News Release Archive - 2017

Trump Pretends Horrific Saudi Attack on Yemen Helps Security

DAY82QfWAAAvjqiTrump, in his speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, portrayed the Saudi attack on Yemen as helping security: “Many are already making significant contributions to regional security. … Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross’s pinned tweet from this weekend is: “With almost 19 million reliant on aid, #Yemen is the world’s single largest humanitarian crisis. Now it’s in the grip of a cholera outbreak.” Alexandre Faite, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen stated: “Cholera in Yemen now 20,000 suspected cases [and] 223 dead. If rains again, situation will unravel.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted Sunday: “Just to be clear: the exact weapons we are selling the Saudis this weekend are being used to bomb Yemen to purposely create this crisis.” He also stated: “U.S. supplies bombs that terrorize Yemen, helps w targeting, refuels Saudi planes. With $110b sale, we are more complicit in this than ever.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980[at]mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-Canadian-American, is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University. Listen to her interview on Public Radio International’s “The World”: “Will U.S. stop arming Saudi attackers in Yemen?”

BEN NORTON, email[at]bennorton.com, @BenjaminNorton
Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. After Trump’s address in Saudi Arabia, he tweeted: “Making a Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Saudi Arabia is like making a Global Center for Combating Wall Street on Wall St.”

He just wrote the piece “U.S. and terrorism-supporting Wahhabi Saudi monarchy jointly designate Hezbollah leader a ‘terrorist.'”

His recent pieces for AlterNet include: “As Trump’s ‘Tolerance Tour’ Begins, Israel’s Siege of Gaza Slammed by the Red Cross” and “Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heartland’ in Syria?”

Norton’s prior pieces for Salon include: “Leaked Hillary Clinton emails show U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported ISIS” and “Famine looms in Yemen, as U.S.-backed Saudi bombing intentionally targets food production.”

See new leak from WikiLeaks: “Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media.

Trump’s Syria Bombing Impeachable

An F/A-18F Super Hornet lands on the US navy's super carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) ("Ike") in the Mediterranean Sea on July 6, 2016. The US aircraft carrier is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the US 6th Fleet area of operations. Air Wings embarked aboard conducted strikes against the Islamic State group in Libya , Iraq and Syria. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS News reports: “U.S. aircraft conduct strike on Syrian army convoy.”

Earlier this year, The Hill reported “Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted Thursday after initial reports of the strike: “If true, this is FRICKIN ILLEGAL. Trump does not have Congressional authorization to attack Syria, a country that has not attacked US.” He also tweeted: “Congress authorized President to use force in 2 cases: terrorists & Iraq. @realDonaldTrump has NO AUTHORIZATION to attack Syrian regime.”

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle [at] illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “The U.S. strike clearly violates the War Powers Resolution, the War Powers Clause of the United States Constitution and the United Nations Charter. It’s impeachable.

“These so-called deconfliction zones are de facto partitions of Syria in violation of its territorial sovereignty and political independence.”

The Hill report states: “President Obama’s deputy national security adviser says in a new interview that the threat of impeachment ‘was a factor’ in Obama’s decision not to pursue a tougher intervention policy in Syria.

“‘We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment,’ Ben Rhodes told Politico Magazine.

“When asked to elaborate, the president’s adviser said that Republicans, including then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), made it clear that premature military action without congressional approval would be unconstitutional.”

9/11 Whistleblower Rowley on Mueller’s History of “Cover-up”

PJppppCOLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She just appeared on The Real News report “Special Counsel Investigating Trump Campaign Has Deep Ties to the Deep State,” about Mueller being appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

While Mueller has been widely described as being of impeccable character by much of official Washington, Rowley said today: “The truth is that Robert Mueller (and James Comey as deputy attorney general — see my New York Times op-ed on day of Comey’s confirmation hearing) presided over a cover-up …”

In her interview, Rowley noted: “The FBI and all the other officials claimed that there were no clues, that they had no warning [about 9/11] etc., and that was not the case. There had been all kinds of memos and intelligence coming in. I actually had a chance to meet Director Mueller personally the night before I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee … [he was] trying to get us on his side, on the FBI side, so that we wouldn’t say anything terribly embarrassing. …

“When you had the lead-up to the Iraq War … Mueller and, of course, the CIA and all the other directors, saluted smartly and went along with what Bush wanted, which was to gin up the intelligence to make a pretext for the Iraq War. For instance, in the case of the FBI, they actually had a receipt, and other documentary proof, that one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had not been in Prague, as Dick Cheney was alleging. And yet those directors more or less kept quiet. That included … CIA, FBI, Mueller, and it included also the deputy attorney general at the time, James Comey.”

