… Speaking at a summit in Mexico, Obama unilaterally declared that Ukraine should overturn the results of its democratic election in 2010 (which most observers said was generally “fair and free” — perhaps more “fair and free” than national elections in, say, the United States, where losing candidates are sometimes wont to take power anyway, and where whole states dispossess or actively discourage millions of free citizens from voting). Instead, the Ukrainians should install an unelected “transitional government” in Kiev. Why should they do this? Because, says Obama, now channeling all Ukrainians in his own person, “the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country” from the government they democratically elected. All of the people of Ukraine have a different vision, you understand; every last one of them. And what is their vision, according to Obama the Ukrainian Avatar? To enjoy “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections.” Something you might think they had enjoyed by having fair and free elections in 2010, and exercising freedom of speech and assembly to such a degree that a vast opposition force had occupied much of the central government district for months. But the Avatar knows better, of course.
Now, this is not a defense of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president. The old saw about stones and glass houses comes to mind. […]
“The ideas of the Free Trade movement are based on a theoretical error, whose practical origin is not hard to identify; they are based on a distinction between political society and civil society, which is rendered and presented as an organic one, whereas in fact it is merely methodological. Thus it is asserted that economic activity belongs to civil society, and that the State must not intervene to regulate it. But since in actual reality civil society and State are one and the same, it must be made clear that laissez-faire too is a form of State ‘regulation’, introduced and maintained by legislative and coercive means.”—Antonio Gramsci [+]
“Human beings don’t have the appropriate engineering for the society they developed. Over a million years of evolution, the instinct of getting together in small communities, belligerent and compact, turned out to be correct. But then, in the 20th century, Man ceased to adapt. Technology overtook evolution. The brain of an ancestral creature, like a rat, which sees provocation in the face of every stranger, is the brain that now controls the earth’s destiny.”—Back to the Future With the NSA
In 1971 eight anti-war activists calling themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI plotted to break into an FBI field office located in Media, Pennsylvania. They knew that the government was conducting a massive spying effort against American citizens and they were determined to find and publicly present their evidence.
On the night of March 8, 1971, they succeeded in stealing nearly every piece of paper in that office and later sent copies of key documents to the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. They also sent copies to two Democratic politicians, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and Congressman Parren Mitchell of Maryland. The New York and Los Angeles newspapers both turned the files over to the FBI and so did the two supposedly left leaning politicians. The Washington Post, at the time a decent newspaper, was alone in standing up to White House and FBI pressure when they reported the story.
Five of the eight burglars came forward and are the subjects of a newly published book, The Burglary: the Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, written by former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger. The late William Davidon, John Raines, Bonnie Raines, Keith Forsyth, and Bob Williamson chose to publicly reveal their identities for the first time and in so doing have done yet another service to the public. Because of their actions the world found out about the government’s depth of hostility towards the left and black freedom movements and its determination to destroy them. By stepping forward so many years later they remind us that government surveillance is endemic to our political system and is not easily stamped out.
Betty Medsger revealed the lengths the government went to in order to destroy the liberation movement in particular. “Every FBI agent was required to hire at least one informer to report to him regularly on the activities of black people. In the District, every agent was required to hire six informers for that purpose. On one campus in the Philadelphia area, Swarthmore College, every black student was under surveillance.”
FBI informers reported on every meeting, every word and every action of members of the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other groups. FBI agents used informers to create dissension among activists and succeeded in weakening and destroying many organizations. Individuals were targeted for persecution and prosecution and some like the Omaha Two, Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, are still imprisoned. Forty years ago they were set up by the FBI and local police and charged in the killing of a policeman in one of the last COINTELPRO prosecutions.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died peacefully in 1972, without having faced the investigations and scrutiny he ought to have faced in his lifetime. His power remained unchecked and the revelations of his worst acts were withheld from the public until after his death. Despite the document theft which took place in 1971 the word COINTELPRO didn’t become public until late 1973 when a reporter successfully under took a Freedom of Information Act request.
