JFK's Murder Secrets Test CIA, Court Procedures

John, Robert and Ted Kennedy (Courtesy Wikipedia)

A prominent researcher on secrets remaining from the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy argued Feb. 25 in federal court for legal fees that he required to litigate his 2003 request to the CIA for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)..

Jefferson Morley, an author and blogger at Salon and the website JFK Facts, asked three federal appeals court judges in Washington, DC to overturn a lower court ruling that blocked compensation. Earlier, a federal judge and the CIA had argued that the CIA documents were neither new nor important. Morley countered by noting the number of news articles based on the disclosures, including a New York Times article in 2009.

The appellate panel reserved decision. The case is yet-another test of whether agencies can grind down researchers in near-endless and expensive litigation despite congressional intent with the 1974 FOIA to open public records under reasonable conditions.

The day's developments on the fifth floor of the federal courthouse in the District of Columbia were part of a long process, and thus did not constitute major news. Instead, this is one of our occasional treatments of day-to-day life in the justice system. As in this case, the government sometimes creates needless delay and expense in releasing information, even to a professional researcher about the murdered president in one of the nation's most shocking scandals. Kennedy is shown at right with his two deceased brothers.

Morley, a former Washington Post reporter, made a request in 2003 to the CIA for records pertaining to CIA officer George Joannides, whose identity had been secret for half a century. The CIA officer had served as the agency's liaison for 17 months beginning in November 1962 to the Cuban Students Directorate (DRE), a CIA-funded front group for young people. The group was in contact with alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, according to Morley's request.

Morley believes that the actions of Joannides, who died in 1990 at the age of 68, are important to independent researchers. “I know there’s a story here,” Morley told New York Times reporter Scott Shane in 2009. “The confirmation is that the CIA treats these documents as extremely sensitive.” The CIA ultimately provided many documents. A federal judge in 2011 disallowed legal fees for Morley, a position the CIA has adopted.

In the CIA photo at left, Joannides is shown at center, in July 1981, with his wife, Violet, and Bobby R. Inman, deputy director of the CIA. The event was an agency award ceremony. The photo was released to Morley as part of the litigation. 

James Lesar, a specialist in FOIA litigation, argued for Morley in court. Staff for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen represented the CIA. The decision will be from Circuit Court Judges Stephen Williams and Brett Kavanaugh, and District Judge Harry Edwards.

In a related dispute, the National Archives announced last year that it will not release 1,171 top-secret CIA documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy in time for the 5Oth anniversary of JFK’s death in November 2013. Morley has taken the lead in trying to make the documents visible.

“Is the government holding back crucial JFK documents,” asked Russ Baker in a WhoWhatWhy piece in Salon. The answer, unfortunately, is yes, Morley says.

Gary Stern, general counsel for the National Archives and Record Administration, said the Archives would not release the records. Stern noted that the CIA claims that “substantial logistical requirements” prevented their disclosure this year in time for the 50th anniversary of the killing.

"In this media spectacle, the Internet is a mixed blessing," Morley has written. "The Web keeps the JFK story alive by providing a platform and audience for ever more fantastical theories about the death of the 35th president. More constructively, the Web has made the government's troubling records about JFK's death available for the first time to millions people outside of Washington and the federal government. I believe this diffusion of knowledge is slowly clarifying the JFK story for everybody."

 

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Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To JFK Assassination

* Denotes major articles in this Readers Guide series

Dealey Plaza Panorama (Andrew Kreig Photo)At right is a photo by this editor in Dallas showing Dealey Plaza. The Texas Book Depository Building where Oswald worked is behind the row of trees. The car in the center lane is near the location of President Kennedy's limo at the time of his fatal shooting.

