News Release Archive - 2017

Disinformation on Russia and Threat to Democratic Party

news release20Glenn Greenwald writes in “CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat” that: “Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article — like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media — was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims. …

“And then there is the fact that the vast majority of reporting about Russia, as well as Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin, has been based exclusively on evidence-free assertions of anonymous officials, many, if not most, of whom have concealed agendas. That means that they are free to issue completely false claims without the slightest concern of repercussions.”

USA Today reports: “CNN shrugs off Veritas video as Trump lashes out at network.”

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09 at gmail.com
Carden’s articles and essays, many focusing on Russia, have appeared in The American Conservative, The National Interest and The Nation. He recently wrote “The Fallacies of the ‘Russia-Truthers’” for Consortium News.

He said today: “The Clinton-sponsored neo-McCarthyite campaign seems to be losing momentum in the wake of the latest CNN revelations. Maybe it’s starting to dawn on liberals that regurgitating Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid talking points will lead not to victories in 2018 and 2020, but instead to electoral irrelevance.”

See by Norman Solomon (executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy): “Democrats Face Failing Russia-gate Scheme.”

Are Claims About Syrian Sarin Attacks Propaganda Leading to More War?

newsrelease 19

BuzzFeed reports: “Syria appears to be preparing a new chemical weapons attack against its citizens, the White House said Monday, warning that if the weapons are again used, the U.S. will make the Syrian government ‘pay a heavy price.’ … Five U.S. defense officials reached by BuzzFeed News said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, including one U.S. Central Command official who had ‘no idea’ about its origin.”

From RT: “U.S. threats to Syria’s legitimate government unacceptable — Kremlin.”

See new interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh: “Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria” with The Real News. On Sunday, Hersh’s piece “Trump‘s Red Line” was published in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. Hersh wrote: “On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon. …

“‘The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,’ the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. ‘The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.'”

THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol at mit.edu
Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. Last month, he appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “NYT Claims on Syria Attack Unsupported.” He said today: “The White House took unjustified actions — and is now creating another set of reasons for more such actions. Chances of an unpredictable escalation are significant. Trump is pushing the Russians to extreme positions and he’s undermining the effort to destroy the Islamic State.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. See his recent interview with Dennis Bernstein at Consortium News: “A Baseless Justification for War in Syria.” He said today: “The current posture of U.S., French and perhaps British policy in Syria is basically an invitation for some jihadist group to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria. That would get blamed on Assad and the U.S. would bomb him. This is an intolerable, incredibly dangerous situation brought on by constant illegal U.S. meddling.”

CNN recently reported: “Macron vows retaliation if chemical weapons used in Syria.”

How the U.S. Armed al Qaeda in Syria

AleppoGARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Independent investigative journalist Porter just wrote the piece “How America Armed Terrorists in Syria” for the American Conservative.

Porter writes: “Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

“Gabbard’s ‘Stop Arming Terrorists Act’ challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be ‘relatively moderate’ anti-Assad groups — meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

“This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country — primarily through Turkey — largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front … and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria — and gave rise to the Islamic State. …

“By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.”

Trumpcare Targets Medicare as well as Medicaid

NANCY ALTMAN, LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Altman is president of Social Security Works, Benesch is communications director for the group. They just wrote the piece “The Overlooked Trumpcare Threat: A Medicare Time Bomb,” which states: “Just over two years ago, Donald Trump gave a speech announcing his run for the presidency. In that speech, he promised that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. That promise became a centerpiece of his campaign. It was a key way for Trump to differentiate himself, as a matter of policy, from his Republican primary opponents — a distinction he happily and frequently pointed out. In the general election, the promise helped him appeal to voters who don’t traditionally support the GOP.

“But six months into his presidency, Trump has already betrayed those voters by breaking his promise. Indeed, rather than protecting those programs, he has already, in his short tenure, gone after all three!

“The destruction of Medicaid and the cutback to Social Security have gotten media attention. The broken promise on Medicare is in danger of slipping by beneath the radar, though.

“Only days after the election, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he saw an opportunity to realize his decades-long dream of destroying Medicare. He said that he planned to enact legislation as soon as possible that would end Medicare’s guaranteed benefit and replace it with voucher coupons.

