New Year's Reflections On Alfred Kahn's Legacy

By Andrew Kreig / JIP Director’s Blog

The passing this week of the illustrious economist, college dean and pioneering regulator Dr. Alfred Kahn provides an apt occasion not simply to celebrate his work helping consumers. His work underscores also how logic and individual commitment can change conventional wisdom and indeed entrenched power, These lessons are especially timely as we at the Justice Integrity Project take stock of our first year documenting scandals within the justice system and, with your help as readers, rally support for reform in the year ahead.

Kahn, 93, left, is most famous for leading the deregulation of the airline industry during the late 1970s under President Jimmy Carter at a time when it was widely assumed that air traffic over major routes required close government supervision over a handful of major carriers. Kahn then became anti-inflation “czar” in that administration, an almost hopeless task that was enlivened occasionally by his blunt talk and wit. Most of us have benefitted for decades from the lower-costs and innovations from deregulating air traffic, which enabled creation of Southwest Airlines and provided a test case for similar deregulation and expanded consumer benefits in many sectors. These included energy and my longtime field of telecommunications.

Kahn’s friend and admirer, Dr. Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason University School of Law, wrote an eloquent assessment in today’s Financial Times, excerpted below.  In showing the power of ideas, it’s relevant that Kahn was generally considered a liberal Democrat and Hazlett is a well-known political conservative and authority on telecommunications. He directs his law school’s Information Economy Project at the National Center for Technology and Law after serving as the FCC’s first chief economist. As disclosure, I’m an affiliated research fellow at that Project. Also, my undergraduate degree from Cornell University was signed by then-Dean Kahn, who spent most of his career at the university since 1947 when not in public office. The degree hangs on my wall, as I write this as a kind of inspiration, though I'd be the first to recognize that its signing was more of an administrative function than personal. For an authoritative and even more personal assessment of the deregulating regulator's legacy to the country, kindly read that below -- with our best wishes for all of your endeavors in the New Year.

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Evidence of Swedish-U.S. Abuses in WikiLeaks Probes?


We at the Justice Integrity Project recently wrote that our legal reform mission was impossible without reporting on the rapid erosion of due process rights -- and the reluctance of traditional news media to warn of this trend. With sadness, we report today more evidence that our traditional freedoms are being sacrificed under the guise of protecting us from “terror.”

Legal commentator Roger Shuler expands our understanding of how the spy and sex investigation of WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange could well have a “Made in America” label as a joint Swedish-American political prosecution designed to smear and incapacitate him. Cited below is Shuler’s column, which takes the controversial step of reporting on the professional ties of Assange’s former lovers who turned into accusers. To understand suspicions why Karl Rove could have a role in this prosecution, Shuler’s article should be read in tandem with the recent reporting of Wayne Madsen, Glenn Greenwald and bloggers at FireDogLake. These columns are cited below also, or summarized in several of our previous columns this week.

JIP has been reporting also on this story, including our Huffington Post column Dec. 19, Rove Suspected In Swedish-U.S. Political Prosecution of WikiLeaks. To be sure, some critics responded that any such ties were too speculative to be published, even though Rove’s own website boasted of his consulting services for Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt, right, as Shuler’s column today notes. Others criticized JIP for pointing out the relationships even though we lacked specific confirmation that Rove had helped plan the WikiLeaks investigations. Realistically, that’s seldom possible at the outset, particularly in high-level international intrigue.

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JIP Special Report on WikiLeaks Investigations


Several major web-based news investigations and commentaries were published Dec. 29 regarding intrigues behind the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic documents and the subsequent investigation of WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange on sex and spy charges.

The most explosive in its implications was by investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, right, an author and former National Security Agency analyst. He published, “Sweden co-opted by CIA/Pentagon to launder WikiLeaks cables.” A small part of his article is excerpted below. The full text requires a modest monthly or yearly subscription. Our excerpt below primarily touches on the piece’s headline.

The full text overlaps with other areas we have  been researching on behalf of JIP. It draws links between the Assange prosecutions and high-level news media, law enforcement and diplomatic figures in Sweden and such U.S. counterparts as Karl Rove, an advisor to both Swedish Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt and many prominent U.S. leaders, including former President Bush.

