency showed greater concern for human rights than many other countries worldwide. In an interview airing Tuesday evening, Williams asked Hayden how the United States is "better than our enemies," given the report's disturbing details on interrogation tactics used by U.S. agents. "As bad as some people think CIA behavior was, with regard to these 100-or-so detainees, if everyone on the planet used CIA behavior as the model, the overall treatment of detainees on earth would actually improve," Hayden, who oversaw the agency at the end of the Bush administration, said. "Should that be the standard, however?" Williams asked. "Well, Brian, the standard was, what is lawful, effective and appropriate at a time of great extremists in the United States, with 3,000 fellow citizens who've been murdered," Hayden said.
Huffington Post, Report on CIA Torture Shows Need for Limiting ISIS AUMF, Robert Nailman, Dec. 12, 2014. The Senate report isn't just about the CIA torture, it's about the CIA cover-up of the torture, which continued and continues into the present. And Hayden was part of the cover-up. And so is Brennan. As Senator Udall said in his floor speech yesterday: "The process of compiling, drafting, redacting and now releasing this report has been much harder than it needed to be...One would think this Administration is leading the effort to right the wrongs of the past and ensure the American people learn the truth about the CIA's torture program. Not so. In fact it's been nearly a six-year struggle, in a Democratic Administration no less, to get this study out. Why has it been so hard for this document to finally see the light of day? Why have we had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way? The answer is simple. Because the study says things that former and current CIA and other government officials don't want the American public to know...Those who criticize the committee study for overly focusing on the past should understand that its findings directly relate to how the CIA operates today."
New York Times, In New Election, Another Bush Stakes Out Middle Ground, Jonathan Martin, Dec. 12, 2014. Though Jeb Bush is deeply conservative on some issues, in other ways — culturally and philosophically — he is out of step with the grass-roots activists who now animate the party. The former Florida governor is shown in a file photo.
New York Times, Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Who Were Held in Error, Scott Shane, Dec. 12, 2014. Of 119 prisoners in C.I.A custody, the Senate report found that 26 were either described in the agency’s own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money.
HuffPost Live, Obama's Cowardly Response to Torture Revelations, Alyona Minkovski, Dec. 12, 2014. After taking office in 2009 President Obama did ban the use of torture through an executive order, and to this day says that the practice was inconsistent with our values as a nation. But that one stroke of the pen doesn't match up with the rest of his actions. The ethos of this administration has been to look forward and not backwards. This has meant letting the architects of the Bush torture regime escape prosecution and any semblance of accountability despite clear violations of international law. In the days since the report's release, the president has provided comments in which he praised the intelligence community as "heroes" and "patriots," and implored us to believe that agonizing choices were made in haste in response to 9/11. An official statement from the White House called the CIA's program "troubling" and the methods "harsh." Telling someone they've put on a few pounds is harsh. Anal rape, sleep deprivation, and dehumanizing psychological abuse are war crimes. The only man to go to prison in relation to torture is John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who was the first to inform the public that the program existed. This administration has repeatedly used the states secrets privilege in court to prevent victims of extraordinary rendition from finding justice, and has allowed military commissions to supercede our federal court system.
Salon, Torture report’s hidden fiasco: How Mark Udall revealed a little-noticed smoking gun, Heather Digby Parton, Dec. 11, 2014. Buried in the "Panetta Review" is proof that the CIA repeatedly lied to the top levels of government. Here's why. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) reveal important classified information. Udall, shown in an official photo, called it a smoking gun. Here’s what he said: The review named for former CIA Director Leon Panetta found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques. The Brennan Response, in contrast, continues to insist that the CIA’s interrogations produced unique intelligence that saved lives. The Panetta Review identifies dozens of documents that include inaccurate information used to justify the use of torture -– and indicates that the inaccuracies it identifies do not represent an exhaustive list. The review further identifies cases in which the CIA used coercive techniques when it had no basis for determining whether a detainee had critical intelligence at all. In other words, CIA personnel tortured detainees to confirm they didn’t have intelligence -– not because they thought they did.
Washington Post, Report urges sentence of at least 10 years for McDonnell, Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 12, 2014. Prosecutors had offered the former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, shown in an official photo, a plea deal resulting in a three-year sentence at most. Editor's comment: A 10-year sentence would illustrate the unfair power of prosecutors, especially in view of the plea deal, which would likely have resulted in a sentence much lower than the maximum of three years.OpEdNews, On the Brink of War and Economic Collapse, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 12, 2014. Neoconservatives dominated the George W. Bush regime. They controlled the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Office of the Vice President, and much else. The Obama regime held no one accountable for the crimes of the Bush regime, thus creating the precedent that the executive branch is above the law. Instead, the Obama regime prosecuted whistleblowers who told the truth about government crimes.
Washington Post, Why America’s middle class is lost, Jim Tankersley, Dec. 12, 2014. The middle class took America to the moon. Then something went horribly wrong. The American middle class is floundering, and it has been for decades. The Post examines the mystery of what’s gone wrong, and shows what the country must focus on to get the economy working for everyone again. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Not at the old North American Rockwell plant, and not in thousands of similarly socked towns. Yes, the stock market is soaring, the unemployment rate is finally retreating after the Great Recession and the economy added 321,000 jobs last month. But all that growth has done nothing to boost pay for the typical American worker. Average wages haven’t risen over the last year, after adjusting for inflation. Real household median income is still lower than it was when the recession ended.