“Ryan justified this horrible plan — destined to leave the nation’s seniors without medical care after a lifetime of work — by claiming ‘because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. The Affordable Care Act improved Medicare’s long-term finances, by requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay somewhat more. Trumpcare repeals that increased funding.

“Ryan, Trump and their fellow Republicans are like the proverbial murderer who kills his parents and pleads for leniency because he is an orphan. In this case, they are raiding Medicare of necessary revenue, only down the road to argue that they must cut Medicare because it has insufficient funding! Indeed, Trumpcare accomplishes two goals: It gives a giant tax break to the wealthy at the expense of Medicare and it sets up the destruction of Medicare by raiding it. It is completely predictable that, if Trumpcare becomes law, Republicans will, as a next step, go after Medicare, claiming its funding shortfall as the supposed reason.”

Portugal Wildfires: Result of Timber Industry?

newsrelease18The New York Times reports: “The head of Portugal’s firefighters’ association said on Wednesday that he believed arsonists had most likely started the fire that killed 64 people last weekend, contradicting a police assessment that attributed the cause to lightning.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Reeling from its deadliest forest fire, Portugal finds a villain: eucalyptus trees.”

ANNE PETERMANN, anne at globaljusticeecology.org, skype: annepetermann, also via tess at globaljusticeecology.org, @STOPGETREES
Petermann is executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project; and international coordinator, of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. She said today: “The main force driving these deadly fires is the widespread proliferation of highly flammable eucalyptus plantations. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing a proposal by industry to develop extensive plantations of eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South. They are accepting comments on this proposal until July 5th.”

OLIVER MUNNION, oli at biofuelwatch.org.uk, Skype: olivermunnion [English, Portuguese]

Co-director of Biofuelwatch, Munnion lives in Portugal’s wildfire zone. He said: “We spent last night in a local school after some 30 villages were evacuated in our area. News reports say that a quarter of the municipality has burned. We’ve been lucky so far and still have our home, but many others have lost so much.

“It’s time to face up to the reality that Portugal’s vast eucalyptus and pine plantations, and the corruption and profiteering that comes with them, are the main reason that the country burns, every year. Coupled with the impacts of climate change, bringing hotter temperatures and drought, our area stands little chance. And the summer has only just begun.

“Just like wildfires that devastated parts of Chile in January — the worst in their history — the fires in Portugal were the result of a reckless and poorly regulated timber industry that emphasizes eucalyptus plantations over human well-being. And now the same thing is being considered in the U.S. I hope they learn the lesson from the tragedies in Portugal and Chile.”

Need to “Repeal the Perpetual Illegal Wars”

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Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports in “Senators Wrestle With Updating Law Authorizing War on Terrorist Groups” that: “Asked at a luncheon on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington what legal basis the United States had to attack Syrian government forces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., claimed the authority stemmed from the 2001 law because the American military presence in Syria was predicated on fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State there.

“But on Tuesday, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, said, ‘The most recent use of this, in regards to activities in Syria, certainly had nothing to do with the attack on our country on September the 11th.'”

The question at the National Press Club to Dunford was submitted by Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy and was featured on an IPA news release on Monday: “Bombing Syria: * Impeachable * Carve-Up Agenda.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle[at]illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “What the U.S. government is getting away with here is incredible. Gen. Dunford is citing the 2001 AUMF to go after Al Qaeda as justification to go after a secular government — Syria — that is actually fighting Al Qaeda, as well as ISIS.

“Congress should not be in the business of ‘updating’ any authorization of continuing these wars, which are clearly illegal under international law. Congress should be in the business of repealing these bogus domestic authorizations. No one in 1970 was working to ‘update’ the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. At least no one who was not a laughing stock. Congress was working to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, to defund the war — not to perpetuate illegal war for another generation. Congress now needs to repeal the perpetual illegal wars. The War Powers clause of the Constitution, as well as the War Powers Resolution are being flagrantly violated.”