  1. Project Launches JFK Assassination Readers' Guide, Oct. 16, 2013.
  2. Project Provides JFK Readers Guide To New Books, Videos , Oct. 26, 2013. This is a list of new books and films in 2013.
  3. Project Lists JFK Assassination Reports, Archives, Videos, Events, Nov. 2, 2013. Leading video, events and archives from the last 50 years. *
  4. Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post Reviews of JFK Murder, Nov. 7, 2013. *
  5. Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Nov. 7, 2013.
  6. 'Puppetry' Hardback Launched Nov. 19 at DC Author Forum on ‘White House Mysteries & Media,'  Nov. 19, 2013.
  7. Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory, Nov. 27, 2013. Self-censorship.
  8. JFK Murder Scene Trapped Its Victim In Kill Zone, Nov. 30, 2013.
  9. JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Dec. 9, 2013. The CIA implicated itself in the cover-up, according to experts who have spoken out. *
  10. JFK Murder Prompts Expert Reader Reactions, Dec. 19, 2013. Reactions to our Dec. 9 column. 
  11. Have Spy Agencies Co-Opted Presidents and the Press? Dec. 23, 2013. *
  12. Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears, May 26, 2014. *
  13. Experts To Reveal Secrets of JFK Murder, Cover-up at Sept. 26-28 DC Forum , Sept. 5, 2014. 
  14. Washington Post Still Selling Warren Report 50 Years Later, Sept. 22, 2014. *
  15. JFK Experts To Explode Myths, Sign Books In DC Sept. 26-28, Sept. 24, 2014.
  16. Former Cuban Militant Leader Claims CIA Meeting With Oswald Before JFK Killing, Sept. 27, 2014. *
  17. JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports, Oct. 15, 2014. *
  18. Former U.S. House JFK Murder Prober Alleges CIA ‘Lied,’ Seeks Hidden Records, Oct. 18, 2014. *
  19. The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage, Nov. 11, 2014. *
  20. JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up, Nov. 24, 2014. *
  21. JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events, Nov. 28, 2014. *
  22. CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Dec. 1, 2014. *
  23. Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ, Jan. 2, 2014.
  24. Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You, March 17, 2015.

Related News Coverage

COPA

Kennedy Assassination

Wall Street Journal, For JFK Authors, the Truth Is, Conspiracy Theories Sell Lots of Books; 50th Anniversary of Assassination Prompts Torrent of Words, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, June 2, 2013. When it comes to President John F. Kennedy's assassination, no word has been left unturned. As the 50th anniversary draws near, some might think there is little left to say. That turns out not to be the case. Skyhorse Publishing is issuing eight new titles, flanked by 17 reprints. The publisher started the year with 12 JFK-related titles, which means it will have 37 by year's end. Bowker's Books In Print says nearly 1,400 titles related to President Kennedy, including his assassination, conspiracy works, biographies and speeches, have been published in the U.S. over the past five decades. By comparison, the company says there were more than 3,300 titles related to Abraham Lincoln published during the same period, and nearly 800 about the Titanic. Many of the Skyhorse works have vivid titles, among them Mark North's "Act of Treason: The Role of J. Edgar Hoover in the Assassination of President Kennedy" and Patrick Nolan's "CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys." 

Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), Early Registration Discounts for COPA 2013 Conference in Dallas, Rob Morrow, March 4, 2013. COPA is currently planning the 20th annual conference in Dallas which will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 45th anniversaries of the murders of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. The theme is: “50 Years is Enough! Free the Files – Find the Truth.” Events are from Nov.  22-24, 2013 in Dallas. Featured are the leading researchers, authors, ballistics, forensic and medical experts who have worked on these cases over the last five decades and the best documentary films. We plan to hold our Moment of Silence on the Grassy Knoll at 12:30 pm on November 22 as we have for the past 49 years. Among the confirmed speakers are Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, JD, MD (our founding president), Walt Brown, Peter Dale Scott, Jesse Ventura, Dr. Gary Aguilar, Robert Groden, David Talbot, Dick Russell, Russ Baker, Joan Mellen, Dr. Ernst Titovets (Oswald’s best friend), Jefferson Morley, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Baba Zak Kondo, Bill Kelly, Bill Simpich, Andrew Kiel, Chris Pike, Kenn Thomas, Stan Weeber, Wayne Smith, Ben Rogers, Edward Curtin, Michael Calder, Bill Holiday, Mel Barney and many others. Please plan to join us for our most important conference to date. Pre-registrants have filled the rooms available at the Hotel Lawrence. We have arranged for additional rooms at a discount rate at Aloft, an upscale hotel near Dealey Plaza. A special discount early registration rate of $125 and a banquet rate of $45 for those who register with us by mail or email by June 30. Payment for early registration can be made any time before June 30, 2013, and can be done at this website as a donation or sent by check or money order to COPA. After that the rate will go up to $150. We need to know whether you plan to be there. We can seat up to 150 people at our special banquet dinner, but we have to know as soon as possible if you plan to attend. Email contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mail: COPA, P.O. Box 772, Washington, DC 20044.