OpEdNews, Democratic Leaders Show Us How They'll Operate In the Next Two Years, Rob Kall (shown in photo), Dec. 12, 2014. We saw, last night, a complete collusion of the Democratic leadership with bankers and the forces working to totally erode the protections in place protecting elections. President Obama showed us how he will operate once the Republicans control both houses of congress. He will use his power and his staff to sell Republican destruction of the laws that protect the middle class and regulate the excesses and abuses of corporations and the one percent, just as he did yesterday. Harry Reid revealed how he will operate -- enabling the worst abuses of the Republicans. We can expect that the filibuster, which Mitch McConnell used so effectively, will not be used very often. This is all happening with a Democrat in the White House and Democrats controlling the senate. What to do? Stop making excuses.
Washington Post, Senate deadline for spending bill pushed back, Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 12, 2014. The House quietly passed another funding extension, giving senators until Wednesday to vote on the $1 trillion spending package.
Washington Post, Holder won’t compel reporter to reveal source, Sari Horwitz, Dec. 12, 2014. Ending a years-long debate, the Justice Department has ruled out calling the New York Times’ James Risen to testify about his source in reporting on a CIA plot, a source familiar with the case said.
Roots Action, RootsAction Congratulates James Risen, Norman Soloman, Dec. 12, 2014. RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon praised the U.S. Department of Justice's apparent decision to drop its threat to imprison author and journalist James Risen unless he reveals his source in reporting the story of Operation Merlin. RootsAction.org coordinated the petition campaign "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press." Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, the petition -- which gained more than 100,000 signers this year -- told Holder and Obama: "We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources." Operation Merlin, as reported by Risen, was an operation in which the CIA gave flawed blueprints for nuclear weapons to Iran. Sterling, a former CIA officer, is accused of being a whistleblower who exposed that reckless act. "Such whistleblowing is not a crime," said Solomon, "but a public service."
RT, 20 deals in 24 hours: Russia-India relations given $100 billion-worth boost, Rajeev Sharma, Dec. 12, 2014. Judging by the outcome of President Putin’s visit to India – 20 high-profile deals struck – Moscow’s ‘pivot to Asia’ is getting a warm welcome. Russian President Vladimir Putin achieved this during his visit to India spanning 23 hours and 15 minutes and at a summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that lasted barely a few hours. See also, Sputnik, Russian-Indian Relations in Facts and Details, Michael Klimentyev, Dec. 12, 2014. On Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi, India, where he discussed the bilateral cooperation in energy and military-technical spheres with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shown in a photo.
Legal Schnauzer, Why did a federal prosecutor contact Rob Riley during the investigation of former Governor Don Siegelman? Roger Shuler, Dec. 12, 2014. A federal prosecutor communicated with prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley during the investigation of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, according to a report released yesterday. Adam Zagorin wrote the article, titled "Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor," for Project On Government Oversight (POGO). Why would a prosecutor contact the campaign manager for Siegelman's primary political opponent--if, in fact, politics were not involved?
Don Siegelman is shown in a 2008 photo by CBS News, which documented unfair prosecution treatment of him. He is imprisoned in Oakdale, LA on a charge that he improperly appointed a donor in 1999 to a state board. Over recent days, however, he has been allowed to travel within the cumbersome Bureau of Prisons transport system to a federal appellate court hearing Dec. 15 in Atlanta to hear his appeal for a new trial on two grounds.
Politico, Backers: Romney more open to 2016 run, Ben White and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 11, 2014. Mitt Romney has sounded unimpressed with the emerging GOP field, associates say. The 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who’ve spoken with him in the past month. He has assessed various people’s strengths and weaknesses dispassionately. He has said, among other things, that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, would run into problems because of his business dealings, his work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and his private equity investments. “You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital],” he has said, referring to the devastating attacks that his Republican rivals and President Barack Obama’s team launched against him for his time in private equity. “What do you think they’ll do to [Bush] over Barclays?”
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor, Adam Zagorin, Dec. 11, 2014. New evidence related to one of the most controversial public corruption cases in recent years, the 2006 conviction of Alabama’s former Democratic Governor, Don Siegelman, indicates that Department of Justice prosecutors, who are supposed to ignore politics, were thinking and acting in partisan terms when they probed the governor’s administration. The same evidence illustrates a systemic problem at the Justice Department: When the Department investigates allegations of misconduct by its own prosecutors, it typically avoids transparency or public accountability. As a result, the public can be left with a question: Is the Justice Department whitewashing prosecutorial abuse?
NBC News, Syria, ISIS Have Been 'Ignoring' Each Other on Battlefield, Data Suggests, Cassandra Vinograd and Ammar Cheikh Omar, Dec. 11, 2014. Syria's military and ISIS may be sworn enemies but instead of wiping each other off the battlefield they have been delicately dancing around each other, according to new data exclusively obtained by NBC News. Both sides in the bloody conflict appear to be eliminating smaller rivals ahead of a possible final showdown.