Had it not been for the burglars, we would never have known about the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO. Hoover had a special animus against black people and left no stone unturned in his efforts to destroy the freedom struggle. Internal divisions, feuds and even murders resulted from COINTELPRO whose stated purpose was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize” activists across the country. Black panther party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were among those “neutralized” in 1969 by an FBI and Chicago police department assassination.
In time the rest of news media followed the Washington Post’s lead and revealed more about Hoover’s domestic surveillance and illegal activities. Senator Frank Church led congressional hearings in 1975 and 1976 which ultimately resulted in greater oversight of domestic and foreign surveillance programs.
It now seems that the media revelations and investigations were all for naught. Acquiescence and collusion among politicians, the judiciary and media have left Americans with fewer rights now than in 1971. Richard Nixon didn’t have the legal right to designate citizens as terrorists or order them to be killed. Now forty years later, Barack Obama has the legal right to do those things and more. He has the right to hold anyone without charge or trial indefinitely and the NSA has given the government access to phone and internet records of ordinary citizens and foreign leaders alike.
The story of the 1971 burglary is fascinating on many levels but the central point is very simple. It was citizen action, not governmental decree which revealed the illegal acts committed by the government. Even 40 years ago when there was a stronger journalistic ethic, most of the corporate media chose not to cover this story. Politicians who were supposedly progressive were equally cowardly and even traitorous when handed information they were required to investigate and prosecute.
Times have changed and not for the better. The government has more tools as its disposal to use against activist citizens. The law has long ceased to be on our side. … .
“Let me say this: Martin Luther King Junior, today, could be taken to jail without due process or judicial process under the National Defense Authorization Act. Because he had a connection with a freedom fighter who was called a terrorist named Nelson Mandela. He just got off the Terrorist List — in 2008 — of America, let’s be honest about that. Because he had a relation to a “Terrorist.” And under the present administration you can assassinate Americans, you can take them to jail without due process. That’s a repressive side of the government that the Black Freedom Movement has always been suspicious of. We got black political prisoners right now in America. And they’re in there precisely because the repression came down so hard and their love was such that they were willing to tell the truth. That was a threat to the status quo. And we don’t even talk about them. … That’s why the Culture of Fear is not just silence, I don’t think, my dear brothers and sisters. People are afraid. They’re afraid to lose their jobs, they’re afraid to lose their status, they’re afraid of not going to the nice tea parties, they’re afraid of not going to the White House. You can’t have a Culture of Fear and generate a movement. That’s why it’s not just about justice. … We gotta talk about love. Martin was a tiding of love. If you’re not talking about love and willingness to sacrifice, all this is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. We’re not going nowhere. We’re not going nowhere. You’ve got to hit the streets, you got to go to jail and be willing to die. That’s what the movement’s about. If you’re not willing to do that, then keep your job and drink your tea. That’s what we’re talking about.”—Cornel West
Thanks to a ruling by the US Circuit Court of Appeals in DC, telecom companies are free to dictate every aspect of what you can and cannot see, hear or do over the internet. It’s an emergency. It’s time to demand immediate presidential intervention to head off the end of the internet as we know it.
… I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought in Fallujah or took part elsewhere in this gigantic war crime thought of themselves as good people trying to do a good thing in difficult circumstances. That’s what they were told they were doing; and, poisoned from birth, like all of us, by that all-pervasive myth of exceptionalism, of special privilege for anything and everything done by the United States, most of them lacked the will — or even the conceptual tools — to question this belief. (Brave souls like Chelsea Manning and the Iraq Vets Against the War are among the exceptions.) I am sorry if some of them — and the survivors of the thousands of Americans killed in the process of unleashing this mass murder — now feel that the war was fought in vain, and that the American dead “were sacrificed for nothing,” as one “angry” ex-Marine told the Times after hearing that Fallujah was temporarily in the hands of the extremist militias engendered by the American invasion of Iraq.