Rowley also noted that Mueller presided over “the ‘post 9-11 round-up’ of innocent immigrants, the anthrax investigation fiasco, as well as going along with a form of martial law (made possible via secret OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] memos written by John Yoo etc. predicated upon Yoo’s theories of absolute ‘imperial presidency’ or ‘war presidency’ powers that the Bush administration was making [Attorney General John] Ashcroft sign off on).”

“While not the worst of the bunch, neither Comey nor Mueller deserve their Jimmy Stewart ‘G-man’ reputations for absolute integrity but have merely been, along the lines of George ‘Slam Dunk’ Tenet, capable and flexible politicized sycophants to power, that enmeshed them in numerous wrongful abuses of power along with presiding over plain official incompetence. It’s sad that political partisanship is so blinding and that so few people remember the actual sordid history.”

The Israeli-ISIS Accommodation and Other Inconvenient Realities

ImpeachDTANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn [at] gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn said today: “Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be the only person connected to Trumpgate with a sense of humor — for example threatening to spoil the party by producing a record of what Trump actually said to Lavrov. He also said he’ll have to give Lavrov a dressing down for not reporting all the deep secrets that Trump is supposed to have told him.

“It’s obviously very much to Israel’s advantage to be portrayed as working to expose alleged plots by the so-called Islamic State just as Trump is going to Israel. In reality, it seems there’s some sort of accommodation between Israel and ISIS — and the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, that has been studiously ignored in the U.S. press. Wounded Al Qaeda fighters have regularly been treated in Israeli military hospitals. According to no less a source than Moshe Yaalon, former Israeli Minister of Defense, when ISIS accidentally shelled Israeli forces in the Golan Heights, the group ‘immediately apologized to Israel.’ (See from Newsweek: ‘ISIS Fighters Regret Attacking Israel And Have “Apologized”, Former Defense Minister Says.’)

“There certainly appears to be corrupt things the Trump administration has been up to, for example, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had taken money from the Turkish government and then reportedly tried to nix a plan to help Kurdish fighters.

“But the long-standing Israeli ambition of decimating the front line states — especially Syria and Iraq — seems to be playing out very smoothly. This is apparently also the goal of the U.S. establishment, as well as selling arms (always a prime objective). This is evident from Trump’s travel itinerary: Going to Israel and Saudi Arabia, which both benefit from the demise of secular Arab states (and buy lots of U.S. weapons). Despite distractions it is the central theme of U.S. policy in the region and of course breeds massive instability and untold carnage.”

Cockburn has written widely about U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Mideast. His books include Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins; Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy; and Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship.

* Russia * Saudi * Turkey * Bases

ROBERT DAVID ENGLISH, renglish [at] usc.edu
English is on the faculty of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. He recently wrote the piece “Russia, Trump, and a New Détente” for Foreign Affairs. See his new interview with The Real News: “Why Did the FBI Leak the Comey Memo?

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson [at] gmail.com
Swanson is author of War is a Lie and other books. He just returned from Russia and wrote the piece “Why You Should Visit Russia.” See the petition “Messages of friendship from the people of the United States to the people of Russia.”

MEDEA BENJAMIN, medea.benjamin [at] gmail.com
Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, said today: “It’s remarkable that President Trump’s first trip abroad is to a repressive regime engaged in a catastrophic war in neighboring Yemen and known for exporting the very extremism, intolerance and violence that Trump purports to eradicate.”

KANI XULAM,  kani [at] kurdistan.org
Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network. The New York Times reports “‘Brutal Attack’ on Anti-Erdogan Demonstrators Injures 9, Police Say” [piece contains video trending on social media]. Xulam just helped one of the protesters get out of prison. He said today: “The Turkish bodyguards are supposed to protect the president of Turkey, and it’s shocking to see them beat people up in D.C. with impunity. But the Turkish government is doing a hundred times worse against Kurds in Turkey.” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Ignoring Turkey’s ‘Dirty War’ Against the Kurds.”

DAVID VINE, vine [at] american.edu
Vine is a professor at American University and author of the book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. His latest piece is “Forty-Five Blows Against Democracy, How U.S. Military Bases Back Dictators, Autocrats, and Military Regimes.”

Whistleblower Manning Appeals as Trump Escalates Threats to Journalism

urlWhistleblower Chelsea Manning was released from prison today.

THOMAS DRAKE, NATHAN FULLER, nathan.fuller [at] couragefound.org
MARIE GUTBUB, marie [at] couragefound.org, @couragefound
Fuller and Gutbub are with the Courage Foundation, which has supported a number of whistleblowers. Fuller is formerly with the Manning Support Network. Drake is a former senior NSA executive.