War Is A Crime, Torture "Architect" Mistaken in Claim Nobody's Punished for Drone Murders, David Swanson, Dec. 11, 2014. A psychologist who played a key role in a U.S. torture program said on a video yesterday that torture was excusable because blowing up families with a drone is worse (and nobody's punished for that). Well, of course the existence of something worse is no excuse for torture. And he's wrong that no one is punished for drone murders. The protesters are.
Washington Post, They thought Obama’s action would allow travel. They were wrong, Pam Constable, Dec. 11, 2014. Many illegal immigrants are discovering that the president’s action doesn’t let families divided between the U.S. and their homelands to be reunited. Two years ago, when Obama announced a similar executive action granting temporary deportation relief to about 700,000 illegal immigrant youths, known as dreamers, the issue of family reunification was not as dire. The government has not yet published the final rules for Obama’s plan, but immigration experts expect they will be almost identical to those issued with the 2012 executive action that established the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program.
AP via Yahoo News! UN officials demand prosecutions for US torture, John Heilprin, Dec. 10, 2014. All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized or carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. officials said Wednesday. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it's "crystal clear" under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. "In all countries, if someone commits murder, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they commit rape or armed robbery, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they order, enable or commit torture -- recognized as a serious international crime -- they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency," he said.
New York Times, CIA First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards, Matt Apuzzo and James Risen, Dec. 10, 2014. The agency envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. The Bureau of Prisons photo shows a U.S.-run prison complex in Afghanistan.
Esquire, The Torture Report, Part Two: What It Means, Charles P. Pierce, Dec. 9, 2014. Today, with the release of the executive summary of the congressional investigation into the American torture program, we have lost forever the right to moral leadership that we claimed at Nuremberg, and at the tribunals that investigated the actions of the Japanese in the Pacific. Those proceedings were based in two fundamental beliefs: a) that there are some activities that are beyond the law, even in wartime, and b) that the people responsible for those activities, even the worst of them, deserve a fair trial, and a trial that is open to the world.
Nazi Air Force commander Hermann Goering is shown at his Nuremberg trial in 1946 guarded by military police before his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He killed himself with cyanide before his hanging sentence could be implemented.
ABC News, Pay and Suffering: Psychologists Made $80M From CIA Interrogation Program, Lee Ferran and Brian Ross, Dec. 9, 2014. The two psychologists contracted by the CIA to design the enhanced interrogation techniques used against al Qaeda suspects were paid more than $80 million, even though they were never themselves interrogators, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report,” released today. “On the CIA’s behalf, the contract psychologists developed theories of interrogation based on ‘learned helplessness,’ and developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques that was approved for use against [al Qaeda operative] Abu Zubaydah and subsequent CIA detainees,” the report says, referring to the list of techniques that included slapping captives and waterboarding, among others. In 2009, ABC News identified the psychologists as former military officers Jim Mitchell, left, and Bruce Jessen, shown in an ABC News photo. “The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about is essentially their concepts,” said Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator.
Fusion, The CIA paid other countries millions of dollars — in cash — to house secret prisons for their interrogation programs, Brett LoGiurato, Dec. 9, 2014. The Central Intelligence Agency paid millions of dollars in cash to foreign governments to help convince them to host black sites where the agency could carry out its disputed detention and interrogation programs, according to a new Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday. The five countries are Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Afghanistan (four sites), and Thailand. The CIA provided millions of dollars in cash payments to the governments.
Huffington Post, Senate Report Says Torture Program Was More Gruesome, Widespread Than CIA Claimed, Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim, Dec. 9, 2014. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the highly anticipated 500-page summary of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, providing a sobering glimpse into one of the darkest chapters in the U.S. government's history. In the report, a product of a five-year investigation, Senate investigators reveal sordid details of the systemic and individual failures by the agency personnel who ran the "enhanced interrogation program" -- the government's euphemism for systematic torture -- during the George W. Bush administration.
Many of the abuses occurred under the CIA leadership of Porter Goss, director from 2004 to 2006. Shown in an official photo, he was a Yale-educated career CIA officer elected to Congress as a Republican from Florida before President George W. Bush named him to lead the agency.
Washington Post, A grim portrait of CIA tactics, Report details brutality, pattern of deception, Greg Miller, Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Dec. 9, 2014. A Senate probe of the agency’s secret interrogations after 9/11 alleges the use of unapproved practices and dishonesty with the White House and Congress.
Washington Post, Searing report unlikely to put a dent in CIA’s power, Greg Miller and Dana Priest, Dec. 9, 2014. Decades of scandals haven’t reined in the agency, which U.S. leaders rely on to do what no other agency can. The release of a searing report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s interrogation program Tuesday was the latest morale-sinking moment for an agency that has been buffeted repeatedly throughout its history, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the Nixon-era domestic abuses to the 1980s scandals tied to Iran and Latin America. If anything, the cycle has only been compressed in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with at least four major investigations, not to mention criminal probes, during a frenetic 13-year span. That collection now includes a 528-page account of alleged CIA abuses and dishonesty in its brutal treatment of terrorism suspects.