JFKFacts.org, Morley v. CIA: Why I sued for JFK assassination records, Jefferson Morley, Feb. 23, 2013. In reporting on my February 25 federal court date with the CIA, I explained the goals of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking certain ancient JFK assassination records. But a friend noted that I hadn’t really explained my theory of the case. I get these questions a lot. What the hell is Morley v. CIA all about? What are you saying happened in Dealey Plaza? What do you think was really going on? And, inevitably, what’s your theory? I usually shy away from answering such questions because the lawsuit seeks to answer them. Until I have all the evidence, it is not really my job as a journalist to speculate or guess. And it is the CIA’s obligation under the law to release the records, if they are related to JFK’s assassination. But with U.S. government officials impugning my professionalism, I realize I should explain in more detail why — and how — the documents I seek are related to JFK’s assassination. My contention is that at least some of the files I seek are related to JFK’s assassination. If this claim is correct, then certain CIA officials are violating the law in 2013....I have sought to clarify the issue through official channels without success. The staff of the National Archives is responsible for enforcing the JFK Records Act. At my request, interested Archives staffers asked the CIA for permission to review the Joannides files. The CIA refused, saying the matter is under litigation, referring to my case.  The audacity of the CIA is impressive, or appalling, depending on your politics. The agency cites my lawsuit seeking release of certain ancient JFK files as a way of preventing the National Archives from enforcing the JFK Records Act, which requires release of such documents.

Huffington Post, JFK at 49: What We Know for Sure, Jefferson Morley, Nov. 22, 2012.  November 22 marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The memory of the tragedy in Dallas seems to be fading in America's collective consciousness. Few people younger than myself (I'm 54) have any memory of the day it actually happened. 9/11 has certainly replaced 11/22 as the time stamp of American catastrophic angst. Yet the JFK story still acts as a gravitational vortex in America's pop culture galaxy.

Huffington Post, Sequestration Nation, and Remembering Robert Kennedy, Robert Reich, March 3, 2013. With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy -- and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office. 1967 was a difficult time for the nation. America was deeply split over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Many of our cities were burning. The war was escalating. But RFK was upbeat. He was also busy and intense -- drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he'd declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he'd be dead.) The nation is once again polarized, but I don't hear our politicians talking about social justice or the public good. They're talking instead about the budget deficit and sequestration. At bottom, though, the issue is still social justice.

The austerity economics on which we've embarked is a cruel hoax -- cruel because it hurts those who are already hurt the most; a hoax because it doesn't work. The trickle-down-economics, on which Republicans base their refusal even discuss closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, is a proven failure -- proven because it's been tried before, by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; a failure because nothing has trickled down. Taxes have been cut on the wealthy, but the real median wage keeps dropping and the rate of poverty keeps rising. Meanwhile, America has become far more unequal than it was in 1967. Then, the richest 1 percent got 9 percent of the nation's total income and paid a top marginal tax of 78 percent (and an effective rate, after deductions and credits, of 54 percent). Now the richest 1 percent get over 20 percent of the nation's income and pay a marginal tax of 39 percent (and an effective rate of 23 percent -- or, if you're in Mitt Romney's league, less than 19 percent). The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. If Robert Kennedy were alive today he'd condemn the Tea Party Republicans (and the Koch Brother billionaires who fund them) for violating the basic ideal of social justice that's the moral foundation of this nation.

