News Releases

Ebola: Are U.S. Bioweapons Labs the Solution, or the Problem?

On Friday, the New York Times published the article “White House to Cut Funding for Risky Biological Study,” which states: “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents, the White House announced Friday that it would temporarily halt all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” The piece quotes Richard H. Ebright, “a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, [who has] argued that the long history of accidental releases of infectious agents from research labs made such work extremely risky and unwise to perform in the first place. Dr. Ebright called Friday’s announcement ‘an important, albeit overdue, step.’” See USA Today from Aug. 17: “Hundreds of Bioterror Lab Mishaps Cloaked in Secrecy.”

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She has debunked government claims from early on in the Ebola crisis, including the slowness of the response in Africa and the notion that U.S. hospitals were prepared. Her most recent post is “Is This A New, More Virulent Ebola?” She also suggests “examining the possibility of converting the excess BL4 labs to treatment centers for Ebola.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, Boyle drafted the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which is the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention. His books include Biowarfare and Terrorism.

He said today: “If, as some in the Liberian press are claiming, this outbreak of Ebola is from one of the labs in west Africa run by the CDC and Tulane University, it could be an unprecedented human disaster. That could mean it was GMOed into a ‘Fluebola.’ Recall that the 2001 weaponized anthrax attacks were traced to a U.S. government lab. It’s incredibly odd that this outbreak occurred 1,000 miles from past outbreaks and it is clearly more easily transmissible.

“Scientists like Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin have been ‘researching’ Ebola for years. Since the anthrax attacks, some $79 billion has been spent. But we still don’t have a vaccine ready to protect us. These labs have actually spent government money, including from the National Institutes of Health, to make viruses more deadly. The work done at these labs shouldn’t be curtailed or temporarily suspended as the administration seems to be talking about, but stopped. This work is criminal. It violates the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which I wrote. It was passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress and states:

“‘Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both. There is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section committed by or against a national of the United States.’

“After the law was passed, the government has claimed that it’s not violating it because it is creating these more deadly viruses to help protect against them should they develop elsewhere. It’s a ridiculous argument to get around the blanket prohibition in the law. This policy has been a catastrophe waiting to happen — a statistical certainty.”

BARRY KISSIN, barrykissin at hotmail.com
Kissin is a researcher, lawyer and activist in Frederick, Maryland, where Fort Detrick, a major facility of the United States Army Medical Command installation, is based. He has closely monitored the expansion of the facility. He said today: “The fear is that the government is doing things in the biolabs in west Africa that it might be reluctant to do at Fort Detrick and other facilities inside the U.S.”

In 2010, Kissin wrote a piece that noted: “The [Frederick] News-Post has published articles that reflect Fort Detrick has already aerosolized plague, and looks forward to a new facility, only recently announced, that plans on aerosolizing Ebola. Why in the world would we be aerosolizing plague and Ebola? The official answer is that this is necessary to the development of our defenses. Left out of the answer is the plain fact that these purported defenses are against ghastly threats that we ourselves are originating.”

Earlier in 2010, the Frederick News-Post reported in “New facility to test drugs, vaccines for FDA approval” that “George Ludwig, civilian deputy principal assistant for research and technology at Fort Detrick, said the project will represent a new level of research there. … Ludwig said researchers at the facility will likely start out working on vaccines for filoviruses such as Ebola and Marburg, as well as new anthrax vaccines. … The facility will have the capability to produce viruses in aerosolized form that would simulate a potential biological attack on the test animals. Ludwig said aerosol is the means of exposure researchers are most concerned with given its implications to battlefield and homeland defense.” [This particular facility was never built.]

See from the Global Security Newswire: “Obama Seeks $260M Boost for Protecting African Disease Labs” from 2011, which notes: “The Obama administration has requested $260 million in fiscal 2012 funding to bolster protective measures at African research sites that house lethal disease agents, the Examiner reported on Sunday.” The piece noted they “hold potential biological-weapon agents such as anthrax, Ebola and Rift Valley fever.” From Vice in 2013: “Why the U.S. Is Building a High-Tech Bubonic Plague Lab in Kazakhstan.”

See Guardian piece from earlier this year: “Scientists condemn ‘crazy, dangerous’ creation of deadly airborne flu virus” about the work of Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin, who has worked on Ebola and reconstituted the Spanish Flu, which killed over 50 million people in 1918.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just ran a positivity piece on Kawaoka on Oct. 17: “UW-Madison scientist Kawaoka on front lines in fight against Ebola.”

See overview article from 2007 from in The Humanist: “America the Beautiful’s Germ Warfare Rash.”