Former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, shown in an official portrait, has often defended the CIA's interrogation practices.
Washington Post, 20 key findings about CIA interrogations, Staff report, Dec. 9, 2014. Almost 13 years after the CIA established secret prisons to hold and interrogate detainees, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the CIA’s programs listing 20 key findings.
Lawfare, Released: SSCI Detention and Interrogation Study, Along With Minority Views and the CIA’s Response, Wells Bennett, Dec. 9, 2014. Here is the long-awaited Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. The latter includes in a single file a foreword authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, shown in a photo, as well as the Study’s findings and conclusions. Additionally, the Committee also has published these materials: Senator Feinstein’s statement; a history of key dates in in the Committee’s study; and a timeline of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Among other materials are: The Minority Views of Vice Chairman Chambliss, joined by Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio, and Coburn; Senator Jay Rockefeller's additional views; Additional view members of Committee members (Senators Rockefeller, Wyden, Udall, Heinrich, King, Collins); The CIA’s June 2013 response; The statement from Director Brennan and the CIA's fact sheet.
WhoWhatWhy, Boston Bombing: Feds Admit Triple Murder Wasn’t Tsarnaevs, James Henry Dec. 9, 2014. For nearly any crime requiring a “Whodunnit” answer in Boston around the time of the April 15, 2013, Marathon bombing, the authorities answered: The Tsarnaev brothers. One egregious crime pinned on them was a grisly Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, Mass. Now, prosecutors in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have delivered a shocking reversal. They admit to having no evidence that his dead brother, Tamerlan, was involved in the slayings. That wasn’t the case right after the bombing: law enforcement fingered Tamerlan as the perpetrator, and suggested Dzokhar may have been involved. Much of the media has presented it as fact ever since. This is a pattern we’ve seen since the bombing: The government feeds prejudicial information (usually anonymously) to the press, implying Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s guilt, despite having flimsy or no evidence.
AP via Washington Post, Obama health adviser apologizes for 'glib' remarks, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of AP, Dec. 9, 2014. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber -- an often-quoted adviser on the president's health care law -- told Congress on Tuesday he was glib and "inexcusably arrogant" when he said it was "the stupidity of the American voter" that led to the law's passage. Democrats tried to limit the damage as Republicans raked Gruber at a four-hour hearing, but acknowledged he gave the GOP a political gift "wrapped in a bow."
Gruber is shown in a file photo promoting a book he wrote on health care reform.
Washington Post, The Jonathan Gruber hearing was a zany coda to Darrell Issa’s tumultuous tenure, Dana Milbank, Dec. 9, 2014. A gaffe, under the oft-cited Michael Kinsley rule, is when somebody in Washington accidentally speaks the truth. But what happens when frankness leads you to say something so monumentally stupid — the verbal equivalent of a pratfall, a face-plant into a mud pit — that “gaffe” doesn’t cover it? In that case, you have Grubered yourself.
Consortium News, The New Republic's Ugly Reality, Bob Parry (shown in photo), Dec. 9, 2014. There has been much handwringing of late in Official Washington about an editorial shakeup at The New Republic and the possibility that thecentury-old political magazine’s legacy will somehow be tarnished by its new owner. But the truth about The New Republic is that it has more blood on its hands than almost any other publication around, which is saying something. In my four decades in national journalism – that’s two-fifths of The New Republic’s life – what I have seen from the magazine is mostly its smug advocacy for U.S. interventionism abroad and snarky putdowns of antiwar skeptics at home. Indeed, you could view The New Republic as the most productive hothouse for cultivating neoconservative dogma — and at least partly responsible for the senseless slaughter associated with that ideology. Though The New Republic still touts its reputation as “liberal,” that label has been essentially a cover for its real agenda: pushing a hawkish foreign policy agenda that included the Reagan administration’s slaughter of Central Americans in the 1980s, violent U.S. interventions in Iraq, Syria and other Muslim countries for the past two decades, and Israel’s suppression of Palestinians forever.
World Net Daily, Head fake? Obama never signed amnesty order, Jerome R. Corsi (shown in a file photo), Dec. 9, 2014. It’s common knowledge President Obama signed an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to forgive millions of illegal aliens for their past violations of immigration law, right? Wrong. Today the National Archives and Records Administration, responsible for maintaining such filings, said no such executive order was ever signed or filed, confirming WND’s report Wednesday. A National Archives librarian, Jeffrey Hartley, made the confirmation in an email Thursday to WND. “As I indicated, it would appear that there is not an Executive Order stemming from the President’s remarks on November 20 on immigration,” Hartley wrote. Hartley said that neither of the executive orders Obama signed in Las Vegas the day after his announcement fulfill his plan to defer deportations and grant work permits to up to 5 million illegal aliens. “The only two documents that I have located are two Presidential Memoranda, which are available from the White House site,” Hartley’s email continued. “They can also be found in the November 26, 2014 issue of the Federal Register.”
President Obama delivers an address to the nation on his immigration actions Nov. 20, 2014, as portrayed in a screenshot from White House video.