Coalition on Political Assassinations, Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012, Vincent Salandria, Nov. 8, 2012. On January 4, 2012 at 11:25 a.m. I arrived at the Oyster House restaurant in Philadelphia for a meeting with former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. He had called me a week or so earlier and suggested we have lunch. We met, shook hands, and seated ourselves at a table. I thanked him for suggesting having lunch with me.....Coalition Editor's Note: This thoughtful and provocative piece comes from an early and brilliant Warren Commission critic and lawyer Vincent Salandria, author of False Mystery. He has taken the position for years that the visible facts in the case were transparent from the start, without ever being officially confirmed. In his view, we already know who killed President Kennedy and why, but to admit that to ourselves would lead to an imperative for action with unknown consequences. He continues these themes in this recent piece sent to us for public consumption. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania passed away recently after a long battle with cancer and never recanted his conclusions about the single bullet theory he propounded for the Warren Commission to explain multiple wounds in President Kennedy and John Connally on November 22, 1963.

Salon, National Archives: No new JFK docs, Jefferson Morley, June 14, 2012. Acquiescing to CIA demands for secrecy, the National Archives announced Wednesday that it will not release 1,171 top-secret Agency documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy in time for the 5oth anniversary of JFK’s death in November 2013. “Is the government holding back crucial JFK documents,” asked Russ Baker in a WhoWhatWhy piece that Salon published last month. The answer, unfortunately, is yes. In a letter released this week, Gary Stern, general counsel for the National Archives and Record Administration, said the Archives would not release the records as part of the Obama administration’s ongoing declassification campaign. Stern cited CIA claims that “substantial logistical requirements” prevented their disclosure next year.

New York Times, CIA is still cagey with Oswald mystery, Scott Shane, Oct. 17, 2009. Is the Central Intelligence Agency covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Probably not. But you would not know it from the C.I.A.’s behavior. For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The C.I.A. says it is only protecting legitimate secrets. But because of the agency’s history of stonewalling assassination inquiries, even researchers with no use for conspiracy thinking question its stance. The files in question, some released under direction of the court and hundreds more that are still secret, involve the curious career of George E. Joannides, the case officer who oversaw the dissident Cubans in 1963. In 1978, the agency made Mr. Joannides the liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations — but never told the committee of his earlier role. That concealment has fueled suspicion that Mr. Joannides’s real assignment was to limit what the House committee could learn about C.I.A. activities. The agency’s deception was first reported in 2001 by Jefferson Morley, who has doggedly pursued the files ever since, represented by James H. Lesar, a Washington lawyer specializing in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

WhoWhatWhy / OpEd News, Dallas Diminishes JFK, His Legacy, And Those Who Care About Democracy, Russ Baker, Nov. 26, 2012.  Welcome to the JFK Assassination Cover-up, Chapter 20. The Dallas Morning News, notoriously uninterested in real journalism about the most infamous event ever to take place in its city, recently ran a JFK-related piece in its entertainment section. One of a flood of stories purporting to provide insight into the event as we head toward the 50th anniversary, it was headlined: "Looking for fiction about the JFK assassination? Choose carefully." Now, why would we need fiction about the JFK assassination, when most of the purported "fact" put out by the establishment is, as any serious researcher will tell you, straight from someone's imagination? Nevertheless, here is this article on what to look for among offerings that openly proclaim themselves fanciful accounts. Many might find these opening paragraphs deeply offensive, with their snide, even vicious references to hallucinating losers seeing "Guatemalan midget shooters"; gullible fools feeding a "growth industry;" and Jackie, all alone, "concocting" a "whole-cloth fantasy" that John F. Kennedy was actually doing important things when he was cut down. Now, why would a "respectable" newspaper publish this kind of thing? And who would write it?

Amazon.com Mary's Mosaic Reader Reviews, The framing of an innocent man and how it all relates to the JFK assassination, David R. Wayne [Co-author of Dead Wrong, Skyhorse, 2012], April 30, 2012. Mary's Mosaic is one of the most dramatically compelling books to come out in a long time. It operates seamlessly-and at the exact same time- as Murder Thriller, Courtroom Drama, Spy Story and Historical Mystery. The author, Peter Janney, had a unique perspective as an insider growing up in the CIA spy circles of Washington, D.C. and he harnessed those unique connections to weave together the facts on one of the most interesting "cold cases" in history. The book answers questions that are not only intriguing in themselves, but also of great historical importance...This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the 1960s in general and the JFK assassination in particular. It's an important work because it corrects the myth that has surrounded both the relationship between President Kennedy and Mary, as well as the true circumstances of her assassination.