Boyle was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in 2013 along with former Rep. Paul Findley: “* Key Author of War Powers Act: ‘Obama has no Authority to Attack Syria’ * Impeachment.”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (Duke University Press).

Foreign Influence in U.S. Politics

JONATHAN MARSHALLnewrelease17
He is an award-winning journalist and author of five books on international affairs and national security. Marshall has recently published a series of articles on the influence of foreign money in American politics, featured on ConsortiumNews. He states: “The combination of lax enforcement and tremendously high stakes — including billions of dollars in foreign aid, arms sales, and economic sanctions — has led to intense foreign lobbying in the United States, some of it financed with recycled U.S. aid.”

On Russia’s influence in American politics, Marshall writes: “Russia-gate has focused attention on requirements for U.S. citizens acting as ‘foreign agents’ to register with the Justice Department, but these rules have been sporadically or selectively enforced for decades.”

In “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets,” Marshall cites evidence that “the Saudi government now employs 14 lobbying firms, at an estimated cost of well over $1.3 million a month, more than it spent in all of 2000. Their hired guns include Podesta Group, co-founded by Tony Podesta, one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, and his brother John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s national campaign chairman in 2016; BGR Group, whose name partners include the former head of the Republican Party; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi. …

“In its quest for influence,” Marshall adds, “Saudi Arabia takes no chances and spares no expense. Since the 1940s, when their country became an oil superpower, the Saudis have handed out vast sums of cash on a bipartisan basis to powerful and soon-to-be powerful Americans.”

On Israel’s influence in American politics Marshall states: “Unlike most other foreign lobbies, the pro-Israel lobby draws much of its strength from grass-roots support. With little organized opposition, it can influence Congress more readily than better-funded business lobbies that face stiff competition. However, the single biggest source of its power is not voters — only a tiny percentage make Israel their top political priority — but campaign funds.

“Hillary Clinton’s pandering to the pro-Israel lobby during the 2016 election — promising AIPAC that she would take relations with Israel ‘to the next level’ and that she would meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her first month in office — reflected her financial dependence on pro-Israel funders. Chief among them was billionaire donor Haim Saban, a hawkish Israeli-American who famously said, ‘I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.’”

However, Marshall also notes that: “As Israel pursues ever more extreme policies grounded in ethnic and religious nationalism, the pro-Israel lobby has become increasingly aligned with the Republican Party.”

Marshall’s articles also examine political lobbying by Turkey, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

Bombing Syria: * Impeachable * Carve-Up Agenda

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The New York Times reports: “Russia Warns U.S. After Downing of Syrian Warplane.”

This afternoon at the National Press Club, Joint Chiefs Chairman and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked a question submitted by the Institute for Public Accuracy: “What’s the legal justification for targeting Syrian government forces?” He claimed: “We are there and have legal justification under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, we are prosecuting a campaign against ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria.” See video.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “Gen. Dunford is totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS, but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government. Those attacks are in fact clearly illegal and impeachable.

“Many have put forward dubious arguments for impeaching Trump — or arguments that they would never apply to a Democratic president. Similarly, some threatened Obama with impeachment and are not doing so now that Trump is engaging in exactly the activity they threatened Obama about. Hypocrisies and hypocrites abound.

“If we care about the rule of law, the most striking thing about Trump is his flagrant violation of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution in this targeting of the Syrian government. Now, the U.S. has been violating international law in terms of its drone assassination program and various bombing campaigns, like the one purporting to target ISIS in Syria. Many of these activities are justified by attempts to invoke the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the 9/11 attacks. A decade and a half after those attacks, that rationale is international legal nonsense, but it exists.

“In contrast, the targeting of forces of or allied with the Syrian government has no justification whatsoever. It is obviously impeachable — Obama’s people say they were afraid of impeachment for exactly this [see below]. But pro-war Democrats don’t raise it because it would put a constraint on the war-making capacities of the U.S. president — while they pretend to care about the rule of law.