Washington Post, Deal reached to allow pension plans to cut benefits, Michael A. Fletcher, Dec. 9, 2014. The move, affecting current retirees, is an effort to save the nation’s most distressed plans.
Washington Post, Ohio man exonerated after spending 27 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Elahe Izadi, Dec. 9, 2014. Kwame Ajamu was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in the killing of a Cleveland money-order salesman. On Tuesday, Ajamu, now 57 and out on parole since 2003, wept after a judge cleared all charges against him. Cuyahoga County Judge Pamela Barker stepped down from her bench to give Ajamu a hug, the Associated Press reported. The case against Ajamu, formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman, began to fall apart after a key witness recanted his testimony decades after the conviction.
Legal Schnauzer, Alabama deputies put a revenge beatdown on handyman, and the man's vocal advocate is murdered, Roger Shuler, Dec. 9, 2014. The most troubling case of dysfunctional law enforcement might be unfolding near Huntsville, Alabama. At the heart of the Huntsville story is a handyman named Robert Bryant. He was stalked by Madison County sheriff's deputies, pulled over in an apparently bogus traffic stop, and brutally beaten by the side of a road while in handcuffs, his teeth knocked out. It all apparently was in retaliation for a barroom scuffle that Bryant had engaged in with an off-duty deputy named Justin Watson. Reporter Challen Stephens lays it out in a compelling seven-part series, which ran all of last week at al.com. My experience has been that the mainstream press in Alabama usually doesn't take a close look at cases of possible police misconduct. But Stephens shines a bright light on the case of Robert Bryant and Jason Klonowski, shown in a photo before his murder, and the series is likely to be a candidate for major journalism awards. See Al.com series: Al.com, Cover up, then one year later, a secret review board and censure (Part 7 of a 7-part series), Challen Stephens, Dec. 7, 2014. New documents offer a rare look at sheriff's deputies in Madison County investigating their own. See also: Traffic stop and unsolved murder draw FBI to Madison County (Part 1 of 7 parts), Challen Stephens, Dec. 1, 2014.
OpEd News, Another Fabricated Jobs Report, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in photo), Dec. 8, 2014. If we are sufficiently gullible to believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report Dec. 5 of 321,000 new jobs in November, we should be disturbed that the vast bulk of the jobs are third world domestic service jobs that do not produce exports to offset the massive trade deficit of the US offshored economy. Moreover, the majority of these jobs do not produce sufficient income for a person to establish a household or qualify for a car loan. America is bleeding herself dry so that corporate executives and shareholders can live the high life on bonuses and capital gains resulting from exploited foreign labor and the destruction of the American middle class. Let's move on to other conclusions. What this means is that the US is short 2.4 million jobs from seven years ago. So how is there an ongoing recovery? In the meantime the population has grown. Remember, the official unemployment rate is low because discouraged workers are not counted as unemployed.
Reuters, At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket, Joan Biskupic, Janet Roberts and John Shiffman, Dec. 8, 2014. Although the U.S. Supreme Court is the most diverse it has ever been – three of the nine justices are women and two are minorities – the elite bar that comes before it is strikingly homogeneous: Of the 66 top lawyers, 63 are white. Only eight are women. Part 1: A cadre of well-connected attorneys has honed the art of getting the Supreme Court to take up cases - and business is capitalizing on their expertise. A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period. The lawyers are the most influential members of one of the most powerful specialties in America: the business of practicing before the Supreme Court. None of these lawyers is a household name. But many are familiar to the nine justices. That’s because about half worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them.
Rat Haus Reality Press, Fifteenth Anniversary of Verdict in the Martin Luther King Murder Trial, Dave Ratcliffe, Dec. 8, 2014. Fifteen years ago today, the jury reached its verdict in the only trial ever held for the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shown in a file photo. The trial was conducted in Memphis, Tennessee. Plaintiffs were Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III, Bernice King, Dexter Scott King and Yolanda King. The defendants were Loyd Jowers and others unknown. According to the verdict, King was assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government. This is the most important trial of the 20th century, and yet most people have never heard of it. A complete trial transcript is here. A good place to start reading is Closing Statements in Volume 14. The King Family Press Conference held after the trial is another starting point. Other than the courtroom participants, only Memphis TV reporter Wendell Stacy and Jim Douglass attended that historic trial from beginning to end. Douglass’ article, “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis,” published in Probe Magazine in Spring 2000, is an excellent introduction. See also William Pepper's talk on the release of his book, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (Verso, 2003).
New York Times, Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report, Peter Baker, Dec. 7, 2014. A long-awaited Senate report condemning torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has not even been made public yet, but former President George W. Bush’s team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions. The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that “we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,” as one former official put it. Mr. Bush made that clear in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley.
Washington Post, Six Guantanamo detainees transferred to Uruguay as Obama works to close prison, Adam Goldman, Dec. 7, 2014. Six detainees held at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were finally transferred to Uruguay over the weekend, months after the South American country had agreed to accept the men, the Pentagon announced Sunday. The detainees included a Tunisian, a Palestinian and four Syrians who were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan more than a decade ago and turned over to U.S. forces. This was the largest single transfer of detainees since 2009. One of the men, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who has been on hunger strike, is at the center of litigation in federal court in the District involving the possible release of videos showing him being force-fed.