Boston Globe, Peter Janney on JFK confidante Mary Pinchot Meyer’s death: One man's suspicion, obsession, and an unsolved murder, Joseph P. Kahn, May 26, 2012. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, inviting a fresh deluge of books, articles, and documentaries about JFK’s murder and legacy, a legacy colored by ongoing revelations of Kennedy’s many extramarital affairs. It’s doubtful, though, that any forthcoming book will get more personal, or more conspiracy-minded, than the new one produced by Peter Janney, 64, a Beverly psychologist and first-time author. Janney’s 548-page tome, Mary’s Mosaic:The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace, reads like a John Grisham thriller crossed with an Oliver Stone movie. Its sprawling narrative offers spies galore, missing documents, a sprinkling of Georgetown glitter, Cold War geopolitics, and even a role for LSD guru Timothy Leary.

Editor's Recommendations

Legal Schnauzer, U.S. Supreme Court's Reputation Sinks Into Toilet With Its Refusal To Review Paul Minor Convictions, Roger Shuler, Feb. 25, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it would not grant certiorari review in the case of Paul Minor, left, a former trial lawyer from Mississippi. Citizens who closely followed the Bush v. Gore debacle after the 2000 presidential election already know the high court's reputation is in tatters. Any doubters ought to be convinced by the refusal to consider the Minor convictions, which probably are due to be overturned on at least a dozen grounds. No. 1 on the list, for purposes of the SCOTUS petition, was that the high court's ruling in a 2010 case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling means the jury instructions in Minor were incorrect, and the convictions no longer rest on good law. Minor's legal team, led by criminal-justice expert Albert Alschuler, makes a powerful argument to that effect in a 237-page petition filed with the high court. (The full petition can be viewed at the end of this post.) There can be no serious debate that Alschuler is correct, and here is why: Minor and two co-defendants--former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield--were tried under the federal honest-services fraud statute and convicted on alleged violations of Mississippi state bribery law. But SCOTUS used Skilling v. U.S., 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010) to establish a uniform national standard in honest-services cases and found that they must be grounded in federal law, not state laws.

Wayne Madsen Report, Exclusive: Investigative Author Phil Marshall right-handed but sheriff claims he shot himself in left side of his head, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 22, 2013 (subscription required). Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, right, travelled to the California home of fellow investigative reporter Phil Marshall to explore a local sheriff's prompt verdict that Marshall had killed himself and his two children in their home in a remote community near the Nevada border. Madsen's findings: "New evidence proves sheriff's report inconclusive in Marshall family deaths." Petition: Please sign this petition to the White House for the Department of Justice to investigate the murders of author Phil Marshall and his children. "Author and Iran-contra scandal expert Philip Marshall, his 17-year old son Alex, his 14-year old daughter Macaila, and their pet dog were shot to death on or about January 31, 2013 at their home in Murphys, CA. The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department prematurely contaminated the crime scene and ruled the deaths a murder-suicide by Mr. Marshall even though forensic evidence proves the deaths to be a triple homicide. Mr. Marshall, a retired United Airlines pilot who once worked with DEA/CIA contract employee Barry Seal, himself gunned down in Baton Rouge, LA on Feb. 19, 1986, as well as Iran-contra scandal felon Oliver North, had good reason to fear for his life. The murders of the Marshalls call for a full investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice and the FBI."