This is unfortunate for them — but let us be absolutely clear on this point. To any American soldier who thought he or she was fighting in Iraq for anything other than the aggrandizement of a bloodthirsty elite, then yes, yes, a thousand times yes: you fought in vain. You fought under false premises, you were ordered to carry out a great crime — and you carried it out. And yes, yes, a thousand times yes: every American soldier who was killed in Iraq was “sacrificed for nothing.” This was true from the very first moment of the war, from the moment you set foot in Iraq. [As Arthur Silber notes here.] It did not suddenly become the truth 11 years later, when Fallujah became embroiled in the sectarian strife the war set loose.
So remember again the reality. Remember again what actually happened. The United States military, at the behest of its political leaders, carried out an abominable war crime in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Think of those innocent people who were murdered — and those who go on being murdered in the hellhole America made of Iraq — and then consider where the real tragedy lies, whom the real victims are. Some might think it was people like Artica Salim, whose young body was blown apart by an American bomb during weeks of bombardment to “soften up” the city before the Marlboro Men moved in. But the New York Times — which “stovepiped” so many helpful lies from government warmongers to help make the entirely specious case for aggression, and speaks today, as it spoke then, as the voice of the American establishment — thinks the real victims were the Marines who attacked Fallujah. [read]
An investigation by El Universal has found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs in exchange for information on rival cartels.
Sinaloa, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs entering the Chicago area and has a presence in cities across the U.S.
There have long been allegations that Guzman, considered to be “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” coordinates with American authorities.
But the El Universal investigation is the first to publish court documents that include corroborating testimony from a DEA agent and a Justice Department official. [holy shit…continue]
“I note with pleasure that there is to be an Ariel Sharon Park, outside of Tel Aviv. It’s a-building, even now, on top of an old garbage dump, which was in turn placed on top of a Palestinian village, whose inhabitants were either killed or chased out during the ’48 atrocities. … Really, it would be difficult to find a better metaphor for modern Israel.”—Ariel Sharon, gone at last
The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.
The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.
Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?
If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can’t just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn’t work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.
So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they’ve always done… conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.
The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can’t monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.
In a move that was nearly a month too late, the Obama Administration has finally gotten around to announcing an “investigation” into the December 12 drone strike against a Yemeni wedding party, which killed a large number of civilians.
The strike fueled massive opposition from locals, and also a rare rebuke from the Yemeni parliament, which has long looked the other way over civilian deaths. The Obama Administration hasn’t learned any lesson however.
That’s because even as the probe was getting underway, the US launched yet another drone strike against the Hadrawmut Province, killing two unidentified people.
Officially, both of the slain have been declared “suspected al-Qaeda militants,” but that explanation would be a lot more credible if the US hadn’t labeled the wedding party the exact same way after that hit.
Though the US has long insisted virtually no civilians are slain in their strikes, they likewise have never identified a large number of their victims, shrugging them off as suspects unless someone says otherwise.
“This is the pattern that has been followed for decades: some social advances are accepted by the power structure — as long as the economic dominance of the ruling elite is not challenged. In Obama’s case, of course, this was a prerequisite, not a consequence, of his election. He would not have been allowed to be in the position of being elected president had he not clearly and continually signalled to the elite that he was in no way a threat to their power; in fact, as Hirthler notes, he went much further, and made it clear that he would be a more efficient and effective promoter of economic elite than cack-handed Republicans like George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin. And so it has proved. The nation’s oligarchs, corporations and financial sectors have devoured ever greater proportions of the nation’s wealth under Obama’s rule, while chronic unemployment and underemployment grinds on, the nation’s infrastructure rots, and the quality of life (and hopes for the future) of ordinary people continues to be degraded.”—Chris Floyd, Bait and Switch: The Heavy Price of Social Progress
“[W]hat Snowden revealed was far worse than simple bureaucratic overreach or inconsistencies with the law. Instead a narrative which had been promulgated by government officials over the past decade - that Americans would need to sacrifice their basic freedoms in order to be safe - was revealed to be brazenly false. Americans had given up their most personal freedoms and were not any safer for it. This was not because the NSA didn’t have enough power to search, but because it turned out there was literally nothing out there for them to find. Their response to this discovery mirrored those of powerful intelligence agencies throughout history: it made them want even more power. The American people had given the NSA a free hand to hollow out their democracy and they zealously took up the opportunity. They sought out the holy grail of “total information awareness” for no apparent reason other than the fact that they could.”—Murtaza Hussain, What Snowden really revealed
“I think it very important that the mere fact of there being surveillance takes away liberty. The response of those who are worried about surveillance has so far been too much couched, it seems to me, in terms of the violation of the right to privacy. Of course it’s true that my privacy has been violated if someone is reading my emails without my knowledge. But my point is that my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose. We have to insist that this in itself takes away liberty because it leaves us at the mercy of arbitrary power. It’s no use those who have possession of this power promising that they won’t necessarily use it, or will use it only for the common good. What is offensive to liberty is the very existence of such arbitrary power.”—Quentin Skinner
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with “how many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” and “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly, “how many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”
… I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again, it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to, not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.
Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one of year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.
The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.
“If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, [NSA’s ‘Tailored Access Operations’ (TAO)] can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called ‘load stations,’ agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer. … These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the ‘most productive operations’ conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks ‘around the world.’”—Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit
“So, the whitewashing of surveillance dragnet reform is in full swing, let the giddiness of last week give way to the understanding that Barack Obama, and the Intelligence Community, have no intention whatsoever of ‘reforming’. In fact, they will use the illusion of ‘reform’ to expand their authorities and power. Jonathan Turley noted, ‘Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program.’ … Not just preserve, but to give the false, nee fraudulent, patina of Obama Administration concern for the privacy and civil liberties concerns of the American citizenry when, in fact, the Administration has none. It is yet another con.”—The Civil Liberties Celebration Hangover Wears Off
“Privatize everything. Abolish help for the weak, the solitary, the sick and the unemployed. Abolish all aid for everyone except the banks. Don’t look after the poor; let the elderly die. Reduce the wages of the poor, but reduce the taxes of the rich. Make everyone work until they are ninety. Only teach mathematics to traders, reading to big property-owners and history to on-duty ideologues”—Capitalism Today - A. Badiou (via bourgeoisentimentality)
According to a report in the New York Times, Iraq has requested ten relatively low-tech ScanEagle drones along with forty-eight Raven drones in order to track al Qaeda fighters who have been operating with impunity in the vast expanses of Anbar providence and in Western Iraq, which shares a border with Syria.
All of the drones will be delivered in 2014.
Seventy-five Hellfire missiles were also delivered to Iraq last week …
… In July, the US announced over $4 billion in Foreign Military Sales to Iraq that included everything from infantry carriers to ground-to-air rockets.
The Pentagon’s request to Congress included $2.4 billion for 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, and three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles.
… The United States is also planning to begin delivering F-16 fighters to Iraq late next year.
U.S. intelligence, GPS bomb kits help Latin American nation cripple rebel forces
By Dana Priest
The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.
The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.
The previously undisclosed CIA program was authorized by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and has continued under President Obama, according to U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and ongoing.
The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.
That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.
In March 2008, according to nine U.S. and Colombian officials, the Colombian Air Force, with tacit U.S. approval, launched U.S.-made smart bombs across the border into Ecuador to kill a senior FARC leader, Raul Reyes. The indirect U.S. role in that attack has not been previously disclosed.
The covert action program in Colombia is one of a handful of enhanced intelligence initiatives that has escaped public notice since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. …
… White House lawyers, along with their colleagues from the CIA and the departments of Justice, Defense and State, had their own questions to work through. It was one thing to use a PGM to defeat an enemy on the battlefield — the U.S. Air Force had been doing that for years. It was another to use it to target an individual FARC leader. Would that constitute an assassination, which is prohibited by U.S. law? And, “could we be accused of engaging in an assassination, even if it is not ourselves doing it?” said one lawyer involved.
The White House’s Office of Legal Counsel and others finally decided that the same legal analysis they had applied to al-Qaeda could be applied to the FARC. [continue]
The Obama administration moved late Friday to prevent a federal judge in California from ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance programs authorized during the Bush administration, telling a court that recent disclosures about National Security Agency spying were not enough to undermine its claim that litigating the case would jeopardize state secrets.