Washington Independent Review of Books, Some thoughts on the battle between Amazon and Hachette, David O. Stewart, Dec. 7, 2014. With the recent settlement of the months-long dispute between Amazon and Hachette Publishing over the pricing of e-books, it’s a good moment to take inventory of the impact the bitter struggle has had on the world of publishing. The initial assessments are that Hachette won the protracted standoff by regaining substantial power to control e-book pricing. The dispute spilled into the space of the Independent. We expressed concern over Amazon’s tactics and dropped its buy-the-book button from our site. Amazon is a brilliant business that often serves consumers well and has nurtured the e-book industry, yet it is prone to bullying tactics that have no place in the world of books. Herewith, my takeaways: The Demise of the Book Will Take a Little Longer: Hachette and Amazon fought so hard, in public and in private, because there’s money to be made in the book industry. The Cassandra-like predictions of the death of the book have been wrong. That is not to deny, of course, the development of ever more sophisticated ways to tell stories through digital wizardry.Dec. 6
Hartford Courant Alumni Association, On C-SPAN, Kreig connects JFK killing to current issues, Site administrator, Dec. 6, 2014. C-SPAN’s American History TV last month cablecast a lecture by former Courant reporter Andrew Kreig (1970-84) about the continuing importance of the Warren Commission’s 1964 report about President Kennedy’s murder. He writes: "C-SPAN’s broadcast of my talk 'Current Implications of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up' begins at the 15:40-minute mark of the video. The Sept. 26 talk opened a three-day conference on recent revelations about the 1964 Warren report. Also this fall, I augmented the Justice Integrity Project’s 22-part 'Readers Guide' to major books, videos, events and analysis about the assassination. The Readers Guide assists reporters and other researchers by, for example, listing major books regardless of viewpoint: Details."
Esquire, Mark Udall Promises America Will "Be Disgusted" at CIA Torture Report; And that he'll use every power he still has to declassify it, Scott Raab, Dec. 5, 2014. The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Dianne Feinstein of California, is soon expected to release its summary of the so-called CIA Torture Report, the committee’s four-year-long investigation into the CIA’s Bush-era torture practices. Release of the summary is the result of months of wrangling and negotiating with the White House on what would be released to the public and when—and it will likely be heavily redacted. During an interview conducted on Friday, November 21, by Esquire writer at large Scott Raab, outgoing senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who lost his reelection race on November 4, once again said that if the report is not released in a way he deems transparent, he would consider all options to make it public. In this excerpt from the interview, Raab asks Udall, shown in a photo, if he will read the document into the record on the floor of the Senate before he leaves in January, an act for which he cannot be prosecuted.
Huffington Post, New Republic Exodus: Dozens Of Editors Resign Over Management Changes, Michael Calderone, Dec. 5, 2014. Dozens of New Republic staff members and contributing editors resigned en masse Friday morning, less than 24 hours after top editors Frank Foer and Leon Wieseltier quit over a dispute with management over the magazine's direction. New Republic owner Chris Hughes and newly installed CEO Guy Vidra announced Thursday they were repositioning the 100-year-old magazine to become a "vertically integrated digital media company." They hired Gabriel Snyder, who previously ran Gawker and The Wire, and was most recently at Bloomberg Media, to be its new editor-in-chief. Staffers recalled Hughes, who made hundreds of millions of dollars as a Facebook co-founder, suggesting in a late October meeting that the magazine be more like a tech start-up than a journalistic outlet like The New Yorker. Friday's departures include: Jonathan Cohn (Senior Editor), Isaac Chotiner (Senior Editor), Julia Ioffe (Senior Editor), John Judis (Senior Editor), Hillary Kelly (Digital Media Editor), Adam Kirsch (Senior Editor), Alec MacGillis (Senior Editor), Rachel Morris (Executive Editor), Jeffrey Rosen (Legal Affairs Editor), Noam Scheiber (Senior Editor), Judith Shulevitz (Senior Editor), Greg Veis (Executive Editor), Jason Zengerle (Senior Editor), Henri Cole (Poetry Editor) and Jennifer Homans (Dance Editor). And many of the magazine's contributing editors have resigned, too: Paul Berman, Jonathan Chait, William Deresiewicz, TA Frank, Ruth Franklin, Anthony Grafton, Robert Kagan (husband to US Ambassador to the United Nations Victoria Nuland), Enrique Krauze, Ryan Lizza, Sacha Z. Scoblic, Helen Vendler, Sean Wilentz, David Grann, Damon Linker and Cass Sunstein.
Editor's Note: Cass Sunstein is a former Obama White House appointee and husband of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, shown at her swearing in by Vice President Biden on Aug. 19, 2013. The New Republic has been a leading center for years of "neo-liberal" advocacy of an interventionist foreign policy.
Washington Post, U-Va. fraternity to rebut claims of gang rape, attorney says, T. Rees Shapiro, Dec. 5, 2014. The fraternity’s lawyer said key facts of the story don’t match up. Rolling Stone magazine also released a statement expressing doubts about its account.