Wayne Madsen Report, Taking on the conspiracy theory meme, Wayne Madsen, March 5, 2013 (Subscription required.) It's as if the shooting deaths of an author and one-time CIA/Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) contract pilot, his two children, and pet dog are a mere footnote to some journalists. What is more important to them -- beyond the facts in the case of the deaths of retired United Airlines pilot Philip Marshall and his children -- is to debunk another "9/11 conspiracy theory." We now live in an era when certain news stories that are uncomfortable to some interests are deemed "conspiracy theories" and should, therefore, be forgotten. Keep in mind that Watergate, Iran-contra, the Savings and Loan collapse, and the Ken Starr crusade against President Bill Clinton were all conspiracies. Many mafiosi leaders were convicted and jailed under federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy laws.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Manning Pleads Guilty to Counts in WikiLeaks case, Julie Tate and Ernesto Londoño Feb. 28, 2013. The Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday and offered an impassioned defense of his actions, arguing that he sought to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.” The testimony marked Pfc. Bradley Manning’s first detailed account of his disclosure of a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents in 2010 to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization he said he approached after he was unable to entice The Washington Post and the New York Times.

FireDogLake, Bradley Manning Describes ‘Collateral Murder’ Video as ‘War Porn,’  Kevin Gosztola, February 28, 2013. In a military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to unauthorized possession of certain information, to willfully communicating that information to an unauthorized person, WikiLeaks, and that the conduct was “service discrediting” or prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the military.

Washington Post, U.S. Pledges food and medicine to Syrian rebels, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung, Feb. 28, 2013.The Obama administration will provide food and medicine to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Thursday, opening the first channel of U.S. aid to the opposition military. The cautious foray into front-line battlefield support fell far short of the heavy weaponry and high-tech gear the rebels seek. But Kerry said he would take additional opposition requests “back to Washington for further consideration.” Standing with Kerry in an appearance before reporters, the leader of the political opposition had no words of thanks for an offer that still represents a hedge of the U.S. bet on the group it helped to form last year. Syrian Opposition Coalition chairman Mouaz al-Khatib angrily appealed for help in establishing a humanitarian corridor to the besieged city of Homs and said the rebels are tired of Western complaints about extremists in their ranks. He argued that the real enemy is the Assad regime but said too many outsiders are worried only about “the length of a beard of a fighter.”

Washington Post, Efforts to avert cut are dropped, Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 28, 2013, One day before automatic spending cuts were due to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies, Congress on Thursday abandoned efforts to avert the reductions and left town for the weekend. The sequester is here, and policymakers have no plans to end it. President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with congressional leaders, but expectations for the meeting are low. House Republicans are already turning their attention to the next deadline on March 27, drafting a measure that would avoid a government shutdown while leaving the sequester in place through the end of September.

OpEdNews, The ABCs of Sequester with William Rivers Pitt, Joan Brunwasser, Feb. 28 , 2013.  My guest today is author, political activist, Truthout editor and columnist, William Rivers Pitt. Welcome to OpEdNews, Will. This week, you wrote "The "Fix' is In: Laying Bare Some Sequester Lies." With the sequester due to kick in shortly, this is a golden opportunity to bring our readers up to speed. Let's begin at the beginning. What is this much ballyhooed sequester? It was determined that $4 trillion in deficit reduction is required to get the nation's economic house in order. Through a series of quasi-apocalyptic showdowns - the recent "fiscal cliff" farce was one such - the president and Congress have managed to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion through a series of spending cuts and tax increases on wealthier Americans. In order to cross the $4 trillion finish line, however, the sequester was created as a kind of doomsday device: an automatic $1.25 trillion in deep, traumatizing cuts to the military, and to social programs across the board, would take place if the $4 trillion goal was not met by March 1st. The argument for creating the sequester was simple: the looming cuts are so deep, and apply to so many different areas beloved across the ideological spectrum, that no one in Washington would allow it to happen, and would be forced to do a deal.

Washington Post, A different kind of black-and-white issue, Colbert I. King, Feb. 23, 2013. This week I received an e-mail with the subject line: “Please Colbert, write about Jesse Jackson Jr. and father.” It was a racial taunt, perhaps best ignored. The writer chose to view the fall of Jesse Jackson Jr. (at left) through the lens of race, ignoring how widespread the conduct he deplored has become. Public figures fathering a child out of marriage? The e-mailer failed to mention former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R); former senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards; Rep. Steve ohen (D-Tenn.); former New York representative Vito Fossella (R); the late Republican senator Strom Thurmond, a former presidential candidate; or former New Mexico senator Pete Domenici (R) — all of whom did what Jesse Jackson Sr. had done. Misconduct while in public office? The list of violators is endless and spans the racial and religious spectra.

