News Conference: Edward Snowden’s Passport, Political Asylum and Related Issues

March 25, 2014 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Ray McGovern, Coleen Rowley and Norman Solomon spoke at this news conference, sponsored by RootsAction.org and hosted by the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst whose responsibilities included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern was one of four American whistleblowers, including Coleen Rowley, who met with Snowden in Russia on October 9 to present him with an award for integrity in intelligence.

Coleen 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. Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq.

Norman Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org, a U.S. organization sponsoring a pair of petitions about Snowden. The petitions, with a combined total of 100,000 signers, were scheduled for presentation at the State Department and the Justice Department the morning after the news conference.

The petitions in support of Edward Snowden can be signed at RootsAction.org.

See: “Snowden Speaks on Obama Reforms As Supporters Call for End of His Persecution

NSA Veterans and Whistleblowers Respond to Obama Speech

Recording of audio stream from press event available here

Minutes after Photo credit: Noel St. JohnPresident Obama’s major address on NSA surveillance on Friday, Jan. 17, the Institute for Public Accuracy held a news conference with noted NSA veterans and whistleblowers.

Bill Binney (right) is former technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and co-founder of the SIGINT [Signals intelligence] Automation Research Center.

Russ Tice (standing) is former National Security Agency analyst and a source for the New York Times’ pieces published in 2005 about NSA surveillance.

J. Kirk Wiebe (seated next to Binney) is former senior analyst with the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center. (Wiebe and Binney were featured on an IPA news release “Obama NSA Speech: Intelligence Whistleblowers Available for Interviews.”) Sam Husseini (left), IPA’s communications director, moderated the event.

Audio by Chris Belcher. Photo Credit for Tice photo: Noel St. John

The War on Poverty at Fifty

by Alice O’Connor

Fifty years after Lyndon B. Johnson made it the centerpiece of his first State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, the War on Poverty remains one of the most embattled—and least understood—of Great Society initiatives. It’s an anniversary worth celebrating, despite historical memory distorted by decades of partisan attack, both for the commitments and priorities it reflected, and for the insights it offers into the political challenges of fighting inequality today.

The War on Poverty was still very much in the planning stages when LBJ made his historic pledge, though its broadest outlines were sketched out in the speech and in the 1964 Council of Economic Advisers Report: a fast-growing, full employment economy; an all-out “assault” on discrimination; investments in education, job training, and health care; and locally organized programs of community action, planned with what would only later be added as a legislative mandate for “maximum feasible participation” of the poor. Opportunity was the initiative’s keyword, enshrined in the enabling legislation, and the newly-created agency, the Office of Economic Opportunity, that became its administrative home.

[Read more...]

Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage

Edward Snowden may go down in history as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers. He is certainly one of the bravest. The 29-year-old former technical assistant to the CIA and employee of a defense intelligence contractor has admitted to disclosing top secret documents about the National Security Agency’s massive violation of the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

Like Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, Snowden is a man of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,” he told interviewers. “There is no public oversight. The result is that [NSA employees] have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.” For example, he said, he could have accessed anyone’s e-mail, including the president’s.

This is not the first time that the American people have learned that their intelligence agencies are out of control. I revealed the military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements in 1970. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washigton Post disclosed the Watergate burglary by White House operatives, which led Congress to created two select committees to investigate the entire intelligence community. [Read more...]

Obama’s Economic Race Legacy

One has to believe in something or someone in order to betray it or them.

From the start, President Barack Obama has shown little interest or loyalty in the issues that affect the poor, working class and people of color in the United States. For almost his entire first term he didn’t utter the words poor or poverty. Early on he reminded African Americans: ‘I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America…’

So it’s not so surprising that Obama hasn’t done much of substance or impact to ease, let alone end, the depression in the black community. He’s been on the side of the banks and Wall Street since co-signing George Bush’s and Hank Paulsen’s TARP ‘too big to fail’ bank bailout at the expense of underwater homeowners and middle-class taxpayers. [Read more...]

What We Should be Talking About: Romney’s Foreign Policy Advisers

John Kennedy used to say, “Domestic policy can hurt us; foreign policy can kill us.”