JohnPilger.com, War by media and the triumph of propaganda, John Pilger, Dec. 5, 2014. Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers? Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what's called the mainstream media is not information, but power?
AP via Huffington Post, Hostages Luke Somers, Pierre Korkie Killed During Rescue Attempt In Yemen, Ahmed Al-Haj and Julie Pace, Dec. 5, 2014. An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen were killed Saturday during a U.S.-led rescue operation that President Barack Obama said he ordered because of "imminent danger" to the U.S. hostage. South African Pierre Korkie is believed to have died during the flight, while American Luke Somers died on the ship, according to senior U.S. officials, who said no American forces were killed or injured.
Reporters Without Borders, Al-Qaeda threatens to execute US photographer held hostage in Yemen, Dec. 5, 2014. Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried about Luke Somers, a US press photographer who is being held hostage in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and who appears in a video that AQAP released on Wednesday. A British-born freelancer, Somers, 33, shown in a photo, was kidnapped by gunmen in Sanaa on 17 September 2013. No group claimed his abduction at the time and the video only confirms that AQAP is currently holding him. His family released a video yesterday appealing for his release.
Reuters, U.S. discloses failed attempt to rescue American in Yemen, Dec. 4, 2014. U.S. officials said President Barack Obama last month authorized a secret raid to rescue Luke Somers, a 33-year-old journalist who was kidnapped in Yemen's capital Sanaa in September 2013.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell participate in the National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 4, 2014. White House Photo.
Zero Hedge, Fight Breaks Out In Parliament When Ukraine Learns It Has Quietly Become The Newest US State, Tyler Durden, Dec. 4, 2014. It appears not all the government members approve of the new foreign-born members of the Ukraine parliament...as indicated by a fight that just broke out on the floor. Three foreigners -- Natalie Jaresko, Aivaras Abromavicius, and Aleksandr Kvitashvili -- were approved as ministers by Ukraine's parliament Dec. 2. President Petro Poroshenko naturalized all three hours before their confirmation by parliament. Jaresko, reared in the United States and from Ukrainian background, was named as finance minister. Jaresko faces a tough job warding off economic collapse, battling corruption, and reforming Ukraine's economy as the country continues to fight an armed insurgency in the east.
World Net Daily, Amnesty shocker! The secret behind Obama's 'order,' President accused of 'sleight of hand' to protect self from impeachment, Jerome R. Corsi, Dec. 3, 2014. Jerome Corsi, a Harvard Ph.D., is a WND senior staff reporter. He has authored many books, including No. 1 N.Y. Times best-sellers "The Obama Nation" and "Unfit for Command." Corsi's latest book is "Who Really Killed Kennedy?" Did President Obama just set up Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to be a candidate for impeachment instead of himself if conservatives convince the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate that his “executive actions” on immigration are unconstitutional? The inquiry begins with the question: Where are the executive orders Obama supposedly signed to permit up to 5 million parents of young illegal aliens to remain in the United States for three years? The White House appears to have engaged in administrative sleight of hand, changing U.S. immigration law not by executive order but by a memorandum “exercising prosecutorial discretion” Johnson signed the day of Obama’s Nov. 20 nationwide address that so far has not been filed in the Federal Register. Tom Fitton, president of Washington-based watchdog institution Judicial Watch, told WND in an interview the legal status of Johnson’s memo is a serious constitutional question that deserves to be adjudicated. “The entire implementing authority involves a memorandum published by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson that changes the immigration law, directing federal money to be spent that has not been appropriated by Congress,” he said. “In my view, there is a serious question whether Jeh Johnson should be impeached for taking this action, and a criminal investigation should be initiated to determine how and why federal funds are being misappropriated,” he declared. Fitton said DHS “is being hijacked to implement actions Congress has neither authorized nor appropriated funds to accomplish.” “All remedy options need to be on the table when attacking this threat to the Constitution,” he said. On Wednesday, attorneys general in 17 states joined in a lawsuit filed by Texas attorney general and governor-elect Greg Abbott that charges the Obama’s immigration action violated the U.S. Constitution’s “Take Care” clause and failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act’s guidelines for implementing new policies, including a comment period to outline the changes’ benefits, National Review’s Andrew Johnson reported.Dec. 2
WhoWhatWhy, Boston Update: Tsarnaev Tries To Move Bombing Trial Again, Andy Thibault (shown in photo), Dec. 2, 2014. The Boston Marathon bombing is much more important than has been acknowledged, principally because it is the defining domestic national security event since 9/11—and has played a major role in expanding the power of the security state. For that reason, WhoWhatWhy is continuing to investigate troubling aspects of this story and the establishment media treatment of it with the approach of the January trial of the accused co-conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, shown in a file photo. More than six months ago, WhoWhatWhy raised the issue of whether leaks by law enforcement to a cooperative media had already sunk the accused bomber's right to a fair trial in Boston. His legal team clearly had the same concerns, and in July asked the court to move the trial to another city. U.S. District Judge George O’Toole denied the motion in September. Now, in a second motion Tsarnaev’s legal team is arguing that the need to move the trial has grown more urgent.