See 2006 piece in the Washington Post: “The Secretive Fight Against Bioterror,” which states: “The government is building a highly classified facility to research biological weapons, but its closed-door approach has raised concerns. … “‘If we saw others doing this kind of research, we would view it as an infringement of the bioweapons treaty,’ said Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar and weapons expert at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. ‘You can’t go around the world yelling about Iranian and North Korean programs — about which we know very little — when we’ve got all this going on.’”

See “Russia Rejects Bioweapons Talk in U.S. Congress as ‘Propaganda’” from May 14, 2014. The piece states: “Russia issued the remarks in reaction to a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, where University of Maryland senior scholar Milton Leitenberg said the existence of a Russian biological-arms program cannot be ruled out because Moscow does not permit outside access to key facilities of concern. According to the ministry, ‘It is surprising that certain representatives of the U.S. establishment continue demanding unilateral access to the Russian biological facilities amid the U.S. refusal from such a fair and clear [verification] mechanism. Such demands are inappropriate and unacceptable.’”

Myths About Syria and Iraq War

CHARLES GLASS, charlesmglass at yahoo.com, @CGlassArticles
Glass was recently in Syria. He was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and authored the book Tribes with Flags: Adventure and Kidnap in Greater Syria. He just wrote the piece “In the Syria We Don’t Know” for the New York Review of Books.

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net
Erlich’s newest book is just out — Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect, (foreword by Noam Chomsky). His most recent piece is “10 Myths About Obama’s Latest War,” which states: “In justifying air attacks on Syria on Sept. 23, President Barack Obama said, ‘We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.’

“I saw firsthand the tens of thousands of Yazidis forced to flee Islamic State fighters. IS is a vicious, un-Islamic, ultra-right-wing group that poses a real threat to the people of Syria and Iraq. But those people will defeat IS, not the U.S., whose motives are widely questioned in the region. IS poses no more of a terrorist threat to the American people than al-Qaida and its offshoots.

“In fact, within a matter of weeks, the Obama administration admitted that IS posed little terrorist threat to the U.S. mainland and focused instead on a heretofore-unknown group that the U.S. calls Khorosan. Now evidence is emerging that the Khorosan threat was exaggerated in order to justify expanding the bombing to Syria.”

NYT: Obama Could Reaffirm Bush-Era Torture

The New York Times reported on Sunday: “Obama Could Reaffirm a Bush-Era Reading of a Treaty on Torture.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net and writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org. She just wrote: “For some reason, the NYT decided to bury this article from Charlie Savage on page A21. It explains that the Obama administration is debating internally whether to overturn Obama’s ban against cruelty (which is also mandated by the Detainee Treatment Act). Some intelligence lawyers, apparently, believe Obama’s torture ban and the DTA are too limiting. [From the article:]

        ’It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal         obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed         the deliberations on the condition of anonymity. …

        ’State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation.         Doing so would require no policy changes, since Mr. Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that         forbade cruel interrogations anywhere and made it harder for a future administration to return to torture.

        ’But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal         obligations on the United States’ actions abroad. They say they need more time to study whether it         would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime         detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts         have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.’

“There were remarkable amounts of denial in response to this, from people who seem totally unaware of the kind of practices — that appear to include isolation, sleep deprivation, food manipulation, and other forms of coercion — currently used by High Value Interrogation Group [HIG], the inter-agency group used to interrogate terrorist suspects. And this post from David Luban, which lays out some of the loopholes the government might be using to engage in abuse, misses a few.

“We know, for example, that there are two OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinions that say Presidents don’t have to change the text of Executive Orders they choose to ignore, meaning Obama could ignore his torture ban ‘legally.’ There’s also the Appendix M OLC opinion that has approved whatever DOD wants to sneak into the sometimes classified appendix in advance. …”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com
Cohn, a professor of human rights at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse.

She said today: “The Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has ratified, also bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Yet President Obama is apparently considering whether to adopt the Bush administration’s erroneous claim that the torture treaty only prohibits such treatment within the United States. This would be a cynical attempt to limit liability of U.S. officials for their cruel treatment of people abroad.”

Also, see, from OpenTheGovernment.org, the recently released report: “The Impact of Executive Branch Secrecy On The United States’ Compliance With The Convention Against Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment.” [PDF]

The CDC and Ebola

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden is testifying before Congress today.

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @nassmeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She said today: “Testing people at airports is rather meaningless since someone could be infected with Ebola and not show symptoms, like increased temperature, for three weeks. Thomas Eric Duncan didn’t show symptoms when he came to the U.S. from Liberia. Clearly the CDC was wrong to allow nurse Amber Vinson to fly on a commercial flight. Unfortunately, these are just the most obvious and most recent of the problems of the CDC responses to the Ebola outbreak.”