But despite the fact that lives (American, allied, and civilian) continue to be lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel is blustering about attacking Iran before the US election (in order to drag in a reluctant Obama administration), much more time will be given to domestic policy rantings then foreign policy. In the 2000 election, there was very little debate about foreign policy, though anyone who looked closely might have guessed that Bush’s foreign policy advisors (who called themselves “the vulcans,” and had complex and long-standing links to groups and think tanks pressing for war on Iraq, would undertake that project at the slightest provocation.

This year, with less excuse (given the large deficit and two ongoing military operations), we have had very little discussion in the media about Romney’s foreign policy advisors. Yet, they are a far more coherent group of militarists than the Bush team.

[Read more...]

Dying to Live in Mexico

Cuernavaca, Mexico — In 2011, some 12,000 people were murdered in situations presumably related to the drug trafficking industry in Mexico. In 2010, the number was more than 15,000 killed. Between December 2006, when Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) took office and declared a “war on drug traffickers” and January 2012, depending on the source, some 47,000 to 60,000 people have been slain, and some 5,000 disappeared. This grim fact has become the centerpiece of Mexican politics and an inescapable force in daily life throughout much of the country.

But neither the number of people killed nor the cruelty of the killings can be understood without simultaneously taking account of another pair of figures. First, Calderón has repeatedly said that more than 90 percent of those killed were involved in “the struggle of some cartels against others.” Calderón does not cite a source for this estimate. The underlying logic, however, is clear: if you’re dead, you’re guilty. The perennial official refrain is “en algo andaba,” or, they were up to something; they were in the game. [Read more...]

THE PAYROLL TAX CUT: Talk about a Ponzi Scheme!

By Gwendolyn Mink

Is President Obama trying to kill Social Security without explicitly saying so? He put Social Security “on the table” for consideration by his Deficit Commission — even though Social Security has not contributed to creating or sustaining the deficit/debt in the first place. He kept Social Security on the table when he made a deal to delegate deficit reduction authority over entitlements to an undemocratic Super Committee. Now, in a speech reportedly about jobs, he proposed to extend and increase the ill-considered FICA tax cut he embraced last December — a tax cut that directly undermines the financial integrity of Social Security.

According to the White House Fact Sheet on “The American Jobs Act” the FICA tax holiday for workers will be increased to a 50% reduction, lowering it to 3.1%. Under the 2010 tax deal, the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%. In addition to expanding the tax cut for workers, the President proposes to extend the FICA tax holiday to employers by cutting in half the employer’s share of the payroll tax through the first $5 million in payroll. [Read more...]

Stop the Cuts to the Social Safety Net!

Medicaid cuts will injure communities of color disproportionately. 11 percent of Asian Americans, 14 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 27 percent of Latinos, and 27 percent of African Americans gain access to health care through Medicaid.

Medicaid cuts will injure women disproportionately. Women account for 70 percent of Medicaid participants.

Social Security is survival income for many older women, especially older single women. Fifty percent of women over age 65 rely on Social Security for 80 percent or more of their income. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Unmarried women living alone aged 65 and older are three times more likely to be living in poverty than married women aged 65 and older (16.6 percent compared with 4.8 percent). Without Social Security benefits, more than two-thirds of these unmarried women would live in poverty. [Read more...]

Fires Near Los Alamos Nuclear Facility

The forests surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory have burned and are certain to burn again with some regularity, whether from lightning or human causes.  If too many trees are allowed to remain near laboratory facilities, those too will sooner or later burn, despite everyone’s best efforts.

We are not as yet very concerned about radioactive or toxic materials being caught up in the present fire because we do not see, at present, much possibility of uncontrollable fire reaching any of those hazards.  There are not many trees near some of the most conspicuous hazards, such as the main nuclear waste storage site, and these wastes are not highly combustible in their present form.  The same considerations apply to buildings that contain nuclear materials — they are not very combustible.  We assume a reasonable degree of competence on the part of highly-trained firefighters involved, and sufficiency of equipment.

The reappearance of very high winds could complicate matters, however, as could the potential presence of unadmitted hazards in unknown locations.  A few laboratory areas do contain volatile soil contamination.

Much about Los Alamos is a de facto secret even whether or not the subject is classified.  This information deficit — the trust deficit that goes with it — create problems for firefighters as well as for the rest of us. [Read more...]