See the just-released “Courage fundraiser for Chelsea Manning’s legal appeal,” which states: “President Barack Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence rather than grant her a pardon leaves the precedent of her 2013 Espionage Act conviction for whistleblowing fully intact. The ramifications of Chelsea’s 35-year sentence take on new significance under a U.S. administration that has made unprecedented threats against media freedom.”

Fuller said today: “I have spent the last several years of my life working toward this day, and I’m so grateful that it has finally come. It’s so important that we follow through and not rest on this victory. There’s no chance of President Trump reforming the draconian Espionage Act that was used against Chelsea and other whistleblowers. But it’s a near certainty that we’ll see more leak prosecutions, and soon. Chelsea’s appeal is our only hope of challenging this bad law and improving the situation for the whistleblowers Trump will prosecute in the future. It’s also our best chance of enabling Edward Snowden to come home.”

Chelsea Manning’s attorney, Nancy Hollander, said: “Chelsea should never have been charged with violations of the Espionage Act, or held in solitary confinement for almost one year, under conditions tantamount to torture. Please continue to support her as we fight in her appeal to clear her name.”

The Courage Foundation also recently released an “Open Letter to President Trump” regarding the administration’s increased threats to WikiLeaks signed by a host of journalists, activists, parliamentarians, and whistleblowers, including Daniel Ellsberg and Thomas Drake: “The Obama administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than all presidents combined and opened a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks that had no precedent. It now appears the U.S. is preparing to take the next step — prosecuting publishers who provide the ‘currency’ of free speech, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.”

Yesterday, the New York Times reported in “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation” that “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”

Background: Among the information apparently revealed by Manning through WikiLeaks was the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed the “indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. … Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack.”

Also apparently exposed by Manning was the “Iraq War Logs,” internal military communications that “detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq” from the U.S. military’s point of view.

Diplomatic cables that Manning also apparently blew the whistle about document Machiavellian machinations by the U.S. government. See for example: “WikiLeaks Reveals How the U.S. Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath” by Robert Naiman.

Mnuchin and Congress Plotting Tax Cuts for Wealthy Opposed by Majority

CaptureCNN is reporting: “As President Trump struggles to move on his policy agenda, top administration officials are headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday to talk about tax [legislation] with a group of moderate House Republicans.

“White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to meet with the Tuesday Group ahead of the first major tax [legislation] hearing scheduled for Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”

DANIEL CHOMSKY, danielchomsky87 [at] gmail.com
Political science professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Chomsky has written a working paper “The New York Times and American Tax Policy: Representing Citizens or Echoing Elites?

He said today: “Americans may hate taxes generally, but they also favor higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. This has been true for the past four decades, even at historical moments commonly associated with anti-tax sentiment. Two-thirds to three-quarters of Americans favored higher taxes on the rich when Ronald Reagan cut them in the early 1980s. Two thirds favored higher taxes on the rich when George W. Bush lowered them again in 1981. And it remains true today. As President Trump poses as the voice of ordinary people and proposes massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, 63 percent want higher taxes on the rich and 67 percent want higher taxes on corporations. Only 9 percent and 10 percent support tax cuts for business and the wealthy.

“While Americans have consistently and overwhelmingly supported higher taxes on business and the rich, tax policy has generally moved in the opposite direction, with sharp reductions in taxes on business and the wealthy, and increases in regressive taxes to make up some of the shortfall. The mass media contribute to this striking failure of democratic responsiveness by obscuring public preferences and excluding ordinary people from political and policy discussions. A study of New York Times coverage over 40 years shows that the Times always emphasizes public opposition to taxes and rarely mentions public support for higher taxes on business and the rich. During successful campaigns for major tax cuts, public voices for progressive taxes have been completely ignored. Conversely, the publication of even a few references to public support for progressive taxes may have encouraged tax increases in 1990 and 2012. The persistence of the usual pattern in 2016 and 2017 may help enable the Trump tax cuts this year. Attention to the public and its preference for higher taxes on business and the wealthy might limit them or prevent them entirely.”