See Nass’ recent blog entry, “Current clinical thoughts on Ebola,” which raises ten critical points. The first is: “Even the best containment gear, combined with a diluted bleach solution to spray down workers as layers are removed, and a buddy system that requires another healthcare professional to watch how healthcare workers take off their personal protective equipment, is not perfect. Medecins Sans Frontieres / aka Doctors Without Borders / aka MSF workers used the best equipment and methods we know, still 16 MSF staff became infected with Ebola, and nine of them have died.” Her most recent entry is: “Aerosolization tests of Ebola in Animals at USAMRIID [U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] confirms disease can spread via air.”

Last month, Nass wrote the pieces “U.S. Ebola: Frieden Said Every Hospital Was Ready. He is Wrong” and “Ebola Opinion: What do you do when you can’t tell those with Ebola from patients with other conditions?

Also, see Oct. 7 piece by David Willman of the Los Angeles Times, who won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the anthrax attacks of 2001, which were found to originate in a U.S. government lab: “Some Ebola experts worry virus may spread more easily than assumed.” Also, see Oct. 8 editorial from the Times: “Effort to prevent panic over Ebola went too far.”

Disappearance of 43 Students a “Snapshot” of Drug Dominated Mexico

The Washington Post recently reported: “Mass kidnapping of students in Iguala, Mexico, brings outrage and protests.”

PIETRO AMEGLIO, serpajc at laneta.apc.org
Ameglio is the winner of the 2014 El-Hibri Foundation Peace Education Prize and will receive the $20,000 prize in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. He is a co-founder of several just peace initiatives in Mexico, including, together with the poet Javier Sicilia and others, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. He states: “There needs to be a deeper understanding of the war in Mexico and its root causes, including why the popular portrayal of the ‘war on drugs’ obfuscates more than clarifies.

“There are nice laws on the books about finding the disappeared, but virtually nothing is being done. These 43 student teachers were attacked by the police who took them to the police station and then handed them over to an organized crime gang and they haven’t been heard from since. It’s a compelling snapshot of the reality of Mexico today and how the government and gangs have fused. After the students were disappeared, the mayor and head of security fled because they knew they’d be the only scapegoats.

“Why where these students disappeared? Perhaps to teach them a lesson — they were uppity. Some believe a green light came from higher up. News was just breaking about another massacre and some in the human rights community suspect this was perpetrated to distract from that one.” Also via Phil McManus, pmcmanus@for-al.org, and Rachel Haswell, rhaswell at elhibrifoundation.org

CARLOS MORENO, [Spanish language only; in D.C. till Friday] grupotrueque at yahoo.com.mx
Moreno is accompanying Pietro Ameglio to Washington DC as a representative of organizations of family members of those who have been killed or disappeared in Mexico. His son, Jesús Israel, was disappeared in Oaxaca in 2011. He said today: “I’m here to raise voice of the victims in Mexico. Families are facing personal tragedy compounded by institutional dysfunction when families seek answers and justice.”

* Ferguson to Syria * Police Militarization

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He just wrote the piece “Race and Militarism from Ferguson to Syria: A letter to African Americans.”

MICHAEL SHANK, michael at fcnl.org, @Michael_Shank
Shank just wrote the piece “Police Militarization Must Be Halted,” which states: “The Senate and House bills [Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)] target the Pentagon’s transfer to police forces of free military-grade equipment coming back from U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. This program has gifted over $5 billion worth of recently used and unused war equipment — armored personnel carriers, tanks, Humvees, and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected [MRAP] vehicles, grenade launchers, armed drones, and assault weapons — to U.S. police since the late 1990s when the program first started. The bicameral legislation would prohibit the transfer of these military weapons. Given that the Pentagon has 13,000 MRAPs to give away, this comes at a critical time.”

* James Risen “Hero” * Panetta’s “Fraud”

PAY-ANY-PRICE_hres-198x300The book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War by James Risen of the New York Times was released today. The government has demanded he identify a confidential source under threat of imprisonment. Risen appeared this morning on “Democracy Now!” See: “Risen’s New Book Exposes Corrupt Zealotry of ‘U.S. War on Terror’” by IPA executive director Norman Solomon.

RUSS TICE
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Tice is a former intelligence analyst and operations officer for the NSA. He has acknowledged being one of the sources for Risen’s original story about mass NSA surveillance that was published by the New York Times in 2005. Tice just wrote the piece “In Response to the Government’s Lynching of James Risen,” which criticizes Risen for not including more information in his original piece, but still calls him a true “American hero.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @JesselynRadack
Radack is the director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project who herself has been a whistleblower. She said today: “James Risen’s willingness to go to jail to protect the identity of his source is what makes him a courageous, effective investigative journalist. But, Risen should not be forced to choose between journalistic integrity and a jail cell.

“Risen’s case demonstrates concretely how the war on national security whistleblowers using the Espionage Act is really a back door way of targeting the press, and specifically journalists who hold the government accountable and who protect the whistleblowers who serve as their sources.”

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
Goodman just wrote the piece “Why Leon Panetta’s Memoir is a Fraud,” which states: “If Leon Panetta had been a half-decent director of the Central Intelligence Agency or a half-decent secretary of defense, then his ironically-titled “Worthy Fights” could have been viewed as a credible critique of the national security policy of the Obama administration. The fact of the matter is that Panetta had his own worthy fights to encounter at both the CIA and the Pentagon, but he dodged them all. He became an immediate and willing captive of the operational culture of the CIA and the military culture of the Pentagon. And to make certain that the serious problems at both bureaucracies would remain hidden, he destroyed the oversight process at the CIA and weakened the oversight process at the Pentagon. …

“Panetta also managed to harm the CIA in an even more fundamental way by undermining and compromising the work of the Office of the Inspector General. His immediate successors had tried to achieve this, particularly Porter Goss and General Michael Hayden, but it was Panetta who pulled the switch. A former colleague of mine, John Helgerson, was the inspector general during the Bush years and tried to stand up to the efforts of Goss and Hayden, but believed that it was safe to retire in 2009 when a Democratic administration came into power and a supposedly decent civil servant and public official such as Panetta was named director of CIA. Well, Helgerson put his money on the wrong horse.”

Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career includes tours with the U.S. Army, the CIA, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. His most recent books are The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism.

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

“60 Minutes” Report Undermines DOJ Threat to Jail Risen

0A report that aired on “60 Minutes” last night put the Obama Justice Department more on the defensive in its ongoing effort to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to identify a confidential source — under threat of imprisonment.

On the CBS program, Michael Hayden — a former CIA director as well as a former NSA director — distanced himself from the ongoing threat to jail Jim Risen. “I don’t understand the necessity to pursue Jim,” Hayden said. The comments are a setback for the Obama administration’s pursuit of Risen to force him to betray a source.

The cover article in the current edition of The Nation magazine documents the administration’s extraordinary pursuit of Risen and its parallel moves against former CIA undercover agent Jeffrey Sterling. The article says that “the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of U.S. foreign policy.”

Scrutinizing what the New York Times has called “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history,” the in-depth article in The Nation sifts through the protracted and ongoing efforts by the U.S. government targeting Risen and Sterling.

“Under Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama’s Justice Department took up where the Bush DOJ left off,” the article reports, assessing the legal maneuvers of both administrations. A vendetta against Risen goes back at least a decade at the CIA, “where officials have loathed his way of flipping over their rocks,” the article says.

Risen has faced a series of subpoenas and legal threats from the Justice Department for almost seven years. Meanwhile, Sterling is facing an imminent trial on 10 felony counts, which include seven under the Espionage Act. He is accused of divulging information to Risen about a CIA operation that gave flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran in 2000.

The Nation article was written by Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler, who are journalists with ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

The article concludes: “If the government’s indictment is accurate in its claim that Sterling divulged classified information, then he took a great risk to inform the public about an action that, in Risen’s words, ‘may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.’ If the indictment is false, then Sterling is guilty of nothing more than charging the agency with racial bias and going through channels to inform the Senate Intelligence Committee of extremely dangerous CIA actions. Either way, Jeffrey Sterling is now facing dire consequences as a whistleblower in the Obama era.”

The article is posted on The Nation’s website, here. The writers of the piece are available for interviews:

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net and writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org.
Wheeler said today: “Michael Hayden hesitates to say James Risen should be jailed for protecting his sources, but he does so using an interesting rationale — that Risen, like Hayden himself, was just protecting sources and methods. Yet that equates whistleblowers knowingly risking their livelihood to share important news with the government secretly violating the privacy of millions of Americans.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is the author of many books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

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

Nobel Prize: * Child Labor * Peace?

Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai were named recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize this morning “for their struggle against oppression of young people and children and children’s right to education,” Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced this morning. Nobel Committee’s Geir Lundestad stated in a video highlighted at nobelprize.org that: “This is a combination of a human rights and humanitarian work Prize.”

ROBIN BROAD, broad.au at verizon.net
Broad has known Satyarthi for many years. She served on the board of GoodWeave, which Satyarthi founded, until this year. She is professor of international development at American University and has worked extensively on labor rights and child labor. Her books include Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match.