“Many of the U.S. attacks on Syria have been around the so-called ‘de-confliction zones.’ These zones are de facto partitions of Syria in violation of its territorial sovereignty and political independence. This goes back at least to the Pentagon just after 9/11 telling retired General Wesley Clark that they wanted to target Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

“Israeli strategic interests are obviously served by a breakup of Syria; as is the case for much of the U.S. establishment. The Saudis are clearly on board. The Russians, rhetoric aside, are likely simply looking for some scraps. The big losers are the Syrians and most of the other people of the region.”

See recent report in the Financial Times: “Syria de-escalation deal stirs fears of carve-up by foreign powers.” Also, see new report from the Wall Street Journal: “Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels.”

Earlier this year, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government:

Rhodes: “The only country in the world that was prepared to join us [in attacking the Assad government] was France. And we had no domestic legal basis. We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment.”

Politico: “Really? Was the prospect of impeachment actually a factor in your conversations?”

Rhodes: “That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from Boehner, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner wrote to Obama in 2013: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

Boyle was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in 2013 along with former Rep. Paul Findley: “* Key Author of War Powers Act: ‘Obama has no Authority to Attack Syria’ * Impeachment.”

Anti-Muslim Terrorism

newsrelease16The Washington Post reports, “A van plowed into a group of Muslim worshipers as they were leaving prayers at a pair of north London mosques early Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in what is being called a ‘terrorist attack.’ Witnesses said the driver of the vehicle was heard shouting that he wanted to kill Muslims.”

AP reported from Virginia about an attack that took place just hours before: “Muslim Teen Killed After Leaving Mosque.”

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative reporter whose work has been published by the Washington Post, The Nation, and the Guardian. Recently, he wrote two articles on right-wing and anti-Islamic extremism for the Intercept, “Playing Cops: Militia Members Aids Police in Arresting Protester at Portland Alt-Right Rally” and Raw Story, “Anti-Sharia rallies brought out pro-Trump thugs — internet radicalized and spoiling for violence.”

He said today: “The killings in London and Virginia highlight the growing threat of far-right violence in the West. While the media obsessed last week over Bernie Sanders’ responsibility in the shooting of a Congressman, there have been no fewer than five murders linked to white supremacist and alt-right supporters since Donald Trump was elected. We see a pattern with these attacks. Government officials and news outlets are swift to label an attack carried out by a Muslim as terrorism, but they are slow to label attacks perpetrated by far-right extremists as terrorism, as shown by the London attack. In other instances, the attack is never called terrorism. That is the case of Jeremy Christian, the Portland-area man who allegedly knifed two men to death after they came to the aid of two women of color, one wearing a hijab, as Christian threatened and assaulted them. He was a known white supremacist and had been filmed at an alt-right rally weeks earlier throwing Nazi salutes and yelling, ‘Die Muslims,’ but that is apparently not enough evidence for the two murders to be investigated as or deemed a possible terror attack.

“While the victims of terrorism are spread across the population … it is Muslim communities that bear the brunt of terrorism, particularly in countries destabilized, bombed, or invaded by Western forces.

“There is evidence of a dramatic jump in hate crimes and incidents coming initially after Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015 and then again after he was elected in November 2016. While some individuals in the West carry out deadly attacks in the name of Islam, there are others who kill in the name of Christianity, white supremacy, racism, and Islamophobia. But usually only the former is labeled or even investigated as terrorism.”

Nader on Amazon Buying Whole Foods

The Verge reports: “Amazon is buying American supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the online retail giant announced today. The acquisition is technically happening as part of a merger agreement that will see Amazon pick up the supermarket’s net debt and purchase its stock at $42 per share. The brick-and-mortar stores will continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand once the deal is complete, which is expected to happen later this year, but is subject to approval by regulators and the supermarket’s shareholders.”

RALPH NADER, @RalphNader
Nader is a consumer rights advocate, attorney, and former presidential candidate. His recent works include Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, and the 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed. Nader is not currently available for interviews.

Today his office released the following statement: “With every move of this Goliath, Amazon is inviting a thorough anti-trust investigation by the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission. This company is breaking records for destroying Main Street and hollowing out communities through such mechanisms as predatory pricing, and for many years in the past, avoiding state sales taxes.”

For more information, contact at the Center for Study of Responsive Law: Evan West, west at csrl.org

For background on Amazon, see: “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox