Extra OPC Materials

As war clouds drift from Central Asia and the Mideast to the Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations delivered an eloquent and generally well-received address April 24 as the finale to the Overseas Press Club's 75th anniversary awards dinner.

Samantha PowerSamantha Power aptly illustrated the cross-pollination of government and journalism as she reflected on her transformation from foreign correspondent to Obama advocate of limited military intervention in such arenas as Syria and the Ukraine.

Power's remarks occurred at a press club awards ceremony in New York City conferring honors on 22 categories of international news coverage during the 2013 calendar year.

During her speech, Power warmed up the crowd by emphasizing her admiration for journalists and her roots in the field:

"It’s great to be here and more than a little scary – you’re an amazing group," she said. "Among us tonight are award winners and icons, living legends and legendary curmudgeons, truth tellers, and trouble makers, one and all. So I know I have my work cut out for me and I’m really honored and truly humbled, especially having listened to those of you who came up and spoke, and read about those who were cited as well. The work that you do every day is an inspiration."

Elite policymakers and influential thought-leadership groups use such events to create win-win outcomes that inevitably leave at least some outsiders wringing their hands, as we have reported frequently so far this year in columns excerpted below in an appendix.

Bluntly speaking, critics claim U.S. government abuses in domestic surveillance, propaganda, torture, crackdowns on federal whistleblowers and reporters, and cover-up. Alleged also are arms smuggling, regime change and other U.S. covert action theoretically improper in such high-profile arenas as Benghazi, Syria and the Ukraine. U.S. officials like Power not only deny improper actions, but are part of an administration that aggressively fights internal and external critics, including government employees who talk to the media without approved talking points.

Therefore, a celebration of bold and revealing reporting inevitably creates a dramatic tension that this column explores.

 
Bob Simon
From the 39th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park, master of ceremonies Bob Muir of ABC World News led tributes to the intrepid and talented. The stories behind the story were especially impressive in the bravery of the war correspondents who operate by their wits regions with little protection.
 
A llifetime achievement award went to CBS correspondent Bob Simon, right, a full time correspondent for CBS 60 Minutes after beginning his reporting career 42 years ago in Vietnam for the network. Simon has also reported from the CBS London and Tel Aviv bureaus and in 1987 was named the CBS News Chief Middle East Correspondent.
 
CBS compiled a powerful montage of his career. The material included his 1960s coverage of the Vietnam War, his capture as a hostage in the first Iraq War and his daring reports exposing government lying and wrongdoing. Simon said the award was, in effect, going to several reporters because his personality had been reshaped by his varied experiences.
 
In keeping with the theme of this column, we note CBS News President Andrew Rhodes is the brother of President Obama's National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes. Such relationships (more typically spousal or inter-generational) are widely replicated at elite levels of government, business and the media -- and have been for many years. It is to Simon's credit that he succeeded with important work in an environment far more complex politically than ordinary viewers might appreciate.
 
With an engaging and informal demeanor, Power established her connection with the audience by describing her start as an untrained correspondent who traveled to Bosnia in 1993 as a freelancer without a steady assignment, and became an award-winning reporter, a Harvard Law graduate and a Pulitzer-winner for her 2002 book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide.
 
She became a staffer to Barack Obama when he was a U.S. senator representing Illinois. She married law professor Cass Sunstein, a close friend of Barack Obama.
 
Sunstein, a former professor of mine at the University of Chicago School of Law, co-authored in 2008 "Conspiracy Theories," a working paper that became controversial paper in civil liberties circles. In the paper, he complained that millions of Americans hold false belief in government conspiracies. As the best solution (among the alternatives of a government ban on conspiracy advocacy or higher taxes on their proponents), Sunstein recommended that the government secretly hire journalists, academics and similar thought leaders to disrupt circles in American society where such ideas as discussed.
 
Sunstein became a prominent White House appointees in the first-term of the Obama administration, as did Power. Although Sunstein's paper was directed specifically at national security issues critics noted that the major academic proponent of Obama's Affordable Health Care proposal, Dr. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received secret grants from the Obama administration virtually unknown to reporters quoting him as an independent expert.
 
Building on earlier writing, Power became one of the administration's leading advocates of implementing the novel and controversial "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine that uses democratic, free press and humanitarian rationales to justify intervention into strife-torn nations and, some would say, covert action to create strife and topple opposition governments. The United Nations formally adopted the policy as a tool to prevent genocide and other human rights abuses.
 
Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein White House PhotoVice President Biden is shown as swearing her in to her post as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations last Aug. 19 as Sunstein looks on. Obama last summer named Sunstein, former White House director of regulation at the Office of Management and Budget, to a five-man oversight review board of Obama confidantes considering reforms for the National Security Agency in the wake of disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In Power's press club speech April 24, she said:

Our world is awash in propaganda masquerading as facts and images that do not always mean what they appear to mean. Good journalism – based on hard work and high standards – gives us the filter we need to separate falsehoods from reality. It can also help us to focus on what is truly important. I owe my own background as a journalist to a great mentor and some good fortune, probably like many of you.