Washington Post, What America’s police departments don’t want you to know, Eugene Robinson, Dec. 1, 2014. Michael Brown’s death was part of a tragic and unacceptable pattern: Police officers in the United States shoot and kill civilians in shockingly high numbers. How many killings are there each year? No one can say for sure, because police departments don’t want us to know. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2013 there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police—defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” In all but three of these reported killings, officers used firearms. The true number of fatal police shootings is surely much higher, however, because many law enforcement agencies do not report to the FBI database. Attempts by journalists to compile more complete data by collating local news reports have resulted in estimates as high as 1,000 police killings a year. There is no way to know how many victims, like [Michael] Brown, were unarmed. By contrast, there were no fatal police shootings in Great Britain last year. Not one. In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years. In Canada—a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms—police shootings average about a dozen a year.
Washington Post, Ashton Carter to be nominated as next defense secretary, Craig Whitlock and Missy Ryan, Dec. 2, 2014. President Obama will nominate Ashton B. Carter, 60, a physicist with long experience at the Pentagon, as his new secretary of defense. If confirmed by the Senate Carter would succeed Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator who is being pushed aside by the White House after less than two years in the job. Hagel, a Republican, fell out of favor with Obama and the president’s inner circle as the U.S. military became embroiled in a new war in the Middle East, a challenge that is expected to preoccupy the Obama administration for the remainder of its term. Although Carter has more experience as a technocrat than as a wartime leader, his extensive national security credentials and the support for his nomination in Congress made him an appealing choice.
Dallas Morning News, Cruz opposes Saldaña for ICE, calls Dallas prosecutor “rubber stamp for amnesty,” Todd J. Gillman, Dec. 2, 2014. Sen. Ted Cruz announced Tuesday that he will oppose Dallas-based U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña’s nomination to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calling her “another rubber stamp for illegal amnesty.” He cited her assertion that President Obama has the authority to take executive actions shielding 5 million people in the country illegally from deportation. In August, Obama nominated Saldaña, shown in a file photo. ICE is a sprawling agency within the Department of Homeland Security whose missions include tracking down people living in the country illegally. Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn — the deputy GOP leader – introduced Saldaña at her confirmation hearing in mid-September. He had supported her nomination for U.S. attorney in 2011, and lavished praise on her for ICE.
Washington Post, U.S. weighs a new front to create safe zone in Syria, Karen DeYoung, Dec. 1, 2014. The Obama administration is weighing the opening of a new front in the air war against the Islamic State in Syria, part of an offensive to push back militants along the western portion of Syria’s border with Turkey and create a relatively safe zone for U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces to move in. Under the plan, U.S. aircraft flying from Turkey’s Incirlik air base would target positions the militants currently hold along the border north of Aleppo, eastward toward the besieged town of Kobane. Turkish special forces would move into the area to assist targeting and help Syrian opposition fighters consolidate their hold on the territory. President Obama, who has not yet approved the proposal, was briefed on its parameters at a meeting with his senior national security advisers last Wednesday. The plan, which was developed over the past several weeks during extensive meetings between U.S. and Turkish diplomatic and military officials, also was a subject of discussion between Vice President Biden and Turkey’s top political leaders during Biden’s visit to Istanbul 10 days ago.
US House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte & Conyers Request Update on Judge Fuller Investigation, Staff letter, Dec. 1, 2014. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) today sent a letter to Chief Judge Ed Carnes and Judge Gerald Tjoflat of the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit regarding the arrest and the ongoing prosecution of Middle District of Alabama Judge Mark Fuller in Atlanta, Georgia for a violation of state criminal law. Following the laws prescribed by Congress for allegations of judicial misconduct, the Acting Chief Judge appointed a Special Committee of five judges to investigate Judge Fuller’s actions in connection with the filing of criminal charges in August 2014. In the letter, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers request to be provided with an update on the status of the ongoing investigation and the anticipated timeline for completion of the required comprehensive written report to the circuit’s judicial council. In recognition of the explicit statutory requirement that a Special Committee, once appointed, “expeditiously file a comprehensive written report” after the completion of its “investigation,” we write to request that you provide us with an update on the status of the ongoing investigation and the anticipated timeline for completion of the required comprehensive written report to the circuit’s judicial council.
On Dec. 1, 2014, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. meet in the Oval Office with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University, and a former assistant attorney general, who will be co-chairing a Presidential task force on how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Politico, Secret showdown in CIA leak case, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 1, 2014. Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case of a former CIA officer accused of leaking top-secret information to a New York Times reporter had a secret showdown in federal court recently over what to do about a half-dozen prosecution witnesses whose own employment records show violations of the rules and arguably even the laws governing handling of classified information. The six witnesses set to testify against alleged leaker Jeffrey Sterling took secret documents home themselves without authorization, according to a recent court filing.
AL.com, A new 'Discovery' on the Stephen Nodine case: guest opinion, Quin Hillyer, Dec. 1, 2014. Stephen Nodine isn't a sympathetic figure. But when legal errors have been made, authorities should make redress. On Wednesday, Dec. 3, the Discovery Channel will air a documentary on the murder/suicide case that ensnared Nodine, the former Mobile County Commissioner, in 2010.