Comey Firing

CocomeyMARCY WHEELER, emptywheel [at] gmail.com, @emptywheel
Available for interviews beginning Thursday afternoon, Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of civil liberties, surveillance, government secrecy and the “war on terror.” She blogs at emptywheel.net. Recent pieces there include “The Tuesday Night Massacre,” “Why Accuracy about WikiLeaks Matters” and “James Clapper: Unmasking And/Or Jeff Sessions?”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

Following Comey’s firing, she said: “In July 2013, I suggested in this New York Times op-ed that James Comey should answer a lot of hard questions before the Senate confirmed his appointment by Obama as FBI Director, explaining why he had signed off on the Bush administration’s torture, unlawful detention and illegal warrantless surveillance programs. But in 2013, the Senate barely scratched the surface before rushing to confirm Comey, ironically lauding his integrity.

“But if anyone in government actually cared about integrity and upholding the rule of law, maybe Comey ought not to have been hired in the first place! Comey’s unorthodox press briefings are far less significant to adherence to the Constitution than his prior illegal actions. But I doubt that his press statements in the lead-up to the election are actually why Comey was fired. Hillary Clinton’s campaign apparently suspects that Trump and gang just seized on the Clinton email investigation as an opportunistic way of getting rid of Comey and they may be right.”

She just addressed the Comey firing on the radio program “Flashpoints.”

Sinclair to Buy Tribune Media: “Reward from Trump Administration”?

TrumpDrumpfMICHAEL CORCORAN, corcoran1 [at] gmail.com, @mcorcoran3
Michael Corcoran is a media critic and journalist who writes about media policy. His article “Trump Uses Power of FCC to Pay Back Friends at Sinclair Broadcasting” was published yesterday by FAIR.org.

He said today: “Sinclair’s plan to buy Tribune Media is unsettling for several reasons. It is a major consolidation of the local media market, giving Sinclair access to a staggering 69 percent of the U.S. population.This exceeds the 39 percent ownership cap and was enabled by Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai and his decision to reinstate a needless loophole that benefits nobody except Big Media.

“All of this is made more troubling by the fact that the Trump campaign and Sinclair previously made ‘a deal,’ as Trump’s son-in-law described it, to provide more coverage of Trump in exchange for access. Sinclair, which has long pushed a conservative agenda, has since hired a former Trump staffer. Now the president appears to be using his control of the FCC as a way to reward media companies he likes. This provides incentive for other media conglomerates to be more timid and less adversarial in their coverage of the president.

“This is one of the many problems that occurs when the vast majority of the media is controlled by massive corporations who prioritize profit above all else, even the public good.”

See also by Corcoran: “The First Amendment May Not Protect Us: Trump’s FCC Intensifies War on Press.

 

Drone Killings: “Making Children Afraid of Sunny Days”

BirdIsTHeWordThe award winning documentary “National Bird” — which is now airing on PBS stations — is available for a limited time online through PBS.

The film “follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war.”

The following can be reached for interviews via Cara White, cara.white [at] mac.com.

SONIA KENNEBECK, @NationalBirdDoc
Kennebeck, director and producer of “National Bird,” said today: “While the drone war is considered by many a legacy of the Obama administration, President Trump’s apparent embrace of the drone program is making ‘National Bird’ incredibly timely. …

“As ‘National Bird’ shows, this weapon greatly impacts the people and the societies in the target countries, and also the pilots and analysts operating the drones. The drone war is not as clean and surgical as politicians want us to believe, and it is not even remotely clear if it is … reducing terrorism.”

LISA LING, @aretvet
Ling is one of the drone whistleblowers profiled in “National Bird.” She said today: “I believe the public should be made aware of what is being done in our name. We should be informed of strikes and that which governs them. From the ground, people living under drones have no idea if ordnance will be dropped, where it will be dropped, or when it will be dropped. A constant threat overhead that could kill you, your family, friends, neighbors. …

“No one is immune from a strike. This is nothing short of terror, the kind of terror that makes children afraid of sunny days. We are not fighting a finite army. A person becomes a ‘terrorist’ when they say they are. If, as General McChrystal has suggested, five new terrorists are created when there is a strike, when will these ‘wars’ end?  All of this warrants a public debate, this film starts the necessary conversation.”

Ling is a former technical sergeant on drone surveillance systems, grew up in California and initially joined the military as an army medic and nurse. When it became apparent that she was adept with computers, she transferred to a combat communications squadron, which later became an intelligence squadron. Her final deployment as a technical sergeant was to Beale Air Force Base, California, where she worked on the Distributed Ground System (DGS), a weapons system that makes use of drones to collect vast amounts of data to find and kill targets. Like other whistleblowers featured in the film, Ling had a top-secret clearance.

NBC News reported recently: “Trump Admin Ups Drone Strikes, Tolerates More Civilian Deaths: U.S. Officials.”

The Washington Post reported in November: “Obama administration expands elite military unit’s powers to hunt foreign fighters globally.”