She then argued a moral case in black-and-white terms that the United States policies have been necessary and appropriate.

Today, I have a new job and a new set of responsibilities. One of my responsibilities is to be taken to task by you, my former colleagues. This has taken various forms, as of course it should. But lately there is a particular question that is making the rounds that I would like to answer here tonight once and for all. The question is: “What would the journalist Samantha Power say to the diplomat Samantha Power about country X?”

My answer is: it turns out the old and the new Samantha hang out together quite a lot; we talk about current events. Most of the time we don’t mind one another’s company. And if ever the old Samantha Power gets shy about complaining about something the new Samantha Power is doing (or not doing), I can assure you that one of you will be there to pick up the slack.

She proceeded to say, "literally dozens of regimes are now engaged in a far-reaching crackdown on the right to organize, speak freely, and advocate peacefully for change. Often, these are governments that lack confidence in their own legitimacy or in the credibility of their policies. To forestall criticism, they equate legitimate dissent with treason; and make it harder for NGOs to operate; and try to control, corrupt, and intimidate the press."

Some governments strive to manipulate coverage by paying people off or by limiting newspaper and broadcasting licenses to a favored few. Others use their own media to smear the reputations of independent writers. When all else fails, authorities may employ thugs to harass or beat up editors and journalists who refuse to compromise their principles.

The list of repressive countries includes the usual suspects, but also many – such as Turkey – that have free elections. Turkey’s efforts to restrict the internet and shut down Twitter are making world news, but less visible is the fact that according to the Committee to Protect Journalists they were the number one jailer of journalists in 2013.

Overall, the good news is that fewer journalists were imprisoned last year than had been the case in 2012. The bad news is that, except for 2012, last year was the worst on record. By December’s end, more than 200 media personal were incarcerated and 105 had been killed in 2013 while doing their jobs.

It is sobering – and unacceptable – that, worldwide, less than ten percent of crimes against journalists lead to arrests or punishment. Often, investigative reporters become targets because they refuse to stop making connections between the criminal and the powerful. War correspondents, meanwhile, do much of their most valuable work while in imminent danger, as we’ve heard tonight. In the words of one newspaper man, “To do journalism is to walk on an invisible line through a field strewn with explosives.”

Under President Obama, we have made support for press freedom one of the recurring themes of U.S. foreign policy. Each day, our diplomats demonstrate support for the right of people to speak, publish, broadcast, and otherwise express themselves without fear. We are working with allies and friends to defend civil society against those who would curb its ability to function. And we’ve encouraged leaders everywhere that the lasting stability that they claim to seek is not possible if they remove or weaken checks and balances on officialdom

My impression was her speech was effective on the whole. She established a bond with the audience, welcomed feedback, and chatted at a reception with anyone (including me) who approached after the formal program.
 
However, readers of my fall 2013 book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters or many of the columns on this site in recent months know that they have reported what I regard as serious flaws in her advocacy and that of her colleagues, including President Obama.
 
The administration repeatedly uses what might charitably be described as partial truths and other rhetorical tactics to obscure empire-building, regime-change, and anti-democratic actions that constitute a danger to the free press, among other freedoms. We support anti-democratic, anti-human rights and war-mongering regimes because they are "allies" and mount secret military actions against others who have far more of a semblance of the freedoms we ostensibly advocate at the United Nation and for domestic consumption. To cite one of many examples, the Obama administration like its predecessor maintains a close alliance with Saudi Arabia when clear-cut reasons exist to show that it is not a democracy in any normal sense of the word.
 
In an attempt to quantify such a complex and nuanced topic, examples cited below show that the United States has dropped in the past year 13 spaces to forty-sixth among one widely used ranking of nations on the basis of press freedom. Also, the Obama administration has prosecuted more government workers on the basis of the 1917 Espionage Act for talking to reporters than all previous administrations combined since the law was created during World War I. Furthermore, the administration is woefully remiss in creating accountability in the federal government, especially regarding vast abuses in the military, intelligence, and financial sectors.
 
That kind of critique and mystery-solving takes a book to describe, which is why I wrote Presidential Puppetry. I touched lightly on the theme in a brief conversation with Power at the reception in thanking her for her invitation to the audience to maintain commentary, but it really was more of social occasion than a proper venue for discussion.
 
A problem, however, is that relatively few proper venues for criticism or serious inquiry aside from the steady patter of sustained independent commentary.
 
Three weeks ago, for example, I wrote here in Mainstream Media Ignore Hersh’s Shocking Reports on Benghazi, Syria Atrocities about how Seymour Hersh's blockbuster accusations against the Obama administration were published in the London Review of Books instead of mainstream United Stated, and failed to achieve significant follow up. One of Hersh's most explosive claims was that Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally in the fight to overthrow Syria's government, helped plan a sarin gas attack Aug. 21 that reportedly caused more than a thousand deaths in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.The deaths, a war crime if proven, nearly prompted a massive U.S. bombing attack on the grounds that Syria's government had crossed a "red line" set by President Obama against use of chemical weapons. 
 
Research and publication problems affect beat reporters also, not just freelancers like Hersh, a longtime contributor to the New Yorker.
 
Presidential Puppetry reports how only the conservative Washington Times was virtually alone in covering the mysterious incident in the 2008 presidential campaign whereby an employee of future CIA Director John Brennan was caught illegally accessing State Department records of the three major presidential candidates at the time, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee John McCain.
 
Brennan, shown in a file photo, was a top campaign advisor to Obama at the time after a 25 year career at the CIA. Brennan denied any knowledge or other involvement of a matter that has struck me, at least, as inherently interesting because of the nexus between intelligence gathering at the height of the 2008 presidential race and the unwillingness of either major party or the media to seek answers.
 
In the summer of 2008, the Bush-controlled U.S. State Department issued a heavily redacted report on the matter, which is crime punishable by prison time in comparable situations. But major media reporters assigned to the State Department virtually ignored the report and side-stepped tough questions about it at a press conference, whose transcript I examined. 
 
These are just a few of the mysteries in public life that pop up many times each day for those of us trained to see them. To take a couple of examples simply from the April 29 print edition of the Washington Post, we see that the United States is providing safe harbor in California to a prominent administrator of torture in Afghanistan, that a longtime defender at the Post of the CIA is complaining of the harm to CIA morale if the Senate pursues investigations of torture, that the United States has begun publicly sending anti-tank weapons to rebels to overthrow the government of Syria's leader, and that the United States has resumed weapons sales to Egypt's coup-installed government, which announced death sentences to 683 people convicted in the latest mass trial of suspected supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood political party. 
 
As I prepare to attend this week my high school reunion, I notice that one of my contemporaries, Egypt Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, is quoted as defending the crackdown on the Muslim brotherhood by comparing it to the steps the United States took after 9/11. "When you face exceptional circumstances," Fahmy told an audience at the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, "you respond."   
 
Most people have little knowledge or ability to influence such complex matters. A recent poll indicated, for example, that only 13 percent of the American public could place the Ukraine on a map, and that those who could are more critical of U.S. policy than those who do not know the location.
 
Yet even those who know, care and even criticize have difficulty finding an effective means for action. This includes many of those I encounter in journalism, academia or government. The reason? I argue in my book that many of our democratic traditions are broken, leading to near-powerless individuals. In all too many instances, a tradition of secret law and other governance is taking hold in the name of national security and other protection against threats.
 
For those unhappy with that result, I recommend a KEY: Knowledge Empowers You.
 
Become aware. Join worthwhile professional, civic, community and similar volunteer organizations. Choose and support their leaders, or even become one. Create worthwhile events and dialogues. I'll not try to say what they should be, only that close adherence to constitutional and moral principles are our best bet.
 
 
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Samantha Power and Overseas Press Club

President Obama, Samantha Power, Tom Donilon and Susan RicePresident Obama meets in the summer of 2013 with UN Ambassador Samantha Power, center, Chief of Staff Thomas Donilan and National Security Advisor Susan Rice (White House Photo).

U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Ambassador Power at Overseas Press Club Annual Awards Dinner, Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, April 15, 2014. It’s great to be here and more than a little scary – you’re an amazing group. Among us tonight are award winners and icons, living legends and legendary curmudgeons, truth tellers, and trouble makers, one and all. So I know I have my work cut out for me and I’m rally honored and truly humbled, especially having listened to those of you who came up and spoke, and read about those who were cited as well. The work that you do every day is an inspiration.

Our world is awash in propaganda masquerading as facts and images that do not always mean what they appear to mean. Good journalism – based on hard work and high standards – gives us the filter we need to separate falsehoods from reality. It can also help us to focus on what is truly important. I owe my own background as a journalist to a great mentor and some good fortune, probably like many of you. Today, I have a new job and a new set of responsibilities. One of my responsibilities is to be taken to task by you, my former colleagues. This has taken various forms, as of course it should. But lately there is a particular question that is making the rounds that I would like to answer here tonight once and for all. The question is: “What would the journalist Samantha Power say to the diplomat Samantha Power about country X?” My answer is: it turns out the old and the new Samantha hang out together quite a lot; we talk about current events. Most of the time we don’t mind one another’s company. And if ever the old Samantha Power gets shy about complaining about something the new Samantha Power is doing (or not doing), I can assure you that one of you will be there to pick up the slack.

Overseas Press Club, Evening Set to Highlight OPC Jubilee, Sonya K. Fry, April 24, 2014. All OPC Awards Dinners are special to the Club. Still, in the past few years, hearts and minds have been focused on making the OPC's 75th Anniversary Awards Dinner on Thursday, April 24 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel an extra special occasion. Early in the day, OPC representatives will participate in a special ceremony to flick the switch that lights up the Empire State Building. Throughout the dinner, the New York landmark will be bathed in blue — the official color of the OPC — in honor of the Club's anniversary and gala. The keynote speaker is former foreign correspondent and current U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power. She began her journalism career covering the Yugoslav Wars from 1993 to 1996. In 2003, her second book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2004, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world and in 2007 she wrote a regular column for Time. She became a scholar of U.S. foreign policy and an advisor to then-Senator Barack Obama. OPC President Michael Serrill has selected veteran foreign correspondent Bob Simon as this year's recipient of the OPC President's Award. Simon began his career in Vietnam, and has reported also from the CBS London and Tel Aviv bureaus and in 1987 was named the CBS News Chief Middle East Correspondent. He has won several OPC awards, most notably for coverage of Vietnam, Egypt and the Rabin assassination in Israel. H The Awards Presenter is David Muir, Weekend Anchor of ABC News. Muir is also co-anchor of 20/20, ABC news magazine. Muir joined ABC News in 2003 and in 2012 was the first American journalist to report from Mogadishu on the Somali famine. He also reported on the Israeli war with Hezbollah and was in Gaza in 2007 to cover the Hamas coup. The nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the earthquake in Haiti and the uprisings in Tahir Square were covered by Muir for ABC World News.

Washington Post Magazine, Samantha Power: learning to play the diplomat’s game, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 3, 2014. In the winter of 2009, a stubborn, decade-old question preoccupied a grimly determined group within the Obama administration: Why hadn’t the United States signed a treaty banning land mines? The mines produce particularly gruesome and indiscriminate results, maiming and killing soldiers, as well as innocent civilians. More than 150 of the 190 or so nations on Earth had joined the treaty, but the United States remained a holdout, keeping company with the likes of Cuba, North Korea and Syria. Why? At the White House, one person seemed uniquely qualified to answer that question and to spur action. Samantha Power, a longtime humanitarian advocate, had been placed in the sanctum of the National Security Council by President Obama earlier that year. She had instantly become, as Donald Steinberg, a former member of the council’s Deputies Committee, puts it: “The eyes, the ears and the conscience of the White House.” Power, shown in an official photo, is one of her generation’s most dazzling diagnosticians of our government’s failings, a favorite of the president’s, a Pulitzer-winning author who devastatingly chronicled America’s history of dereliction in humanitarian crises. Yet the more Power studied it, the harder the land mine riddle was to solve. The U.S. military resisted, arguing that the 1 million land mines at the border between North and South Korea were necessary defensive and deterrent weapons.

White House, President Obama Makes a National Security Personnel Announcement, June 5, 2013. (Video: 23:58 min.). President Obama announces that after more than four years overseeing the work of the National Security Council, Tom Donilon will depart in July as National Security Advisor and will be succeeded by Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice will be succeeded by Samantha Power as the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, pending Senate confirmation. Now, normally I'd be worried about losing such an extraordinary person up at the United Nations and be trying to figure out how are we ever going to replace her.  But fortunately, I'm confident we've got an experienced, effective and energetic U.N. ambassador-in-waiting in Samantha Power. Samantha first came to work for me in 2005, shortly after I became a United States senator, as one of our country's leading journalists; I think she won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 15 or 16.  One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity. As a senior member of my national security team, she has been a relentless advocate for American interests and values, building partnerships on behalf of democracy and human rights, fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism and combatting human trafficking.  To those who care deeply about America’s engagement and indispensable leadership in the world, you will find no stronger advocate for that cause than Samantha. And over the last four years, Samantha has worked hand-in-glove with Susan in her role because Samantha has been the lead White House staffer on issues related to the United Nations.  And I'm fully confident she will be ready on day one to lead our mission in New York while continuing to be an indispensable member of my national security team.
She knows the U.N.'s strengths. She knows its weaknesses.  She knows that American interests are advanced when we can rally the world to our side.  And she knows that we have to stand up for the things that we believe in.  And to ensure that we have the principled leadership we need at the United Nations, I would strongly urge the Senate to confirm her without delay. So, Samantha, thank you. To Cass, and you, and Declan and Rian for continuing to serve our country.

Trends in U.S. Press Freedom

Justice Integrity Project, U.S. Drops 13 Places To 46th On 'World Press Freedom Index,' Andrew Kreig, Feb. 10, 2014. The United States experienced a major decline in press freedom over the past year according to the new annual study announced Feb. 11 by Reporters Without Borders. "2013 will go down in history as the worst year for press freedom in the modern history of the United States," said New York Times investigative reporter James Risen as he moderated a panel at the National Press Club announcing the results.  Risen said government obstruction and prosecution of whistleblowers has chilled reporting on public affairs in Washington, hurting the public and democratic values. The report cited a number of Obama administration prosecutions of leakers as a major reason for the decline in the ranking of the United States from 32th to 46th.

U.S. Self-Censorship, Whistleblower Crackdowns, Government Controls

Seymour Hersh Democracy Now! Screen shot 2014Justice Integrity Project, Mainstream Media Ignore Hersh’s Shocking Reports on Benghazi, Syria Atrocities, Andrew Kreig, April 17, 2014. The major U.S. media have ignored for the most part Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster column April 4 reporting the Obama administration's deceptive accounts of notorious killings in Benghazi and Syria. Several major outlets declined to publish his column "The Red Line and the Rat Line" and, much worse, have also failed to raise questions about his source-based allegations after Hersh published them in the London Review of Books. News organizations have not sought to obtain answers, much as they would on other public mysteries such as the missing Malaysian airplane. Hersh is shown in a screen shot from an interview on Democracy Now!

Justice Integrity Project, 4 Major National Security Scandals, Simmer or Explode This Week, Andrew Kreig, March 12, 2014. Four major national security scandals were revealed this week after being ignored for many months by corporate-controlled mainstream outlets. My new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters, treats all four by connecting previous findings largely ignored or suppressed.  Most visibly, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein created headlines by denouncing on March 11 CIA spying on the Senate. Allegations of such spying have long been apparent to those monitoring such claims, including by former NSA analyst Russell Tice.

Intelligence Agencies Activities and Controversies

Justice Integrity Project, Intelligence Agencies Use Social Media for 'Dirty Tricks,' Propaganda: New Report, Andrew Kreig, March 1, 2014. Western intelligence agencies secretly use social media to inflict dirty tricks on enemies and to manipulate the public's political perceptions, according to a major investigative report last week by Glenn Greenwald. Based on documents provided last year by former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden, Greenwald published How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations in cooperation with NBC and via the First Look Intercept site. "I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents," Greenwald wrote Feb. 24. "Namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself."

April 28

John KerryDaily Beast, Exclusive: Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State,’ Josh Rogin, April 28, 2014. The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn’t make peace soon, it could become ‘an apartheid state,’ like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison. If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry, left, told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday. Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to the Jewish state. Kerry's use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America — and it could attract unwanted attention in Israel, as well. Kerry, a member of Yale's exclusive Skull and Bones society when he was an undergraduate, made his remarks to the Trilateral Commission founded in 1974 with the strong support of David Rockefeller.

FireDogLake, US Military Censors Images of Soldiers Recorded by Miami Herald, Kevin Gosztola, April 28, 2014. A video posted to YouTube by the Miami Herald shows how the United States military is now imposing a greater regime of censorship on the press, who are credentialed to cover the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Since 2002, reporters from the media organization had been reporting on the facility. Rarely has it been easy to do reporting, but, when four senior journalists for the Herald traveled to Guantanamo in March to shoot video “with a staff videographer for the first time,” the Herald “encountered censorship of the sort” that they had “never experienced.”

Dianne FeinsteinWashington Post, Senate probe creates tension with CIA, agents, Walter Pincus, April 28, 2014. The Senate has been asking for years about CIA interrogations, with the issue coming to a head. From 2008 through 2012, CIA officers and contractors faced a criminal investigation by a Justice Department special prosecutor for their roles in what now is considered torturous interrogations, as well as the 2005 destruction of 92 video recordings of some of those activities. The interrogation methods were approved by Bush and his Justice Department attorneys in 2002, 2003 and 2004. CIA attorneys did not object when told that the tapes were being destroyed, because they had been initiated to make certain that the DOJ’s rules were followed and there were operational reports covering what they showed. In November 2010, special prosecutor John H. Durham decided there would be no prosecution for the tape shredding. In June 2011, Durham concluded that most torture and interrogation allegations should not be prosecuted, but he continued looking at two cases in which CIA prisoners died in custody. In August 2012, the DOJ said no charges would be brought in those cases. For CIA officers who faced years of investigation, it was a repeat of past instances when a new administration took issue with previous directives and sought to punish agency personnel rather than the former top officials who had approved those activities. Today, Senate intelligence panel staff members as well as CIA officers and perhaps contractors could be potential subjects of a preliminary DOJ criminal inquiry into the handling of the so-called “Panetta Review,” a set of controversial classified documents that fell into the hands of Senate investigators working on the panel’s probe. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, right, a California Democrat who normally protects and advocates strongly for intelligence initiatives, has protested part of the process.

Washington Post, From ‘torturer in chief’ to a life in Southern California, Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Joshua Partlow, April 28, 2014. An Afghan spy chief has resurfaced.

Hillary Clinton at Yale and the University of Connecticut

Barack Obama Hillary WH patio 7_29-13.jpgHillary Clinton Yale Law SchoolFireDogLake, Hillary Clinton Mocks Snowden, Displays Her Ignorance When It Comes to Whistleblowers, Kevin Gosztola Saturday April 26, 2014. The University of Connecticut hosted a keynote speaking event with former United States senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 23. She was asked a question about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and proceeded to express puzzlement and mock him for disclosing information on top secret surveillance programs. Much of what Clinton said deserves a rebuttal, particularly if this is going to be the talking points that Democratic Party politicians repeat throughout the next fear years. So, I have decided to go line by line through her remarks. Clinton is shown last summer in a White House photo relaxing with President Obama.

Justice Integrity Project, Hillary Clinton's Splendid Speech At Yale Law Ceremony Prompts Questions, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 9, 2013. Hillary Clinton’s speech last weekend at Yale Law School was a triumph for her and the school by objective standards. Even so, the weekend highlighted disturbing questions, some asked and some implicit. Why don't long-accepted legal interpretations, for example, prevent government abuses enabled by novel claims of national security? Are the media and Congress adequately covering security and law enforcement issues that are inherently -- and increasingly --- secret? Photo courtesy of Yale University.

Bernard Kerik on Prison Reform

Justice Integrity Project, Bernard Kerik Delivers Compelling Call For Prison Reform, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 30, 2014. Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik made a powerful case for prison reform Jan. 29 in his first public Bernard Kerik Prison Reform OAR Jan. 29, 2014speech after his release last May. "We over-prosecute," he told his audience in the Washington, DC suburb of Roslyn, VA following early release from his four-year sentence after three years.   He called the expense to both taxpayers and defendants "unsustainable," and the process needlessly cruel and counter-productive. The regional civic group Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) hosted Kerik this week and introduced him as having a unique position in American history to urge reform. He was put behind bars after leading two of the nation's largest law-enforcement agencies and being the most decorated police officer in New York City history.

PolicyMic, NYPD Commissioner-Turned-Felon Has a Message For Us Now That He's Been to Prison, Laura Dimon, April 9, 2014. As the top cop who landed behind bars, he's arguably one of New York's most controversial figures. Bernard Kerik, 58, served as the police commissioner of New York City under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In 2010, after years of litigation, he was convicted of tax fraud and false statements and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Today, he is a convicted felon. On a recent bright morning in a Manhattan skyscraper office, Kerik leaned his head against the glass window and stared down at the two distinct square plots where the Twin Towers once stood. He was there when those towers fell. He lost many of his men that day and saw unimaginable things — people jumping out of the burning buildings, some holding each other as they went. That was then. That was when he headed up 55,000 personnel and a $3.2 billion budget. That was before Giuliani recommended him to Bush, before the thorough vetting process uncovered a questionable past.  He turned around and said, "I've never seen this view before." There was a palpable sadness in his voice. He's been called a hero and a leader, a liar and a crook. But praise or condemn him, it's hard to argue that he doesn't have a damned interesting story. He said that throughout his career, he thought he understood the criminal justice system. But it wasn't until the tough "lock 'em up" cop with the Tony Soprano-like swagger was suited up in prison uniform, mopping floors and living in a small room with three other men that he realized: He knew "nothing," he said, until he was on the other side of the bars. He was one of 2.4 million prisoners in the United States. Because of mass incarceration, the country now accounts for 25% of the world’s imprisoned despite making up, overall, just 5% of the world's population. In the U.S., one in every 108 adults was in prison or jail in 2012 and 1 in 28 children has a parent behind bars. Currently, 65 million Americans have a criminal record — that is greater than the total populations of England and Wales combined. The numbers are staggering and reflect a deeply troubled system. Kerik has some insights about how to begin fixing it. He paid his own way to travel from New Jersey to speak to a gathering convened in Rosslyn, Virginia by a local service organization for ex-prisoners, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), the group's leader said. 

Herman Cain at the National Press Club

OpEd News, Herman Cain, Front-Man for Billionaires, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 14, 2011. GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain serves as front man for the billionaire Koch brothers in a way rarely, if ever, seen in modern times for a prominent U.S. major party candidate. All viable national candidates have wealthy backers, of course. President Obama has out-raised all GOP candidates combined this cycle. What distinguishes the Koch (pronounced "Coke") relationship is the degree of one family's influence over a significant candidate at this stage -- and the radical nature of the candidate's platform.Gen. Tommy Franks at First Speech Following Retirement

Justice Integrity Project, Cain Sells Vision, Denies Harassment, Sings Spiritual, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 1, 2011.  GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain Oct. 31 denied a claim of staff sexual harassment that's grabbing headlines and outlined at a National Press Club lunch how he would revitalize the country with his tax plan. The former businessman and radio host, portrayed below in a club photo courtesy of Al Teich, finished his Q&A by Herman Cainsinging a deep-voiced version of a spiritual. As part of volunteer services that club members render, I was asked to cover the event for the Wire, the club's internal publication for its more than 3,000 members. Before the speech started I asked Cain what he'd suggest as the headline for my story. "Common sense!" he responded with a smile. Below is an adaptation of the report I filed about the come-from-behind candidate who now leads in the latest polls of Republican candidates, or is tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- but now faces scandal allegations. Club President Mark Hamrick, who works for the Associated Press in its broadcasting and online unit, began Q&A by asking Cain about a Politico report Oct. 30 that the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s paid two former staff members to settle their claims that Cain, as CEO, had sexually harassed them. The moderator of an earlier event on tax policy run by the American Enterprise Association had cut off a questioner who tried to ask about the report, with the moderator saying it would likely be addressed at the Press Club. “I would be delighted to clear the air,” Cain responded. “I have never sexually harassed anyone and these accusations are totally false.” Cain, nearing his 66th birthday, said he didn’t know details of any settlement by the association, as alleged by Politico. “I recused myself,” Cain said, “and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation -- and it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis.” Update: Cain told Fox News in an interview later in the day that he recalled a settlement. See below.

Bob Dole

Bill Clinton at the White House

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

President Obama's Asia Trip
 
New York Times, Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast, Mark Landler and Jodi Rudorenapril, April 24, 2014. President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit.
 
Justice Breyer on International Law at Brookings Institution
 
Stephen BreyerBrookings Institution, The Court in the World: The First Annual Justice Stephen Breyer Lecture on International Law, April 3, 2014 (video). Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (shown in a file photo) discussed the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in the world. This event launches a series on international law introduced by Brookings President Strove Talbott.

Syria

Washington Post, Meet the Syrian rebels who received the first U.S. missiles, Liz Sly, April 27, 2014.  The arrival of the missiles has raised the profile of the young rebel commander of the group, who has built a reputation as a moderate. A closer look at the missiles, Richard Johnson, April 28, 2014.

Washington Post, Kuwait is a top funder for Syrian rebels and terrorists, Karen DeYoung, April 25, 2014. A U.S. Treasury official says the ally is “the epicenter” of fundraising for groups linked to al-Qaeda, and officials are frustrated at the nation’s unwillingness to band funding for terrorist groups. Until recently, tiny, oil-rich Kuwait avoided public scrutiny as attention to terrorist financing focused more sharply on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The Ukraine and Russia

Washington Post, New sanctions target Putin’s inner circle, Karen DeYoung and Michael Birnbaum, The Obama administration on Monday imposed new asset freezes and visa bans on seven Russian government officials and sanctions on 17 companies linked to President Vladi­mir Putin’s “inner circle,” saying that the measures were a response to Russia’s failure to cease provocative acts in Ukraine. The sanctions, which President Obama previewed during a visit to the Philippines, include additional restrictions on 13 of the Russian companies, imposing licensing requirements “with a presumption of denial” for the export or transfer of any U.S.-made items to those enterprises
The U.S. action includes asset freezes and visa bans on seven government officials and sanctions on 17 companies. Donetsk protest turns violent.

Tampa Bay Times, President Barack Obama spent "$5 billion paying Ukrainians to riot and dismantle their democratically elected government," Katie Sanders, March 19, 2014. A meme on Facebook says President Barack Obama spent “$5 billion paying Ukrainians to riot and dismantle their democratically elected government.” The claim is rooted in a December 2013 speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a non-governmental agency that promotes democracy in the former Soviet republic. She made clear the United States supported the protesters’ fight and spoke of how she met with Yanukovych, pressing him to end the pushback from Ukrainian security forces because it is "absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state." She described how American taxpayer money has supported Ukraine’s democratic development despite the country’s challenges. "Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations," she said. "We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine." Wasn’t Nuland talking about money given since Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union? The State Department said yes. Since 1992, the government has spent about $5.1 billion to support democracy-building programs in Ukraine, Thompson said, with money flowing mostly from the Department of State via U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture and others. The United States does this with hundreds of other countries. About $2.4 billion went to programs promoting peace and security, which could include military assistance, border security, human trafficking issues, international narcotics abatement and law enforcement interdiction, Thompson said. More money went to categories with the objectives of "governing justly and democratically" ($800 million), "investing in people" ($400 million), economic growth ($1.1 billion), and humanitarian assistance ($300 million). That’s a distorted understanding of remarks given by a State Department official. She was referring to money spent on democracy-building programs in Ukraine since it broke off from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Paul Craig RobertsOpEdNews, Moving Closer To War, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in file photo), April 26, 2014. The crisis in Ukraine originated with Washington's overthrow of the elected democratic government and its replacement with Washington's hand-chosen stooges. The stooges proceeded to act in word and deed against the populations in the former Russian territories that Soviet Communist Party leaders had attached to Ukraine. The consequence of this foolish policy is agitation on the part of the Russian-speaking populations to return to Russia. Crimea has already rejoined Russia, and eastern Ukraine and other parts of southern Ukraine are likely to follow. Instead of realizing its mistake, the Obama regime has encouraged the stooges Washington installed in Kiev to use violence against those in the Russian-speaking areas who are agitating for referendums so that they can vote their return to Russia. The Obama regime has encouraged violence despite President Putin's clear statement that the Russian military will not occupy Ukraine unless violence is used against the protesters. Why is the Obama regime trying to provoke action by the Russian military? A possible answer is that Washington's plan to evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base having gone awry, Washington's fallback plan is to sacrifice Ukraine to a Russian invasion so that Washington can demonize Russia and force a large increase in NATO military spending and deployments. In other words, the fallback prize is a new cold war and trillions of dollars more in profits for Washington's military/security complex.