FREDRIK HEFFERMEHL, fredpax at online.no
Author of The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, Heffermehl said today: “Malala Yousafzai is a courageous, bright and impressive person, education for girls is important and child labor a horrible problem. Worthy causes, but the committee once again makes a false pretense of loyalty to Nobel and confuses and conceals the plan for world peace that Nobel intended to support. If they had wished to be loyal to Nobel they would have stressed that Malala often has spoken out against weapons and military with a fine understanding of how ordinary people suffer from militarism. Young people see this clearer than the grown ups. She even, when she met U.S. President Obama, gave him a stern warning against drone warfare and said it only served to increase hatred and the number of terrorists.

“I do hope that Malala will stick to her early concerns of the problem of militarism. There are signs that her helpers and advisors have turned her away from the delicate issues of militarism and over to the safer issue of education. By moving her away from the Nobel idea of global disarmament she has become more palatable to the Nobel committee.

“Once again the Norwegian awarders have got it wrong. They have a person-focus not an idea-focus. Nobel’s intention was not a prize for nice people doing fine things, but for persons promoting a specific approach to world peace.”

Heffermehl notes that Nobel wanted to reward “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” He also used the term “champions of peace.”

See: “Malala Yousafzai tells Obama drones are ‘fueling terrorism’.”

Journalist and Whistleblower in DOJ Crosshairs: Full Story of Risen and Sterling Published Today

The Nation magazine today published a major story that documents the Obama administration’s extraordinary pursuit of New York Times investigative reporter James Risen and its parallel moves against former CIA undercover agent Jeffrey Sterling. The article says that “the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of U.S. foreign policy.”

Scrutinizing what the New York Times has called “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history,” the in-depth article inThe Nation sifts through the protracted and ongoing efforts by the U.S. government targeting Risen and Sterling.

“Under Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama’s Justice Department took up where the Bush DOJ left off,” the article reports, assessing the legal maneuvers of both administrations. A vendetta against Risen goes back at least a decade at the CIA, “where officials have loathed his way of flipping over their rocks,” the article says.

Top officials at the agency fired Sterling after he filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination. Sterling also broke ranks with the CIA hierarchy by going through channels to tell staffers at the Senate Intelligence Committee about a reckless and dangerous CIA operation, which involved providing flawed nuclear-weapons design information to Iran.

Risen has faced a series of subpoenas and legal threats from the Justice Department for almost seven years, and could be imprisoned or subjected to harsh fines for refusing to identify a confidential source for the chapter about that CIA operation in his 2006 book State of War. Meanwhile, Sterling is facing an imminent trial on 10 felony counts, which include seven under the Espionage Act.

The separate yet intertwined legal actions against Risen and Sterling have the strong odor of retaliation from high places in the Obama administration, The Nation reports: “John Brennan — President Obama’s former counterterrorism czar and now CIA director — has been at notable cross-purposes with both Risen and Sterling for more than a decade. Brennan was a senior CIA official when the agency rolled out its torture program under Bush, which came under intense public scrutiny after the use of waterboarding was revealed in a May 13, 2004, front-page Times story with Risen as the lead reporter. And Brennan played a key role in the illegal wiretap program, overseeing the production of what personnel in the program called the ‘scary memos’ intended to justify the domestic spying exposed by Risen.”

The Nation article was written by Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler, who are journalists with ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

“In the end, whether Risen goes to jail for contempt or not, the last seven years of his battling subpoenas are well-designed to intimidate other investigative reporters,” Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told The Nation. “Likewise, Sterling’s ordeal comes from a strategy to frighten potential whistleblowers, whether he was the source of this leak or not. The aim is to punish troublemakers with harassment, threats, indictments, years in court and likely prison—even if they’ve only gone through official channels to register accusations about their superiors and agency. That is, by the way, a practical warning to would-be whistleblowers who would prefer to ‘follow the rules.’ But in any case, whoever were the actual sources to the press of information about criminal violations of the Fourth Amendment, in the NSA case, or of reckless incompetence, in the CIA case, they did a great public service.”

The article concludes: “If the government’s indictment is accurate in its claim that Sterling divulged classified information, then he took a great risk to inform the public about an action that, in Risen’s words, ‘may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.’ If the indictment is false, then Sterling is guilty of nothing more than charging the agency with racial bias and going through channels to inform the Senate Intelligence Committee of extremely dangerous CIA actions. Either way, Jeffrey Sterling is now facing dire consequences as a whistleblower in the Obama era.”

The article is posted on The Nation’s website. See here.

__________________________

The writers of the article are available for interviews:

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net and writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org.

 

 

Next Page »