News Release Archive - 2009

Italian Court Convicts Operatives: What About the Higher-Ups?

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SCOTT HORTON
Horton is an attorney specializing in international law and human rights. He is also a legal affairs contributor to Harper’s Magazine, where he writes the blog No Comment.

He said today: “The 23 American officials convicted were involved in a conspiracy to seize Abu Omar, who is an Egyptian cleric, while he was in Italy. They evidently wanted to take him back to Egypt, and turn him into an agent who would spy for them, for the CIA. …

“The convicted Americans face arrest only if they travel outside the United States, since U.S. authorities have made it clear that they will not cooperate with European authorities pursuing CIA kidnapping cases. …

“The court also found that three individuals had diplomatic immunity and thus would also escape punishment despite copious evidence establishing their guilt. Among them was the CIA’s former Rome station chief, Jeff Castelli, whom prosecutors saw as the plot’s ringleader.”

Horton added that further investigation could still lead to prosecution of those up the chain of command. One possibility is Stephen Kappes, “who is now second in command at the CIA.”

Background: One of the CIA operatives convicted in the kidnapping spoke last night to ABC News. Sabrina De Sousa stated: “Clearly, we broke a law, and we’re paying for the mistakes right now of whoever authorized and approved this.” The ABC interview was excerpted on Democracy Now. The program also interviewed Armando Spataro, the Italian counterterrorism prosecutor who brought the case.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Healthcare Protests and Prospects

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CHARLES IDELSON, DONNA SMITH
Idelson is a spokesperson for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Politico reported late Tuesday: “Single-payer activists and labor union members held a sit-in at House Speaker Pelosi’s San Fransisco office today where 11 [in fact 12] people were arrested, said Chuck Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. The group was protesting Pelosi’s decision to strip the healthcare reform bill of a provision that would let states set up single-payer systems…”

Smith is a community organizer with the group. She was one of the people featured in Michael Moore’s movie SiCKO. She says in a just-released video of the people profiled in SiCKO: “We had some pretty terrible things happen to us at the hands of the healthcare system. … We wanted to know if the legislation and what President Obama is proposing would prevent those things from happening to us again. And we’re sad to say, to a person, the answer is all the things that happened to us would still be able to happen again.” See video.

DANIEL HODGES
One of the 12 arrested at Pelosi’s office yesterday, Hodges is chair of Healthcare for All – California. “The Kucinich Amendment — which would have helped states implement a single-payer / Medicare for All system — has apparently been kept out of the legislation by Pelosi. We in California have twice passed a single payer-bill in the state legislature without the help of the Kucinich Amendment, and we will do it again and again until we elect a governor who will sign the bill.”

See: “Healthcare: Key Democrats Undermining Their Own?

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Making Elections Better

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ROB RICHIE
Richie is executive director of FairVote and co-author of Every Vote Equal and Whose Votes Count. He outlined eight points toward better elections:

1) “Non-partisan election officials: It hardly matters whether the method of voting is with paper and pen or open-source computerized equipment if election administrators are not trustworthy. In 2004, the secretaries of state overseeing elections in three battleground states — Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan — were co-chairs of their state’s George Bush reelection campaigns. In Missouri, that Secretary of State was running for governor — he oversaw elections for his own race! A highly partisan Republican Secretary of State ran elections in Florida, as did a partisan Democrat in New Mexico. Election administrators should be civil servants who have a demonstrated proficiency with technology, running elections and making the electoral process transparent and secure.

2) “National elections commission: The U.S. leaves election administration to administrators in more than 12,000 counties scattered across the nation with too few standards or uniformity. …

3) “Universal voter registration: We lack a system of universal voter registration in which citizens who turn 18 years of age automatically are registered to vote by election authorities. This is the practice used by most established democracies, giving them voter rolls far more complete and clean than ours. …

4) “‘Public Interest’ voting equipment: Currently voting equipment is suspect, undermining confidence in our elections. The proprietary software and hardware are created by shadowy companies with partisan ties who sell equipment by wining and dining election administrators with little knowledge of voting technology. …

5) “Holiday/weekend elections: We vote on a busy workday instead of on a national holiday or weekend (like most other nations do), creating a barrier for 9 to 5 workers and also leading to a shortage of poll workers and polling places. Puerto Rico typically has the highest voter turnout in the United States — and makes Election Day a holiday.

6) “Ending redistricting shenanigans by adopting forms of proportional representation: Most legislators choose their voters during the redistricting process, long before those voters get to choose them. More than 97 percent of U.S. House incumbents have won re-election since 1996, overwhelmingly by landslide margins. The driving factors are winner-take-all elections compounded by rigged legislative district lines. …

7) “Establish the National Popular Vote plan for president: The current winner-take-all rules governing the Electoral College in states enable presidential campaigns to completely ignore most states in general elections. … States have the power by 2012 to guarantee election of the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states by joining several states that have adopted the National Popular Vote plan for president.