Washington Post, Maryland’s proposed online ballot system called vulnerable to cyberattack, Aaron C. Davis, Feb. 23, 2013 A controversial change in Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s otherwise popular bill to expand early voting could lead to voter fraud and expose the state’s elections to cybersecurity threats, according to a voting group and election technology experts. The provision, sought for more than a year by Maryland’s State Board of Elections, would allow any Marylander to receive a password by e-mail to download and mark a ballot at home before mailing it back to elections officials. But the problem, critics warn, is that the e-mail system lacks basic protections and there would be no signature verification or other means to ensure that the person for whom the ballot is intended is actually the person who casts it. Experts have also warned that the proposed online ballot delivery system could be hacked on a massive scale because of a second and related vulnerability that still exists with the state’s new online voter registration system. Maryland residents can register to vote online with a driver’s license number. But in Maryland, that number is a formula of a resident’s name and birth date that can be found online.

FireDogLake, Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Wiretapping Law Cannot Be Challenged Without Proof of Secret Surveillance, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 26, 2013. In a lawsuit against a warrantless wiretapping law and filed on behalf of human rights attorneys, journalists and human rights and media organizations, the Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs bringing the suit do not have standing for the lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the case alleging the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 made it legally permissible for the government to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications, even if there was no probable cause or individualized suspicion for such surveillance.  In March 2011, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs did have standing to challenge. It did not buy the government’s position, which according to the ACLU was that plaintiffs should not be able to sue without showing they have been monitored under the FAA but the government should not have to disclose information to plaintiffs on whether they have been monitored. The Obama administration appealed and the challenge went to the Supreme Court. It was a 5-4 ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia ruled in favor of the government while Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan joined Breyer in dissenting against the ruling.

Hollywood Comes to the Potomac

Latin Times, Michelle Obama Presents Best Picture Oscar, Sparks Conservative Controversy [VIDEO], Staff report, Feb. 25, 2013.  First lady Michelle Obama (at left in a White House photo) made a surprise appearance at the Oscars last night, but avoided all the red carpet fuss by linking in via satellite live from the White House to present the Academy Award for Best Picture to "Argo." "[These films] taught us that love can beat all odds," Obama said during the Best Picture introduction. "They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves." It's through cinema, Obama said, that "our children learn to open their imagination and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams."

"Argo," a film about a plan executed by the CIA to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran during the Carter-era hostage crisis, went head to head with other politically driven films such as "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty," but came out on top. In her surprise appearance, Michelle Obama presented the award live from the Diplomatic Room of the White House.  Not everyone approved of the first lady giving an award at a high-profile entertainment event.  Richard Brody wrote on the New Yorker's website "though I'm a great admirer of the first lady, I found Michelle Obama's appearance to open the Best Picture envelope, accompanied by the gold-braided honor guard behind her, wildly inappropriate in its affirmation of the hard power behind the soft power -- the connection of real politics to the representational politics of the movies, of the peculiar and long-standing symbiosis of Washington and Hollywood -- all the more so when the matter of access to inside government information is a key issue with the making of 'Zero Dark Thirty.'"
 
US News and World Report, Should Michelle Obama Have Presented at the Oscars? The First Lady appeared live via video from the White House to present the award for Best Picture, Teresa Welsh, Feb. 26, 2013,  First lady Michelle Obama, surrounded by servicemen and women, made a surprise appearance at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony when she appeared via live video from Washington to present the award for Best Picture. Jack Nicholson was present on stage to hand off the award to Ben Affleck for Argo. Obama praised the nominees for the night's highest honor, saying the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar could teach lessons that "apply to all of us no matter who we are, what we look like, where we come from and who we love." She said she was excited to pay tribute to movies that "lift our spirits, broaden our minds and transport us to places we can never imagine."

 

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