Delegation of U.S. and UK Whistleblowers in London: News Conference on “Special Surveillance Relationship” — News Advisory

Whistleblowers from four American and British “national security” agencies will hold a news conference in London on November 21 in a direct challenge to surveillance policies of the U.S. and UK governments.

The whistleblowers — from the NSA, FBI, State Department and GCHQ — will speak about the effects of their governments’ policies on freedom of the press and democracy. They are traveling as a delegation co-sponsored by the U.S.-based organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

The news conference is being hosted by the Foreign Press Association.

What: News Conference — Whistleblowers on “Special Surveillance Relationship”

When: Friday, November 21 at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Foreign Press Association, Award House, 7-11 St Matthew Street, London SW1P 2JT

Who: Speakers will include:
* Katharine Gun, GCHQ whistleblower
* Matthew Hoh, State Department whistleblower
* Coleen Rowley, FBI whistleblower
* J. Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
* Norman Solomon, coordinator of ExposeFacts.org

Background:

Katharine Gun is a former translator for GCHQ. In 2003, she leaked to the Observer a top-secret memorandum concerning an NSA operation to bug the United Nations offices of six countries regarded as swing votes that could determine whether the U.N. Security Council approved the invasion of Iraq. After the Observer article appeared, Gun confessed to her GCHQ superiors and was subsequently charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. The case was dropped after the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. For her whistleblowing, Gun was given the 2003 Sam Adams award by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Daniel Ellsberg called Katharine Gun’s leak “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.” He added: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”

Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his service in Afghanistan, five months into his year-long contract in 2009, he resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.

Coleen Rowley, an attorney and former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the agency’s pre-9/11 failures, was one of three whistleblowers named as Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. In February 2003, Rowley again wrote to the FBI Director questioning him and other Bush administration officials about the reliability of supposed evidence being used to justify the impending U.S invasion of Iraq. Under sharp criticism for her comments, Rowley stepped down from her legal position to go back to being an FBI Special Agent. She retired from the FBI in 2004 after 24 years with the agency.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org, a new project for whistleblowing and independent journalism in the United States. ExposeFacts is part of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, where Solomon is executive director. He is the author of a dozen books on media and public policy including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online action group that currently has close to half a million active online members.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on U.S. citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and Binney made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program.

Katharine Gun, Matthew Hoh, Coleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org. Norman Solomon is on the ExposeFacts editorial board.

In Response to the Government’s Lynching of James Risen

By Russ Tice
former intelligence analyst and operations officer, NSA.

220px-Russ_Tice_2009Of the information about NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional domestic spying on U.S. citizens that James Risen was informed of by his sources, he only published a fraction. Technical details, such as the type of platforms used, in NSA’s criminal acts were withheld by Mr. Risen even when he was urged to print much more of the details involved.

When he was told that he himself was a target of NSA’s illegal spying, he did not want to believe the government would go that far against a member of the press. When he was cautioned that his traditional means of communications were compromised and covert measures of security were needed, he believed the concern was overly protective and silly. When it was pointed out to him that face-to-face meetings in public venues were crawling with FBI agents determined to listen in, he was dismissive. When he was informed that NSA’s domestic spying was en masse and included word-for-word content of everyday citizens, he struggled to accept this. When it appeared that he had only one source of information for specifics of NSA’s criminality, he chose to omit the information from his publications. It has been a sharp learning curve for Jim Risen, but by having numerous grand juries and two administrations relentlessly hounding him, he has learned how deeply the government’s malevolence descends. But there was always one steadfast assertion he wound not compromise, Jim Risen assured his sources, from the very start of their first encounter, that he would never divulge their identities nor what information they provided him with.

Today he stands on the brink of being incarcerated for his steadfastness, by a government and its intelligence community that is determined to ensure that their crimes against the American people are not uncovered. In an environment were the mainstream media has been compromised by large corporate interests in conjunction with government contracts and regulatory favor, Jim Risen has stood above them all, even his own task masters, to exemplify the true roll that the Fourth Estate was designed to perform by our forefathers. I stand in salute to you Jim, a true “American Hero’ and patriot.

Militarization of U.S. Police: Ferguson, Mo.

By Peter Kraska

Even though I was the first academic to identify, research, and write about these trends — even I would not have predicted the extent to which the Military Model would overtake the Community Policing reform movement so rapidly. Community policing reforms came about as a corrective to the 1950-60s professional police model which created a large gulf between police and citizens. Few noticed that underlying all the CP rhetoric was a little noticed yet foretelling trend of para-militarism as found in SWAT teams. What we’re witnessing today, though, with the influence of the Dept. of Homeland Security since 9/11 — along with growing emphasis on military hardware and tactics — is the expansion of police militarization throughout entire police departments — and indeed, the entire police institution.

This expansion is having a dramatic impact on how the police perceive the public (more as enemy combatants than citizens of the community they are serving) as well as how the public perceives the police (more as an occupying force that cares only about maintaining law and order through military style tactics, hardware, and appearance). This dynamic can readily lend itself to the police using deadly force inappropriately, and to the public reacting to these incidents with outrage and complete distrust of what they perceive as an occupying force that does not have their best interest in mind. In short, the police lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the people they are serving — which only reinforces a we vs. they mentality among the police. This has been the danger inherent in this well-documented trend toward police militarization; this is the ugly reality that is playing out in Ferguson, Missouri.

Unconstitutional acts of war in Iraq

by Paul Findley

President Obama ignored the wise direction of President George Washington when he casually told the nation — and Congress — that U.S. military forces will engage in acts of war in Iraq for an extended period of weeks and maybe months. Bombing, he said in a brief statement last week, is needed here and there, but he promised there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.

Although not mentioned publicly, his close partners in this risky adventure are Britain and France, whose diplomats carved up the Middle East at the end of World War I to suit their empire interests, plus Israel, the world’s latest colonial power.

The announcement seemed almost an afterthought as the president headed for vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. He neglected to seek approval of Congress before authorizing bombardment of the military forces of ISIS, the new marauding power that suddenly gained control of much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

A former instructor in constitutional law, Obama ignored plain evidence that framers of the Constitution feared presidential abuse of instruments of war. They vested the power to declare war, that is, to make war, exclusively in Congress. They viewed war-making the most oppressive burden government can impose on its citizens and, in effect, declared it too important to entrust to a single person, the president.

Obama had ample time to seek congressional approval before the Capitol Hill vacation began. He chose to usurp congressional authority with U.S. bombs dropped in Iraq and thereby is guilty of impeachable offense.

It is shameful that congressional leaders failed to insist on strict compliance with the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
Once more, America’s government attempts nation-building in Iraq. It will be costly, and the people of Iraq have little reason to expect it will be better than our recent decade-long folly that left Iraq broken in almost every respect and its citizens outraged at the U.S. government and its Iraqi employees. This fury left many of the former employees assassinated and others sought survival by fleeing their homeland.

Findley served as a member of United States House of Representatives for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. He is also the author of six books. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him.

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...]