8) “Pry open our democracy: Our ‘highest vote-getter wins’ method of electing executive offices creates incentives to keep third-party candidates off the ballot. … Controversies of the New Jersey governor’s race is the latest example of how our system is not designed to accommodate three or more choices, yet important policy areas can be completely ignored by major party candidates. Most modern democracies accommodate voter choice through two-round runoff or instant runoff elections for executive offices, and proportional voting for legislatures. Instant runoff voting is being used today in many American elections, including city elections in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Pierce County, Wash.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Congress to Condemn Goldstone Report on Gaza?

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Foreign Policy Journal states: “The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‘to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict”‘…

“Headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the U.N. report found that evidence indicates both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel’s 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, dubbed ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ which began on December 27, 2008.

“The report recommended that allegations of war crimes by both parties be investigated.”

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to take up the Goldstone report on Wednesday.

AMIRA HASS, via Anthony Arnove
Currently in the U.S., Hass recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. She is a regular columnist with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and is the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege.

She said today: “The Goldstone report asks Israel to open an independent inquiry to the allegations [of war crimes], and if, within six months, there is no sufficient or satisfying response from Israel — and Hamas, for that matter — it can be transferred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. … The report forced Israel to look at testimonies and evidence that was there all the time, but it was very easy to ignore. … Its significance is that the sense of impunity of Israel, with all its conduct vis-a-vis the Palestinians, can be ended.” See a recent interview.

Hass’s previous books include Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land and writing the foreword to her mother’s Diary of Bergen-Belson, 1944-1945.

PHILIP RIZK
Rizk is currently in New York City, touring the U.S. with his new documentary “This Palestinian Life,” which “tells the stories of the nonviolent perseverance of Palestinian villagers to remain on their land.”

He lived in Gaza for two years from 2005 to 2007 working with various NGOs and media companies. In February 2009, he was kidnapped by Egyptian state security for participating in nonviolent, Gaza-related protests; see New York Times article “Van Spirits Away Protester in Egypt, Signaling Crackdown on Criticism Over Gaza.”

Rizk said today: “The events following the Goldstone report are a classical case of the failure of international law in situations like that of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Judge Goldstone is as legitimate of an individual to have authored such a report and thus the opposition has been forced to find other methods of undermining it. Israeli officials’ suggestions of ‘re-launching’ the peace talks as an alternative to respecting the UN report is a red herring that distracts the attention from where it should be. Avoiding dealing with past and present war crimes and injustices reduces any chances for change in the region.”

Background:

See video “Goldstone challenges U.S. over Gaza report

See “Goldstone Tells Congress That Resolution Misrepresents His Gaza Report

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Healthcare: Key Democrats Undermining Their Own?

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ELLEN SHAFFER
Shaffer is co-director of the California-based Center for Policy Analysis, focusing on health policy. She recently wrote the backgrounder “Kucinich Amendment Grants ERISA Waiver for Single Payer States.”

DANIEL HODGES
Chair of Healthcare for All – California, Hodges said today: “I called the offices of Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and George Miller on Friday. I told them: They are undermining the efforts of Democrats in their own state of California by taking the Kucinich Amendment out of the healthcare legislation.

“Democratic legislators have twice put a single-payer bill on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk, and he’s twice vetoed it. Numerous studies have shown that a single-payer plan would save money and provide better health outcomes because it would get rid of all the administrative waste of the insurance companies. Our current financial crunch in California is due in part to Schwarzenegger refusing to sign the single-payer legislation. The longer we wait to enact single payer, the deeper in the hole we get.

“The Kucinich Amendment would remove obstacles to getting single payer enacted by states. It was in the bill passed by the House Education and Labor Committee, but it was removed from final legislation. Under manager’s rules, the Speaker and her leadership team can put it back before the House votes. Single-payer supporters in California are demanding that Pelosi include the Kucinich Amendment and stop undermining the Democrats in the state legislature to enact the single-payer solution to the state’s healthcare and budget crises.”

See this backgrounder on single payer in California.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Agreement in Honduras?

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ANDRES CONTERIS
Conteris is in the Brazilian embassy in Honduras, where Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge.
Conteris is the director of the Program on the Americas for Nonviolence International. He worked as a human rights advocate in Honduras from 1994 to 1999 and is a co-producer of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a documentary film about U.S. policy in Latin America and the School of the Americas. He also works at Democracy Now! en EspaƱol. He was on Democracy Now! today.

SUYAPA G. PORTILLO VILLEDA
Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda is a research fellow at Pomona College and is originally from Honduras.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which just released a statement on the situation in Honduras titled “Agreement to Restore Zelaya, if Honored, Will Be a Victory for Democracy in the Hemisphere.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Pelosi Ditches Single-Payer Provision

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CLARK NEWHALL
Executive director of Health Justice, Newhall is a doctor and a lawyer. He said today: “Thursday the House Democrats released their version of healthcare reform. While we have been pushing for a debate on the House floor for single payer, and been calling for the representatives to keep the Kucinich [Amendment]. … It seems House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lied. … [The Kucinich Amendment] allowing states to create state-level single-payer healthcare has been stripped out of the House healthcare bill, after having passed in committee back in July by a vote of 27 to 19.”