Madsen beat me into print with his story. But he would be the first to stay it’s only a start of an investigation into all aspects of the WikiLeaks case. JIP will be pursuing the leads independently. As further background, Madsen is a controversial author, reporter and broadcast commentator. He has appeared on most major networks, and is now most frequently on such international outlets as Russia Today. He’s published an 1,100-page book on privacy law, wrote a book on genocide in Rwanda based upon on-the-ground reporting there and demanded an audit of the National Press Club when he ran for president. 

Perhaps most daring from a career standpoint, he mocked the "War on Christmas" as a trumped up issue when he appeared as a guest expert on the Fox News Bill O’Reilly Show. Earlier this month, Madsen gave a guest lecture on WikiLeaks at the Press Club to a group of investigative reporters. In the talk, Madsen said he was approached by a founding director of WikiLeaks to join its board but was blocked by Assange himself, in part because Madsen has long suspected that Assange is a "useful idiot" at best for various intellience agencies, if not  a "charlatan."  Whatever the facts on that, Madsen's accusations of government wrongdoing in the WikiLeaks case can hardly be ascribed to unthinking loyalty to the group or its leaders.

The other major development today was new information in the effort by columnists Glenn Greenwald of Salon and Jane Hamsher’s team at FireDogLake to challenge Wired magazine and its source Adrian Lamo on their reporting about Assange and what some claim was his source, the now-imprisoned Army Private Bradley Manning. Wired’s leadership launched a counter-attack against their critics. Greenwald and Hamsher responded with an escalation of their questioning.

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JIP Hosts 'Rogue Island' Author DiSilva On Radio Show

Bruce DeSilva, author of the highly regarded new crime thriller Rogue Island, described the book and ongoing demise of the traditional newspaper business on the Washington Update radio show Dec. 30. The live nationwide show can be heard by archive on the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network with my Update co-host Scott Draughon. As a listener advisory: Mac listeners need “Parallels.”

During his interview, DiSilva, left, predicted with great regret what he called the ruin of traditional metro newspapers across the country within five years, with no obvious replacement for the watchdog role that his book portrays newspapers as performing. A native of Rhode Island who began his career at the Providence Journal, DeSilva told of his transition from New England journalist to a successful fiction writer. The plot summary for his first book is: 

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USA TODAY: Misconduct Series Continues

The Dec. 29 news reports most relevant for our Justice Integrity Project (JIP) included the continuation of USA TODAY’s important investigative series, “Misconduct at the Justice Department” with another installment and Harper’s commentary listed below. The Justice Department has reacted with a response, which we’ll provide at length since the Department often simply ignores criticism:

Once again, USA TODAY misleads readers by providing a statistically inaccurate representation of the hard work done by federal prosecutors daily in courtrooms across the country by cherry-picking a handful of examples dating back to the 1990s and confusing cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved. An internal review conducted by the department last year found prosecutorial misconduct in a small fraction of the 90,000 cases brought annually. When mistakes occur, the department corrects them as quickly and transparently as possible.

Those checking the links below will see how Harper’s contributing editor Scott Horton demolishes this DOJ response as entirely inadequate.

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My new article

By Andrew Kreig /JIP Director's Blog
The public suddenly faces degrading new levels of airport searches that are unnecessary from a practical standpoint and frightening in their health and civil rights implications. Conventional wisdom is that this new airport security protects us from terrorists following the Nov. 1 rollout of enhanced body scanners and pat-downs. But the new procedures to be deployed nationally during the coming year will cost vastly more in money, health risk and wasted time than justified by any improvement in safety. Listed below are two news stories that help illustrate why we should halt these new measures.  First is the video of the panicked rape victim who was arrested in Texas for failure to comply, and dragged handcuffed through the airport into custody. Second is the news report that cargo is not subjected to anything approaching the search inflicted on passengers.  House Energy and Commerce Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) once remarked in wonderment about the same anomaly. But instead of reform in accordance with expert views, we are now doubling-down to proceed ASAP on a wrong course.

Will the next step be a ban for some of us to fly under any circumstances?  Already, those of us living in such cities as Washington are started to be subjected to random searches on land public transport with no ability to avoid time-consuming, pointless searches whatever our time pressures or Fourth Amendment rights. This is by order of President Obama and his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, above. She has launched a public relations campaign to warn about the dangers of terrorism -- even though risks of other hazards are much greater than any suicide-bomber. Why? And why should the public automatically defer to presumed experts when their orders violate common sense, our ability to pay and our fundamental rights?  What's next? Expanding the secret no-fly list to encompass vastly more Americans (perhaps to include more critics of government procedures) thus restricting their freedom further?

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