… In this country, no one bothers to count up wedding parties wiped out by U.S. air power. If they did, Soltis would have known that the accurate line, given the history of U.S. war-making since December 2001 when the first party of Afghan wedding revelers was wiped out (only two women surviving), would have been: “A U.S. drone… took out a likely target.”
After all, by the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen. And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously. Sometimes whole wedding parties were slaughtered, sometimes just the bride or groom’s parties were hit. Estimated total dead from the eight incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemenis. And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit. U.S. air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.
The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone. The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft.
… [The] U.S. drone campaigns are said to launch what in drone-speak are called “signature strikes” — that is, strikes not against identified individuals, but against “a pre-identified ‘signature’ of behavior that the U.S. links to militant activity.” In other words, the U.S. launches drone strikes against groups or individuals whose behavior simply fits a “suspect” category: young men of military age carrying weapons, for instance (in areas where carrying a weapon may be the norm no matter who you are). In a more general sense, however, the obliterated wedding party may be the true signature strike of the post 9/11 era of American war-making, the strike that should, but never will, remind Americans that the war on terror was and remains, for others in distant lands, a war of terror, a fearsome creation to which we are conveniently blind.
News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the Washington Post is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper’s CIA coverage are left in the dark.
The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon — which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.
Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.
And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.
Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”
As Amazon’s majority owner and the Post’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.
Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. The media watch group FAIR pointed out what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: “WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon’s webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website.”
How’s that for a commitment to the public’s right to know?
In August, 1965 Safer appeared in what became one of most famous TV segments of the Vietnam War, showing U.S. troops setting fire to all the huts in a Vietnamese village with Zippo lighters and flamethrowers.
A year later in 1966, Safer wrote an article about what he’d seen first hand during a visit to Vietnam by Arthur Sylvester, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (i.e., the head of Pentagon PR). Sylvester met at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon with reporters for U.S. news outlets:
There was general opening banter, which Sylvester quickly brushed aside. He seemed anxious to take a stand—to say something that would jar us. He said:
"I can’t understand how you fellows can write what you do while American boys are dying out here," he began. Then he went on to the effect that American correspondents had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good.
A network television correspondent said, “Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be the handmaidens of government.”
"That’s exactly what I expect," came the reply.
An agency man raised the problem that had preoccupied Ambassador Maxwell Taylor and Barry Zorthian—about the credibility of American officials. Responded the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs:
"Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that?—stupid."
One of the most respected of all the newsmen in Vietnam—a veteran of World War II, the Indochina War and Korea—suggested that Sylvester was being deliberately provocative. Sylvester replied:
"Look, I don’t even have to talk to you people. I know how to deal with you through your editors and publishers back in the States."
At this point, the Hon. Arthur Sylvester put his thumbs in his ears, bulged his eyes, stuck out his tongue and wiggled his fingers.
“Apparently, the position of the US, as global superpower, confers upon the country and its executive the honour of determining which human lives are expendable and which are not. Even when civilian collateral damage is acknowledged by the administration, it is rendered less severe in the eyes of US public, thanks to the general demonisation in political and media discourse of certain nationalities and ethnic groups, which prevents civilians, therein, from being awarded the same sanctity of life that is accorded Americans. … Drone strikes undeniably qualify as terrorism, instilling fear in various populations for political purposes. However, US-inflicted terror is coupled with a total displacement of the crime of terrorism onto other entities, ensuring the viability of the war on terror and the commitment to perpetual conflict.”—Belén Fernández, Fighting terror with terror
Barack Obama may not have pulled the trigger that led 15 members of a wedding party in Yemen to lose their lives — to be murdered by an anonymous killer remotely piloting an American drone — but according to the US president’s own administration, he bears responsibility for their deaths just as much as if he had carried out the killings with his own two hands.
“The commander-in-chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership,” said the US State Department four months ago, “even if command and control – he’s not the one that pushes the button or said, ‘Go,’ on this.”
Since the United States is a country where the rule of law is respected and political leaders are judged by the same standards they impose on others, Obama’s trial for murder should begin any day now, which raises the obvious question: How will this impact the race for the White House in 2016?