Health Justice has produced a series of ads on healthcare.

DEBORAH BURGER, CHARLES IDELSON
Burger is a co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Idelson is a spokesperson for the group. Idelson said: “In July, the House Labor and Education Committee approved an amendment introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich that would exempt states that enact Medicare for all / single-payer bills from the onerous limitations contained in the federal ERISA law governing employer sponsored health plans.

“Since then a rogues’ gallery of Fortune 500 corporate interests and insurance lobbyists have put a lot of pressure on the House leadership to strip the Kucinich Amendment from the final bill going to the House floor.”

Single payer legislation, which would replace private health insurance with one plan that covers everyone, like an expanded and enhanced Medicare, has in recent years twice passed the California legislature but been vetoed by the governor.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Ellsberg on Resignation Over Afghan Policy

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Matthew Hoh, the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, stated in a Washington Post forum Wednesday: “I found that the majority of those who were fighting us and the Afghan central government were fighting us because they felt occupied. … We cannot justify the deaths of our young men and women for the goal of changing a society’s internal cultural and familial norms. This is a goal best left to NGOs and IOs or through the U.S. government’s strategic communications. … Those organizations that work best are those that consist primarily of local staff led by well experienced expats who live and work with local populations. … We’ve known for a long time that Wali Karzai has been involved in the drug trade.”

DANIEL ELLSBERG
Currently in D.C., Ellsberg is available for a limited number of interviews. He leaked the Pentagon Papers — top-secret government documents that showed a pattern of governmental deceit about the Vietnam War — in 1971. The Nixon White House attempted to prevent newspapers from publishing the documents and indicted him for a possible 115-year sentence, used the White House “plumbers” to burglarize his psychiatrist’s office, conducted warrentless wiretaps against him and attempted to physically assault him at a Capitol Hill rally.

Ellsberg said today: “I’m very impressed by what Matthew Hoh has just done. Here’s a former marine captain — my own roots are as a marine — who has resigned and refused high posts with Amb. Holbrooke in order to tell the truth. This is the highest form of patriotism. I’d like to see him sitting down with President Obama to tell him what the war looks like from the Taliban-controlled provinces he just came from and brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff — he knows a lot more about the situation than any of them.

“I see the situation as Vietnamistan: If you put more troops in this year, the Taliban will be stronger next year. We recruit as we kill and support a corrupt, dope-dealing government. There’s no way of making this government look like it really cares about the Afghan people. No foreign troops have ever carried out a successful counter-insurgency campaign in terms of actually winning over the population.”

A new film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” premieres in D.C. on Thursday.

Ellsberg is author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and was a guest on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Wednesday.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghanistan

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A top U.S. official in Afghanistan has resigned in protest of the war, the Washington Post reports. “I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” Matthew Hoh, the senior U.S. official in Zabul province, said in his letter of resignation. Many Afghans, he wrote, are fighting the U.S. largely because its troops are there. The U.S. is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war, Hoh said. He added that he decided to speak out because “I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, ‘Listen, I don’t think this is right.'”

ROBERT NAIMAN
Naiman is policy director of Just Foreign Policy and co-creator of the website NoEscalation.org, which enables Americans to track where their representatives in Congress stand on military escalation in Afghanistan.

He said today: “Hoh’s letter of resignation challenges key premises of the war, suggesting that if the United States withdrew its military forces from Afghanistan, much of the conflict might subside. Hoh also points out that the U.S. is essentially intervening in an ongoing Afghan civil war, something that most Americans don’t know and would likely oppose.”

Background:

Washington Post article “U.S. official resigns over Afghan war: Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

Text of Hoh’s four-page letter of resignation [PDF]

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Protests at Insurance Company Offices

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Beginning Wednesday, protests are expected in 19 cities at offices of insurance companies.

The Mobilization for Health Care for All said in a statement that it “has seen almost 900 people sign up to risk arrest at a health insurance office in the past four weeks. … Participants in the sit-ins will walk into the offices and demand that insurance companies immediately route all the funding they currently pay for lobbyists to providing care to patients who need it. The participants will sit down and refuse to leave until their demands are met. Many of them expect to be arrested for trespassing, disturbing the peace, or another charge.”

Mobilization participants state that, following the model of the civil rights movement, they are building a movement “for real health care reform, reform that addresses the main cause of the health care crisis: the insurance companies” and calling for “Medicare for All, a universal health care plan.”

Cities where protests are scheduled include New York, Seattle, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Columbus, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Providence and Fort Lauderdale. See the webpage MobilizeForHealthCare.org for a complete list and dates and local grassroots contact information.

Among the participants and organizers available for interviews are:

KEVIN ZEESE
MARGARET FLOWERS, MD
Also via Lacy MacAuley
Zeese is with the Prosperity Agenda. Flowers is a pediatrician with Physicians for a National Health Program; she is one of several doctors who will be risking arrest.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167