Washington Post, Pro-Russian separatists stay put in Ukraine as Kiev’s authority weakens, Griff Witte and William Booth, April 25, 2014. Groups hold government buildings in the east a week after a deal with to end the occupations. The pro-Ukraine activists struck before dawn Thursday while the separatists were fast asleep, retaking city hall after nearly two weeks of occupation and notching a small but critical victory in the struggle to keep this country’s eastern half from slipping into Russian hands. But victory was fleeting: By Friday, the pro-Russia Donetsk People’s Republic had been reinstated in this heavily industrial port city of half a million. Inside city hall, the separatists were busy — restocking supplies of molotov cocktails, brokering deals with the local police and vowing not to yield until they win their freedom from the government in Kiev. The episode reflects the massive challenge that Ukrainian authorities face as they try to reassert their authority in a region where government buildings remain in separatist hands a week after Russia and the West agreed on a plan to end the occupations. That behavior reached a new pitch Friday, with separatists detaining a group of European security monitors and branding them “spies.”

Israel

President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office, March 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

Daily Beast, Exclusive: Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State,’ Josh Rogin, April 28, 2014. The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn’t make peace soon, it could become ‘an apartheid state,’ like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison. If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday. Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to the Jewish state. Kerry's use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America — and it could attract unwanted attention in Israel, as well. Kerry spoke to the Trilateral Commission.

Presidential Clemency

Washington Post, President Obama has granted clemency fewer times than any modern president, Katie Zezima, April 25, 2014. He’s granted fewer applications than anyone since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

U.S. Race Relations

Washington Post, Cliven Bundy says if people find his remarks offensive, ‘Martin Luther King didn’t do his job,'  Jaime Fuller, April 25, 2014. When asked about his remarks on slavery Friday morning on CNN, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy said, "If I say 'negro' or 'black boy' or 'slave' ... if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive then Martin Luther King didn't do his job."

Open Internet

Vice.com, Former Comcast and Verizon Attorneys Now Manage the FCC and Are About to Kill the Internet, Lee Fang, April 25, 2014. The open Internet may soon become a thing of the past. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal dropped something of a bombshell with leaked news that the Federal Communications Commission is planning to abandon so-called “net neutrality” Net Neutrality Tombstone image by Flickr user DonkeyHoteyregulations—rules to ensure that Internet providers are prevented from discriminating based on content. Under the new proposed system, companies such as Comcast or Verizon will be able to create a tiered Internet, in which websites will have to pay more money for faster speeds, a change that observers predict will curb free speech, stifle innovation and increase costs for consumers. Like so many problems in American government, the policy shift may relate to the pernicious corruption of the revolving door. The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality. The backgrounds of the new FCC staff have not been reported until now. Many have expressed shock that the Obama administration would walk back one of its biggest promises. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama said that he is a strong supporter of net neutrality. During a question and answer forum in Iowa, Obama explained, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites… And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.” Critics have been quick to highlight the fact that chairman Wheeler, the new head of the FCC, is a former lobbyist with close ties to the telecommunications industry. In March, telecom companies—including Comcast, Verizon, and the US Telecom Association—filled the sponsor list for a reception to toast Wheeler and other commissioners. Many of these companies have been furiously lobbying Wheeler and other FCC officials on the expected rule since the Verizon ruling. "A tombstone for Internet freedom" photo via Flickr user DonkeyHotey.

New York Times, For Russia, Negatives Seem to Outweigh Positives of an Invasion, Neil MacFarquhar, April 26, 2014. At first glance, the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, seems to have strong reasons to dispatch his tanks: shaping the Ukraine he wants well before elections scheduled for May 25 put a new, legitimate government in place; reclaiming an area that was historically part of Russia; gaining direct access to natural resources and factories that have been crucial to Moscow’s military-industrial complex since Soviet times. And his land grab of Crimea in March made him wildly popular at home. Yet the reasons for Mr. Putin to refrain from further military adventurism make a longer, more tangled list: the cost of a huge occupation force and the responsibility for the welfare of millions more people; the effect of new, more severe Western sanctions on an already weak economy; the possibility of significant Russian casualties caused by an insurgency in eastern Ukraine; a new, implacably anti-Russian western section of Ukraine; and likely pariah status internationally. On balance, the negatives would seem to outweigh the positives, analysts said.